Excerpts of Volume One:

(1944 to 1964)

“Why did we four get together and make all that noise?”
Roger Daltrey

“The most exciting part of our career was the beginning,” wrote Pete Townshend 1997 in the book “The Who Concert File” (by Joe McMichael and legendary Who fan “Irish” Jack Lyons). However he could not explain the magic these early founding years held for a rock music fan, who was not there to experience them himself.
The author of this biography was born in 1963, when Roger Daltrey, John Enstwistle and Pete Townshend already toured the clubs and dance halls of West London under the name The Detours. At the same time an elfin youth named Keith Moon played the bars along the Themes River with a so-called surf-sound-combo entitled “The Beachcombers”.
Already we are in the midst of the myth.
But how was it really? Roger Daltrey asked: How could it happen that four so different, young men from West London became world famous? Four men, who had apparently nothing in common, who even hated each other at times, who fought and beat on each other, still made rock history for almost half a century?
To explain the magic and the wonder of their union you have to go far back.
The story of the rock band The Who, famous for their excessive stage shows and their
ear-drum-bursting noise level, begins in the war year 1944. Europe shook under bombs and explosions and the screams of the dying and wounded were swallowed by gas and smoke.
Roger Daltrey, who was born during the war, explained on his sixty-second birthday that he doubts the surprisingly long phase of peace in Europe could have lasted so long without Rock’n’Roll, because Rock’n’Roll used up all the dark energy. “It probably looked as if we agitated the kids, but in fact we prevented a World War.”
Looking at the beginning of the existential tightrope walk that made Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend icons of Rock music, their mighty noise, grumbling, raving and ranting appears like a thundering, epic echo of their time’s history.
The smoking, screeching and howling walls of amplifiers at the end of a concert by The Who in the sixties or seventies created the acoustic impression of an air raid. The unrestrained actions of the figures on stage, stumbling ghost-like between smoke and roving light beams over the debris of their formerly glorious instruments, reminded the observer of the last ticks of a battle field. Yes, these four British boys created an artificial battlefield, soaked in music and painted with sound and notes. It was brutal, fascinating, spectacular, powerful, and insolent. And it was always a bit louder than all the others.
Their fateful union began during the war, and for many years it remained a war, a war within that The Who fought within with the same vehemence as they carried it to the outside through hard music and unpredictable stage presence. The generation of their fathers had done everything to deny any participation in the real war. A substitute war, an artificial inferno had to be invented in order to initiate real healing and comprehension of the World War II.
No band on earth has dealt more seriously, more excitingly, and more entertainingly with this aspect of rock music than The Who.
For this reason the beginning of their career shall receive special attention and we shall really begin at the beginning: during the most horrible war in the history of mankind. We will begin with a completely unbelievable birth, one that should not have happened according to medical opinion – we will begin, therefore, with a myth, as is fitting for the biography of the craziest rock band on earth.


BORN AT A TIME OF THUNDER AND LIGHTENING: The first appearance of the survival artist Roger Daltrey

