The Who had a specific moment that changed everything. Once America got their first real glimpse of the destructive side of drummer Keith Moon's personality, they were hooked for life.

The band snagged a pivotal slot on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, performing a fiery version of "My Generation." At the song's conclusion, Moon began demolishing his drum kit, with a massive explosion capping the moment. "All of a sudden, every youth in America wanted to see the Who," vocalist Roger Daltrey tells UCR now.

As the legendary singer shares in the conversation below, the drummer's playing style -- not just his antics -- was one of the key components that helped make the group special from its earliest days.

Decades later, Daltrey is out on a brief run of dates with his solo band this month. Chatting on Zoom, he jokes that his June tour dates can be summarized with just two words: "No synthesizers!" 

He spoke with Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw leading up to the tour launch to discuss his plans -- with no spoilers -- while also sharing some memories regarding Moon and the early days of the Who.

I like that you're doing some Q&A with the audience as part of the shows on this tour.
I’ve done it before. I mean, if they’re good questions, it works really well. But equally, it’s not the most important part of the show at all -- the music is.

But I suppose if they ask good questions...
Well, I’ve sometimes been very disappointed with the questions, to be honest. [Laughs] But the good ones, I do try and answer.

Are there any moments where someone's gotten into something good?
No! [Laughs] It’s more about building a bridge between me and the audience. I try to draw them in and make it less “us and them,” than the Who is.

I heard an interview you did in 1978 when Who Are You came out. The first thing you said was that you thought Quadrophenia was better. I think fans appreciate that kind of honesty and that's always been you.Well, it’s just my opinion. But Quadrophenia, I loved that. I also love Who By Numbers. I felt that the Who Are You album was okay. But I felt our recording process had gone to pot during that album. Because we were having quite a few problems with Keith Moon not being in very good physical condition. So those are my main reasons, it wasn’t a very enjoyable album to make.

You go deep with some of the songs in the set list. What are some of the songs you've really enjoyed going back to?
I enjoy singing them all. There’s only one song out of all of them that I’m bored with and that’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” That’s more to do with the fact that it’s stuck on rails, because of the track. You’re stuck on that track and you can’t move it once it starts. I play it with this band and it’s not on rails, because we play it on instruments. No synthesizers! That’s the whole thing about this tour…that’s the headline, no synthesizers! [Daltrey chuckles] It’s great to work out ways to just play the fucking song, you know? Fuck the track!

Listen to the Who Perform 'Won't Get Fooled Again' Acoustically

I like that there have been some solo shows where you don't play it at all.
Well, like I say, it’s the only one that if you keep it on the rails, I’m bored shitless with it. I love it when we do it bluesy. We’ve done it many times before like that, just Pete [Townshend] and I, with him on acoustic guitar and me singing. Then, I start to enjoy myself with it. You can explore the melody and you can jazz it up. You can do all kinds of movement in it. But once it’s on the rails of the track, you’re back where you started and it’s boring! [Laughs]

What are the albums that you perhaps have a greater appreciation for now?
You know, every time you make an album, it takes a period of time before you really get to appreciate what you’ve created. By the time you get out of the studio and you’ve mixed it and recorded it, you look back on it 10 years later and then you hear a whole new album -- compared to what you thought you created. It’s usually an eye-opener of how good it is, fortunately. Who By Numbers is one of those albums for me. The Who Sell Out, that’s another album that just kind of has its own kind of thing going on in it. It’s a time when we were having fun in the studio. That kind of diminished as it got more and more difficult through the deteriorating years of Keith.

The band had something unique with Keith. What did you appreciate most about his approach to the craft?
He had a….as did Pete, you know, it’s the micro-rhythms in them. When I put the band together, you’ve got to remember, the singer never sees the band. He stands in front of them, but all he does is feel them. You feel the syncopation, you feel the symbiotic relationship, between the way people are playing. It was only when Keith Moon joined us and played for that first time that it all came together. All of the sudden, it was like you’d started up a jet engine. I can’t explain exactly what he was doing. Maybe if I’d ever seen him, I would have said, “Well, he’s no good!” [Laughs] But what I felt was that this was special. The reason that it was special was that it wasn’t like any other band that was out there. That’s what I was most proud of with the Who. We were totally different.

The Who were one of the early bands that really defined the idea of the "loud rock band." When did you realize that?
Really, it was 1965, that year when it started to kick off. Then, we got in the studio and [eventually] we toured America with Herman’s Hermits. We were doing [things like] “My Generation.” We were a punk band with a bubble gum band. [Laughs] I mean, it was an extraordinary tour. These 12 year old girls coming to see Herman’s Hermits. “Ooooh, Herman!” Before he comes out, this bunch of yobs from Shepherd’s Bush come out and wreck their equipment and blow the stage up. It must have taken them years to recover! If ever!

I think that's a rite of passage for bands, the moment where they realize they've made a mistake choosing a particular opener.
Once we’d done our bit, we used to leave, so we never knew the reaction. But it obviously seemed to work. At the end of that tour, we got lucky enough to land the Smothers Brothers show that is now legendary where Keith blew up his drum kit and nearly killed Mickey Rooney and Bette Davis, plus all of us in the process. [Laughs] You know, all of the sudden, every youth in America wanted to see the Who.

It's a calling card, for sure.
It certainly was. I don't want to relive that.

What were you thinking in the moment when it happened?
You don’t think anything. It blew me flat on my face. If you notice, I just go completely out of the shot. I was completely blown off my feet. Pete is banging his head, because his hair was alight. People think he’s trying to arrange his hair to look good. No, he was trying to put it out! It was an extraordinary event. And then of course, all of the blue suits came out. Oh God, dear, our Lord, arrest that man!

The Who Perform 'My Generation' on the 'Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour'

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