When Roger Daltrey Was Tommy Before ‘Tommy’ Existed
Roger Daltrey reflected that he’d lived his life as Tommy – the titular deaf, dumb and blind main character of the Who’s 1969 rock opera masterpiece – for three years before he even started recording the album.
Daltrey found himself questioning his life choices and his approach to living as a result of previous arguments with his bandmates. He believes it shows in some of the songs they recorded, as he told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show.
“It was a thoroughly miserable time from 1965 to 1968, when we recorded Tommy,” Daltrey said. “It was three years of hell … I’d been thrown out the band; they’d invited me back but I had to come back on a promise that I would change my ways. And I didn’t really want anything else in my life but this band that I’d spent so much time putting together.”
As a result, he continued, “I psychologically lost my own identity, because I was struggling to find out how to get through life in a different way. And it affected my singing – I didn’t know how to handle the songs I was asked to sing after that. We had ‘I’m a Boy,’ ‘Happy Jack,’ ‘Substitute,’ and you can hear there’s a haunted sound in the voice. It’s very weird. It’s because I’m not centered; I’m struggling.”
However, he recalled beginning to “come out of that” when studio work commenced on Tommy. “By the time we’d finished it and put it together, and we were doing the rehearsals of Tommy, I suddenly realized that I’d been that deaf, dumb and blind kid for three years. That’s who I’d been – I’d been Tommy. So I totally identified with it, and I just thought, ‘Now take it by the scruff of the neck and make it work – really work.’”
The Who - ‘Substitute’
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