Kevin Coyne


Band members                             Related acts

- Kevin Coyne (RIP 2004) -- vocals, guitar

 

  supporting musicians: 1974

- Chilli Charles -- drums, percussion

- Tony Cousins -- bass

- Ricahrd Dodd -- sax

- Ruan O'Lochlainn -- sax, guitar, keyboards

- Tony Slade - drums, percussion

- Gordon Smith -- guitar

- Barry St. John -- backing vocals

- Liza Strike -- backing vocals

- Fiarachra Trench -- keyboards

 

  supporting musicians: 1978

- Zoot Money -- keyboards 

- Andy Summers -- guitar 

- Steve Thompson -- bass

- Peter Woolf -- drums, percussion

 

  supporting musicians: 1980

- Gary Barnicale --  sax

- Paul Fox -- guitar

- Brian GOdding -- guitar, keyboards

- Dave Ruffy -- drums, percussion

- John Segs Jennings -- bass

- Bob Ward -- guitar

- Paul WIckens -- keybaords

- Robert Wyatt -- drums, keyboards

 


 

 

- The Clague

- Siren

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Blame It On the Night

Company: Virgin

Catalog: V.2012

Year: 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; textured sleeve and includes the lyric sheet insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5543

Price: $50.00

 

I'm not sure why, but 1974's "Blame It On the Night is extremely difficult to score; easily one of the rarer offerings in the late Kevin Coyne's extensive (40 plus LP) catalog.  I'd guess the rarity factor might have something to do with the fact Virgin management knew he was a big time eccentric who had little or no chance of scoring any kind of popular recognition, let alone sales, so they only printed up a handful of copies ...  Who knows?    Maybe the copies just got lost.

 

Produced by Steve Verroca, the album found the ever-challenging Kevin Coyne clawing his way through another set of original material.  Hard to believe I'm typing this, but Coyne and Virgin actually seem to have made an effort to sound more commercial (yes I'm using the term loosely).  His lyrics remained extremely personal, hard to understand (especially for an American fan).  Anyone got a clue on what 'Poor Swine' was about?   Personally I found the album occasionally crossing over into disturbing territory, - check out flamenco-meets mental meltdown 'Witch.'  On the other hand tracks like the opening rocker 'River of Sin' and 'I Believe In Love' (the latter released as a single complete with female backing chorus), and the previously mentioned 'Poor Swine' actually sported recognizable melodies that wouldn't have sounded bad on late night FM radio. To the relief of longstanding Coyne fans, tracks like 'Sign of the Times', 'Light Up Your Little Light' and the disturbing 'Don't Delude Me' were far more typical and predictably inscrutable Coyne efforts.  Coming from a fairly well-to-do suburban lifestyle, Coyne's catalog of life's outsiders and losers has always struck an ominous chord with me.  It's kind of like seeing a bad traffic accident.  The carnage is horrible, yet there's something fascinating about the horror that makes it hard to take your eyes of the scene.  Same thing with this set.  Add to that Coyne may not have been the most tuneful singer you've ever encounter, but like Joe Cocker after a week lost in the desert, Coyne's dry and labored voice was actually kind of engaging as he crackled, groaned and moaned his way through these dozen songs.    (By the way the album clocked it at almost an hour in length).

 

As you'd expect, the album sold about 100 copies in the UK and zero in the States.  Shame, since even though it's a challenging work, there were some real unexpected pleasures to be found here - for goodness sakes who would have ever thought I'd enjoy a country-flavored rocker that seems to be celebrate someone's release from an asylum.

