When Roger Daltrey Enlisted Famous Friends for ‘One of the Boys’
When you’re the lead singer for one of the biggest bands in rock and you’ve recently emerged as a bona fide movie star, it’s going to be a challenge to be considered just “one of the boys.” But that’s apparently what Who frontman Roger Daltrey was going for on his third solo record, One of the Boys.
The title came from a song written by Steve Gibbons – who, at one point, was managed by the same people who managed the Who. The tune was Gibbons’ tribute to Daltrey, praising his rough-and-tumble nature and fighting prowess while pitting the rock veteran against the new kids on the block.
“He speaks with a terrible stammer / So he don't have much to say,” Daltrey sings, about himself on the song. “But he can spit further than any punk / So nobody gets in his way.”
Perhaps nobody got in Daltrey’s way, but plenty of people joined him while he planned and recorded One of the Boys in 1976-77. Among songs penned by Paul McCartney (“Giddy”) and the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone (“Single Man’s Dilemma”) and tracks featuring Eric Clapton, Rod Argent, Alvin Lee, Mick Ronson, Hank Marvin and Jimmy McCulloch – not to mention the inclusion of Who bandmates John Entwistle and Keith Moon – this was an all-star affair. If those are his peers, than maybe Daltrey was “one of the boys” after all.
Although the 11 tracks were mostly covers, Daltrey did co-write a pair with songwriter David Courtney, his first songwriting work since 1970 (unless you count his contributions to 1975’s Lisztomania). Because of the title track’s grit and the success of its video, One of the Boys became wrongly identified as Daltrey’s take on punk, as it was exploding in the U.K.. Actually, the record was fairly varied in its sound, with a pronounced country and folk influence. With an album sleeve that referenced one of Rene Magritte’s surreal paintings, One of the Boys arrived on May 13, 1977.
To promote the album, Daltrey made a few films (or videos) for the songs. One of them (“Say It Ain’t So, Joe”) displays some of his famous buddies, including Entwistle, Moon and Wings guitarist McCulloch. Another (“Written on the Wind”) makes the strange choice of showing Daltrey faking his way through accompanying himself on piano – an effect that’s never convincing.
Watch Roger Daltrey's 'Written on the Wind' Video
But the promotional film tied to “One of the Boys” was a bigger deal. For this clip, Daltrey took the idea of the punk reference in the song a step further by actually dressing up for part of the video like a 1977 London punk, complete with ridiculous hair and safety pin through his nose. He also appeared as a Teddy Boy, a biker and a working stiff wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jacket in an effort to show off his acting prowess. Daltrey wasn’t one of the boys, he was one of many boys.
Although “One of the Boys” wasn’t a big hit (“Written on the Wind” did better in the U.K., while “Avenging Annie” had more success in the U.S.), but the video got a lot of attention, partially because British movie theaters ran the film clip before screenings of that summer’s big hit, Star Wars. Daltrey was pleased with the results and even invited director Tony Klinger and producer Sydney Rose to help on the Who’s forthcoming movie project, The Kids Are Alright.
Despite Daltrey’s stardom, the pedigree of his collaborators and the visibility of the music videos, One of the Boys wasn’t a memorable success. Reviews were positive, with Rolling Stone declaring “Daltrey comes on with all the assurance and some of the fire that he can summon up as part of the Who,” but sales didn’t follow. The LP was Daltrey's most disappointing effort to date, topping out at No. 45 in the U.K. and No. 46 in the States, his lowest entries yet.
But before long, Daltrey would be back with his boys in the Who, working on The Kids Are Alright and beginning to record Who Are You.
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