follow us in feedly
The Prettiest Star: Obscure 70s glam rocker Brett Smiley has died
01.13.2016
04:27 pm

Topics:
Drugs
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
glam rock
Brett Smiley


 
With the bad news about the death of David Bowie, and the subsequent tsunami of Internet posts about his life and work, the passing of another 70s glam rocker—albeit a much more obscure one—Brett Smiley has gone nearly unreported. Smiley died on January 8th at his home in Brooklyn after a longtime battle with both HIV and hepatitis, at the age of 60.

Brett Smiley is not someone who was necessarily “forgotten” or who was a “has-been” per se, as he was never really known by the public at large in the first place. He occupies the place that’s under Jobriath in the hierarchy of little-known androgynous Bowie-wannabe pretty boys of the glam rock era. He was a cult figure, sure, but it’s a cult consisting of a very few members (I consider myself one of them).

I suspect Brett Smiley won’t get an obituary in the New York Times, so below is a post from the Dangerous Minds archive to mark his passing. And here is a fascinating personal essay about his later years, and recent death, that was just posted by someone who knew him. There are several in-depth interviews with him that you can find online should you want more.

***
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 1974—but not released until 2003—by a then-teenaged performer named Brett Smiley. It seldom left my CD player for the next month. I got really obsessed by this album.

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 went to junior high school with Michael Jackson (they shared a woodworking class), Smiley once played the title role in the Broadway musical Oliver!. He was just a sixteen-year-old when he was discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, then keen to take his career down a Phil Spector-type producer/Svengali path and feeling competitive with Jobriath’s manager, Jerry Brandt.
 

 
Smiley was given a $200,000 advance and recorded an album produced by Oldham with Steve Marriott from the Small Faces and Humble Pie 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.”
 

“It wasn’t a slipper he slipped to Cinderella…” Brett Smiley as the Prince in the 3-D erotic musical version of ‘Cinderella.’
 

The insanely catchy single “Va Va Va Voom”
 
Hard to see how a tune that fucking catchy failed to storm the charts, but the single bombed and the album was shelved. Although Smiley auditioned to replace David Cassidy in The Partridge Family and made film appearances (like 1977’s erotic Cinderella and American Gigolo), he must’ve fallen into some sort of “velvet goldmine” because he wasn’t really heard from again until 2003 when RPM Records acquired the master tapes of his forgotten album. The sad truth was that Brett Smiley wallowed in serious skid-row drug addiction for years. His legend proved mysterious and 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—just the idea of him—so strongly influenced her teenage years.

The Russell Harty Plus clip below 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. It’s followed by an embarrassing interview.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘All That Glitters’: Vintage doc on legendary British glam rockers, The Sweet
05.13.2015
10:21 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Sweet
glam rock

0sweetglmxhhjlayhlh1.jpg
 
In 1973, Sweet were the subject of a documentary All That Glitters for BBC Schools series Scene. Being intended for “educational purposes,” the program had to pose a relevant topic for debate among its teenage audience—in this case, “Is the music business really that glamorous?” Over a period of two to three days, Scene followed the band members Brian Connolly (vocals), Steve Priest (bass/coals), Andy Scott (guitar) and Mick Tucker (drums) as they rehearsed for a Top of the Pops appearance (which led to an outcry over Priest’s Nazi outfit) and their (now hailed as “legendary”) Christmas show at London’s Rainbow Theater.

It had certainly been a good year for the band—probably their best: three hit singles (“Blockbuster,” “Hellraiser,” “Ballroom Blitz”) adding to their chart-topping back catalog and tipping their record sales to 14 million sold; sell-out gigs the length and breadth of the UK; and plans to record their first proper studio album—for which they would write most of the material and play all of the instruments. Yes, it had been a long hard graft, and it wasn’t always glamorous, but it seemed as if things could and should only get better.

But fame is fickle and pop careers are measured by the durability of three-minute songs. Sweet’s pop hits had been penned by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who had originally cast the band as sub-Archies bubblegum pop supplying them with such jolly toe-tappers as “Co-Co,” “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam.” However, Sweet were always rockers and had a desire to write and play their own songs. As if signalling their gradual move away from Chinn and Chapman, the band dropped the definite article from their name—changing from The Sweet to Sweet.
 
00Sweetfannyadamssdfuyertyukjnbvtdx.jpg
 
Sweet’s audience were still mainly teenyboppers who liked their playground pop and the pretty boy make-up, though there were always some (including music journalist Paul Morley) who preferred the band’s self-penned hard-rocking B-sides. When Sweet started concentrating on their own kind of heavy glam music with the albums Sweet Fanny Adams (1974) and Desolation Boulevard (1975), they lost a chunk of their fan base who were now swooning over the Bay City Rollers while a younger generation were about to replace glam with punk.

Yet the music Sweet produced influenced artists such as Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Joan Jett and Poison.

Though half the band is sadly now dead (Connolly died in 1997, Tucker in 2002) the world is divided between Andy Scott’s Sweet, which covers Europe and Australia, and Steve Priest’s Sweet, which takes in the US, Canada and South America.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Wild, weird glam rock Tropicália from Brazil: Secos e Molhados


 
Secos e Molhados (“Dry & Wet”) was an glam-rock/Tropicália band formed in Brazil in 1971 during the most repressive phase of the military dictatorship. The band was short-lived, recording just two albums, but launched the career of feminine-sounding vocalist, Ney Matogrosso.

Matogrosso’s distinctive voice is “sopranino” meaning that he can hit notes higher than F6. Now 72, he’s still a star in Brazil, but has dropped the wild costumes and make-up, concentrating more on the purely vocal aspects of his talents, and re-interpreting classic Portuguese pop songs.

João Ricardo, who founded the group, and Gerson Conrad were the other two members. Secos e Molhados recorded in a wide variety of styles. Their innovative make-up and costuming caused a sensation, if not exactly scandal, in early 70s Brazil and they sold millions of records.

Below, Secos e Molhados performing “Flores Astrais”
 

 
More Secos e Molhados after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment