published: 23 /
In her 'Raging Pages' book column Lisa Torem reflects on 'Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite', the autobiography of the Who's Roger Daltrey.
Fans have been waiting decades for this one. After all, we’ve heard Pete Townshend’s version of climbing to the top rung and reveling in rock star madness.
Roger Daltrey needs little introduction, other than to confirm he’s one of the most lauded rock singers in the world. His memoir takes us back, predictably, to the World War II bombings of his youth, where this Shepherd’s Bush lad and his mum found themselves “sheltering down the Hammersmith Tube,” but begins, literally, at another dark moment onstage when he blacked out after a blow from his own microphone. Backstage he “could hear the din of twenty thousand disappointed fans.”
The memoir zips through the definitive stages of Roger’s brilliant career. He gained singing experience at the Boys’ Brigade, “singing away on the sergeant’s shoulders, promenading up and down the beach in formation.”
When the family moved and Roger found himself surrounded by posh classmates, he became a subject of ridicule. When he turned fifteen in 1959, he was “slung out of school.” The headmaster said, “You’ll never make anything of your life, Daltrey.” Little did Mr. Kibblewhite realise his name would go down in history, but for, perhaps, the wrong reason.
As one can imagine, there was no love lost. Roger went on to discover Elvis and feel a strong connection to the repertoire of Lonnie Donegan because “his music felt primal.” Despite having few funds, resourceful Roger managed to craft his first simple guitar.
Then, in the early 1960s, Roger strummed guitar, Harry Wilson beat the drums, “Big Reggie”, who owned the “only amp”, plucked on tea chest bass. There was also Ian Moody, on “the washboard, maybe?” and Colin Dawson as front man. The boys began to rehearse in earnest. Though it took some prodding, trumpeter/bassist John Entwistle and Pete Townshend eventually became members of the Detours too.
Roger briefs us enthusiastically about the great influence of the stylish Teddy Boys with their “pinstripe trousers” and waistcoats and how, as youth, although they admired their parents’ generation, they had no desire to emulate their serious lifestyles.
In 1964, after a series of line-up changes, the High Numbers came to be. With new management, word was getting out. “We weren’t just a covers band anymore,” declares Roger. “We were finding ways of expressing our aggression. The phrasing of things, the punch of the chords, more on beat than swing.”
Roger’s personality shines through this quick read. His working-class grit, wild determination to succeed and deep affection for rock are well-articulated. And while the average fan may wax rhapsodic about the Who, Roger makes sure to balance the positive with the necessary facts.
For example, when reminiscing about the legendary Woodstock, he is quick to point out: “There was no food backstage. Everything was laced with LSD. Even the ice cubes had been done.” With no holds barred, he also comes clean about his band relationships and long, well-negotiated marriage.
I highly recommend this colourful, reflective book, but would Mr. Kibblewhite? Hmm.