30 years ago, Roger Daltrey released perhaps the best should’ve-been Who hit

Share this:

Pete Townshend’s “After the Fire” was supposed to be part of the Who’s Live Aid performance. Instead, it became the highlight of Roger Daltrey’s emotionally unbound 1985 solo album Under a Raging Moon, where the song has been largely forgotten.

Presented amidst a lean, polyrhythmic cadence (courtesy of Big Country’s Mark Brzezicki), Roger Daltrey’s take on “After the Fire” is blessedly free of the gimmicks that so quickly date much of the music of this era. Yet, even in its moment, “After the Fire” could get no higher than No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a shame, because this track is in many ways the match of Townshend’s far more celebrated “Slit Skirts” in the way it deals with the wounds that time conveys — and the weird mixture of anger and regret that remain.

A telescoped rehearsal schedule before the Who’s stop at the internationally televised Live Aid might have earned it wider notice, or perhaps an appearance on the track by Pete Townshend himself. Robbie McIntosh, between gigs with the Pretenders and then Paul McCartney’s band, is instead featured on guitar, while producer Alan Shacklock is at the piano.

Certainly, you can’t blame Roger Daltrey. Always the perfect foil, he completely inhabits Townshend’s lyric (“I’ve got to stop drinking. I’ve got to stop thinking!), broiling it in searing emotion. They’ve rarely been paired to greater effect in the post-Keith Moon era, even if so very few ever heard it. “After the Fire” remains perhaps their best should’ve-been Who hit.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close