 

"Blame It On the Night" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) River Of Sin   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:18   rating: **** stars

Coyne's cackling laugh and rough-as-gravel vocals were a little disconcerting, but I have to admit that 'River of Sin' rocked out with quite a bit of energy.  Yeah, it sometimes seemed as if the band weren't playing the same song, but they somehow got to the finish line and I also liked Coyne's slide guitar work,
2.) Sign Of The Times   (Kevin Coyne) - 5:28  
rating: ** stars

'Sign of the Times' offered up a stark slice of acoustic, country-blues.  Musically it wasn't anything you hadn't already heard before.  That put the focus on Coyne's unique voice.  Some folks were going to love its character.  Others - not so much.  This was one of those songs that seemed to go on and on and on ...
3.) I Believe In Love   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:45 
  rating: *** stars

Sporting a melody you could hum; an upbeat lyric; one of Coyne's most mainstream vocals (and even female backing singers), 'I Believe In Love' was surprisingly commercial.  Another shocker - Virgin actually decided to tap the track as a single:

 

 

 

 

- 1974's 'I Believe In Love' b/w 'Queenie Queenie Caroline' (Virgin catalog number VS 107


 

 

 

 

 

4.) Don't Delude Me   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:21   rating: ** stars

On the heels of a commercial number, 'Don't Delude Me' found Coyne plunging back into full throttle eccentric territory.  Just Coyne accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, the song's singer/story-teller structure was alarming and got even scarier when the guitar accompaniment stopped. 
5.) Wanting You Is Not Easy   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:57
   rating: ** stars

Joe Cocker on steroids?  Van Morrison in full, final stage meltdown?  How do you even begin to describe Coyne's unique artistry?   Come to think of it, the slightly bluesy feel that powered 'Wanting You Is Not Easy' has a bit of Morrison soul in it.
6.) Take A Train   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:33
   rating: ** stars

'Take A Train' found Coyne mining country hoedown territory.  The song was relatively straight foward and commercial by Coyne standards, but there was nothing of interest on this one for me.

(side 2)
1.) Blame lt On The Night   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:18
   rating: *** stars

I'm clearly not a Coyne scholar, but I think 'Blame It On the Night' might explain why some folks find him so impressive.  Musically there wasn't a great deal to the song - Coyne strumming away on acoustic guitar with occasional orchestration.  Lyrically there wasn't much going on here.  I think I counted the phrase "blame it on the night" 27 times.  And yet Coyne brought considerable energy/anxiety to the track.  Can I explain it?  Nope.  Am I a big fan?  Nope.  But I can start to hear why some folks love Coyne's catalog.

2.) Poor Swine   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

The album's hardest rockers (maybe the hardest rocker in his entire catalog), 'Poor Swine' opened up with some scorching electric guitar and never let up.  Introduced by the late John Peel, YouTube has a 1974 performance of the song at a Hyde Park appearance.  Neither the video or audio quality are great, but if anything, the live version rocks even harder.  Fascinating to see Coyne's unique guitar style.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX9f7b_U1Us

3.) Light Up Your Little Light   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:33   rating: ** stars

More stark acoustic country-blues showcasing Coyne's simplistic guitar and weird little-boy vocals ...  Disconcerting.
4.) Choose   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:10 
   rating: *** stars

Support from a full band gave the country-flavored tune 'Choose' a more conventional sound.  The fuller sound also served to mitigate some of Coyne's vocal eccentricities.  Even if you weren't a country fan, this one came as somewhat of a relief after the previous eight performances.
5.) Witch   (Kevin Coyne) - 6:10 
   rating: *** stars

Flamenco meets bipolar ...  be warned the end-of-song screams are not for the faint-of-heart.   As if the song wasn't weird enough, the way Steve Verroca produced this one Coyne's lead vocals were on one track while the guitar and his "harmony" vocals were on the other track.  It is one weird song to listen to on headphones.
6.) Right On Her Side   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:03
   rating: ** stars

Seriously, Coyne's lyrics had to be stream-of-conscious ...  I'm guessing this was Coyne's version of a blues song.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Sanity Stomp

Company: Virgin

Catalog: VSD 3504

Year: 1980

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+

Comments: UK pressing; double LP set

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $35.00

 

I have no insight into Kevin Coyne's business relationship with Virgin bRecords, but I suspect after seven years and eight albums, the two parties felt it was time to move on.  Clearly Virgin realized what they were getting into when they signed Coyne back in 1973 (Coming after Michael Oldfield, Coyne was the second act signed to the label), and kudos to Virgin for keeping such a unique, niche performer on the payroll for so long.  But Virgin is a profit motivated entity and no matter how much they admired Coyne's artistic merit, they weren't going to keep him on their recording roster forever without any hope of commercial success.

