Doug Sandom: ‘Leaving The Who was the biggest mistake of my life’
While the legendary rock band celebrate 50 years in music, original drummer Doug Sandom recalls the bitter row that led him to walk away
“But it was Roger who did most of the work. He picked me up from my home for every single gig. I was always ready and waiting which was more than could be said for Pete – Rog would often have to drag him out of bed.”
“We were setting up our gear when the Ox arrived and told us there was another band called The Detours and they’d already been on TV so we had to change our name. That night we all went back to a friend of Pete’s – a wonderful chap called Richard Barnes, or Barnsy, to try to find a new name.
“Barnsy initially suggested The Group and Pete favoured The Hair. Someone else suggested No One until we imagined a compere on stage saying: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome No One.’ We’d have been a laughing stock. It was Barnsy who came up with The Who. Pete tried to compromise by suggesting The Hair And The Who until it was pointed out that it made us sound like a pub. Anyway, Roger came round to mine the next day and said it was to be The Who.”
On that fateful day of the audition for Fontana Records, Doug recalls he was not in a good mood and Pete was not pleased.
“He had a terrible go at me, snarling, ‘What’s wrong with you? If you can’t get it right then you’re out.’ I just got up from my stool and said, ‘That’s it, I quit.’ It was the biggest mistake of my life. It really came home to me when I watched them on TV giving that fantastic performance at the Olympic Games and knew it could have been me up there too.”
There is a happy ending to the story, however. The others still send Doug tickets for their concerts and VIP passes for their fan club conventions where he is recognised and mobbed by autograph-hunters.
Roger, 69 – who insists the ex-drummer calls him every Sunday morning – once said: “You’re famous, Doug. You’re a legend.”
In a moving foreword to Doug’s book Pete Townshend, 68, writes: “Had we continued together back in 1964 with Doug on drums we may never have become as successful as we are today. Keith Moon was a born publicist as well as a highly eccentric performer. But I have no doubt that personally I would have been happier as a young man. Partly because I think we would have continued to put music and friendship first in our band because that was Doug’s way.
“With Doug as my friend, I believe I could have been a better man.”