Ian Harvey/Principal Curator
It’s not every day a bona fide Rock Star taps you on the shoulder and compliments you on your jacket.
And it’s not every day that a Rock Star then asks you, very politely, whether he can borrow said jacket for the filming of a video for the famed forerunner of Much Music, the UK BBC show, Top of the Pops.
I can’t say Roger Daltrey and me are best mates, LOL, but we definitely shared a moment, and it’s preserved on the Internet. Yes, that Roger, you know, the golden-maned lead singer of The Who!
It’s the kind of story that still gets comments nearly six years after I posted it in a few paragraphs on the You Tube link to that video.
Not only that, the girl I was at the studio with that day tracked me down on Facebook 47 years later and we reconnected.
Let me explain. In 1972 I was a skinny 16-year-old kid from in South London who, like most blokes at that age, was always on the prowl to meet girls. At the time I was living with my uncle and aunt in Bexleyheath and somehow, not really sure how, I met up with the lovely Linda. We hit it off and a relationship started, such as relationships are between young teenagers, very intense and a lot of snogging.
Still, we had a few adventures, one of them coming about when her friend Helen scored tickets to the taping of the Who’s latest single Join Together.
No brainer, right? So I called up my best mate John, because her friend quite fancied him, and the four of us duly trooped up to north west London by train and tube and bus. I can’t quite remember where exactly except there was a suggestion they were shooting at an ITV studio because the last time the band filmed at the BBC studios they trashed the place and were banned.
So there’s a bunch of teenagers milling about in the studio with the stage all set up.
Keith Moon’s drums are there, Pete Townshend’s multiple stacks of HiWatt Amplifiers, John Entwistle’s set up on the other side and the lead mic, the cable gaffer taped to the body ready for Roger Daltrey to swing it around like a lasso, as was his signature move.
So, The Who comes on and they mime to the song. Then there’s break while they reposition the cameras and lights and they go again. And so it goes. I’d never been on a set so it was fascinating to see how things actually worked. There’s also a lot of standing around and waiting, as anyone who worked in video production will tell you.
During one of these breaks the four of us were clustered in front of the stage when there’s a tap on my shoulder.
I turn around and there, in his full 5’6″ glory is Roger Daltrey. Now, I’m a skinny 16 year old and I was probably about 5′ 7 or more and I ended up 5″ 8″ but he was a giant to me. And those blue eyes. Wow. Total Rock Star.
“Nice jacket mate,” he says in his west London accent, being born and bred in Hackney.
“Oh, yeah,” I stammer. “Me mum made it.”
Now the jacket in question is a bit unique. It was an army fatigue which I had nicked from the cadet corps at Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift (also just called Alleyn’s School) where I went to school in Dulwich. Surplus army jackets were all the rage at the time and it was rather cool.
I’d tried to dress it up by putting an iron on transfer on the back. However, I put the iron on too hot and scorched the material, weakening it so it ripped. My mum, the angel, took pity on my and being the skilled seamstress she was, sewed in a new lining across inside of the back and then took an old Bermuda souvenir T-towel of a British bulldog imposed on a Union Jack and expertly fitted it to the back.
“Borrow it?” I asked incredulously. This was way beyond cool. I was gonna be legend. Roger Daltrey wanted to borrow my jacket!!!
“Yeah, you know, for the shoot,” he says.
I start slipping off the jacket and mumble something about being a fanboy because their music is so unique and different and just nods. I was star-struck and, truth be told, what 16-year-old wouldn’t be?
He puts it on and tugs at it and nods. It fits!!
Then he puts his hands in the pockets and pulls out a bottle of yellow pills.
“What are these then, yellow perils?” he asks with a grin. Yellow Perils were a form of speed back then but that’s not what they were.
“They’re my anti-histimines,” I says, “I’ve got terrible hayfever (meaning allergies).”
He nods with a wink and I don’t think he believed me and he disappeared back into the crowd. We stood there dazed.
What just happened? Did Roger Daltrey really just appear and borrow my jacket? Fuck me. He did. He really fucking did.
And so it went. The band recorded the song and afterwards Roger came around with the jacket.
“Thanks mate,” he says and indulges us in some idle chit chat, asking us what kind of music we listen to and what we do for fun. He’s only about 12 years older than me so he would have been about 28 at the time.
“You wanna sell the jacket?” he asks. “I’ll give you 50 quid.”
Wow. £50 pounds. That’s £664 in 2020. Wow. To a 16-year-old kid it was a fortune. Enough to buy a really good bass guitar and decent amp and even maybe an car for when I could get my driver’s license six months later.
I thought about it. I really did.
“Nah, I can’t sell it, not now, not after this, Rog, but wow, thanks anyway,” I said. Okay, maybe I didn’t call him Rog but I definitely didn’t call him Mr. Daltrey.
And with that he shrugged, nodded and vanished into the milling mob.
“Should have taken the money,” says my mate John, ever the practical and sensible one.
I sigh. It was a lot of money. But some things are worth more than money.
That jacket has given me a lifetime of great memories aside from the fact I wore it out out after that, adding bits to it to cover up the tears and stains.
It taught me that Rock Gods are really just normal people. Years later I interviewed Keith Richards on an escalator after sort of ambushing him coming out of a restaurant. Like Roger Daltrey he was relaxed and chatted amiably about being in Toronto to renew his American visa and hoping to tour soon. Again, a Rock God being nice. I’m sure many are spoiled assholes but the ones I’ve met were always nice.
Aside from dining out in this story over the years and pulling out the jacket once in a while to show friends, a couple of other things have happened recently which prompted me to sit and write it out in full for the first time so I can include a couple of bookends to the story.
