The Who's Roger Daltrey on His First Solo Album in 26 Years 'As Long as I Have You'

Roger Daltrey
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Roger Daltrey of The Who performs on Day 3 of Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on Aug. 13, 2017 in San Francisco.

Credit Pete Townshend with getting Roger Daltrey to release his ninth solo album -- and first in 26 years -- As Long as I Have You.

The Who singer tells Billboard that he started working on the album about four years ago, only to have it derailed by the band's touring schedule and a bout with meningitis "that took six months out of my life."

"When I went back and listened to what I'd done, I was very disillusioned with it," Daltrey recalls. "I thought it was rubbish and didn't go anywhere. I just completely lost the momentum of it and didn't like what I was hearing, and I just thought, 'This is not a good idea' and was gonna shelve it."

But Daltrey's management and label, still keen on the project, quietly slipped the music to Townshend, who encouraged his Who mate to put it out.

"It was him who convinced me to carry on," Daltrey says. "Pete called me up and said, 'This is great, Roger, you've got to finish it.' And then he offered to play guitar on it, and that was the clincher for me because he's my favorite guitarist, and whenever he plays on a record it's always original. So I decided to finish it, and I'm very pleased with the outcome."

Blending originals with carefully selected covers of songs by Stephen Stills, Boz Scaggs, Buffalo Springfield, Parliament, Nick Cave, the Five Keys and Joe Tex -- along with a molten rendition of Steve Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothing" -- As Long as I Have You has a soulful, even gospel in spots feel that hearkens back to Daltrey's early days in music. "This is an idea I had about 10 years ago for The Who where I said to Pete, 'Rather than you having to sweat blood to write new songs, why don't we just record an album of what we used to play before we made it big and before you started writing the material?'" Daltrey says. "Pete didn't go for it, so that's where the idea came from for me doing a solo album."

The set's title track, in fact, is a Garnett Mimms single Daltrey and Townshend used to play in the pre-Who High Numbers as well as during The Who's earliest days. "This is the kind of music The Who used to do before Pete started writing," Daltrey says. "But of course the way we did it back then, I was 18 years old, 19 years old, 20 years old; you can sing the words at that age, but add 55 years of life experience on top of it and there's a whole different ballgame. There's more meat and potatoes to it now."

One of Daltrey's originals, "Certified Rose," for his daughter Rosie, was considered for The Who, while "Always Headed Home" has been around since 1992. The version of "You Haven't Done Nothing," meanwhile, gave Daltrey a chance to express his frustrations with the state of the world. "It felt right for where we are politically around the world at the moment," he explains, "because there's so much frustration with the state of our nations and the politics. There's an incredible anger out there, and all it is anger. It seems to be very unfocused. It just feels like we don't seem to be moving on from where we are in the '70s, when that song was written, so I sang it with a little more anger than I think Stevie ever sang it. But the lyrics apply just as much today as they did then."

Daltrey has no immediate tour plans to promote As Long As I Have You; With Townshend taking a year off from The Who, Daltrey -- joined by members of The Who's touring band -- hits the road for a series of Tommy concerts with orchestras, starting June 8 in Bethel, N.Y., on the site of the first Woodstock festival. David Campbell wrote the orchestra arrangements, and Daltrey promises the performance will be "magnificent. It's a real opera, and adding the orchestra to the rock band will be magnificent, I assure you. It will be different; It won't be a finger in the ears, earplugs kind of gig, but it will be pure rock."

Forty-five years after his first album, Daltrey still considers his solo career "a hobby." And he anticipates we’ll see action from The Who in the not too distant future. "We haven't gone away," Daltrey says. "We will be doing something in the very near future, that's for sure. Y'know, I've always been of the opinion that if Pete really puts his mind to it he could potentially write his greatest work at this age. He's got that kind of brain that would use his life experience and his musical ability to perhaps come up with his greatest compositions, and the group has been playing so well recently I think [Townshend] thinks we have a valid voice in the music business. So who knows? He has all the ability to do it; Let's just hope he can be inspired to do it."

Roger Daltrey Tommy Tour Dates:

June 8th: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts – Bethel, NY – Hudson Valley Philharmonic

June 10 & 12: Wolf Trap– Vienna, VA – Wolf Trap Orchestra

June 15: Tanglewood – Lenox, MA - Boston Pops Orchestra

June 17: Forest Hills Stadium — Queens, NY — NY Pops  

June 19: Mann Center for the Performing Arts – Philadelphia, PA - Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

June 23 & 25: Ravinia – Highland Park, IL - Ravinia Festival Orchestra

June 27: Ascend Amphitheater – Nashville, TN - Nashville Symphony Orchestra

June 30: CMAC – Canandaigua, NY (Rochester area) – with Orchestra

July 2: Fraze Pavilion – Kettering, OH - Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

July 5: Meadowbrook Amphitheatre – Rochester Hills, MI - Detroit Symphony Orchestra

July 8: Blossom Music Center – Cuyahoga Falls, OH – The Cleveland Orchestra