Fricke’s Picks: The Original Ziggy
The British singer Vince Taylor (1939-1991) was, for a spell, the most dangerous man in early rock & roll: a maniacal union of Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison in head-to-toe black leather with a shocking-for-its-time animal sexuality. A sensation in France, Taylor came closest to true immortality in 1972, when David Bowie used Taylor’s transgressive electricity and flamboyant public meltdown (he went weird at a Paris club show in 1965, declaring himself the new Jesus) as raw material for the doomed glam god Ziggy Stardust.
Later, the Clash covered Taylor’s runaway-rockabilly thriller “Brand New Cadillac” on London Calling. But Jet Black Leather Machine (Ace) is the original mayhem, a machine-gun spray of Taylor’s U.K. singles and French EP tracks — including his original 1959 version of “Brand New Cadillac” — that sounds like a missing link between Presley’s Sun sessions and the crisp, breathless R&B of the early Who. Taylor had a so-so voice but yelped and gurgled with vivid dementia and cut his own versions of U.S. hits (“My Baby Left Me,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Twenty Flight Rock”) with proprietary fury. “Always acceleratin’,” Taylor crowed in his 1960 racer “Jet Black Machine.” Get onboard.