Earlier this month, Roger Daltrey resumed his solo career after a 26-year break with the release of his new LP As Long As I Have You, though not long ago he was ready to abandon the whole project. Sessions began long before his 2015 battle with viral meningitis that nearly took his life. And when he finally was ready to pick it back up during downtime from Who tours, he didn’t like what he heard. “It felt dated already,” he says. “I wanted to put it into the archive and just shelf it.”
Unbeknownst to him, his management sent the unfinished work – which includes a cover of the 1972 Manassas song “How Far” along with Stevie Wonder’s 1974 politically-charged “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and the original compassion “Certified Rose” – to Pete Townshend. “He convinced me to finish it,” says Daltrey. “He said to me, ‘I’d love to play some guitars on it.’ “What Pete loves to do is play around in the studio. That’s what he did. I said, ‘Just have fun with it, Pete.'”
Townshend ultimately added guitar parts to seven of the 11 songs. The bandmates have been making music for over 50 years, but this is the first time they’ve worked in this capacity together. “He’s usually the writer and he’s creating the whole tapestry of the track that I sing to,” says Daltrey. “This time the track was already done and he laid rhythm guitar over it.”
Daltrey is currently in New York preparing for the launch of a solo summer tour where he’ll play the Who’s 1969 LP Tommy in its entirety with local symphonies alongside guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, guitarist Frank Simes, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and drummer Scott Devour. “It’s going to be magnificent with the orchestra,” says Daltrey. “It won’t be sloppy strings, I assure you. The band is so solid underneath. The Who band even without [drummer] Zak [Starkey] is a solid band. And we stay faithful to the record. We treat it with the respect that you’d treat a Mozart opera.”
Daltrey says he’ll make minor changes, however, like the tiny bit of gospel music that Sally Simpson hears when she goes to see Tommy deliver a sermon. “It’s an echo of the piano that covers a guitar change that is quite difficult since my guitarist has to change from electric to 12-string acoustic,” says Daltrey. “But it really works.” They’ve also added a new grand finale since the record fades out at the end. “It’ll be interesting to see how people pick up on that,” says Daltrey, “but I’m very happy with it.” He has yet to figure out the encore section of the show, but he imagines it will feature some of the Who’s biggest hits that weren’t on Tommy.
The Who haven’t played since a run of dates in South America with Guns N’ Roses last October. “We haven’t planned anything, but we also haven’t ever thought about giving up,” says Daltrey. “We said this is the beginning of a long goodbye at the beginning of our 50th anniversary tour. The long goodbye is as long as it takes. I’ve always been of the opinion that you don’t give this business up. This business gives you up. As long as we can do it well, we will. If it ever starts to get not good and loses the essence of what the Who brings to the stage, we’ll stop.”