Last month, I began telling you the amazing and incredible story of Vince Taylor, the famous rock’n’roll performer from the late 1950s and early 1960s. We got up to the point in the story where Vince had become a rock’n’roll superstar in France and was on the verge of becoming a world-wide star. We reached the point in the story where he was to perform at a huge concert in Paris. If the concert turned out to be another success for Vince, the promise was that of concerts and promotion in the USA. It was a tremendous opportunity for him. Here’s a reminder of the details of the trip he made to the UK, just prior to the big event:
Vince returned briefly to the UK prior the concert, to collect money owed to him and the Playboys. He was in London for a few days and during that time was invited to a party. Bob Dylan was there, as well as Joan Baez, plus lots of other big music celebrities. During the party, someone offered him some LSD, which as most of you know is a very powerful hallucinegic drug, which was very much in vogue in the 1960s; for example within some sections of the hippie culture, as well as the 1960s Mod scene. Vince enjoyed this first LSD experience hugely. He asked the person in question if he had any more. Whilst in London, Vince then proceeded to spend most of the money he had collected for the band on LSD. He took copious amounts of it, continuing to buy as much of it as he could. At the same time, he was drinking considerable amounts of Mateus red wine. Under this influence, he had what he believed to be a “vision” in London; it told him he was not Vince Taylor, but was in fact “Mateus, the Son of Jesus Christ.” Taylor believed he was on a mission from God and had to go back to France and tell his fans who he really was.
On his return to Paris, he met up with the band, who were relieved to see him as they had been waiting for their wages. He came into the doorway, with glazed eyes and a bottle of Mateus wine in his hand. He took a LSD pill out of his pocket, swallowed it and announced to them, “You think I’m Vince Taylor, don’t you ? Well, I’m not. I am Mateus, the Son of Jesus Christ.” Not quite believing what they were hearing, the group asked him politely about the money they were due. Vince went into a verbal tirade, “All you ever think about is money. God is what you should be thinking about. I am the son of God’s son. I am the new Messiah. Money is nothing. This is what I think of money.” He then took out of his pocket all the money he had left from the trip to London, which was still significant and put it in the middle of the floor. He then set fire to it with his cigarette lighter. And all this was on the eve of potentially the biggest concert of his life !
The band members, in total shock, could only imagine what would transpire on the day of the concert. However the day started reasonably well. He turned up to the concert hall clean shaven, with his trade mark make-up, his black leather stage wear, looking much more sane than the night before. But then, outside the concert hall, he drew attention to the big poster advertising the event with his name on it as the top of the bill. With a very large leather marker, he proceeded to erase his name and insert above it, “Mateus.” The band could only look to the heavens !
In the dressing room just prior to them going on stage, it was clear to those present that Vince had clearly taken a few more LSD pills. He looked glazed and out of his head. The usual format was for the band to go on stage and play an instrumental and this was when Vince would come on stage, in his leather gear. Well, the band came on stage, but when Vince appeared he moved off the stage and into the audience. He proceeded to individually give religious blessings to the members of the audience, using the fluid from a Mateus wine bottle he was carrying, for the blessings. He was saying things to them like, “Come follow me. I am the way.” After all this, he made his way on to the stage and began to perform. But in his drugged and zonked out condition, he was all over the place and the concert had barely begun before the organisers dragged him from the stage to end the concert. Vince made his way out onto the street with the audience, preaching to those near that he was the Son of Jesus Christ and that they should follow him. Meanwhile, his sister Sheila found him and was beside herself with emotion, given that it was she who had arranged this great opportunity for him with the Hanna Barbera organisation. He told his sister to be calm, advising her,”I have prepared a plane for you and my disciples. Come with me and I will fly you to my Father’s kingdom in Heaven. God will make it so.”
After all this, it was clear Taylor’s star career, never mind the promise of more stardom to come, was over. The big promoters were not going to touch him with a barge pole now. Eventually he returned to London and when he was able to obtain some small gigs, they attracted fewer and fewer audiences.
He continued to take LSD and his bizarre behaviour continued. The famous UK rock’n’roll performer from the late 1950s and early 1960s, Wee Willie Harris, recalled an incident in the 1960s when he was walking down a well known central London street and he could hear on the other side of the road someone ranting about the sin in the World and how he could save the souls of those listening. Harris suddenly realised he recognised the voice. He looked more closely and discovered it was Vince Taylor !
Now many of you will know of the iconic album made by David Bowie in the 1970s, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Yes, it wasn’t our brand of classic rock’n’roll, but stay with me on this Dear Readers. For many, this album is one of the greatest ever made. It’s a musical work of genius and certainly one of the most famous albums in music history. It tells the story, through music, of a rock’n’roll mega-star who ultimately imploded and ended up committing “rock’n’roll suicide”. Well, Bowie met Vince Taylor more than once, during the period in his life when Vince was stoned out on LSD. They regularly bumped into each other at the La Gioconda club in London. This was the period before Bowie became a super star and was the time when Taylor’s music career was all but finished. Although he got the occasional gig, the venues and the crowds got smaller and smaller. He took more and more acid (i.e. LSD). He continued preaching to anyone who would listen that he was the Son of God. On one occasion, Bowie met him by chance at Tottenham Court Road tube station in central London. Vince stopped him outside the station, explaining he wanted to share some very important knowledge with him. Taylor then showed him a map. This map, he explained, showed all the extra-terrestrial alien bases on the Earth. He told Bowie, ”Look David, see. There are UFOs everywhere. The extra-terrestrials are living among us.” Vince was showing him all this as they were kneeling down on the sidewalk by the station. Bowie was polite and courteous to Vince, but inside was naturally thinking, “this guy’s a nightmare. He’s bonkers !”
But Bowie then realised there was something here he could use. The life story of Taylor was something not only tragic, but epic. Bowie developed this into a musical work of genius. Taylor was the real life Ziggy Stardust. Similar to when one reads a book and then sees the film based on the book, the real life of Taylor does have some differences to Bowie’s fictional story of Ziggy. But Bowie never hid the fact that the real life Ziggy was Vince. So in addition to Vince’s amazing life story, Ziggy Stardust was another legacy of his.
Taylor did father a son, called Ty Holden, who stated he was always an absent father. It is glad to be able to report that Taylor later in his life was able to clean up his act and kick both the drug and alcohol habits. He basically straightened himself out. Of course it was too late to save his musical career.
In the later part of his life he lived in Geneva, Switzerland, working at Geneva airport. His main job was cleaning out the toilets. He said this was happiest time in his life. A heavy smoker throughout his life, he died from lung cancer in 1991, aged 52.
What an amazing life story. Here’s to you Vince Taylor, the real Ziggy Stardust.