The phone rings in the mixing room at North Branch Studio in Chicago and my wife breaks the news that Kevin died this morning. We're busy finishing off an album he started with my band the Pine Valley Cosmonauts on his last visit to the states. It's the last day of mixing and I'd been excited to send him the final product. I talk to his wife Helmi in Nuremberg and she tells me he died at home in her arms. This is the only good news; Kevin's been slogging around Europe with an oxygen tank and breathing tubes in tow for the last few months playing blinding shows but living in constant terror of dropping dead in some hotel room all alone. He was diagnosed with fibrosis soon after to returning from the Chicago trip. It's a vicious disease that turns your lungs to concrete and places an unbearable strain on your heart. Kevin downplayed the seriousness of his condition and continued playing and recording, painting and writing 'til the end. He had a gig in Vienna the night he died and shows booked well into December. First spied in 1974 on the Whistle Test with his guitar on his lap moaning and yelling, fretting the chords with his thumb Kevin caused a stir at my school on a par with Alvin Stardust's dramatic TOTP debut. Apart from a slew of great Reggae albums, Kevin's Millionaires And Teddy Bears and Babble were the only thing worth nicking out of the Virgin Records press office when we were briefly label-mates back in 1979. John Lydon once confessed to pilfering from his arsenal of crazed squawks and wails and my pal John Hyatt unashamedly channeled Kevin for The Three Johns. In 1990 The Mekons covered his song Having A Party, a unsubtle stab at Virgin's owner (reportedly a huge Coyne fan to this day) that mirrored our sorry situation on A&M at the time. One night at the Duchess Of York in Leeds I handed him a copy and he looked a bit baffled. For a man who turned down the job as Jim Morrison's replacement in The Doors, was billed as the English Beefheart and refused to write lyrics for Tubular Bells, Kevin Coyne spent a remarkably long, yet fruitful, time in the rock wilderness. Brutally neglected in Britain and never even on the radar in the USA he made his home in Southern Germany where he found love and respect and created wonderful artwork, books and albums that are out there just waiting to be discovered. Advance ticket sales were so bad for his last Chicago show I had to beg, bribe and threaten people to turn up. Kevin was charming, rude and hilarious, vogue-ing for the crowd like some mad medieval friar while ad-libbing whole songs with masterful ease and precision. The crowd was amazed (Kevin was amazing) and I got phone calls & e-mails for days from grateful friends I'd bullied into coming. Paul Morley predicted a Kevin Coyne revival earlier this year but maybe in death he's still to willful, wild and cantankerous for your average conservative rock fan. Jon Langford Reprinted courtesy of MOJO magazine.