Monday, August 18, 2008

Ladies And Gentlemen. Presenting The Three Rogers!

Something a little bit different for this post. It’s almost a given these days that one or more members of a well established group will try their hand at recording a solo album (or two, or three…). Most commonly it’s the lead singer, or maybe the guitarist, that will give it ago, but in the case of groups like Genesis or the Rolling Stones all the members strike out on their own at some point, to varying levels of success.

During 1987 three male vocalists released singles that were linked by a common theme, well two common themes actually. Firstly, all three singers had fronted, or were still fronting highly successful British groups. Secondly, all three singers had the same given name, Roger.

Roger Daltrey had fronted The Who for almost 20 years by the time the band announced an official split in 1982. B
y that time they had already firmly established a place in the pantheon of rock music history. All four original members had recorded solo albums, even Keith Moon with 1975’s ‘Two Sides Of The Moon’. But guitarist Pete Townsend and singer Roger Daltrey had been the most active beyond the boundaries of The Who’s world. Townsend himself had scored one of his biggest hit albums with 1985’s ‘White City’ featuring the hits ‘Face The Face’ and ‘Give Blood’. But Roger Daltrey had enjoyed solo success as far back as 1973.

Daltrey released his self titled debut album in 1973, which featured the UK#5 hit ‘Giving It All Away’. 1975’s ‘Ride A Rock Horse’ (UK#14) was also well received and throughout the remainder of the 70s Daltrey maintained a strong balance between solo career and his duties with The Who. I
n 1980 he released the album ’McVicar O.S.T.’ (he also starred in the film) which featured his biggest U.S. solo hit ‘Without Your Love’ (#20). Following The Who’s split in 1982, there was a lull before Daltrey released the 1985 album ‘Under A Raging Moon’. The title track from the album was a UK#43 hit, and featured no less than seven drummers playing on the track, including Roger Taylor, Cozy Powell, Stewart Copeland and Zak Starkey (I guess when you’re Roger Daltrey you can call on a few friends to help out in the studio).

In 1987 Daltrey released his seventh studio album titled ‘Can’t Wait To See The Movie’. The first single lifted from the album was ‘Hearts Of Fire’, written and produced by Russ Ballard (see future post). The song didn’t chart anywhere, but it’s a solid power rock track which I purchased on vinyl 45 at the time of its release.

In all Roger Daltrey has scored 7 Australian Top 100 singles, 8 UK Top 100 singles and 8 U.S. Top 100 singles. Not bad when considered in the context of The Who’s remarkable career, which has been reignited in recent years by Daltrey and Townsend’s continued touring under the band’s banner.

Roger Waters had been a founding member and co-frontman for one of the biggest band names in the history of popular music - Pink Floyd. Following Pink Floyd’s 1983 album ‘The Final Cut’
(arguably Waters’ darkest and most personal work with Pink Floyd), there came an acrimonious split in the band’s ranks. When the litigious dust was finally settled in 1987 Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason were left as custodians of the Pink Floyd brand, whilst an embittered Waters was left out in the cold. Keyboardist Richard Wright soon rejoined Gilmour and Mason for Pink Floyd’s 1987 album ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’.

Meanwhile following his initial
departure from Pink Floyd, Roger Waters had decanted all his scorn into his 1984 album ‘The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (which Waters had originally conceived around the same time as 1979‘s ‘The Wall‘ but Pink Floyd opted against recording ‘Hitchhiking’ at that time). The album realised the minor hit ‘5.01AM (The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking)’ (OZ#74) and also reached #30 on the Australian album charts (UK#13), probably in large part due to loyal Pink Floyd fans lamenting the band’s apparent demise.

