'I can’t regret the consequences. To do that now would be to regret my children' - Roger Daltrey releases his autobiography
AS rock legend Roger Daltrey prepared to go on stage with The Chieftains back in 1991, their Belfast rehearsal session took a bizarre and sinister twist.
The somewhat unconventional combination of the brash frontman, who became a rock icon leading supergroup The Who, and one of Ireland’s most recognisable folk bands were preparing for a concert at the Belfast Opera House when their plans were interrupted in the most chilling manner imaginable.
“It was billed as an Irish evening and we were joined by a talented American folk singer Nanci Griffith,” recalls Daltrey, who has recently released his tell-all autobiography looking back on his remarkable life.
“About half an hour into the rehearsal session, someone came on stage and calmly informed us that they had received a credible bomb threat.
“So we all trudged out of the car park at the back of the opera house. A few minutes later, the same someone suggested we might want to move a bit further away.
“We ended up in a doorway at the back of another building and I’ll never forget the sight that greeted us.
“It was a full bingo hall in all its afternoon glory. Row after row of chain smoking, blue rinse ladies. The smoke was so thick you could hardly see the other side of the room. It would take more than a bomb scare to move this lot. They weren’t going anywhere.
“The show did happen that night and it was a great success, but a little while after that, the IRA set off a huge bomb on Glengall Street and blew that beautiful opera house to bits. Miraculously, no one was injured. Whether it stopped the bingo is another question!”
The collaboration of a notoriously wild rock lead singer and The Chieftains was, at best, unconventional, yet Daltrey quickly fell in love with a folk twist that gave him a whole new musical experience.
“In the early 1990s, I was pursuing my little acting career and then the phone rang in July 1991 and it was Paddy Maloney from The Chieftans,” says Daltrey, who toasted his 74th birthday earlier this year.
“Paddy wanted to know if I would sing a guest spot with Chieftans at the London Palladium that weekend? I always say yes to a challenge, it’s one of the few rules I stick to.
“This was a big challenge because there would be no rehearsal, which is always a nerve-racking experience. I’d just have to walk onstage, and fit with one of the quietest acoustic bands in the world. This is not what I was used to.
“I’d learned the words to ‘Raglan Road’ and within three minutes of introductions, they were playing the introduction and we were off.
“For the first time on stage with a band, the first time in thousands of gigs, I could hear myself sing. I don’t like hearing my own voice, but it does make life easier when you’re performing.
“The song went smoothly, so I suggested we try ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, my favourite Who song and it was amazing.
“It was wonderful to hear a song I’d performed so many times done in such a different way, by a wonderful set of Irish musicians. From that moment, I wanted to do more with The Chieftains.”
Daltrey’s wonderful storytelling talents are chronicled in his recently released and searingly honest autobiography entitled Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite, in a backhanded tribute to a teacher who unhelpfully advised him that he was destined to fail in life due to his academic struggles.
The remarkable success of his career banished that pessimistic prediction, with the book chronicling the raucous life Daltrey led alongside The Who founder members Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
Tales of the band’s infamous obsession with destroying hotel rooms, his bitter fights with Townshend, his battle with depression and Daltrey’s colourful love life that resulted in his discovery of three grown up children he didn’t know about until after his 50th birthday are included in the book and as he looks back on his story, he insists he harbours no regrets.
“I could have behaved more responsibly at times, but I was young, arrogant and yes, I admit it, I was enjoying myself and I can’t regret the consequences. To do that now would be to regret my children,” he adds.
“It has worked out great. My children stay in touch and they’re close, so that’s great. I’ve tried to do my best about a situation that couldn’t change because it happened a long time ago.
“I see my children as often as possible and each of them, at one time or another, has thanked me for giving them life and I’m grateful for that. I am a lucky bugger.”
When you have lived a life Daltrey enjoyed, where boundaries were set somewhat differently than most, following the political correctness code of 2018 was never likely to be his style and that is one of the reasons why his autobiography makes for such a good read.
Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey is available now.