On March 1st, 1959, a 15 year-old student at Acton County Grammar School brought an air gun to school. Years later, the student would write about how he and a friend were “in the changing room, mucking about after football,” when someone fired the gun. The pellet ricocheted off a wall and struck another student in the eye.
The student who brought the air gun was taken down to see Mr. Kibblewhite, the headmaster. Mr. Kibblewhite announced, “We can’t control you, Daltrey. You’re out.” As the now-expelled student left the office, Mr. Kibblewhite added, “You’ll never make anything out of your life, Daltrey.”
Roger Daltrey, of course, went on to become the lead singer of The Who and is considered to be the epitome of a charismatic rock and roll frontman. As for Mr. Kibblewhite, he went on to lend his name to the title of Daltrey’s autobiography.
As befits someone who, has a reputation for being one of the most down-to-Earth people in rock and roll, Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite is a short and straight-forward account of Roger Daltrey’s life, from his youth in war-scarred London to his time as the frontman for one of the loudest bands in rock and roll to his current life as one of rock’s elder statesmen. If it’s not as salacious as some other rock-and-roll tell-alls, that’s because Daltrey never gave into the excessive behavior that proved to be the downfall of many of his contemporaries (including, of course, his former Who bandmates, Keith Moon and Jon Entwistle). As Daltrey tells it, he avoided hard drugs to such an extent that he was briefly kicked out of the band for flushing Moon’s stash of pills.
As is true with The Who’s best albums, the heart of Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite is found in Daltrey’s close but often difficult collaboration with Pete Townshend. Even after performing with Townshend for over fifty years, Daltrey still seems to be struggling with how he feels about his legendary bandmate. Daltrey’s admiration for Townshend’s talent is obvious but he also writes that Townshend could be like “a scorpion with a good heart.” Daltrey recounts not only the numerous times that Townshend was dismissive of the rest of the band in the press but he also tells the full story of the infamous fist fight in which Daltrey knocked Townshend out with one punch. And yet, when Townshend is falsely accused of downloading child pornography, Daltrey is just as passionate about explaining how he knew his bandmate was innocent.
Daltrey also writes extensively about Keith Moon. In Daltrey’s telling, Moon comes across as a unique, one-of-a-kind talent who was ultimately destroyed by his need to keep up with his own wild reputation. Daltrey is open about often becoming exasperated with Moon but he also writes that, for him, The Who ceased to be The Who after Moon died. Without Moon, Daltrey writes that The Who’s anthems were “now just songs.”
Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite is a short book and Daltrey is such a straight-forward and no frills storyteller that it makes for good airport and airplane reading. For fans of The Who, this book is essential.