 

As Coyne's final release for Virgin, 1980's "Sanity Stomp" was a double album set - literally two separate collections combined into a specially priced release.  The first album was produced by Paul Wickens.  The second album was a self-produced effort.  Unlike most double album releases which reflect a unified concept, here you were truly getting two separate projects for a low, special price.  Guess Virgin was trying to clear out the inventory and hoping they might get a little bit of return on all those years of investment.  Ah, wishful thinking.

 

First, here's what Coyne had to say about the album:  "I was quite ill when I made that record, as a matter of fact; I was quite mad, basically. Thatís why itís called Sanity Stomp. I had a nervous breakdown and, ironically, I donít want to say ironically...amazingly...I was able to carry on making records. Thatís a record I made when I was clinically ninety-five per cent nuts, and the themes are rather odd, but somehow it comes out as sounding all right. Iím amazed."

 

So, I'll take these albums one at a time.   Produced and arranged by Paul Wickens, the first two sides presented Coyne as a surprisingly commercial and mainstream artist.  Supported by most of The Ruts (guitarist Paul Fox, bassist John Segs Jennings, and drummer Dave Ruffy of 'Babylon's Burning' fame) the musicians provided him with a capable and sympathetic backing band.  Yeah, that sounded like an oxymoron and judging by some of the earlier efforts to push his commercial content, it would have seemed a waste of time and effort.  This time around, the results were impressive.  Exemplified by tracks like the opener 'Fat Man', 'Somewhere In My Mind' and 'Too Dark (One for the Hero)' there was little attempt to make big statements, or anything other than have a fun time on these tunes.  Perhaps that's what makes these sides so enjoyable.  For goodness sakes, there was even a reggae tune here - 'The Monkey Man.'  Okay, judging by 'No Romance' and 'Admit You're Wrong' couldn't entirely submerge his darker demons.  The fact the ten tracks were reportedly written over a weekend was even more of a miracle.  

 

"Sanity Stomp" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fat Man   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:30   rating: **** stars

Hearing Coyne with backing from a conventional rock line-up remains an unexpected treat.  Hearing Coyne playing straightforward rocker is also an unexpected treat.  For better or worse, 'Fat Man's demonstrated he could recorded a fairly conventional rock song.  Not to be confused with Coyne's 'Happy Little Fat Girl', or 'Little Fat Man.'

2.) The Monkey Man   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:04   rating: *** stars

Credit The Ruts for this one.  Wow - Coyne writing a reggae tune ...  Another surprise !  The fact it was good was even more impressive.  Far better than hearing 10CC or some other English band trying to appropriate reggae.  YouTube has a clip of Coyne and band performing the tune at 1984 performance in Munich Germany: Kevin Coyne - Monkey Man - YouTube

3.) How Strange   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:32  rating: *** stars

The autobiographical title pretty much captured it ...  Coyne surrounded by a classic '50s rock arrangement.  Nothing special, but the man sounded like he was putting every last fiber in his being into the performance.

4.) Somewhere In My Mind   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:25   rating: **** stars

Showcasing some pretty Paul Wickens keyboards, 'Somewhere In My Mind' quickly morphed from fragile ballad to full-tilt rocker.  Once again, I was surprised at how good Coyne sounded when backed by a sympathetic and capable band.

5.) When (See You Again)   (Kevin Coyne - Paul Wickens) - 2:32  rating: *** stars

Coyne surrounded by a bouncy melody and a hopeful lyric ...who would ever thought?

 

(side 2)

1.) Taking To the World   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:11  rating: *** stars

Nice rocking melody and the lyrics were interesting to boot.   The song always struck me as having kind of an Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople vibe.

2.) No Romance   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:00  rating: *** stars

Pretty, start keyboard powered ballad that marked a brief return to Coyne's somber world outlook.

3.) Too Dark (One for the Hero)   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:45  rating: *** stars

Another slide of Ian Hunter-styled gritty rock.  The man could actually flourish in a more commercial environment.  

4.) Admit You're Wrong   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:55   rating: **** stars

With a pretty, mid-tempo mellow, the deeply personal lyrics were largely lost on me.  Still, 'Admit You're Wrong' had a great refrain and was probably my favorite performance.  