“All the houses went up in flames”
Roger’s mother Irene Daltrey

It had never crossed Harry and Irene Daltrey’s mind to leave Shepherd’s Bush after they got married. That was surprising, the “Bush” was far from paradise. Most of the neighbors living in this typical English working class district made every effort to try for a better life somewhere else.
Not so Harry and Irene. The Daltreys, both in their early twenties, settled there and rented a cottage at 15, Percy Road. They were happy with their lives. Since he was fourteen, Harry had worked a job in the Armitage Shanks Factory that manufactured among other products a new kind of water closet. After ten years on the job, Harry felt his position was secure enough for him to start a family.
In 1936 he had little concern about the political upheavals on the continent. His twenty-three year old wife had to fight her own war. Nine months after their wedding, she was not pregnant as they had hoped and expected, but extremely ill. One of her kidneys had to be removed. Even worse, the doctors told the stricken young woman that, as a consequence, she would not be able to bear children. “That almost broke my heart”, Irene said later, “I had four sisters who all had children except me.”
And this was not the end of the Daltreys’ tragic misfortunes. After the operation, Irene contracted Polyneuritis, a form of polio accompanied by acute paralysis and neurological disorders. For an entire year, she lay helplessly in an iron lung, a newly developed wooden box that aided the patient with breathing. ithout any feeling in her body, she stared at the hospital ceiling. After her release, she was confined to a wheelchair for another five years, from 1937 to 1942.
But this small and pretty woman knew how to fight back. She remained confident and persistent, even after her husband was drafted into the army at the outbreak of the Second World War and could no longer take of her. Her greatest wish was a baby, even if the doctors told her a hundred times that it was hopeless to conceive in her condition.
In August 1940, after the quick victory of the German Army in France, the German air raids over London began. At the time, Harry was stationed in England where he got leave repeatedly, but soon he, too, had to join the war effort abroad, and Irene worried like all soldiers’ wives that she might become a widow.
But then, during a leave from the front in the summer of 1943, a miracle occurred. Harry, a small and slender man with Irish features, successfully disproved the medical law. Irene, thirty years of age, became pregnant, despite her long illness and the war that had spread by now to the British Isles. Against the advice of her doctors she decided to bring the baby to term.
In the winter of 1943-44 the battle of Britain was already lost for the German Luftwaffe. However, air raids continued to be flown in retaliation against the British population. When the Allied Forces conducted “Big Week”, a series of deadly bombings of Nuremberg, Hamburg, Brunswick, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Berlin and the Ruhr Valley, dropping bombs from over six thousand British and American planes, sirens went off a short time later in London. A decimated German air force took revenge with a series of attacks remembered by Londoners as the “Miniblitz”. While Irene was about to give birth, bombs exploded in neighborhoods, flak streaked through the burning sky, and fighter planes screeched with rattling MGs above the fleeing population. During that night, she packed her belongings and moved with blankets and clothes into the public air raid shelter the government had designated in the Tube, the London Underground: “I was lying in the bunker in the tube at Shepherd’s Bush trying to sleep when the contractions started.”
It was February 29, 1944, a leap year. Irene, who was now thirty two years old, had not been afraid to have a baby despite the loss of her kidney. However, she was terrified of the air raids that raged just when the medics rushed into the shelter to drive her to the nearby Hammersmith Hospital. During the bombings, the house directly next to the Daltrey’s was destroyed by a direct hit. Twenty people, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances perished. It was a miracle that Irene was unhurt; even their house remained intact; but on the way to hospital, she could hear the airplanes, the explosions and the booming of the guns above. She saw flames and smoke billowing over Percy Road and feared that her panic would have a negative effect on the baby, soon to be born into this apocalypse. “The medics came to get me at 9 p.m. The baby would have been born in a leap year, and I asked them not to deliver it before the first of March. When they asked why, I replied, because it is my mother’s birthday.”
Irene Daltrey had overcome so many obstacles on the way to the birth of her child that this last hurdle might have seemed insignificant.
Sure enough, Roger Harry Daltrey was born on March first, a Wednesday, around two in the morning. The baby, who would become famous as the wild and curly haired lead singer of the world’s loudest rock band, was a healthy boy.

QUIET BIRTH: Later John Entwistle was going to become a pretty loud bass guitarist.

“I was born during the Blitz, and every day bombs fell.”
John Entwistle

On June 13 a German V1 missile, Hitler’s last weapon of revenge, hit Grove Road in Mile End and killed six people. The psychological effect on the population of London was enormous, because a week earlier the allies had landed in Normandy and everybody had expected that the German resistance would now be broken.
In late summer and fall the desperate German attacks on the British capital intensified. The terrifying howl of the doodlebugs, as the V1 missiles were called, became part of the daily life of the inhabitants of London.
Maud and Herbert Entwistle lived a few kilometers southwest of Percy Road, the bombed-out neighborhood of the Daltreys. “Queenie”, as Maud was called, was in the same, usually considered happy, condition as Irene Daltrey had been a few months earlier, and she also shared her fear of war. The well-tended Chiswick, where the Entwistles expected the birth of their first son, could not be compared to the hopeless Sheperd’s Bush, but the moderate prosperity obviously did not protect them from air raids. A V1 missile hit Chiswick on September 1944, only one month before John’s birth. Fortunately the house of the Entwistles was not as close to the location of the disaster as the Daltreys’ nine months earlier had been.
On Monday October 9, 1944, while Winston Churchill negotiated the post-war order with Stalin in Moscow, the little John Alec Enstwistle was born in the same hospital as Daltrey half a year earlier.
Not much is known about the birth of the future Who bass player, who apparently did not feel the urge to draw public attention. The family probably did not like to remember this time, because only eighteen month after John’s birth Herbert Enstwistle, a member of the Navy, left the house and the couple got a divorce.
It can be assumed that this family tragedy had an impact on John’s behavior long before Rock‘n Roll tore down bourgeois conventions. A divorce so shortly after the birth of a child was surely scandalous in the conservative neighborhood of Chiswick. Suddenly Queenie and her boy were alone without a protector and provider in these insecure times, which may explain John’s later caution and reserve. It was said that John missed his father very much and suffered from the separation. Nevertheless he was considered a bright and self-confident boy. As an only child he became used to all the attention.
After the divorce, mother and child lived with Queenie’s parents in Southfield Road 81. John showed an early interest in music, which was actively supported by his family. According to an anecdote his grandfather used to put John on a chair in the pub and let him sing out loud while he passed the hat around – until one day the little boy fell off the chair, which caused a scar that could still be seen in the face of the adult John Entwistle.
But meanwhile it was still war, and John, who was exposed to music early on more than his later band mates, prepared for his future musical successes.

