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City Lights: Daltrey's talkin' about another generation

He brings music of The Who to the amphitheater but his concern for teens and young adults with cancer takes center stage.

August 14, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Roger Daltrey, left, and guitarist Frank Simes, open the show with I Can See for Miles at the Pacific Amphitheater show on Saturday.
Roger Daltrey, left, and guitarist Frank Simes, open… (Mat Luschek / Daily…)

To young cancer patients nationwide, Roger Daltrey is the new boss.

And whatever The Who may have sung decades ago, he's not the same as the old boss.

That was the thought that crossed my mind when I attended Daltrey's show Saturday at the OC Fair, then put in a call Monday to the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program, which the singer launched with bandmate Pete Townshend in 2011.

The men who once snarled at those who "try to put us down" are now serving as protectors for a very different generation. The surviving members of a band that some once viewed as a threat to society have devoted their lives to ensuring that the kids are all right.

That's not to say that they've changed, deep down, in the past half-century. They were rockers then and are rockers now, and their hearts may have been as big in 1965 as they are today. But that Daltrey/Townshend sign at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica (doesn't "Daltrey/Townshend" sound like a law firm or a textbook publishing company?) goes to show how new bosses are born.

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It's pretty simple: They're born because the old bosses die out. What's shocking or rebellious once becomes the status quo when its founders become elder statesmen. If you saw the movie "Pirate Radio" a few years ago, it may have served as a reminder of how, half a century back, bands like The Who were seen as capable of destroying a lot more than Keith Moon's drum kit.

This summer, as Eric Burdon and the Animals got set to play at Costa Mesa's 60th anniversary celebration, the Daily Pilot reprinted a review of the 1968 Newport Pop Festival by Los Angeles Times critic Digby Diehl. In a pan of the festival, Diehl blamed The Who — which he begrudgingly labeled "a capable musical group" — for pushing rock's boundaries beyond the pale by smashing instruments and committing other hijinks onstage.

Now, even in 2013, I'll admit that smashing instruments is a dumb thing to do. Plenty of charities around the world could use them. And some of the excesses of the 1960s seem even more dangerous and destructive than they may have at the time, given the benefit of hindsight.

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