I mean, I know how it happened, really. I was in a hurry, ordering something, clicked on the button saying FREE DELIVERY without seeing if you sign up to bloody Amazon Prime’s free trial underneath. Muppet.
Anyhoo. Since I am, I thought I might as well make the best of it, and have a read of Roger Daltrey’s autobiography – Kindle edition going free if you’re one of these smart people that signed up to Amazon Prime – while I could.
I’ve never been a great fan of Daltrey. He always struck me as a bit of a chippy sort, and, based on what I’ve read so far (I’ve not aaaactually finished it yet, which is why this is a ‘sort of’ review) chippy is, I think, a reasonable description.
The title, for example, ‘Thanks a Lot, Mr Kibblewhite,’ is based on a long-held grudge against a teacher who told him he’d never amount to anything. Mind you, I suppose I’d have to give him that one: I’d like to go back and dig up the Contracts tutor who asked me if I thought I was cut out to be a lawyer after I scraped a pass in a class exam, so maybe we all have a Mr Kibblewhite buried deep inside us (feel free to add a comment about your Mr Kibblewhite below, but remember, I have no training in psychotherapy).
However, Daltrey doesn’t stop with Mr Kibblewhite. His fellow band members get it in the neck in various ways: although his relationship with Pete Townshend seems slightly better these days, he never misses an opportunity to tell us how middle class the band’s songwriter and guitarist was compared to him, what with him having to go and wake up Townshend from a drug-induced art school dwam after a hard shift at the sheet metal factory he (Daltrey) was trying to escape from.
John Entwistle, who had the quietest image of all the band members, was behind a lot of Keith Moon’s pranks, according to Daltrey – and to be fair, that’s borne out by a recent biography of the bass player by his son. As for Moon, though, Daltrey is less than affectionate, even all these years after the drummer’s death. Moon’s antics, he says, were funny about 20% of the time: ‘the rest of it, the pranks, the explosions, the general devastation, there was usually someone at the other end of it having a pretty miserable time.’
As for the 1967 legend about Keith Moon driving a Lincoln Continental – or it might have been a Cadillac – into a hotel swimming pool in Flint, Michigan, Daltrey’s not sure it even happened, having left in the morning to spend the day with a girl after he saw which way Moon’s morning drinking was going. Witnesses to Keith’s 21st birthday were, in general, unreliable, given the amount of illicit substances ingested. What Daltrey remembers is the $50,000 the management charged to have the Cadillac – or it might have been a Lincoln Continental – brought back to dry land.
Having said that there’s a bit of score-settling going on, I would recommend the book. It is pretty amusing, and the man is, after all, possessed of a better memory of events, having generally gone to bed earlier than the rest. Usually with the prettiest girl at the party.
One thing that’s interesting about Daltrey is that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t have a hand in the songwriting. Instead, he was acting as a ‘portal,’ as he puts it, for Townshend’s words and music. Sometimes that was a bit of a stretch: an early example was ‘I’m a Boy,’ a gender-bending tale of a fourth sibling, meant to be a girl like his sisters, and brought up as one by his mother. Daltrey relates he was all right with the line ‘my name is Bill and I’m a head case,’ but found the rest rather difficult.
Which brings me to my own songwriting. I’ve never written a song about a boy brought up as a girl, nor indeed a deaf dumb and blind kid who’s particularly adept at amusement arcade mechanisms, but I have written songs for others to sing. I always enjoy the challenge of writing a song from a woman’s perspective for Tribute to Venus Carmichael; with Isaac Brutal, I never quite know which of my songs are going to get the nod, so I just write them.
This week’s release isn’t intended for either of those outlets, so I guess I’m going to have to sing it myself. It’s about a near-contemporary of Daltrey, David Bowie, and the feeling that a lot of his fans had that, after he went in January 2016, the whole world went to hell in a handcart. I wrote it long before the current bug, by the way, so it’s not inspired by that – it just took a while to get a decent version of it. As with last week’s release, it’s a guitar-and-voice version of it, and may not be the final word on it for the eventual album.
The encounter with his shade is wholly imaginary, by the way, although I have a very specific bar on the South Side of Edinburgh in mind. We used to go there a lot after Writers’ Bloc shows, but I can’t honestly remember its name. It was always full of alternative types after the shows, and had a really nice vibe – I mean ‘freaks’ in a good way!
Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite is available in good bookshops. Assuming you’re not enough of a muppet to get sucked into Amazon Bloody Prime.