The Who’s enigmatic frontman Roger Daltrey wrote the blueprint on being the perfect rock ‘n’ roll lead singer. Daltrey has been parading around the stage as though he owned it with a vivacious brand of authority for almost 60 years. Few people have enjoyed a life in music as fortuitous as Daltrey, who is still selling out stadiums and proving that age is well and truly just a number.
The Who have touched countless lives with their music and given millions of people memories they will remember until they draw their last breath. Picking a favourite song by the iconic British group is an impossible task for many, and no doubt alternates every week, but for Roger Daltrey, it’s a simpler task.
After all, nobody knows these songs as well as he does, apart from Pete Townshend, which makes Daltrey’s opinion on this matter sacrosanct.
In his 2018 autobiography, Thanks to Mr Kibblewhite, Daltrey told his story and shared his origin story of growing up as a Blitz kid at the tail-end of World War II. From his humble beginnings, he became the frontman of the biggest rock band on the planet who emerged from a sub-culture that changed the mainstream forever.
His book is a must-read for any Who fan. Not only does the singer provide a unique view into what life was like during the band’s heady peak, but Daltrey also reveals his favourite track by the group. Surprisingly, it’s not ‘My Generation’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Riley’, or ‘Substitute’, but instead is a deeper cut that inhabits the most desired location in Daltrey’s heart.
Daltrey selected ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, which was initially composed by Pete Townshend for his Lifehouse project and ended up being the second single from their fifth record, Who’s Next.
His vocals on the song are truly astonishing, and there’s a heartfelt element to Daltrey’s delivery that is impossible to feign. In the book, Daltrey revealed that he’d suffered personal heartache on the day of laying down his vocals on the track. He wrote: “My dog got run over, the first dog I ever had. I was desperately trying to hold it together.”
Townshend wrote the track following a gig in Denver in 1970, after being hounded by groupies, which he decided to pass up on and instead, the guitarist decided to return to his hotel room alone. When he reached his room, Townshend set about writing a prayer, the first words being “when my fist clenches, crack it open…” These words would end up becoming the start of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, and the rest is history.
Commenting on the track, Townshend once said: “‘Behind Blue Eyes’ really is off the wall because that was a song sung by the villain of the piece [Jumbo], the fact that he felt in the original story that he was forced into a position of being a villain whereas he felt he was a good guy.”
Although the song was written by Townshend and came from his imagination, Daltrey’s vocals fill the colour of the track, which makes ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ such an enthralling listen. Daltrey is, unquestionably, one of the finest frontmen in rock history, and his performance here proves exactly why.