30 Years Ago: Roger Daltrey Returns to Familiar Territory on ‘Under a Raging Moon’
In the years immediately following the Who's 1982 split, Roger Daltrey tried a variety of other things. He dabbled in acting again, and released a poorly received solo album that strayed far from the Who's core sound. Nothing really stood out, and none of it satisfied the restless singer.
And so a return to music-making on Under a Raging Moon, released in September 1985, amounted to a homecoming in more ways than one. Daltrey faced both his legacy and his lingering regard for the Who head on, with the album including both a song in tribute to his fallen bandmate Keith Moon and a song written by erstwhile partner Pete Townshend.
Seems Daltrey found himself adding a vocal to 1984's Bad Attitude when Meat Loaf producer Alan Shacklock made a pointed suggestion. "Why don't you come and do a record and sing like you do with the Who?" Shacklock asked. Daltrey came to a realization that was as unexpected as it was obvious: "All of a sudden I did this record with Meat Loaf and I thought, 'I do like this,'" Daltrey said. "I do enjoy singing this heavy rock 'n' roll."
Besides, since his old band went on hiatus, no other former member had released a solo project. Who better to pick up the mantle? "All my solo efforts in the past have been deliberately different from the Who," Daltrey said. "So, I thought, 'Oh well, I'll give it one last shot. I'll do this as though it's my last record. So, that's the attitude I went in to doing this record with."
In keeping, the idea of addressing Moon's sudden passing made sense. But Daltrey ultimately did something on a much grander scale, fashioning a sweeping title track that included a galaxy of star drummers: Roger Taylor, Cozy Powell, Stewart Copeland, Zak Starkey, Carl Palmer and others.
"It's about a Who show," Daltrey told the Associated Press. "It was the producer's idea to put seven drummers on the end. It seemed like an outrageous Kit Lambert [the Who's original producer] stroke from the old days, so I said, 'Let's go with it.' It has come out exactly how I wanted it, with that lovely live feeling about it. Almost all of the things that happened in a Who show are in one song, even down to little things like it almost goes a bit out of a sync toward the end."
Eight other tracks – including four co-written by Daltrey and two by Bryan Adams – came together quickly, but the singer emerged feeling like something was still missing. That's when fate intervened.
"I was in a restaurant discussing with a friend that I was one song short," Daltrey told the AP. "Who should come in, but Pete Townshend? He said, 'Just the bloke I want to see. I've got this song for you.'" The song, "After the Fire," finally completed Under a Raging Moon.
"He rushed over a demo that afternoon with a sheet of alternate lyrics," Daltrey added. "I was finished within two days of meeting him in the restaurant." Why the rush? Townshend had previously written "Rough Boys" for Daltrey, but had recorded it before Roger got the chance to do his own version. "This time," Daltrey adds, "I didn't give him a chance to take it back."
Good thinking. "After the Fire" became a Top 5 hit on the Billboard rock charts, Daltrey's best-ever finish on that list, while Under a Raging Moon nearly cracked the U.S. Top 40.
Having reestablished himself once more, Daltrey then started seeking new challenges – turning to pop, jazz and funk on 1987's Can't Wait to See the Movie. "After the 'Moon' album," he told Orange Coast in 1987, "I had to get rid of the late-'70s, early-'80s rock 'n' roll band feel. For me, that died with the Who. The last album was a celebration, but it was also myself purging all that had gone before."
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