Shortly before Pink Floyd (MkII) released ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’, Roger Waters released his album ‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ (OZ#33/UK#25) which though not garnering the commercial or critical attention of the Floyd set, did manage to keep Waters’ name in that charts. The archetypal Waters’ concept album also yielded the single ‘Radio Waves’ (OZ#43/UK#74) which was an unusually contemporary sounding track from Waters, and was one of my favourite songs from 1987.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Roger Waters organised to stage a huge open air concert near the iconic site on July 21st 1990. He assembled a cast of rock superstars to help him in performing his opus ‘The Wall’ from start to finish. Among the performers were Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper, Joni Mitchell and The Scorpions, who thrilled a live audience of around 300,000, complete with a life size mock brick wall set. The resultant live album ‘The Wall Berlin 90’ was also well receive
d (OZ#17/UK#27).

1992 saw Roger Waters release his darkest and most melancholy effort to date with the album ‘Amused To Death’ (UK#8/OZ#27), which yielded his only U.K. top 40 solo hit
in ‘What God Wants God Gets (Part 1)’ (#35). After a long musical sojourn Waters took off on his ‘In The Flesh’ tour in 1999, resulting in a live album release in 2000. Most recently, after 16 years in the works, Waters released his opera ‘Ca Ira’ on CD/DVD in February 2005. Proof that Waters has lost none of his brilliance can be heard via the clip to 'Hello (I Love You)' (at the end of this post), taken from the soundtrack to the 2006 film 'The Last Mimzy'.

Despite pockets of commercial success in the post split careers of both Roger Waters and the Dave Gilmour led Pink Floyd, neither has returned to the heights of the formerly united Pink Floyd model. Perhaps the acidic and cynical nature of Waters’ song writing, combined with his often abrasive performance style, needs the temperance and luminescence offered in Gilmour’s writing and vocals, not to mention his trademark guitar - and vice versa. The world was offered a glimpse at what might have been in July 2005, when Waters reunited with his old band mates for the first time in over 20 years at the Live 8 concert in London. For 23 minutes Pink Floyd fans, old and new, basked in the glow of a true rock legend, united as one. But alas, it’s unlikely the group will be seen or heard in its original form again.

From 1969 to 1983 Roger Hodgson shared the vocal duties with Rick Davies in the hugely successful prog-rock quintet Supertramp. The group released some of the landmark albums of the 1970s, including ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ (1975) and ‘Breakfast In America’ (1979). The group benefited greatly not only by the individual song writing talents of Davies and Hodgson, but by the fact that both shared the lead vocal duties, offering an appealing contrast and balance in sound. Whilst Davies belted out the likes of ‘Bloody Well Right’ and ‘Take The Long Way Home’, Hodgson’s unique higher pitched vocals handled hits such as ‘Give A Little Bit’, ‘Dreamer’ and probably the group’s best known hit ‘Breakfast In America’.

But in early 1983 Hodgson announced he was leaving Supertramp to pursue a solo career. Supertramp continued on however through the remainder of the 80s, with Rick Davies taking up the slack writing and vocals wise.

Hodgson launched his solo career with the 1984 album ‘In The Eye Of The Storm’. Since Hodgson’s writing style and vocals hadn’t departed to any great degree from that which he channelled into Supertramp’s work, the album wasn’t really that divergent in style or sound. The album was well received across most markets (US#46/UK#70/OZ#23), and yielded the hit ‘Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy)’ (US#48/OZ#21).

1987’s album ‘Hai Hai’ featured a more synth-pop oriented sound which comprised Hodgson’s song writing to a degree. It was a poor performer on the charts (OZ#88) and though the
excellent ‘You Make Me Love You’ was a highlight, overall Hodgson and Supertramp fans would have been disappointed in the album. What made matters worse was that Hodgson had fallen and broken both his wrists just prior to the album’s release, stymieing any promotional tour in support.

Following a prolonged sabbatical from music, Hodgson returned to the fray in 1997 with a tour and subsequent live album ‘Rites Of Passage’. In 2
000 he released his first studio album in 13 years with ‘Open The Door’, which was acclaimed by fans and critics alike as being perhaps his best solo work. Soon after Hodgson joined the line-up of Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band, playing lead guitar on tour. In the years since Roger Hodgson has continued to tour regularly, pleasing old and new fans alike with not only his solo fare, but by revisiting many Supertramp classics.

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