Vince Taylor, The Inspiration for Ziggy Stardust

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Vince Taylor, Shakin’ All Over

I’ve been on a seemingly endless Bowie kick lately.  I discovered that the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust was Vince Taylor. Vince was the first true British rock star.  His biggest hit was Brand New Cadillac…yes the same one that the Clash covered.  Ol’ Vince made love to his ego and slowly sucked up into his mind in the 60s.  Maybe the first rock star who fell prey to hard drugs, hard livin’, and hard time in an insane asylum.  Check out this dangerously cool video of Shakin’ All Over and you can see that this was a hip, hip cat (who tragically committed rock and roll suicide).

Here is some info that I cut and pasted which chronicles why Vince was Bowie’s inspiration for Ziggy.  Good stuff.

“Bowie says that he based the character of Ziggy Stardust on the eccentric rocker “Vince Taylor” (real name Brian Holden and also known as the “French Presley”) who moved to France and worked as an Elvis impersonator… In 1957 Taylor returned to London as a leather rocker and made such an impact that within a few months he was signed by EMI. At gigs, he would show all the signs of typical rock’n’roll magnetism, the screams from the women in the audience drowning out his weak voice, his only superficial flaw. Trips to Europe proved somewhat more chaotic, as his performances – with Taylor dressed in black leathers, wearing make-up, throwing himself about on stage as if in an epileptic fit – induced riots. Months of this exacting routine, however, began to take its toll as Taylor started to fall prey to the lure of drugs. Come 1964, Taylor was on the edge, his diet of drugs, wine and an increasing God complex leading to his eventual downfall. From the mid-1960s, he drifted from club to club in London, claiming to anyone who would listen that he was the Son of God, his food intake consisting solely of eggs.

His best known work is his 1959 single “Brand New Cadillac” which was covered by the Clash on “London Calling” (1977). The Clash’s Joe Strummer recalled: “Vince Taylor was the beginning of British rock’n’roll. Before him there was nothing. He was a miracle.”

“He was the inspiration for Ziggy. Vince Taylor was a rock n roll star from the Sixties who was slowly going crazy. Finally, he fired his band and went on-stage one night in a white sheet. He told the audience to rejoice, that he was Jesus. They put him away.” – Bowie (1976).

“I met (Vince Taylor) a few times in the mid-Sixties and I went to a few parties with him. He was out of his gourd. Totally flipped. The guy was not playing with a full deck at all. He used to carry maps of Europe around with him, and I remember him opening a map outside Charing Cross tube station, putting it on the pavement and kneeling down with a magnifying glass. He pointed out all the sites where UFOs were going to land.” – Bowie (1996).

“The guy was unbelievable. He had this six-day party in some guy’s house, that just went on and on.  Just the weirdest kind of creature….In his own mind he did become the Messiah…He used to hang out on Tottenham Court Road and I got to know him then. And he had these strange plans, showing where there was money buried, that he was going to get together; he was going to create this new Atlantis at one time…And he always stayed in my mind as an example of what can happen in rock n roll. I’m not sure if I held him up as an idol or as something not to become. Bit of both probably. There was something very tempting about him going completely off the edge. Especially at my age, then, it seemed very appealing: Oh, I’d love to end up like that, totally nuts. Ha ha! And so he re-emerged in this Ziggy Stardust character.” – Bowie (1990)

“The weird and rather scary thing is that poor Vince died not so long ago, a few years ago in Switzerland near to where I lived when I was living in Switzerland and do you know what his career had been the last few years of his life? This guy had been in and out of institutions all his life – he was an aircraft maintenance guy at Geneva Airport.  Can you believe that!  Ziggy was a maintenance guy!” – Bowie (2000)

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