Back in 2005, two cultural giants met in a small broadcasting studio in Norwich for an interview that would go down in history as one which “could have gone a lot worse, actually”.
But who were these two icons, and what strange phenomena heralded their meeting? Macbeth’s meeting with the three witches occurred under a furious storm, and The Beatles meeting with Elvis Presley caused a thousand teenage girls to combust spontaneously. But no, on this day in 2005, no strange events occurred, and the sky gave out nothing more than its usual persistent drizzle. However, there were biscuits – and enough jars of instant coffee to bury a small horse. On that fateful day in 2005, legendary Broadcaster Alan Partridge met with leathery rockstar Roger Daltrey. Below, we take a look at some of the highlights of that seminal interview.
Like Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, and Noddy Holder, Roger Daltrey is symbolic of British rock and roll. With his band The Who, he created some of the most enduring music of the 1960s and ‘70s. Despite the band’s immense output, he still found the time to dip his feet into acting, writing, and sculpting miniature woodland creatures out of candlewax.
As soon as Partridge joined Daltrey in the studio, it was evident he understood the cultural weight of the man he was about to interview. Wearing his signature bomber jacket, Partridge tried his best to contain his excitement, but there was an undeniable tension in the room, an electrical charge if you will.
In classic Desert Island Discs style, Partridge began the interview by giving a rundown of Daltrey’s early life: “Born in 1943 in High Wycombe, life dealt Roger a cruel blow when his father was tragically killed on the battlefield”. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that somebody had given Partridge the wrong notes and that he was reeling off facts about the following week’s guest, Roger Waters. Roger Daltrey was born in Hammersmith in 1944, and his father, disappointingly, came back from the war. But despite this awkward start, the two personalities continued unabashed. Partridge went on to detail his lifelong affection for The Who, describing how: “In your day, you had some very clever lyrics, you were very creative. But at the same time, you didn’t take any nonsense. There was nothing pansy-ish about you. Someone once described you as a kind of Kinks for welders.”
Partridge then moved on to ask Daltrey about his thrill-seeking antics back in the ‘60s, citing the cover of Daltrey’s solo album Ride A Rock Horse, which features a picture of a white horse with Daltrey’s body sprouting from its neck. Partridge was deliberately nudging Daltrey, trying to get him to admit to excessive drug use. But the rocker seemed unphased, stating that drugs were just “a part of the creative process” for musicians throughout that era. “It was a bit difficult,” he said. “We had to erase the horse’s private parts for mothers of America at the time, but that was the only trouble we had with it. There were no drugs involved.”
Satisfied, Partridge pushed onward, firing off top-notch question after top-notch question. After discussing the potentially discriminatory effect of ‘Pinball Wizard’, which includes the lyric: “That deaf dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball”, and establishing that the disabled community never took offence, Partridge settled on the question of Daltrey’s hair. “You had short hair in the ‘60s when you were a mod. Then you went all curly in the ‘70s a la Brian May. Then you cut it short. Then you grew it long again. Now it’s short. Make your mind up, Roger!”
Daltrey, whose concentration had been waning throughout Partridge’s hair comments, took the opportunity to talk about his work as an actor:
“I had it cut when I played a guy called John McVicar”, Dalrey began, talking about his performance in the 1980 film McVicar, in which he played Britians Public Enemy No. 1. Daltrey also performed in Highlander, as well as several stage musicals. Partridge, however, was more interested in the controversy surrounding McVicar’s release: “I did hear from someone that Mr McVicar is still fencing pirate DVDs. You know, he might say it’s a legitimate business just because he does it at a car-boot sale, but that doesn’t make it legitimate.”
Attempting to move away from the divisive subject, Partridge wrapped up the interview with a couple of questions about the future of Daltrey’s career: “Daltrey”, Partridge began, “You’re an embarrassment. Go home. Go home and trim your hedge and leave the rocking to the young ones like Lenny Kravitz.’ Does it hurt you mean people say things like that?” To which Daltrey responded, “As long as they turn up on the night and they’re paying good money for your tickets, and you’re still selling out, then I don’t give a toss.”
Yes, the 2005 meeting of Alan Partridge and Roger Daltrey was undoubtedly an illuminating one. Partridge’s questions burrowed straight to the heart of one of rock’s greatest living legends. Now, when anyone asks me to name the greatest broadcasters of our age, I’ll know exactly what to say: Wogan, Peel, Partridge.
Watch the full interview below.