Marjory Razorblade is a double-LP by English rock singer Kevin Coyne and was one of the earliest releases on Virgin Records, which had launched four months earlier in June 1973. The double album includes the song “Marlene”, which was issued as a single, and “Eastbourne Ladies”, which was featured among the selection of tracks played by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) at the height of the Sex Pistols notoriety on the Capital Radio show A Punk & His Music, broadcast in London in the summer of 1977.
The gatefold album sleeve was designed by prominent graphic artist Barney Bubbles utilising photographs of Coyne by Phil Franks; Bubbles also designed the distinctive logo carrying the album title and artist name, though was content not to receive a credit himself. Twenty five years later, in 1998, Virgin’s financial director Ken Berry recalled that, on his first day at the company’s west London offices, he was presented with artist royalty statements scrawled on the back of Bubbles’ invoice for the Marjory Razorblade design.
Awarding the album a B+, Robert Christgau wrote:
Another British eccentric with a voice scratchy and wavery enough to make Mick Jagger sound like Anthony Newley, only this one can write songs. The annoying kid-stuff tone of the perversity here purveyed is redeemed by the fact that there isn’t a chance it will sell, not even with the Brit double-LP condensed down to one. Also, “House on the Hill” is as convincing a madman’s song as I know.” (by wikipedia)
There are not that many artists with 40 albums to their name who haven’t at least once enjoyed significant mainstream recognition. But despite the backing of Virgin Records, the late Kevin Coyne never reached these heights. His label tried – the delightful Marlene, from this collection, was released as a single first in 1973 and then again four years later, its initial under-performance a mystery to all. Ultimately, sadly, Coyne’s legacy is one that’s remained relatively under the radar.
A student of the blues, Coyne’s timbre wasn’t as pristine as charting artists of the time; the songs collected here – the original 20-track album, plus a second disc of bonus selections including BBC session takes and previously unreleased fare – wear their edges roughed, their imperfections proudly displayed. But while the pop market was resistant, Coyne found fans amongst the music world’s cognoscenti: John Lydon expressed his admiration of Marjory Razorblade in 1977, particularly praising the swaggering Eastbourne Ladies, and John Peel was an early supporter, signing Coyne’s pre-solo-career band Siren to his Dandelion label.
This re-issue features some insightful liner notes, including contributions from bassist Tony Cousins as well as press release snippets. The original one-sheet for this album, generally considered to be Coyne’s landmark release (though his small but passionate fanbase still debate that), states that Coyne had 26 tracks laid down after just five recording sessions. Subsequently Marjory had to be a double album – making this set, with 37 tracks, effectively a four-album package by 12” timings. But indulgent it’s not, restraint expressed both lyrically – words cut deep, but with precise strokes rather than repeat swings – and exercised in the skeletal frames of several of these songs.
There’s a lovely Rhodes warmth to Old Soldier, Coyne’s twangy guitar complemented by Jean Roussel’s organ contributions and subtle string arrangement; similarly notable of verdant texture is the synthesizer-embellished Mummy. But by and large this is a stripped-bare affair, a musical unit unburdened by technological temptation and just letting the music flow through them. At the heart might be Coyne, but each player is a vital component, more than a constituent part that could be swapped at a moment’s notice. There’s a comfortable compatibility evident, a synthesis of individual ability into one effective, enchanting end product.
So if you’ve never heard it before, don’t delay any longer: Marjory Razorblade is a trove of largely forgotten delights ready for rediscovery. (by Mike Diver)
Chili Charles (drums, percussion)
Dave Clague (guitar)
Tony Cousins (bass, tuba)
Kevin Coyne (vocals, guitar)
Ed DeGenaro (guitar)
Malcom Healey (synthesizer)
Jean Roussel (piano)
Gordon Smith (guitar, mandolin)
Steve Verroca (piano)
Mel Collins (horns on 21.)
Nick Cudworth (piano on 21.)
John Varnom (guitar on 21.)
01. Marjory Razorblade (Coyne) 1.47
02. Marlene (Coyne) 2.43
03. Talking To No One (Coyne) 2.31
04. Eastbourne Ladies (Coyne) 4.38
05. Old Soldier (Coyne) 3.55
06. I Want My Crown (Traditional) 4.20
07. Nasty (Coyne) 5.05
08. Lonesome Valley (Carter) 2.58
09. House On The Hill (Coyne) 4.55
10. Cheat Me (Coyne) 3.43
11. Jackie And Edna (Coyne) 4.05
12. Everybody Says (Coyne) 4.27
13. Mummy (Coyne) 4.11
14. Heaven In My View (Carter) 3.15
15. Karate King (Coyne) 3.19
16. Dog Latin (Coyne) 4.55
17. This Is Spain (Coyne) 2.11
18. Chairman’s Ball (Coyne) 3.14
19. Good Boy (Coyne) 2.41
20. Chicken Wing (Coyne) 4.23
21. Lovesick Fool (Coyne) 2.20
22. Sea Of Love (Khoury/Baptiste) 3.08
Kevin Coyne (27 January 1944 – 2 December 2004)