The Who were never too adept at biting their tongue, and controversy has long followed the band’s chief troublemakers, wherever they’ve gone. Roger Daltrey, the band’s singer, and Pete Townshend, the groups’ furious guitarist, have always cultivated a refusal to keep quiet, never afraid to share their barbed thoughts. However, some people are above criticism, and Daltrey once went as far as naming one of his contemporaries as “the number one rock ‘n’ roll performer”.
From Daltrey, this is obscenely high praise, and few would have blamed him for naming himself in the top spot. Instead, he awarded it to his old rival Mick Jagger, although he did have some less than complimentary words about the frontman’s accomplices in The Rolling Stones.
The Stones had already established themselves when The Who raced onto the scene kicking and screaming. Watching Jagger parade the stage had helped Daltrey draw up a blueprint in his head of what a lead singer should be. While he went about his business in different ways, they both have an undeniable aura that can capture entire stadiums under their respective spells.
Additionally, after The Rolling Stones became national villains following Keith Richards and Mick Jagger’s drug-related arrest, The Who were there by their side while they were at their lowest. The group recorded a pair of covers with the proceeds going towards helping the duo get bail. However, the well-intentioned move wouldn’t be necessary as they’d be released before the tracks were. However, it’s an indicator of how highly The Who respected The Rolling Stones.
Last year, Daltrey rallied around Jagger once more after Paul McCartney kept his rivalry with The Rolling Stones burning by brutally calling them nothing more than a “blues covers band”. Although, he did also agree with the sentiment of Macca’s comment.
“Mick Jagger, you’ve got to take your hat off to him,” Daltrey told the Coda Collection. “He’s the number one rock ‘n’ roll performer. But as a band, if you were outside a pub and you heard that music coming out of a pub some night, you’d think, ‘Well, that’s a mediocre pub band!'”
Daltrey’s comments about The Rolling Stones being a “mediocre pub band” further demonstrate how highly he rates Jagger. He sees the hip-swaying spotlight magnet as an instrumental part of their success and seemingly highlighted him as the sole reason they soared to monumental heights.
Furthermore, his comments were previously echoed by his bandmate, Pete Townshend, who named Jagger as one of the few authentic rockstars on the planet and said the singer had that special ingredient that he has always lacked.
The guitarist commented: “I’ve had my moments, which have been gloriously recorded and exalted but brief when I’ve felt I’m going to try and do this job. I’m going to try to be a proper rock star. Then I would do it, and it wouldn’t work. I was counterfeit. There are very few people truly authentic to the cause: David Byrne. Mick Jagger. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. Deborah Harry.”
Listen to The Who pay tribute to Jagger with their cover of ‘Under My Thumb’ below.