Roger Daltrey tells us about plans to stream unseen TCT gigs from The Cure, Muse, Pulp and more

Launching virtual festival Teenage Cancer Trust Unseen, The Who legend tells NME of his anger at the government, his TCT wishlist and lockdown communication with Pete Townshend.

A new YouTube festival has been announced to stream vintage performances by a host of the huge names who have played shows for Teenage Cancer Trust at London’s Royal Albert Hall over the years.

Starting on October 8 with Ed Sheeran, Teenage Cancer Trust Unseen will be broadcast nightly at until The Cure on October 19. Other performances include Muse, Paul McCartney, Pulp and Them Crooked Vultures.

Organised by The Who frontman Roger Daltrey, the week of concerts each March are an annual highlight in London’s gig calendar. This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary, with 2020’s roster originally set to include  performances by The Who, Paul Weller, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Mumford And Sons, Stereophonics and Groove Armada.


The Teenage Cancer Trust Unseen performances are free, but fans are urged to donate here to help the seven teenagers a day who are diagnosed with cancer in the UK. The shows usually raise £1m a year, but Teenage Cancer Trust faces lost funds of £5m this year due to events cancelled by coronavirus.

Alongside the Unseen performances, a raffle includes items such as the hand-painted Schecter guitar Robert Smith played during The Cure’s Teenage Cancer Trust shows in 2014, with 10 runners-up getting a print of The Cure’s shows signed and personalised by Smith. Other prizes include artist Pete McKee’s unique artist proofs of prints designed for TCT gigs by The Who, plus McKee’s artist proofs signed by Ed Sheeran, Noel Gallagher, Stereophonics and Nile Rodgers for their concerts.

View from the back of the stage as Muse perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 12th April 2008. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)
View from the back of the stage as Muse perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 12th April 2008. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

The raffle can be entered here, with tickets at £5. Every entrant gets an early link to The Cure’s full show. Merchandise at the site includes T-shirts, prints and facemasks designed by young people with cancer in a workshop run by McKee and graphic designer Tom Hingston.

To celebrate the announcement, NME caught up with Daltrey to talk about the Unseen shows, his anger at the government’s response to the pandemic, his Teenage Cancer Trust wishlist, life in lockdown and why not being able to perform is like missing a limb…

Hello Roger. How confident are you that people will be honest enough to pay to watch the Unseen performances on YouTube?


“I know times are hard for everybody, but if everyone donated the price of a cup of coffee or even £1, it’d be enough. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that viewers realise donating is incredibly necessary. It’s the only way for charities like us to raise income. Charities like Teenage Cancer Trust, Marie Curie, Art Click and Macmillan Nursing work within the NHS, but they’re not part of it. If these charities fall apart from lack of funding, the burden on the NHS would be every bit as bad as coronavirus.

Which of the Unseen shows have made you think “I’d forgotten how good that was”?

“I forget how good all of them are. Rudimental were particularly memorable – that’s an astonishing piece of video. Their music offers a real community. It’s a complete mixture of music with a complete mixture of audience. I loved every minute and, on the same show, Ghetts was also fantastic. As a singer, I couldn’t for one minute do what Ghetts does, but I totally admire it. It’s such clever stuff.”

How frustrating was it to have to postpone this year’s shows?

“It was heartbreaking. Coming up to the shows, I could see the car crash was happening. But it’s important to say we’ve only postponed, not cancelled, because we’re hoping all the artists who were due this year will be there next year instead. The Who will be, I know Nile Rodgers will be and the others will be if they can. And I hope it will be next year, because we’ve got to do something to get concerts happening again. Maybe we’ll have to start to accept a certain amount of risk. I’m sure the survival rates will be good by next March.”

How have you been coping during lockdown?

“I live on a farm in the countryside. Farming doesn’t stop for anything, it rolls on, so I’ve stayed busy with that. But I’m really missing performing. I had no idea how big a part of me performing is. It’s weird, how it’s a real part of me. It’s like I’ve got a leg missing. My concentration has turned to crap. Unless I’m focusing on the charity work, I’m really distracted. That’s kept me together and given me a purpose. It’s totally taken me by surprise, how much I’ve missed performing. At the beginning of this year, I thought I’d like to take a year off. But an enforced year off has made me go ‘Oh, shit!’ Having it taken away from me, I realise what a life of privilege I’ve had.

How do you feel for new bands who haven’t been able to play live for so long?

“I feel really sorry for young artists now. Records don’t sell, so the only way to make any living is to be on the road for their lives. If they can’t do that, it’s devastating. I’d hate to be young and starting out today, because the theft of the music industry is the biggest robbery in history.”

What’s the solution? How would you improve the music industry?

