How Roger Daltrey Walked Out on the Who, Then Right Back In
The early days of the Who were tumultuous times. Four different personalities were learning to coexist. The band changed its name three times. Pete Townshend and Keith Moon began to revel in the joy of destroying their instruments. And Roger Daltrey often found himself at odds with the rest of the band.
For instance, Townshend placed himself, John Entwistle and Moon in the “genius” column, according to an interview for the documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who, but “Roger was a singer; that was it.”
But while the Who were often fueled by that friction, in 1965 lingering tensions almost killed the band. Following the last two shows of a European tour in September of that year, Daltrey and Moon got into a brawl, which Daltrey later chalked up to his disgust with the Who’s drug use and its effect on their performances. Roger got the boot and the Who announced they would replace him with Boz Burrell.
A member of an R&B band that featured future Small Faces keyboardist Ian MacLagan, Burrell never played a gig with the Who. The whole thing was short-lived, as Daltrey was reinstated before the band’s next gig. Burrell went on to become part of King Crimson and co-found Bad Company.
Daltrey was brought back to the Who with the warning that he stop any violent behavior. During his school days, Daltrey had earned a reputation as a bully. He later reflected on leaving his fighting ways behind. “I thought if I lost the band, I was dead," Daltrey said in The Who and the Making of Tommy. "If I didn’t stick with the Who, I would be a sheet metal worker for the rest of my life."
That was easier said than done. On Nov. 19, 1965, Daltrey reportedly stormed off the stage after the Who’s performance of "My Generation," their new single, at a concert called the Glad Rag Ball at Wembley’s Empire Pool. The show featured Donovan, Wilson Pickett and others and was being filmed for a TV program to air that December. With 10,000 fans, it was the largest audience the Who had seen in their young career. Although Daltrey blamed his issues on the public address system, nerves might have played a role as well.
Footage of the Who playing "My Generation" on that night still exists, as seen above. Daltrey looks angrier than usual, and can be seen listlessly wandering around the stage – although we don’t see him leave. Some reports indicate that Daltrey quit the band after the show and that, again, Burrell was announced as a replacement. However, it’s possible that the dust-up in September and this incident in November got mixed together over time, and it’s not clear if Daltrey walked out on the group.
It’s easy to see how the two events could be jumbled. For example, in the Amazing Journey documentary, footage is shown from the Glad Rag Ball in November while Roger is discussing the fight in September (likely because no film exists of the Denmark concerts). The events have become conflated, in some way. Regardless of exactly what happened backstage, it was quashed almost immediately, because the Who (with Daltrey) played a show the following night – along with another 24 gigs before the year ended. The kids were all right.
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