Rock ‘n Roll Royalty Rocks Monmouth Beach

“Who are you? I really want to know.” Roger Harry Daltrey brought his band of brothers to Monmouth Beach last week to help celebrate Lori and Steve Silverman’s summer extravaganza.

Roger Daltrey rocking away with host Steve Silverman.

Special thanks for being invited to the party of the year (again)! Although, the downside is I’m kind of ruined for future concerts “Hey Richie, you want to go see this concert?”

“Where are the seats?”

“400, 300, 200, 100 level?”

“What?! I’m sorry – I’m used to being front row just 10 feet away from the bestselling artists in history.”

Lori Silverman singing with Roger Daltrey

If you’re still scratching your head you probably know Daltrey more as the lead singer for the English rock band The Who, formed in 1964. Yes, that’s correct, The Who, who has sold more than 100 million records.

They played on a beautiful summer’s day just a few minutes from wherever you were last week. While the band has had its share of players over the years its current lineup speaks to not only my generation but the generation that followed us.

Its current touring line up has the incredible Roger Daltrey singing lead and he’s still got ‘it”! Known for his powerful vocals and rock god good looks, he was excellent while leaving quite a few women gasping for air.

His career has spanned more than 50 years, but you would have never known it ‘cause he was very engaged with the audience, laughing and telling stories about almost every song. I’ve been fortunate to be present for other Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers but no other artist seemed to enjoy their show as much as he did.

Richie Schwartz

Joining Daltrey was Simon Townshend on acoustic and electric guitars while singing back up on most songs and taking the lead on “Going Mobile.”

There was much more on the entire set list but let me introduce some of the other members of the current lineup. His name is not a typo – if you’re trying to figure out the connection, Simon Townshend is actually the younger brother of The Who’s principle song writer and lead guitarist, Pete Townshend.

Keeping things in the royal family on drums was Zak Starkey. That’s Richard Starkey’s son – maybe you know the father more by his Beatle’s name – Ringo Starr. Starkey has been playing with the Who since the 90’s.

On lead guitar was Frank Turner Simes, who not only serves as musical director, but he tore up every lead and brought power to the power pop songs that many of us grew up with. He was literally a foot from me and I got a great picture of my friend, Linda “Little Feet” Robentello – a local poet and songwriter, with Frank. I’ve included it with this write up; I hope it makes the paper along with many other pictures.

Rounding out the band was John Button on bass and John Corey on keyboards with both singing backing vocals.

For those of you that have followed my columns in the past you’ll know that I believe a show is often only as good as the songs one hears. Perhaps you’ve even gone to concert only to be disappointed that you didn’t get the hits you had come to hear? This was not one of those shows! As a matter of fact, Daltrey shared that Steve Silverman – our host and resident shredder – actually picked out all the songs for the show.

So without further ado let me share a little bit more on the high energy set that went close to 90 minutes.

It’s interesting to note that a few announcements were made before the band took the stage: No drinks on the stage and NO SMOKING of any kind anywhere under the tent. Daltrey has stated that he’s negatively affected by marijuana smoke. Just a few years ago he almost stopped an entire concert at the Nassau Coliseum because he smelled a joint burning. This is not your typical stoner rocker!

So what did they open up with you might ask? I was hoping for Eminence Front in large part from the line “come and join the party dressed to kill!” Which most guests do in spades. Sadly, that was my only miss for the day. They actually started with a Tommy Overture, doing pieces of the rock opera, Tommy. Tommy was and still is today a masterpiece of creative vision.

A first for its time, Tommy was a concept album about the life of a deaf, dumb and blind boy and his attempt to communicate with others.

Townshend has shared many times that he “wanted the story of Tommy to have several levels . . . a rock singles level and a bigger concept level.” When the album was released in May, 1969, it sold an amazing 200,000 copies in its first two weeks in the US.

Life magazine wrote that “for sheer power, invention, and brilliance of performance, Tommy outstrips anything which has ever come out of a recording studio.” Melody Maker went on to write, “Surely, The Who, are now the band against which all others are to be judged.”

For me, I’ll always remember the movie that followed with Daltrey playing the character of Tommy himself. Perhaps it was the sexy Ann Margaret – who played his young mother – that left a more indelible impression. Tina Turner as the Gypsy, Acid Queen was equally captivating and no one will ever forget Elton John as the Gigantic Pinball Wizard.

It was Pinball Wizard that followed the Overture and anyone would know that opening guitar riff as it’s like no other. Oddly enough Townshend said he wrote Pinball Wizard with an eye towards a New York Times journalist, Nik Cohn. Cohn was said to be an avid pinballer and he hoped that Cohn would give the album a better review by including one of Cohn’s passions.

Growing up on the Jersey shore I also loved Pinball, and Bradley Beach had two arcades where I would spend hours and hours pumping quarters in the machines. “I thought I was the Bally table king, but I’ve got to hand my pinball crown to him.”

The next song of the evening was “Who are You.” Released in 1978 it might have gotten overlooked by the death of their original drummer, Keith Moon shortly thereafter. The lyrics of “Who are You” were inspired by many hours of drinking with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of Sex Pistols fame.

Townshend was found in a “SoHo doorway” by a policeman, who said he would let him go *IF he could safely walk away. Years later Who are You became more of an outburst for the younger generation against the older establishment. There are lines in that song that could be used today but newspaper standards prevent me from re-writing them here.

