File this under “If You Like Jobriath”:
One day I found myself looking for obscure glam rock compilations on Amazon and the “customers who bought this” recommendation led me to an album called Breathlessly Brett an LP originally recorded in the mid-1970s—but not released until 2003—by a then-teenaged performer named Brett Smiley. It seldom left my CD player for the next month.
I’d never heard of Brett Smiley before that, but when I did a search on him, an interesting story emerged. A child star who once played the title role in the musical Oliver!, Brett Smiley was just sixteen years old when he was discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andew Loog Oldham, then keen to take his career down a Phil Spector-type producer/Svengali path.
At 18, Smiley was given a $200,000 recording deal and recorded an album, produced by Oldham and with Steve Marriott from the Small Faces on guitar. An amazingly raucous single “Va Va Va Voom” was released and heavily hyped with Smiley’s blonde pretty-boy face appearing in ads all over London, and in an extremely over the top performance and interview on the popular Russell Harty Plus TV program. Disc magazine proclaimed Brett to be ‘The Most Beautiful Boy In The World.’
Hard to see how a tune that catchy failed to storm the charts, but the single bombed, the album was shelved and other than a few brief film roles and cameos (like the erotic 3-D musical version of Cinderella and American Gigolo), Smiley wasn’t heard from again until 2003 when RPM Records acquired the master tapes. The sad truth was that Brett Smiley wallowed in serious, skid-row drug addiction for years. His legend proved strongly intriguing for glam rock fans and Johnny Thunders’ biographer, Nina Antonina, wrote a book, The Prettiest Star: Whatever Happened to Brett Smiley about how Smiley’s super brief pop supernova moment strongly influenced her teenage years.
Now recovered from the drug excesses of his past, Smiley continues to record and perform, mostly around New York City.
This Russell Harty clip features a young Brett Smiley performing his Ziggy-influenced “Space Ace” (the “Va Va Va Voom” B-side) and it’s pretty incredible if you like this sort of thing (Turn the sound up really loud as the audio here sounds far weaker than the punchier CD version of “Space Ace”).