Kevin Coyne plays his song "Having A Party" live in Köln, 1979
.More of that excellent concert is also available on Youtube: "Right On Her Side," "Saviour," and "Marjory Razorblade."
Of the many unsung and underappreciated heroes of late 20th century music, perhaps the greatest is the English blues rock singer and songwriter Kevin Coyne. Revered by many musicians, from Johnny Rotten to The Mekons to Andy Summers, who backed him up in his band, Coyne recorded about a dozen masterful and soulful records over his forty-year career in and out of music.
For a good written overview of Kevin Coyne's work, a good place to turn is this fine retrospective by Chris Plummer
[on the always-excellent Perfect Sound Forever
His voice cuts to your soul, while tingling your spine along the way. His deep, powerful cords give a voice to society's outcasts- the mentally ill (with whom he worked with for many years after dropping out of art school), the working class, battered women, the countless lonely, the deserted elderly. But, all the people he so champions in his songs are also a parallel to himself- a stoic loner cast into the arena of popular music.
As Plummer notes, Kevin Coyne was a social worker for many years between art school and his erstwhile music career. His intimate connection with the people he worked with there has always taken a prominent place in his music, and his songs are often portraits of those that other rock musicians don't tend to focus on. One of Coyne's most striking tunes from his early masterwork Marjory Razorblade
was "House On The Hill
," a vivid description of the mental hospital in which he'd worked. Another was "Talking to No One
," a simple, direct expression of the difficulty of social interaction for those living with mental disorders:
Talking to no one is strange
Talking to someone is stranger...
And in what I'm sure is one of the most harrowing tunes ever recorded by anybody, "Mona, Where's My Trousers
," Kevin spreads across two vocal tracks laying out, as the Youtube description there puts it aptly, "an everyday story of physical child abuse and the borderlands of mental illness." (As you might guess, this tune is not a good idea for those who have been abused and are sensitive to triggers.)
More fantastic Kevin Coyne tracks that give a good picture of his broad style and range: "House On The Hill," live 1973 - A song about what it was like to be Hitler, featuring Dagmar Krause, 1979 - Poor Swine," live at Hyde Park, 1974 - "An Evening with Kevin Coyne," a concert introduced with an interesting video pastiche from 1977: [1 | 2 | 3] - "Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty" - a rocking version of "Dynamite Daze," circa 1993 - "I Only Want to See You Smile" - "Don't Make Waves"
Kevin never much liked the recording industry, and they didn't much like him at all; and by the 80s and 90s, when he was working as an artist and writer, many people to whom he sold his books and paintings didn't even realize that he'd once had a music career. But his music seems to have had a bit of a renaissance in 1997 and 1998, when he gave several very good interviews (one with Richie Unterberger
and one with the aforementioned Chris Plummer
). Kevin died six years ago, but respect and love for his music lives on, and his home page
is still updated by his son Eugene.
Delightfully, two months ago, brand-new and remastered versions of the classic double album Marjory Razorblade
and the anthology I Want My Crown
were released by EMI in collaboration with Kevin's estate. What's more, for the first time, EMI is making available for download MP3 versions of four of Kevin's other classic albums, each with a full disc's worth of outtakes and bonuses: Blame It On The Night
, Matching Head and Feet
, Dynamite Daze
, and In Living Black and White
– altogether a stupendous surfeit of great material now released.
Some more excellent web resources on Kevin: Pascal's Kevin Coyne Page and the Kevin Coyne Complete Lyrics page.