Can’t Explain: Roger Daltrey Designs Rolls-Royce for Charity

Roger Daltrey was a member of The Who, a band that he fundamentally established in 1964 with John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend.

Some people might argue that Roger Daltrey is a member of The Who, given that at the recent Desert Trip concert (a.k.a., Oldchella), a band named “The Who” performed.

Without going all Abbott & Costello (or a Hortonesque Dr. Seuss) about it, how can there be The Who when 50% of the band no longer exists: who’s left? Keith Moon died in 1978. John Entwistle died in 2002. (Daltrey had a bad case of meningitis last year and it almost seemed as though he’d be the answer to who’s next; fortunately he recovered and seems to be back on his game).

If we look at the band that is masquerading as The Who, know that Keith Moon was replaced by Kenny Jones, who was with the three original members starting in 1978. He was replaced in 1988 by Zack Starkey.

As for the bass position, that was taken up in 2002 by Pino Palladino.

So when does a specific “band” stop being that band in more than a marketing sense?

Isn’t the elimination of 50% of the musicians—especially musicians of the caliber of Moon and Entwistle, and with all due respect, does anyone actually think that Jones, Starkey and Palladeno are as good as those two were?—good enough to argue that it is something other than it once was?

After all, if you heard that a band was “decimated,” you’d probably think, “Geeze, there must not be much left.”

But that would mean that only 10% was eliminated, a far cry from the 50% of The Who (and it could be reckoned that with the replacement of Jones by Starkey, it would be a change of on the order of 65%).

Would Paul McCartney and Richard Starkey—I mean Ringo Starr—constitute “The Beatles”? Even at his most mendacious, it seems that McCartney doesn’t think so, either.

But now in their 52nd year of playing together, Daltrey and Townshend soldier on.

To be sure, they’ve done things other than play in the cover band known as “The Who.”

Ever since he appeared in Ken Russell’s 1975 film Tommy, Daltrey has been an actor, a performer on stage and screen (Who music isn’t just used as theme music for the various C.S.I.s; Daltrey has performed on the show as many characters, including playing, for reasons I can’t begin to understand, a middle-aged African-American woman).

Perhaps even more remarkable than that bit of acting is the fact that in 2008, late-middle aged American president George W. Bush awarded Daltrey and Townshend with the Kennedy Center Honors.

My interest in Daltrey was piqued by the recent announcement that he is collaborating with Rolls-Royce on the car manufacturer’s “Inspired by British Music” vehicles. It won’t be a “Roger Daltrey” edition, but “The Who” edition.

Roger Daltrey discusses the finer points of his design with artist Mike McInnerney, Bespoke designer Matt Danton and Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos

In all, there will be nine Rolls-Royce Wraiths modified by various British musicians; Daltrey’s is the first. (The people at Rolls imagine their luxury motor cars to be things of a somewhat sinister nature, as not only do they have the Wraith model, but also the “Phantom” and the “Ghost.” They also offer a fourth model, the “Dawn,” which some marketing wizard probably pitched to his well-stuffed colleagues by quoting a 17th-century theologian who opined—just like David Crosby—that it is “always darkest before the Dawn,” in keeping with the spectral ethos of the other models.)

Now while some people (not necessarily the some people previously mentioned, but there is a high likelihood that they may be the same) might say that “rock-and-roll” and “Rolls-Royce,” hyphens notwithstanding, are anathema. But let’s not forget that back in 1965—yes, a year after The Who formed—John Lennon got a Rolls-Royce Phantom V.

When I first heard of the Daltrey-Rolls connection I thought along the lines of The Who Sell Out (1967, as were counting here), of Daltrey trying to get even more money (his net worth is on the order of $65-million, it seems).

But then I learned that proceeds would be going to the Teenage Cancer Trust, a charitable organization that Daltrey has been involved with in the U.K. since 2000, and which he held establish in the U.S. in 2010. One of the things that this trust does is build cancer wards in hospitals—there have been 30 built in England, thanks, in large part, to Daltrey’s efforts on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust—so that teens can be with teens.

And as a result I hope that his Who-Wraith sells for an enormous amount of money.

Incidentally: while you might think that it is appropriate for a British musician to be working with the most-British of British motorcar companies, you may find it amusing to learn that the company that owns Rolls doesn’t have its headquarters in London or Leeds, but actually Munich, Germany: BMW owns Rolls. Ach du lieber!

One more thing.

This past May an interview with Daltrey appeared in Rolling Stone. His interlocutor, Kory Grow, asked “Would you ever make another Who record?” (My answer, of course, would be, “That’s impossible.”)

But Daltrey’s answer included some observations that are both telling and keen: “There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free.”

Grow countered that musicians get paid when their music is streamed. To which he replied, “You’re joking. You get paid for streaming, my ass. There’s no control. Musicians are getting robbed every day.”

Given that he’s been in the industry for as long as he has, longer than even Rolling Stone has existed (established 1967), he probably has a good sense of that.

But as for whether there is “The Who”—just because he and Townsend may think it’s so, let’s not forget those other two guys who really made the band what it was. Were it not for them, conceivably Daltrey and Townsend would be people we’ve never even heard of.

John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce photo via Cool Cars Blog. Previously: Who’s First?, When Is It Over?, The End.

2 thoughts on “Can’t Explain: Roger Daltrey Designs Rolls-Royce for Charity”

  1. I sense a some cynicism here. Nay, bitterness. True, the essence of The Who changed with the demise of Moon and Entwistle, but not the spirit of the band. And I also beg to differ with McCauley’s last statement. There is no Who without Pete and no soul without Daltrey. Please give these gentlemen their due. At least they’re still dignified, notwithstanding this association with RR. And Daltrey has hella good hair still. Rock n’ roll!

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