THE APPLE DOES NOT FALL FAR FROM THE TREE: Born with a Musical Sense of Smell

“It’s a boy, Cliff!”
Unknown dispatcher, who announced
the birth of Cliff Townshend’s son

In the summer of 1944, while Harry Daltrey was dispatched to the continent and Irene and her baby were evacuated to Scotland, Swinging London did not stop partying despite the hard times. The Army entertained the troops with popular Big Bands in the style of Benny Goodman or Variety Shows featuring the most popular British entertainers.
Betty Vera Dennis, a tall and slender singer, produced radio shows for the Royal Airforce with the respected Sidney Torch Orchestra. One day she received an urgent telephone call. The Entertainer Lesley Douglas, who had seen her in a show, asked Betty to substitute for an ailing singer in his band. “I believe it was in Bristol,” Betty remembers. “I agreed and met Cliff.”
Cliff’s last name was Townshend and he was known among music lovers in Britain. This talented Saxophone player had already performed in London’s jazz clubs before the war. When large Big Bands sprang up all over Europe during the War, the Royal Air Force created its own Light Orchestra, the RAF Dance Orchestra. Cliff Townshend was one of their best musicians on the Alto saxophone. “Betty was also good”, Cliff mused, looking back. “I would not have married her if she had not been good.”
Both bands, the RAF Dance Orchestra and the Sidney Torch Orchestra were stationed in London. Betty, who was twenty-four at the time, and Cliff, three years her senior, developed a stormy relationship. Music played a significant role. Both her parents had flirted with a musical career. Before the war, Cliff’s father had given concerts as a talented flautist and almost turned professional; his mother was a cabaret singer and Betty’s father was also considered an accomplished singer.
On May 19, 1945, a few days after the end of the war, Cliff’s orchestra performed at the occasion of a rousing victory speech by a Royal Air Force Commander. In the middle of the speech a motorcycle drove up. Everyone thought the commander would receive an urgent message. Instead, the dispatcher slid alongside the railing of the stage, stopped in front of the orchestra and announced on stage, “ It’s a boy, Cliff.”
The boy who had been announced in such a dramatic manner was proudly christened by his parents with his full name: Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend. He would spend the rest of his life in the bright lights of the stage that had applauded him at the time of his birth. Like an auspicious messenger from the Olympus the dispatcher appeared before his father’s orchestra announcing the future musical hero to his expectant fans – a magnificent, a symbolic image that would give Peter Townshend’s life a significant direction.
The successes that Peter Townshend and the The Who achieved in the history of rock music would not have been possible without the musical heritage and tradition his parents bestowed on him. These gifts were developed in highly independent ways by the son, who continued with his group of fellow musicians to achieve stardom. Even his characteristic nose would not be an obstacle in his quest for fame, something that the owner of this olfactory organ had insisted on for years.



“He simply loved all the attention.”
Keith’s mother about her son’s early need
to be the center of attention.

The moon is a symbol of something unfathomable, eternally emotional. It reflects the creative light of the sun and illuminates the night. But what happens on the dark side that is hidden from the observer remains unknown.
Keith Moon who revolutionized the tradition of his instrument with his thundering, rolling, unpredictable, and thrashing drumming and who created drama and mayhem with his eccentric escapades offstage kept many things a secret.
As befits a true Rock’n’Roll legend, the puzzle starts with his birth. Almost all biographies, including the official one of the band, have quoted his date of birth as August 23, 1947. The rock journalist, Tony Fletcher, who questioned one hundred twenty witnesses of Keith Moon’s life for his biography “Dear Boy”, has proofed that the drummer made himself a year younger before he became famous. Actually, Keith Moon was born on August 23, 1946. So he was only fifteen months younger than Pete Townshend, too little to establish a youthful image in contrast to the more mature songwriter.
With Keith the post-war years in the history of The Who began. Heroes are born in war. But to become a hero himself, the last of the legendary quartet had to take extraordinary steps. It started with his birth date and he hid his background all the more because it could be considered boring. His mother, Katheleen ‘Kitty’ Hopley, was the daughter of a railway worker who met the farmer’s son Alfred Charles Moon in the late thirties when the Hopley family was on vacation in Kent. The Moon’s farm was located near the tourist town of Herne Bay where working families like the Hopleys enjoyed the pleasures of life at the beach. As Alfred Moon was a farmer, he was exempt from the draft and could court Kit with bravura.
However, he soon came to the conclusion that he did not really want to be a farmer and that his country needed him. Therefore, he took the opportunity to volunteer for the army hoping to lead a different life after the war.
Alf and Kit got married during the war in 1941 in North-West London. They moved into their first home at 224 Tokyngton Avenue in Wembley, not far from the grandparents house in Harlesden. Keith was born at the height of the post-war baby-boom in Central Middlesex Hospital, Acton Lane – without any complications. He entered an orderly, loving, and secure environment, very different from the dramatic circumstances in which Roger Daltrey spent his first year.
Keith’s parents were an upright, caring, and loving couple who wished for nothing more than to be able live a comfortable and easy going life and spoil their bright little boy as much as they could. Alf was employed in a metal factory as a machinist, a steady job with weekly wages. Kit took care of the household and had plenty of time to become a loving mother for cute little Keith.
If someone had foretold these upright parents that their bundle of joy would later on lead such a profligate, scandalous and feverish life style, they would never have believed it.
(To be continued)