Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Every musician takes inspiration from other artists; from lyrics, sounds, and performance style. Although this is common knowledge and good practice, did you know that even a legend as great as David Bowie took inspiration for his character Ziggy Stardust after a musician? His name was Vince Taylor.
Born Brian Maurice Holden on July 14th in 1939, Taylor spent his early life in Isleworth, Middlesex before moving to America at the age of seven due to his father's work commitments. Taylor’s sister married legendary animator Joe Barbera in 1955 and the family relocated to California, where Taylor attended Hollywood High School. During his teenage years, Taylor took flying lessons and obtained his pilots' license before the age of 18.
At the age of 18, Taylor discovered Elvis and Gene Vincent and began singing at amateur gigs. Joe Barbera became his manager and during a trip to London, Taylor met guitarist Tommy Steele, Tony Meehan, and Tex Makins. The group formed a band called The Playboys. Whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes he noticed the Latin phrase, In Hoc Signo Vinces. He decided on the new stage name of Vince Taylor.
"I Like Love" and "Right Behind You Baby" were released in 1958 for Parlophone records. Several months later the group released "Pledgin' My Love" backed with "Brand New Cadillac". Parlophone was not satisfied with how the tracks were received and terminated the recording contract. Taylor moved to Palette Records and recorded "I'll Be Your Hero", backed with "Jet Black Machine", which was released on 19 August 1960.
While Taylor was dynamic on stage, his unpredictable personality led to many arguments within the band, who parted company with him in 1961 and changed their name to The Bobbie Clarke Noise. Under the new name, they played in the Olympia in Paris July 1961. Taylor asked if he could also perform that same night, to which they agreed. Taylor gave such a performance during soundcheck that he was immediately placed at the top of the bill for the two-night show. Due to his performance, music producer Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.
During the early 1960’s Vince Taylor and The Playboys continued touring Europe and recorded several EPs and an album of 20 songs at Barclay Studios in Paris. The band continued to tour which took a toll on their relationship off stage. The Playboys broke from Taylor and The Echoes were used in their replacement still under the name of The Playboys. In February 1964, a new single "Memphis Tennessee", backed with "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues", was released on the Barclay label. Managed by Jean Claude Camus, the band embarked on a triumphant tour of Spain and then co-topped the bill with The Rolling Stones during the Easter weekend of 1965 at the Olympia in Paris.
Due to Taylor's drug and alcohol abuse, the band finally disbanded. Taylor and Clarke did a comeback tour for one month across France, billed as 'Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers'. Eddie Barclay gave a new chance to Taylor who recorded again and performed intermittently throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Taylor moved to Switzerland in 1983 with his wife Nathalie where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. Taylor died from lung cancer on August 1991, aged 52. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Vince Taylor, both reckless on and off stage. Although the band went through several breakups, they did produce some amazing music, highlights include "Brand New Cadillac" and a cover of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates “Shakin' All Over”. Another tragic ending for a talented musician, however, it is worth noting that Vince Taylor stated that working as an aircraft mechanic was the happiest time in his life.