//Clockwise from top left: Gene Vincent with one of The Houseshakers, Magnet Club, Chelmsford, UK, February 1971. Photo: http://gene.vincent.fanclub.voila.net; Let It Rock assistant in Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps top, Wembley Stadium, August 5, 1972. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita; Vincent’s quote as featured on the Sex t-shirt You’re Gonna Wake Up, 1974//
‘Gene Vincent for me was the embodiment of rock’n’roll’
Malcolm McLaren 1997
On September 22 1971, Gene Vincent was a mid-week booking to play a “rock revival” night at central London club The Marquee.
Times were tough; at just 36, the soft-spoken American rocker was apparently way past his heyday and beset by severe health problems brought on by the combination of alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs taken to dull the constant pain in his left leg. This was the result of a crippling motorbike accident in his youth and the lingering effects of having been in the 1960 car-crash which killed Eddie Cochran.
Unbeknownst to Vincent, his partner Marcia Avron – who had elected to stay in their apartment in California’s Simi Valley – was stripping it of all of his belongings before disappearing without a word.
The week before, on arrival in the UK, Vincent had been served with High Court maintenance documents by lawyers representing his British ex-wife Margaret Griffith, with whom he had a daughter, Sherri-Ann. And his fourth wife Jackie Fusco had instituted divorce proceedings back in the US.
Vincent’s two most recent albums – now adjudged cult classics – had been flops and the tour would soon peter out after a handful of scrappy gigs.
Among the visitors to The Marquee that Wednesday night was the 25 year-old rock & roll fan Malcolm McLaren. In later life he recalled the evening as a turning point. At that stage, McLaren had become frustrated after having spent two years assembling footage for a psycho-geographic film history of Oxford Street as his diploma project at Goldsmith’s art school. To complete it, he settled on the off-the-wall device of using an original rock-and-roller as the documentary’s “roving reporter”.