by carl wilson

Coyne of the Realm


News comes this weekend that Kevin Coyne died on Thursday of lung fibrosis, at age 60, in his adopted German home. Coyne's music has been difficult to come by for the past decade or so, and I wouldn't be surprised if few readers ever heard or heard of him. He's perhaps most notorious as the guy who refused to take over Jim Morrison's job in the Doors, but the comparison is misleading. Perhaps imagine Captain Beefheart if he were a British children's-book author, or Johnny Rotten (who cited him as an inspiration) somehow mingled up with Robert Wyatt, or PJ Harvey as a balding older guy, perhaps PJ Harvey playing Joe Cocker in a film biography directed by Bob Dylan. But all such comparisons don't do justice to the singularity of his voice. Alec Bemis in the Chicago Reader five years ago claimed that Coyne might be "the only British musician who ever really had the blues." Coyne bridged the folk-blues-rock of the 1970s with new-wave art-school atavism, the compassion of the former psychiatric-ward worker he was and a sweet drunken-wanderer's romanticism that was all his own. As you may guess from that description, John Peel was an early supporter, releasing a couple of Coyne's first efforts on his own label, Dandelion. More recently, Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) has shown his devotion. Some of Coyne's albums - out of the 40 or so he made - such as 1973's Marjory Razorblade, 1978's Babble (with Dagmar Krause), 1980's Bursting Bubbles and 1981's Pointing the Finger, stick in my head with a true twisted penetrating claw of heartstrong, headsick poetic potency. He also painted paintings and wrote stories and seemed, despite his psychological and other troubles, to live life as life asks to be lived. You can learn more in this interview, and this later one, this obit or this profile. You can hear a live 1994 performance, if you fastforward the stream past a few minutes of Flemish news. (Belgium is one of the few places Coyne ever had a hit.) And much more. It is sad, and too soon, and goes too much unnoted, but reports are that he died at home in the arms of the woman he loved, and after a restless life there is beauty and comfort in that. As Coyne sang, Learn to swim, learn to drown.

News | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, December 05 at 06:49 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



The other night some friends and I were watching The Rebel Billionaire. Say what you want about Branson, but I love the guy, just for that quixotic quest of his in the early seventies - putting out albums by Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Hatfield and the North, Faust, the magnificent Mr. Coyne (Marjory Razorblade...fuck!) and so many outside others and assuming all the while that they could be commercial hit records; giving them the benefit of decent promotional budgets and wacky ad campaigns. Mike Oldfield saved his ass, of course, and how, but even when Virgin was a hugely successful concern Branson kept on putting out Kevin Coyne LPs. I haven't listened to the late great man in years but I'm about to embark on a Coyne marathon. Wish me luck.

Posted by Allen Baekeland on December 7, 2004 08:15 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson