Roger Daltrey couldn’t have been more excited when Pete Townshend decided to reform the Who in 1996 for a grandiose production of Quadrophenia in London’s Hyde Park. The Who hadn’t played in seven years at that point, and two years earlier Daltery and John Entwistle launched an American tour where they performed mostly Who classics. Attendance was so dismal in some markets, they were reduced to giving away free T-shirts to boost ticket sales.
Reforming the Who was far from Townshend’s mind in 1996 and he originally planned on playing Quadrophenia by himself in Hyde Park, but nerves got the best of him and he rang up Roger Daltrey and Who bassist John Entwistle, who were more than happy to sign on. They fleshed out the band with a ton of musicians, and brought in Gary Glitter for “The Punk and the Godfather.” This was one year before the glitter-rock icon was arrested for possessing child pornography, but bringing him on board still proved to be a horrific mistake.
One day before the big show, Glitter was swinging around a 15-pound microphone stand over his head during rehearsal when he slammed it right into Roger Daltrey’s left eye. “If I’d known what he was into,” Daltrey said years later, “I’d have punched his lights out.” At the moment of injury, Daltrey wasn’t in much of a position to knock anybody out. Glitter nearly shattered his eye socket. “I was out for 20 minutes,” Daltrey said. “It was a hell of a blow.”
It also posed a hell of a problem. Daltrey had been waiting for a Who reunion for seven years, and one day before the big comeback show he was in the hospital praying he wouldn’t lose one of his eyes. He refused to give up, taking the stage the next day in an eyepatch. “The eye wanted to leave the face,” he said. Thankfully, it stayed in and somehow he got through the night. Here’s 32 minutes of footage from the show. (You can see Glitter swinging the microphone around 13:40. This time Roger managed to dodge it.)
Eighteen years later, Daltrey still has vision troubles in his left eye and he sometimes needs to take eyedrops. Glitter has spent the past two decades in and out of various foreign prisons, and the Who have been touring steadily ever since the Hyde Park gig. They’re hoping to launch their “last big tour” sometime later this year.