If you had exactly one year left to live, what would you do?
If you’re rocker Wilko Johnson, formerly of pub rock band Dr. Feelgood (and, fun fact, also the mute/mutinous Ser Ilyn Payne on HBO’s Game of Thrones), then you’ll spend that time recording a record with The Who singer Roger Daltrey.
“I wanted to make an album with Wilko a few years ago, but it never quite kicked in,” said Daltrey, who recently stopped by Outlaw Country to chat with afternoon host Mojo Nixon. “And then a year ago, he got diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. So I called him up and said, ‘C’mon Wilko, we gotta make the most of the last year. You gotta have a good time.’”
And, from the sound of the duo’s new record, Going Back Home, “have a good time” is precisely what they did. Going Back Home, which came out in March 2014, is packed with gruff, good old-fashioned rockers that do a fine job of combining Johnson’s back-to-basics rock aesthetic with Daltrey’s arena-filling vocals.
“[Wilko] threw a load of songs at me which were old songs of his,” continued Daltrey. “I said ‘Right, these’ll do! We’ll go in the studio and record them.’ I went in the studio with no expectations whatsoever of what we were going to come out with. Within four days, this is what we produced. I’m very proud of it.”
But perhaps the most inspiring part of Daltrey and Johnson’s partnership is Johnson’s willingness to jump in the studio and express high-energy creativity with the cloud of terminal illness hanging over his head.
“It’s just amazing that there he is, a man on a death sentence, and me, coming up on my seventieth birthday.” mused Daltrey. “The energy on this record is like similar energy that The Who was producing back at The Marquee [Club] in 1964! There’s so much life and joy in this record! It just puts a smile on your face.”
Hear Roger Daltrey’s interview again tonight, 5/9 at 7 pm ET on Outlaw Country, Ch. 60.