5.) Formula Eyes   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:09  rating: *** stars

With a distinctive new wave edge and a raw, slightly threatening vocal, 'Formula Eyes' reflected the impact of having The Ruts support Coyne.

 

 

In contrast to the first album, the self-produced third and fourth sides presented Coyne in a more unstructured, experimental environment.  The song structures and recognizable melodies found on the first two sides remained largely in place, but rather than conventional compositions, they were replaced by a series of seemingly spur-of-the-moment improvisational numbers.  This wasn't a set of wonky jazz-rock, or Soft Machine-styled progressive moves, rather tracks like 'A Loving Hand', 'In Silence' and 'Taking On the Bowers' featured paired down and frequently barebones arrangements.  The latter was just Coyne and Robert Wyatt on cymbals.   Yeah, it was occasionally tough to get through - it was impossible to not feel uncomfortable during 'Wonderful Wilderness.'  One of two tracks co-written with guitarist Brian Gooding, 'My Wife Says' sounded like a slice of Frippitronics, while 'The World Speaks' was apparently a studio idea that went flat.   The funny thing is many of the performances were mesmerizing.  Not commercial by a mile, but Coyne's performances were among the best in her lengthy career.  In my case, I finally discovered what a powerful signer the guy was.   I've always found it interesting that this was initially planned to be the "featured" album, with the other two sides being the "bonus" material.  Virgin management apparently had a change of heart when they realized just how un-commercial the nine tracks were.   For goodness sakes, Robert Wyatt was featured on these tunes ...  what more did they need to know?  Did Virgin really need to hear 'My Wife Says' to figure out how weird these nine tracks were?

 

(side 3)

1.) New Motorway   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:58  rating: **** stars

In the wake of my introductory comments along comes 'New Motorway.'  Overlooking the eclectic lyrics (someone out there must have written a Coyne primer diving into his catalog), musically 'New Motorway' served as the most pop-oriented tune across all four side.  Remember the word commercial is always a relative term when talking about Coyne, but the ragged la-la-las were hysterical.

2.) A Loving Hand   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:07  rating: **** stars

Backed by Robert Wyatt on drums and Brian Godding on electric guitar, 'A Loving Hand' was a barebones ballad that I found to be one of Coyne''s most effecting performances.  A haunting, surprisingly uplifting lyric provided a nice change of pace.  My only complaint was the abrupt ending - it was like the tape simply ran out.

3.) Fear of Breathing   (Kevin Coyne) - 3:33  rating: *** stars

Early '50s rock and doo-wop influences normally do nothing for me, but here the results were intriguing.  The song was also interesting for showcasing Coyne's clear voice - most of his weird attributes were stripped off this performance ... well until you got to the end-of-song explosion.

4.) In Silence   (Kevin Coyne) - 4:36   rating: *** stars

Backed again by Godding and Wyatt, 'In Silence' came off as an in-studio groove rather than a conventional song.  Mind you it was worth hearing just for the trio's harmonizing.  

5.) Taking On the Bowers   (Kevin Coyne - Robert Wyatt) - 3:19  rating: **** stars

'Taking On the Bowers' was essentially an accapella piece - just Coyne with Wyatt providing almost martial drumming.  Much to my surprise, I found the results fascinating.  Yeah, it was another track where I would love to understand the lyrics - fratricide is ripe throughout, but there are also lyrics of hope (I think).  And yes, I'll admit it - this one demonstrated without a doubt that Coyne had an awesome voice.

 

(side 4)
1.) Wonderful Wilderness   (Kevin Coyne) - 7:48
   rating: *** stars

Listening to the cathartic 'Wonderful Wilderness' was tough - seemingly Coyne unloading on the injustice he's encountered in his career as a nurse and beyond.  This one wasn't going to get folks up on the dance floor ...

2.) My Wife Says   (Kevin Coyne - Brian Godding) - 3:58  rating: ** stars

The first of two tracks co-written by guitarist Brian Godding, 'My Wife Says' sounded like something off a Robert Fripp solo album.  Coyne's treated vocals were dumped on top of a tape loop featuring a simple piano figure and a voice endlessly repeating "give us a kiss." 

