The lead singer of The Who tells all—sometimes laconically, sometimes archly, but always unflinchingly.
Daltrey begins and ends his charming, too-short memoir with a common trope: a teacher who tells him he’ll never amount to anything. He reveals a rosebud early on, too: a flannel shirt that his loving mother bought him so that he wouldn’t have to suffer his school’s “itchy, scratchy, horrible, bloody pullover.” Toughened by the hardscrabble neighborhood in which he was raised, beaten up for his refusal to back down, Daltrey earned a reputation for bellicosity, including punching out his band mates in The Who, the band he founded and to which longtime foil Pete Townshend was a latecomer. (In one notorious row, Townshend punched first, getting knocked out for his troubles.) The author’s affection for his band mates is evident, though he is less than patient with the late bassist John Entwistle, who never played at any volume other than loud and spent his considerable fortune on drugs. Along the way, Daltrey reveals a few tricks of the trade, including how he came to swing his microphone so vigorously and potentially lethally. “I started twirling my microphone not because of my ego,” he writes, “but because I didn’t know what to do with my hands during the solos.” He also reveals how the band’s considerable stagecraft evolved as a way to fill a stadium that, unlike the Beatles’ audiences, was not overrun by screaming girls. Thus they made their own deafening roar, for which reason, notes Daltrey with pleasing self-deprecation, “septuagenarian Pete and me have to ask you to say that again, only a bit louder.” The author praises Townshend for his indefatigability and work ethic, but it’s clear he lacks neither: After all, while his mates were doing drugs, he was stripping varnish off medieval beams and building lakes on his country estate, a pastime he recommends. Throughout, he allows, he’s been “a lucky bugger.”
Unaffected, lucid, and entertaining: One of the best rock memoirs in recent memory.