7/30/2008

In hoc Vinces

So, I learned something new the other day: I had just got the David Bowie disk Live Santa Monica ‘72, which was recorded on the Ziggy Stardust tour (more on that album in an upcoming post). While listening to it, I was kind of wondering where Bowie came up with the idea for Ziggy Stardust.

Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I learned that Bowie based his “Martian messiah” on a real person. Vince Taylor, a late-50’s – early-60’s rocker, saw some minor success in Europe before apparently coming unhinged. “He was the inspiration for Ziggy,” Bowie said in an interview. “Vince Taylor was a rock ‘n’ roll star from the Sixties who was slowly going crazy. Finally, he fired his band and went on-stage one night in a white sheet. He told the audience to rejoice, that he was Jesus. They put him away.”

Taylor began his career as a British rocker who was heavily influenced by the American Invasion artists such as Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran. Vince Taylor and the Playboys were born in the late 1950s, with Taylor reportedly adopting his new stage name after seeing the phrase “In hoc Vinces” on a pack of cigarettes.

The Playboys released what would become their most well known song, “Brand New Cadillac,” in 1958, as a B-side to their second single. By 1960, Taylor’s behavior was already beginning to get out of hand and he was dismissed from the Playboys.

Despite his firing Taylor remained friendly with the band and he asked if he could accompany them to Paris for some shows there. He dressed for the occasion in a black leather outfit and added a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion. He gave such an extraordinary performance at the sound check that even the band was amazed, and the organizers decided to put Vince at the top of the bill for both shows. As a result of his performance Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.

By the mid-1960’s, Taylor was on the edge, his diet of drugs and wine and an increasing God complex leading to his eventual downfall. For the next few years he drifted from club to club in London, claiming to anyone who would listen that he was the Son of God.

“The guy was unbelievable,” Bowie said in a 1990 interview. “He had this six-day party in some guy's house, that just went on and on. Just the weirdest kind of creature; in his own mind he did become the Messiah”

Taylor died from cancer in 1991 while living in Switzerland. He was 52 years old. He is buried in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Big thanks to the awesome Ziggy Stardust companion site for most of the background info.)

Tonight’s music is, fittingly, from Vince Taylor. I have to include “Brand New Cadillac,” which you’ll probably recognize from the Clash’s London Calling. I’ve also got a couple of covers of older songs you’ll probably recognize and dig as well. Particularly, listen for the frenetic guitar break in “Twenty Flight Rock.”

Brand New Cadillac.mp3
Twenty Flight Rock.mp3
Long Tall Sally.mp3

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3 Comments:

At 6:26 PM , Blogger Matt said...

Thanks for these.
I'd heard of the guy before, but never any of his music. Plus, I never realized the Clash song was a cover. Yeah, I'm not much of a liner-note reader... hee!
Thanks again!

 
At 5:39 PM , Blogger a Tart said...

Awesome story Aikin! I'm wondering how much of it you got from Wiki? I know they are working on getting a separate sphere there on music and I've been thinking about how useful that would be for bloggers, hmmmm.... In any event, this Taylor guy was simply amazing and just think where we'd be without Iggy? Omg!

P.S. I left you a Led Zep cover over on my blog, lol

 
At 7:11 PM , Blogger aikin said...

tart- I plagiarized, um, I mean I used as source material, mostly stuff from the Ziggy Stardust site I linked. I think Wiki has a lot of similar information, though.

Wiki has been extremely helpful for me finding information about bands where my knowledge or personal stories are lacking.

I have found that once in awhile, the info there is not entirely up to date, though. I posted several months ago about Bitch and got a note from Betsy Bitch herself telling me something was inaccurate. And it was info I had gotten from the Bitch Wiki page.

 

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