3.) The World Speaks   (Kevin Coyne - Brian Godding) - 2:27  rating: ** stars

'The World Speaks' was another outright experimental effort - apparently Coyne and Goddard name checking people, places and things followed by the word "peace" ...  "John - peace," "Yoko - peace," "John Peel - peace", "Darby County - peace" ...   Perhaps it made more sense in the studio.

4.) You Can't Kill Me   (Kevin Coyne) - 2:04   rating: *** stars

The album closed with the pretty, stripped down, acoustic ballad 'You Can't Kill Me.'  This was the Kevin Coyne most fans were going to be familiar with.

 

 

 

Again, I'm not a Coyne expert, or super fan and I've only heard a fraction of the man's extensive recording catalog.  Keeping all that in mind, "Sanity Stomp" is a good place to start investigating his catalog.

 

 

.

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  In Living Black and White

Company: Virgin

Catalog: VD  2-2505

Year: 1977

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4684

Price: $40.00

Recorded at various dates supporting Kevin Coyne's 1976 "Heartburn" tour, 1977's "In Living Black and White" was released in the UK as a 16 track, double LP set.  Given it's limited commercial viability in the States, Virgin Records elected to release it in a condensed single LP  for the US market.  Co-produced by Robert John Mutt Lange and Steve Lewis, the album found Coyne touring with an exceptional band which included keyboardist Zoot Money and future Police guitarist Andy Summers.  It's interesting and somewhat ironic that the album didn't attract a great deal of attention when originally released.  Only after Coyne's 2004 death did  rave critical reviews and a cult following start to dribble in.  Those reviews were fine, but I'll go ahead and warn you that parts of this album are friggin' challenging to get through.  Featuring mostly original material, Coyne's wasn't a particularly memorable singer (imagine Joe Cocker having broken out of a mental institute and decided to carry a straight razor for fun), though I have to admit that he actually sounded better live than on some of his studio sets.  Like most of his material, many of the songs seemed autobiographical.  'House On the Hill' and others were apparenty based on his post-art school career spent working at a mental institution.  Lyrically lots of the material was major league depressing, covering the entire spectrum of human and social wreckage that he'd seen in his personal life and professional career. Coyne's largely acoustic side one performances were particularly raw and difficult to get through - definitely not a Saturday night party album.  Admittedly it got a little better when the band kicked in ...  tracks such as 'Eastbourne Ladies', 'Marjory Razorblade' and 'Turpentine' actually rocked with some conviction.  Still, listening to this in one sitting was one major downer; certainly not a good idea for folks suffering from an already fragile mental makeup, and for lots of people this was going to make for some difficult slogging.  On the other hand, Coyne's fans know what to expect ...


"In Living Black and White" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Case History No. 2   (Kevin Coyne) - 

2.) Fat Girl    (Kevin Coyne) - 

3.) Talking To No-One    (Kevin Coyne) - 

4.) My Mother's Eyes    (Kevin Coyne) - 

5.) Ol' Man River    (Kevin Coyne) - 

6.) Eastbourne Ladies   (Kevin Coyne) - 


(side 2)
1.) Sunday Morning Sunrise    (Kevin Coyne) - 

2.) One Fine Day   (Kevin Coyne) - 

3.) Marjory Razorblade   (Kevin Coyne) - 

 

(side 3)

1.) Coconut Island    (Kevin Coyne) - 

2.) Turpentine    (Kevin Coyne) - 

3.) House On The Hill    (Kevin Coyne) - 

4.) Knocking On Heaven's Door     (Bob Dylan) - 

 

(side 4)

1.) Mummy    (Kevin Coyne) - 

2.) Big White Bird    (Kevin Coyne) - 

3.) America    (Kevin Coyne) - 

 

And thanks to YouTube, you can see a couple of Coyne live performances:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Qdw9wumkc

- 1973's BBC television appearence 'House On the Hill'

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39R3bwqvqwg

- 1979 concert performance of 'Eastbourne Ladies'

 

 

 

 

 

 

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