Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Moments
Creating a list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Moments isn’t as pure and easy at it sounds. Daltrey is more than simply one of the all-time great frontmen, he became firmly enshrined as a genuine rock god as soon as he began baring his soul (and his chest) as the embodiment of Tommy. There’s more than a little irony in the fact that Roger found his voice by singing as a boy who couldn’t speak. Of course, Daltrey was no slouch on vocals at any time during his tenure with the Who; he just seemed to always get better. You bet.
But which individual moments in the Who library – from stutters to screams and everything in between – point to his role as the iconic voice of one of rock’s elite bands? Here are 10 of his best.
‘Music Must Change’
It’s not just the music, but Roger’s voice that must change throughout this ‘Who Are You’ album cut. He sings most of the verses in the lower reaches of his baritone – a sound so mellow he could almost be in your head. Then later, he sings a passage in an angelic falsetto. But the most magical moments come when he ramps up into an all-out growl on the choruses. In the song’s final 30 seconds or so, Daltrey draws on every bit of his vocal prowess, like a volcano exploding through snow.
‘I’ve Had Enough’
Although Roger’s voice is his livelihood, he’s never shied from shredding it when the song requires. The dive-bombing scream at the end of ‘I’ve Had Enough’ is one example of this (see No. 2 on the list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Moments). As he sings, ‘I’ve had enough of trying to looooove,’ he drives his vocal chords off the cliff, and screams his way to an end befitting Wile E. Coyote.
This Roger Daltrey Who moment dates back to 1964, when the band were briefly called the High Numbers in an effort to curry favor with the mods. The name is different but the power is the same – it more than lives up to the group’s “Maximum R&B” motto. Roger’s in full-on street tough mode on the Eddie Holland cover, pushing his rough and angry vocals to the raspy limit as he belts out the call to action in his best James Brown impression. Not many white boys could pull this off.
‘Who Are You’
Even as late-’70s rock dinosaurs, the Who retained their punky edge (they were the only “older” act that the Sex Pistols still liked). Roger roars his way through ‘Who Are You,’ getting down and dirty in the verses and howling the high notes later on. Yet it’s his use of a certain four-letter word that appeals to our most juvenile rock ‘n’ roll instincts. If you first heard the single as a teenager, how could an angry dude screaming “Aw, who the f— are you” not convert you to becoming a lifelong Who fan? Back in 1978, some picky radio stations forced the band to release an edited version with “hell” in place of the f-bomb. It’s just not the same.
If you’ve ever heard a brazen bar band or a misguided karaoke singer attempt to tackle ‘Baba,’ you gain an appreciation not just for Roger’s vocal range but also the personality he brings to singing Pete’s words. It’s not just Daltrey’s power, but the inflections he uses that make every word count (in a song that doesn’t have that many words to begin with). The way his voice goes up on “fight” or “prove” “exodus” – like he’s just shy of straining – gives these silly lyrics an emotional urgency. He lives the song and we’re happy to take his hand and go along on the journey every time.
Pete Townshend paid a worthy tribute to his frontman on ‘Join Together,’ which contains the line, “It’s the singer not the song that makes the music move along.” Roger’s muscular voice certainly keeps punching the tune forward, but there’s a pretty amazing vocal moment down the stretch. Just after the final verse, he hits this high note while singing the throwaway line, “Well everybody come on!” Between the rhythm of the words and the note he hits with “on,” it sounds like he’s somehow launched himself into the stratosphere. The words mean absolutely nothing, and yet that sound is perfection.
There are more than a few explanations for the stutter Daltrey employs in this classic – he was imitating a mod on speed, he was singing the lyrics for the first time, he was hinting at some naughty language (“why don’t you f-f-f-f-fade away“). Regardless of the reason, the stutter just seemed to work on ‘My Generation.’ Roger stumbling over the words gives the song an extra edge, a feeling of frustration and a sense of unpredictability. It’s almost as if the boys are so disgusted at the idea of getting old, they can barely string a coherent sentence together.
‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’
Because of the drastic differences in Pete’s and Roger’s voices, there was a pretty simple arrangement throughout the Who’s run. With his power and range, Roger sang all the rough and tumble, epic and bombastic stuff. With his delicate and high-pitched voice, Pete handled all of the quiet, confessional material. But with Roger as the voice of Tommy, it couldn’t work that way. Thank goodness. With the ‘See Me, Feel Me’ theme (showcased best in the rock opera’s closer ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’), Daltrey gets his tender moment in the spotlight. Sure there’s power there, but it’s a restrained, beautiful power conveyed through such a simple emotion – the desire to connect. When Roger sang it with the Who at Woodstock, it became the highlight of the festival (and the iconic movie that followed).
‘Love Reign O’er Me’
Front to back, ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ just might be Daltrey’s best vocal performance ever recorded. The ‘Quadrophenia’ finale utilizes every facet of Roger’s singing strength, resulting in one of the all-time great power ballads. But the song’s best moment has to be those acrobatic choruses, on which he soars high and sinks low and never ever lets go of his vocal power. The sound is a perfect balance between singing, screaming and bellowing that few can master.
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
So Pete’s weaving his synthesizers between each other, then Moonie starts knocking his drum set around. And all of a sudden, like some kind of primordial explosion, comes “the scream” rumbling through your speakers. It’s like the old Maxell ad – your hair is blown back, everything in the room hurdles toward the wall, car alarms go off in the neighborhood. Is it release? Is it rage? Is it celebration? Who knows? Roger Daltrey’s titanic scream at the 7:45 mark sounds like nothing else in rock ’n’ roll. It can only be described as an eruption that would render mere mortal singers speechless (figuratively and, possibly, literally). It’s the best Roger Daltrey Who moment… and Rog’s been on a steady diet of hot tea with honey ever since.