Roger autographed the back of the jacket and, of course, it was my prized possession for years. It was slightly diminished when my mum, God love her, threw it in the laundry “because it was filthy darling” and washed the signature out. I did try though my media contacts to arrange a quick meet and greet with Roger to get him to sign it again when he came through the Toronto area on tour but it never happened.
Shortly after that encounter with Roger in England my parents dragged me to Toronto, Canada where my dad had been given a new and quite prestigious position. I wasn’t happy about leaving England. It tore a chunk of my heart out. Not only did I have to leave the lovely Linda behind I also left behind all my friends, family and all the things I loved doing and the places I loved to go.
Not to mention there was no football in Canada and no Match of the Day, I was devastated.
Anyway, I corresponded with Linda as you do but that dropped off. I did manage to get back to England a few times and to try and stay but I couldn’t support my self and had to return to Toronto where I finished studying journalism and duly entered the newspaper business in 1977.
However, in 1976 I went back to England with my then girlfriend soon to be my wife and later my ex-wife LOL. I managed to get hold of Linda and we met up. It was a very heart wrenching experience for both of us. I couldn’t stay and really, all we had were memories of being 16 together.
I have to include this because we drifted away after that as you might expect.
However, the digital world is also a time machine.
That video of Join Together lurked on the nascent Internet back in the 1990s but it was such an awful quality copy you couldn’t make out anything, much less my jacket.
Then came You Tube and The Who posted it on their channel.
In 2014 I posted a comment retelling my story of the jacket in short form noting that as they carry Roger out on their shoulders you can see my jacket from the back at 3.43 seconds.
I had an amazing 62 replies. Most were salutary but a few called me a liar and said I was making it up.
And I’m still getting comments on that post and when I got another one this past week I thought it was a good opportunity to pull all the components of this story into one and post it here in Pitbullmedia.ca.
Finally, here’s the another little kick to the story of Roger n’ Me.
Back in August 2018 I got a PM on my Facebook page and when I opened it I just about fell off my chair.
It was the lovely Linda.
“Just watched Roger Daltrey wear your jacket Hi !!”
I have to say a lot of buried teenage angst came flooding back like a tsunami, leaving me reeling emotionally and, physically.
It turns out she’d been on the Who’s Facebook page where they’d posted the video. She watched and saw my jacket again and it triggered her to look me up. I’m not hard to find, especially since I’m all over Facebook and have my own website and my byline pops up on various publications’ websites.
We chatted online, made a couple of What’sApp calls and then a few months later I was back in England to reunite with my cousins from my mum’s side in Devon as they had come up from Australia to visit.
We were in Exeter and so I drove to Weymouth to meet Linda halfway and we had lunch and walked and talked for a few hours before heading our separate ways.
Funny how feelings which have no business being there suddenly pop to the forefront after being dormant for so long.
And all because that jacket and this story reignited something.
All in all I’d say it has all been worth a lot more than 600 quid.
Postscript: When you talk about seminal UK rockers, you’re talking about The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Who.
The Who were important for many reasons but mostly it’s that explosive sound they generated. Keith Moon’s frenetic and unconventional drumming, Pete Townsend’s crashing power chords, Roger Daltrey’s soaring voice and John Entwistle’s thundering bass pulling it all together. Moon’s drumming wouldn’t have made sense without The Ox, aka Thunderfingers, and Townsend’s guitar wouldn’t have layered the same way. It was a unique sound which bridged youthful frustration in My Generation to ballads like Pinball Wizard through anthems like Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again through angst in songs like Love Reign O’er Me.
Yet, strangely to my ear, they penned and sold pop rock singles like Happy Jack and Join Together, the latter not ranking among my favourite compositions.
It’s important to mention this because the Who were greater than the sum of their parts but for me, and despite my encounter with Roger, it’s Entwistle who is always my focus when I listen.
Here’s why. At the time I met Roger, I had just started to play bass guitar, having been playing Spanish guitar and wanting to join a band. The Ox wasn’t one of my bass idols at the time since initially I was drawn by Jack Bruce’s sound and style and later by Chris Squire during my prog rock phase. In fact my first bass guitar was a Gibson EB0 like Bruce’s and then a Rickenbacker like Squire’s.
Over the years I went through different basses until I found the Warwick 5 string Corvette and fell in love with it. Still, it was heavy to strap on for three one hour sets and I wanted something lighter but with a fast neck which the Warwick has.
By this time my knowledge of bass players and sounds and styles had grown exponentially and I had gravitated to The Ox’s sound and style. To me it combined the best of bass playing with a great sound much like the Rickenbacker but with the percussion of Bruce.
Watching Entwistle play live the times I saw them in Toronto before his death in Las Vegas in 2002 (Cocaine and a hooker, what a way to go!) and listening to his grooves and isolated bass tracks I realized what a unique player he was. And when I got around to ordering a custom bass guitar I knew what I wanted, my version of his custom mash up of a Gibson explorer body and a Fender neck called the Explorerbird.
Later he had a versions made by Dean Guitars with the Tbird body and Fender style neck. I should also mention John pioneered the design and creation of Rotosound strings, round wound strings (as opposed to the flat wounds people used at the time) which gave him his signature sound so prominent on the bass solo fills on My Generation. It was truly unique and round wounds are the most popular bass string used today.
My custom 5 string bass has a Gibson Thunderbird body and a Warwick 5 string specification neck with custom Bartolini pick ups and is called the WarBird and was built as my homage to Entwistle style of play and his quest for the perfect bass.