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“Who Am I? Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As soon as I get on stage I go out of myself. I lose consciousness. Afterwards I become myself again.” (Vince Taylor, Noir Et Blanc, 5 January 1962)
“I want to go out like Vince Taylor. He was the inspiration for Ziggy. Vince was a rock’n’roll star from the 60s, who was slowly going crazy. Finally he fired his band and went on stage one night in a white sheet. He told his audience to rejoice, that he was Jesus. They put him away…” (David Bowie, Rolling Stone, February 1976)
Who Vince Taylor was depended on who you were, and who he wanted you to think he was. To his parents, he was Brian Holden from Middlesex. London’s rock’n’rollers of the late 1950s saw Vince Taylor, the dapper American encapsulation of the music. To France of the early 60s he was the black leather rebel, their very own Gene Vincent, wild and never to be tamed. His bandmates of 1965 saw the new Jesus, the son of God.
For David Bowie, the rise and fall of Vince Taylor was the inspiration behind Ziggy Stardust. In 1996 Bowie told the BBC’s Alan Yentob that Taylor was “out of his gourd. Totally flipped. He came out on stage in white robes and said he was Jesus Christ. It was the end of Vince – his career and everything else.” Bowie recalled meeting Taylor in mid-60s London, outside Charing Cross Station. Opening a map on the pavement, Taylor got a magnifying glass out and showed the aspiring rock star the sites where UFOs would land.
Beyond the stories, you have the music. Taylor composed the classic ‘Brand New Cadillac’ – one of the few moments in British rock’n’roll that stands with its American influences. The Clash covered it, Mungo Jerry rewrote it as ‘Baby Jump’ and it was a standard for mid-60s beat groups like the Renegades. The second release on Chiswick Records – the forerunner of this label – was a March 1976 reissue of ‘Brand New Cadillac’. It had become one of the most popular records on the rock’n’roll circuit and was a sure seller. This compilation brings Vince Taylor home.
Jet Black Leather Machine is the first compilation to tell the Vince Taylor story, drawing from all his important musical moments, all the important phases of his music. His complete British recordings are married to the cream of his French-made material for the first time. ‘Jet Black Machine’, a UK single from 1960, is incredibly kinetic rock’n’roll. His powerful 1965 version of ‘My Baby Left Me’ is unmediated, as wild as it can get – did his French label think that this roar was the logical evolution of pop? His take on ‘Long Tall Sally’ is equally abandoned. ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’, also from 1965, is animalistic. Then there’s the creepy ‘Rock’n’Roll Station’, a 1976 collaboration with experimental musician Jac Berrocal.
Extreme, multi-faceted and hyper-real, often at the same time, Vince Taylor was the Jet Black Leather Machine.
By Kieron Tyler