Brett Smiley is Dead.

Screenshot 2016-01-18 23.41.43There’s a lot of dying going on, but this afternoon I read a story in yesterday’s NY Times about a singer songwriter I’d not heard of. Brett Smiley had the aim back in the day to be a similarly big star in the glam rock world as David Bowie, and coincidentally died two days before Bowie, at age 60.

Josh Max became friendly with Smiley in Central Park in the 80s. They played guitars together, critiqued each others songs, but it wasn’t until Max looked Smiley up on the internet after his death that he learned the whole story, which involves Andrew Loog Oldham, a scrapped 1974 album that wasn’t released until 30 years later, oh, and the drugs. But Max does a convincing job introducing Smiley as a genuine nice guy whose story is certainly sad but maybe not exactly tragic.

Loog Oldham recorded that original album, but after the release of the first single (Space Age b/w Va-va-va Voom), he pulled the record. It wasn’t put out until 2004. The reason?

Max writes: “I just refused to let them release the album,” Mr. Oldham said. “I knew it would be a disaster, and we’d already had one — the 45 r.p.m. release of ‘Space Ace,’ ” a song from the record.

You be the judge.




3 thoughts on “Brett Smiley is Dead.

  1. I never heard of him before either. I think Andrew can blame himself for this one. The productions are ridiculously kitchen sink, throw any old thing in there. The songs are pretty vacant, maybe that’s why. Also, the exaggerated gay rocker thing was already well-over by 1974, not that it ever caught on in the U.S. Bowie made it in the States – and he wasn’t that big in 1974 – IN SPITE OF his image manipulation. (Lester Bangs called him “homo from Aldebaran” and a “Venusian Crab-boy.”) Most of my friends, who were not a closed-minded bunch for the most part, thought Bowie looked plain weird, but he had great songs. The image thing was just rocknroll although obviously highly contrived. Of course the Dolls did this by far the best – as someone said “Maybe gay, maybe not, and what’s it to you motherfucker?”

  2. It sounds like Smiley took his cues or inspiration from the Dolls, first, but the sound is Bowie’s (because of Oldham?), and you’re probably right, ALO was going for something that wasn’t going anywhere.

    That said, what I hear in the songs I’ve listened to were decent tunes, but Brett’s vocals don’t snarl. They’re too nice. Not terrible, but not compelling. Bowie got that edgy thing down.

    In all of this he seems like a compatriot of Elliott Murphy, only prettier, and maybe shy-er.

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