Vince Taylor (14 July 1939 - 28 August 1991), born Brian Maurice Holden, was a British rock and roll singer. As the frontman for the Playboys, Taylor was successful primarily in France and the Continent during the late 1950s and early 1960s, afterwards falling into obscurity amidst personal problems and drug abuse.
Taylor spent his early life in Isleworth, Middlesex. When he was seven, the Holdens emigrated to America and settled in New Jersey where his father found employment. Around 1955, his sister, Sheila, married Joe Barbera, of Hanna-Barbera. As a result of the marriage, the family moved to California, where Taylor attended Hollywood High School. As a teenager, Taylor took flying lessons and obtained a pilot's licence.
At age 18, impressed by the music of Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley, Taylor began to sing, mostly at amateur gigs. Barbera, his brother-in-law, became his manager. When Barbera went to London on business he asked Taylor to join him. In London, Taylor went to the 2i's Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho, where Tommy Steele was playing. There he met drummer Tony Meehan (later of the Shadows) and bass player Tex Makins (born Anthony Paul Makins, 3 July 1940, Wembley, Middlesex). They formed a band called the Playboys. Whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes he noticed the phrase, 'In hoc signo vinces'. He decided on the new stage name of Vince Taylor.
His first singles for Parlophone, "I Like Love" and "Right Behind You Baby", were released in 1958, followed several months later by "Pledgin' My Love" backed with "Brand New Cadillac", (the latter track featuring guitarist Joe Moretti, who later featured on "Shakin' All Over" with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates). Parlophone was not satisfied with the immediate results and severed the recording contract. Taylor moved to Palette Records and recorded "I'll Be Your Hero", backed with "Jet Black Machine", which was released on 19 August 1960.
On 23 April 1960 ABC-TV screened the first edition of their new weekly rock and roll TV show, Wham! The first show featured Taylor with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
However, his unpredictable personality, although dynamic on stage, caused several arguments within the band, and the Playboys fired Taylor and changed their name to 'The Bobbie Clarke Noise'. The 'Noise' was contracted to play at the Olympia in Paris in July 1961. The top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris.
Despite his sacking Taylor remained friendly with the band and he asked if he could come to Paris too. He dressed up for the sound check in his trademark black leather stage gear, and added a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion, which he had bought on arrival at Calais. One version of the story says he gave such an extraordinary performance at the sound check, that the organizers decided to put Taylor at the top of the bill for both shows. As a result of his performance at those two shows, Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.
During 1961 and 1962, Taylor toured Europe with Clarke's band, once again called Vince Taylor and his Playboys. Between gigs they recorded several EPs and an album of 20 songs at Barclay Studios in Paris. These songs included the covers:
Despite his on-stage rapport with the Playboys, the off-stage relationship faltered. As a result, the band once more broke up. Taylor played several engagements backed by the English band the Echoes (who also backed Gene Vincent whenever he played the UK), but he still presented the band as the Playboys.
In February 1964, a new single "Memphis Tennessee", backed with "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues", was released on the Barclay label. The Playboys were Joey Greco and Claude Djaoui on guitars, Ralph Di Pietro on bass, and Bobbie Clarke on drums. The group was under contract to the Johnny Hallyday orchestra.
Hallyday was drafted into the French Army, and Clarke again joined Taylor and they started up 'The Bobbie Clarke Noise' along with Ralph Danks (guitar), Alain Bugby of The Strangers (bass), Johnny Taylor, ex lead singer for the Strangers (rhythm guitar), and "Stash" Prince Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (percussion). Managed by Jean Claude Camus, the band embarked on a triumphant tour of Spain and then co-topped the bill with the Rolling Stones during the Easter week-end of 1965 at the Olympia in Paris.
The band then disbanded and Taylor, undergoing problems with alcohol and other drugs, joined a religious movement. Danks left to play guitar with Three Dog Night, and later Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Stash, a close friend of the Rolling Stones, would later produce the Dirty Strangers album featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Clarke replaced drummer Don Conka for several studio sessions with the original line up of the band Love. He also played with Vince Flaherty and his band The Invincebles, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and the first incarnation of Deep Purple before forming a group, Bodast, with Steve Howe and Dave Curtis. In 1968, Bodast recorded an album for MGM Records, opened for the Who, and were the backing band for Chuck Berry at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Meanwhile, Clarke was involved in a comeback for his friend Taylor, a one-month tour across France, billed as 'Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers'. Eddie Barclay gave a new chance to Taylor who recorded again and performed intermittently throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until his death.
During his career, Taylor wrote and recorded many songs, among them his hit in Europe, "Brand New Cadillac" which has been covered by many other artists including the Clash on their 1979 album London Calling. Taylor lived in Switzerland late in his life, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. He said it was the happiest time of his life.
Taylor died from lung cancer in August 1991, at age 52. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland. He had lived in Switzerland since 1983 with his wife, Nathalie (nee Minster), and his step-daughter, Magaly.
Taylor had a son, Ty Holden who stated on BBC Radio 4, that Vince Taylor was an absent father. Ty was in the indie band, Crown of Thorns, managed by Miles Copeland III. Ty Holden is now a DJ on the London underground dance scene.
On 18 August 2010 BBC Radio 4 broadcast the documentary Ziggy Stardust Came from Isleworth which, in the words of the producer, is a programme that "uncovers the truth about a singer whose wild lifestyle ultimately destroyed him, but in so doing he gave rise to a myth that transcended glam-rock and science fiction". This programme also claimed that his wife Nathalie was the sister of Joseph Barbera, the American animator.
Adam Ant wrote and recorded the track "Vince Taylor" (co-written with Boz Boorer) for his 2013 album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. The song is partly a tribute to Taylor, and partly concerning a gold-plated chain given by Taylor to French girlfriend Valerie who later passed it to Adam Ant (Ant has further claimed to having used the chain as a weapon, wrapped around his fist, in a confrontation with Sid Vicious.) The song was setlisted on Ant's November/December 2011 UK Tour with the debut performance being in Frome on 10 November and remained a regular song at live concerts until the end of 2013. The album version of the song was used as the opening theme for the 2013 film The Blueblack Hussar, a documentary about Ant's 2010-2011 comeback, directed by Jack Bond. Ant also used Taylor's "Rock 'N Roll Station" as his entry music on all his 2011-2012 tours, and this track was also featured in the film soundtrack in scenes depicting the lead-up to Ant's showcase May 2011 concert at London's IndigO2.
After several changes, the final line-up of The Playboys became: