Saturday, 26 November 2022

Cos It's Good For My Voice

 It is a by-word for luxury motoring.  Ask someone, anyone to name the luxurious car, and their response will be Skoda Favorit Rolls-Royce.

Established in 1904 when Charles Rolls and Henry Royce joined forces with the express intention of making the worlds most luxurious car.  And with Royce's Model 10, selling through Roll's car dealership the quest began.
The company re-located to larger premises in Derby and began work on a flagship new model.  This is also marked a notable change in stance, as all previous models were discontinued and all efforts focussed on a single model - making it the best it possibly could be.
They also found the time and capability to diversify into the aero-engine market, and it was Rolls-Royce engines that powered the first transatlantic flight in 1919.
A slight slump in sales after Word War I led to the introduction of a smaller, cheaper (but no less luxurious) model, before Rolls-Royce were able to expand by acquiring Bentley.
With support from the British Government, Rolls-Royce went deeper into aero engine production, building the Merlin and Griffon engines that were strapped to, most notably, the Spitfire in World War II.
After the War, Rolls-Royce sought to bring all production in-house buying panel pressing companies and coachbuilders , and by 1950 launched the ultra-luxurious Phantom IV.  In 6 years, only 18 were built and the policy of "Royalty and Heads Of State only" applied.
The Phantom V though, launched in 1959 did not apply this policy, and with money sloshing around the music industry, owners of this vehicle (apart from Queen Elizabeth II) included Elvis Presley, John Lennon (famously with a psychedelic paint job), Liberace, and some time later Elton John.
(Nicolae Ceausescu also had a Phantom V, but when you only make just over 80 cars a year you can't always be too choosy about who buys them).
But despite being a by-word for luxury, famous owners, and a rock solid reputation, Rolls-Royce seemingly over-stretched themselves and by 1971 were facing receivership, and were nationalised (primarily due to the importance of the aero-engine production).
By 1973, a new Rolls-Royce Car company was launched and the range expanded to include Convertible and Coupe version of the iconic Silver Shadow.
But with cash running low again, Rolls-Royce was sold on to Defence, Shipbuilding and Engineering company Vickers .
New models arrived in the 1980s - they had the opulence, but lacked something of the "magic" of earlier models, and Rolls-Royce was sold on again to Volkswagen in 1999, and then again 5 years later to BMW.

Marc Bolan was born Mark Feld in London's Eat End in 1947.  As a teenager he had a deep interest in 2 things - clothes and music.
It was the clothes that first brought attention to Mark Feld - first as a model in clothing catalogues, and then featured in a magazine article about burgeoning Mods about Town.
He then turned his attention to the music and found a manager who put him into a demo studio.  Nothing came of those first recordings, but in short order he changed management and name - to Toby Tyler - donned a corduroy cap and returned to the studio with (if we're being honest) sub-Donovan folk whimsy.
After another change of name and a new record label brought no success, Marc Bolan (as he was now monikered) knocked on the door of Simon Napier-Bell and announced he was going to be a star.
Napier-Bell initially pushed the solo route, but another single with no success led to the thought that Bolan could be placed in one of the two bands he also managed.
Briefly considered for Ther Yardbirds, Bolan joined up with John's Children, just in time for a riotous tour of Germany with The Who (where they out Who'd The Who).
His time with John's Children was brief and he departed to form his own band.  He advertised for musicians in Melody Maker, assembled a band, and played their first gig as a full-on rock band.  Problem was, the formation and the gig happened in about 3 days flat, so the band disbanded as quickly as it formed.
Retaining the drummer, Marc Bolan stripped back the sound, upped the mystical sub-Tolkienisms, sat cross-legged on the stage and Tyrannosaurus Rex was born.
And fairly quickly picked up 2 influential supporters - John Peel gave them air-time and exposure, Tony Visconti worked closely with Marc Bolan to hone and define the soundscape.
By 1970, it was becoming clear that the mysticism and poetry was not finding a mass market - there had been some success with a couple of singles, but the albums found only a niche / culty audience.
The sound was beefed-up, and the name abbreviated and by late in the year "Ride A White Swan" was a hit, and Marc Bolan was keeping his promise to Simon Napier-Bell of being a star.
2 number one singles, a number 2, and a number one album in 1971 assured the position.
1972 was really the peak of popularity for Marc Bolan and T.Rex - his own record label (supported by EMI), 2 more number one singles, another number one album (plus a resurgence of interest in early Tyrannosaurus Rex material, and a cash-in compilation album from his previous record label) his own film (directed by Ringo Starr), and spending a total of 58 weeks on the singles chart.
The last single of 1972 - "Children Of The Revolution" - was held off the Christmas Number One spot by Little Jimmy Osmond's "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool".  This continued the sequence of losing out on the top spot to novelty records.  In 1970 "Ride A White Swan" lost out to Clive Dunn's "Grandad", and in 1971 "Jeepster" played second-fiddle behind Benny Hills "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)"

Despite car references peppering his song titles and lyrics:

  • "Mustang Ford"
  • "Buick McKane"
  • "Hot Rod Mama"
  • "You're built like a car, You've got a hubcap diamond star halo" - from "Get It On"
  • "Just like a car, You're pleasing to behold, I'll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold" - from "Jeepster"
  • "Take me down to the country honey, in a Jeep that's neat" - from "Country Honey"
Marc Bolan never had a driving licence, so when in 1972 "Children Of The Revolution" he stated "I drive a Rolls-Royce, cos it's good for my voice", what he should've said was: "I get chauffered in a Rolls-Royce, saves me losing my voice shouting at other road users"

Children Of The Revolution


  1. Another wonderful post... I'm holding out for the Skoda one!

  2. Hadn't thought of Marc's bad luck with No. 1 hits. Nearly happened in May '72 too when the Royal Scots Dragoon Band had been at the top spot for a few weeks. I was away at a school camp and we got to watch ToTP - We all hoped the band would be knocked off the top spot in favour of Metal Guru, and they were. We were all delighted.

  3. has there ever been a better line than ' "I drive a Rolls-Royce, cos it's good for my voice", pure genius