December 8th, 1985.
Roger Daltrey glared from across the room, clearly not happy at all to see me. Cloaked in a thick wool coat that amplified his fairly short, but athletic and well-cut figure into a formidable and ominous Darth Vader presence, the lead singer of the Who crossed his arms and snorted. We were not, however, in a spaceship on some science fiction adventure in a galaxy far, far away, but standing in uncomfortable silence right here on Earth inside an eighteen-wheeler mobile recording studio parked downtown in front of Boston’s Orpheum Theater.
Most of the long and massive trailer was stuffed with miles of wire, stacks of assorted sound gear and state-of-the-art recording equipment. We were relegated to what was left - a tiny windowless and claustrophobic room nearly filled by only a couple of chairs. Outside, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind of a typical December night in New England had prompted the crew to batten down the hatches and seal the doors. So, actually, we could have been in a spaceship, albeit a small and uncomfortable one.
Roger Daltrey had just finished a concert, one of only four shows he’d scheduled on the road in America during the whole of 1985, and they were being taped for a syndicated live concert program. Daltrey had long before achieved legendary status as a member of the Who, one of the world’s most famous groups for nearly two decades, undertaking a solo career was a very recent and unusual step for the steely-eyed blond singer. But he had a strong new album in the stores called Under a Raging Moon and a high-profile benefit concert with Bryan Adams scheduled at Madison Square Garden in New York City the next night, so things seemed to be going pretty well.
I’d been hired to record some quotes from Daltrey to highlight the live concert program; trouble was that nobody had bothered to tell him. So, as the singer bolted from the ancient theater to the warmth and comfort of a nearby four-star hotel, he found out instead that his presence was needed in the recording truck parked under the Orpheum marquee.
The guy running the tape deck next to me whispered under his breath, “Good luck, kid,” as Daltrey shot him an exasperated “Are you ready!?” look. It was obvious the singer wanted to be ordering shrimp cocktail from room service at this point; now he was fixing me in his gun site as he waited, impatient and fuming. The tape deck rolled.
Desperate measures were clearly required, so I brought out a special ‘icebreaker’ question to be used only in an emergency. In the early days as the Who began to get steady gigs and build a following, Daltrey had to be convinced to leave his steady full-time job to jump into an uncertain life as the lead singer of a rock and roll band. It had taken time, but eventually Pete Townshend and the other guys had worn him down. Knowing this, I cocked my head and asked, “Roger, do you ever regret leaving the sheet metal business?”
The effect was instantaneous and miraculous. Daltrey’s eyes flew open wide and his face broke into a wide grin before exploding in laughter. He took a moment to savor a thought, perhaps a pleasant memory, before replying. “Never!” [I’ve] still got some friends that I used to work with when I was in the factory – they came to me and said, ‘We want our own factory!’ So I bought them one!” He laughed again, remembering his blue-collar buds in the shop and reflectively added, “But, I wouldn’t want to go back there.” I breathed a sigh of relief; Daltrey was not only smiling, he was sitting down and taking off his coat. We were off and running!
(Photos by Getty Images)