“I don’t know. I haven’t got the answer to solve it and I wish I did. The money the streaming services pay, you can’t pay your electric bill for the month. You have a billion streams and get a cheque for £250. What I’d say to young artists is ‘Hang on to your publishing, because that’s all you’re going to get from now’. Also: please don’t sign any contract when you’re coming off stage, going on stage, after a drink or after a toot on a joint.”

How would The Who have coped if the pandemic was happening in 1965 when you were starting out?

“I don’t think the pandemic would have dared come near The Who back then. We were unstoppable.”

Have you stayed in touch with Pete Townshend much in lockdown?

“For about three emails. I sent one the other day: ‘Hope you’re OK’ and got one back: ‘I’m OK. Thanks’. That’s the level of our communication, but that’s alright, as Pete has got his head into writing, and I know what Pete’s like then. He’s like a bear with a sore foot when he’s writing.”

How have your aims for Teenage Cancer Trust changed since you began with them 20 years ago?

“They haven’t, I’m still trying to get the job done. We’ve got 28 hospitals in the UK and the money to take us to 30 next year. That would basically give us the hospital coverage we need for every teenager and young adult who gets cancer. Our outreach programme is in the early stages of funding, and in some ways that’s even more necessary in a pandemic. We’re determined not to cut any medical and nursing staff, our frontline people, but it’s meant cutting office and fundraising staff to the bone.”

Have the government helped the funding shortfall?

“No. As soon as lockdown happened, I spoke to someone senior in government, saying ‘You realise you’ve stopped every way we’ve got of fundraising?’ All our funding is events-based. I could see a lot of charity money was going into the NHS and thought maybe we’d be entitled to some of that. I asked for £5million-£7million, which would see us through the next 18 months. But we’ve got nothing and, after watching Public Health England waste £120million on useless PPE equipment, I wish I’d asked for £107million. I might as well have done, because this government is good at throwing around big lumps of cash. They’re just not so good with small sums.”

Who’s left on your wishlist to play a Teenage Cancer Trust show?

“It’s always been my dream to get The Rolling Stones. I don’t want the ‘Mick Jagger running around’ Stones show at The Royal Albert Hall, I want the Stones I remember from the old days, the incredibly tight rock band. They’re a fabulous band, but they don’t do charity shows, so it is just a dream. I don’t know why, it’s just not their bag to do charity shows. Although Mick did do Live Aid, and maybe after this pandemic they’ll step up.”

Having been so involved for 20 years, have you thought about who could succeed you in your role as patron at the charity?

“A lot of artists take the strain off me now. Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs does a hell of a lot. There’s a great team who put the Albert Hall shows together, so I do the thank you letters and, if a show is really up against the wall, I make the offers people can’t refuse. I know bands take the piss out of me for how I get when I ask them to play. I’m a big enough bloke to take that on the chin and, when push comes to shove, very few people say no. I can take a no, but I can’t take the sliders who won’t commit. Even worse, I really can’t take the ones who make promises they can’t or won’t keep.”

As well as the Unseen performances, the raffle means fans can win Robert Smith’s guitar from The Cure’s concerts. What’s your ultimate rock memorabilia?

“Robert painted that guitar himself, and he’s a really good man. He’s so unconditional in everything he does for us. My ultimate memorabilia? Probably my vocal chords. At the end of my career, I can raffle those off to show how I did them so much damage.”

The Cure perform on stage at Royal Albert Hall on March 28, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty Images
The Cure perform on stage at Royal Albert Hall on March 28, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty Images

Joking aside, how is your voice holding up?

“I’m 76 and, at the age I am, I’m hanging on to my voice. I warm it up every now and then and right now it’s strong as hell. It’s better than it’s been for years, and I want to make sure it’s there at the end of this pandemic, so I can get out there and still do it. Going ‘Raaagh!’ at 77, that’s tough. But it’s always been like that. When The Who were starting, we’d go down to The Marquee to see the old blues guys in their late 60s, like Sonny Boy Williamson. Their age didn’t matter to us.”

Are you dreaming about what it’ll be like to get back out on stage to perform again?

“I don’t dream about it, but I feel in my bones that it will happen again. This is not the end. It is tough, but the driving force of human nature means it will happen. We have to be positive and we have to support each other. Any way you can give help, you have to give it.|

The timetable for Teenage Cancer Trust Unseen on YouTube is:

Thursday October 8: Ed Sheeran
Friday October 9: Muse
Saturday October 10: Rudimental
Sunday October 11: Paul McCartney
Monday October 12: Paul Weller
Tuesday October 13: Stereophonics
Wednesday October 14: Pulp
Thursday October 15: Noel Gallagher
Friday October 16: Them Crooked Vultures
Saturday October 17: The Who
Sunday October 18: The Cure (20-minute edit)
Saturday October 31: The Cure (full show)

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