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Gary Remembers his Friend Kevin Coyne
Gary recently posted this reminiscence of his friend Kevin Coyne to the Beefheart discussion group Fireparty:
Yes, this is really a sad time. Coming on the heels of his champion and friend John Peel (I first heard Kevin in the context of Siren, who recorded 2 amazing albums for Peel's label Dandelion) this is just unbelievable, a double tragedy for music.
Kevin Coyne was truly one of the unjustly unrecognized geniuses of music. On the tracks we did in 1997 for Kevin's double album "Knocking On Your Brain" I showed up to the studio in Dusseldorf with two intact instrumentals in my head which I thought would make great music for Kevin to sing to, ran them down to Kev and his sympathetic German band for the very first time in about 5 minutes, the band and I then recorded the tracks very quickly without overdubs—and then Kevin stepped up to the mic and totally extemporized the lyrics and melody. And he was stone brilliant. We stopped and started a few times for the first tune, "Wonderland", which Kevin originally called "Disneyland", singing "I'm goin' to Disneyland" as the refrain, until I warned him we might be open to legal action for using the name Disneyland without permission (especially in the context of the lyric, where Disneyland represented...well, you'll just have to go dig up this album won't you).
The second tune "English Rose" flowed just like honey, and both of them I think are two of my best song collaborations, certainly ranking with "Grace" and "Mojo Pin" which I wrote with Jeff Buckley. Same collaborative methodology, with me giving the singer/partner a finished instrumental to complete—except Jeff would go off for sometimes months at a time and come back with lyrics and a melody to match my instrumentals—Kevin did it right on the spot. And Kevin was always never less than amazing; he had one of the sharpest fastest minds I have ever encountered in action outside Don Van Vliet. And a rich, theatrical voice that would melt your heart one second and then nail you to the wall as he shouted the blues. He admired Don's work and I actually saw him the last time at a Beefheart festival in a little town in Holland near the Belgian border in 200I. Coinciding with an exhibition of Don's paintings in a museum adjacent to the outdoor performance area, we were both booked as the musical talent that night paying homage to CB. Kevin and I recorded 5 more unreleased tracks in a studio in Nurnberg in 2000 when I stayed a few days with him and his lovely wife in the midst of a solo European tour. His paintings were really great too, the man also wrote funny and beautiful stories for Serpent's Tail Press you would do well to seek out (same publisher of recent Nobel prize winner Elfreide Jelinek, another fantastic maverick artist).
What a drag.