A more obscure cut followed with the song entitled, Another Tricky Day. It was said that the lyrics were inspired by current events of that time and that there was “no social crisis”, saying that this (or any) so-called dilemma is “just another tricky day.” When Daltrey introduced the song he said he had recently seen some footage of our US Congress grilling members of the FBI. He shared that he rarely watches any news but the song fit today just as it did decades ago.

What followed was one of my favorites, because “no one knows what it’s like to be the man Behind Blue Eyes.”

Behind Blue Eyes could have been the inspiration of Townshend’s second rock opera but it never came to be. He had written it for the central character that was always angry and full of angst. For me personally, it’s probably been a little too close to home with my Blue eyes and sometimes “anger management” challenges. Things are not always going to go the way you think they should but how one handles them is really the most important thing I have to remind myself of that often!

Behind Blue Eyes is also one of the first songs I ever thought I sounded pretty good on through my amp while playing guitar.

Without a doubt, Getting in Tune was a major highlight of the concert because Lori Silverman – our most gracious hostess – jumped up on stage and sang with Daltrey. She couldn’t have been any happier and so were all of her guests for her.

Originally released on the 1971 album, Who’s Next, Getting in Tune was praised for its changes in tempo and use of dynamics. Its lyrics describes the power of music . . . need I say more? The song Athena followed which was inspired by a failed encounter for Townshend with the actress Teresa Russel. He was crushed when she didn’t return his infatuations.

After that came I Can See For Miles from the 1967 album, The Who Sell Out.

For its time it represented many of the more complex ways bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys and The Who were recording. Recording pieces of the song were done in London, New York, and Los Angeles and then all pulled together as if it was done in one central location. Oddly enough it was the highest single to every track within the top 10 in the US yet Townshend thought it was going to be their first number one. For as good as they were (and still are), they’ve never had a number one song.

Simon Townshend took the lead for “Going Mobile” and he did not disappoint. He’s quite a talent in his own right having performed with many other bands including Pearl Jam, Dave Grohl and Jeff Beck. Daltrey even complimented him for the speed at which he can play. His vocals were also spot on. Lyrically, it speaks to the freedom and lust for life and adventure while “watching the police and the taxman miss me – I’m mobile.”

“The Real Me” followed which first came out in 1973’s Quadrophenia. In this song, the central character is a young English Mod named Jimmy, who has four distinct personalities. “Don’t Jam Me” Jimmy, are you reading this? This song describes how he’s trying to identify “the real me” to different people in his life. At one time during the career, the real me was often used to close shows.

“Squeeze Box” followed with an introduction as to “why Steve’s set list was all about blokes? Well, this next one is for mamma that’s got a squeeze box.” I was never really a fan of this song but it happens to be their only international number-one hit. There seems to be quite a few sexual double entendres so maybe that’s why it made it to number 1 in Canada and number 2 on the Irish charts. “The Kids are Alright” came next and while it never charted very well it did become a rallying cry for English youth in the 1960s. It also became the name of the documentary for the band in 1979. Again, not a fan favorite but it does have a more cult-like following.

Then came my favorite song of the night and my favorite of all Who songs. But first a little background, you know how some songs are often misunderstood? OR people think the lyrics are one thing, but they’re really saying something else? Well, as a teenager, my close friends and I had our song, our own lyrical chant. It was our tribute to the greatest memories we made in “Gary’s Basement.”

One of my best friends then and still today, 50 years later, is Gary DeJohn. He lived around the corner from me and a handful of our very tight kit friends. His address was 69 Boyden Avenue; I am not making that up. To say that quite a of us experienced many “firsts” at Gary’s house would be an understatement.

Pete Townshend wrote Baba O’Riley as a combination of two of Townshend’s philosophical and musical influences: Meher Baba and Terry Riley. I actually just learned this as I could never understand why the song was called that. The working title was and is more appropriately called “Teenage Wasteland.”

Townshend stated in an interview that “Baba O’Riley” is about the teenagers at Woodstock. It was not meant to flatter but many took it as homage to teenage celebration – well, so did my Maplewood crew. So here’s how I hope to change this song for you forever. Instead of singing the chorus of Teenage Wasteland insert the words, “Gary’s Basement.” “Gary’s Basement, Oh Yea, it’s only Gary’s Basement {2xs} – we’re all WASTED!” If my buddies are reading this they’ve all got BIG SMILES.

On a side note, pun intended, I’ve actually added it to our own set list for my band; we’re called A.D.D. which stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. If you’re offended by that or we ever play an insurance convention, you can also think of us as Accidental Death and Dismemberment. Who is the oldest teenager in America? That would be me, yours truly, Richie Schwartz.

The great Who concert in the Silverman’s backyard on the water was closed out with Summertime Blues, Young Man Blues and My Generation.

My Generation was named the 11th greatest song by Rolling Stone Magazine from its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. There is no doubt that it represented a generation then and still could today. It is about trying to find a place in society and while “I hope I die before I get old” was really meant with “old” to mean “very rich.” What else can you say about some of our aging rockers many of whom have entered their 70’s – not the 1970’s – their individual ages are in the 70’s.

Where are the great bands of today?! I’m sorry but they just can’t compete with Rock ‘Roll Royalty. Roger Daltrey and his Who band were exceptional the other night. “Long Live Rock!”