Brett Smiley was a singer-songwriter from America who was as glam rock as David Johanson and Marc Bolan and in the 70’s he had one single (‘Va Va Va Voom’) and one album that quickly vanished and is now the price of a small island if you want a copy on CD (‘Breathlessly Brett’) It was recorded in the mid ’70s but released in the early 2000’s he was once taken under the wing of Andrew Loog Oldham and the rest is history (albeit feint obscure History) well RSD tends to throw up a few curveballs from the box of records kept under the stairs and 2019 threw up ‘Sunset Towers’ – A collection of Eight songs recorded by Smiley before Oldman got hold of him this was recordings captured at Cherokee Studios in the Valley (also used by Bowie) what we have here is eight classic slabs of original first wave Glam rock plain and simple. Great tunes camp as Christmas proper glam rock – brickies in platform silver boots and feather boas it’s a moment caught in time.
Only a few of the tracks made it onto the ‘Breathlessly Brett’ album and to be fair they aren’t the standout tracks here which makes it all the more puzzling how and why Brett wasn’t more well known. To be honest it was 2004, Nina Antonia’s book about Smiley, ‘The Prettiest Star: Whatever Happened to Brett Smiley’ that made me dig into who he was and his sad story. Smiley performed until 2015 in New York City and was recording songs for a new CD. He sadly died on January 8, 2016, after a lengthy battle with HIV and hepatitis but thanks to things like RSD we get to revel in his legacy and wonderful silky smooth voice. Whilst I said the music is classic glam his voice is wonderful take the Stonesy rip off of ‘Highty Tighty’ You’ll hear the melody and Stones influence which is always cool. There’s the Bowie/Bolan swagger of ‘Abstracted Billy’.
You also have the pomp and Mott like ‘Space Ace’ with its drug-addled lyrics which I’m sure at the time would have seemed wild and out there. There are lyrics and delivery phrases here that remind me of Marc Almond something that crops up several times throughout the record to be fair. I love ‘Queen Of Hearts’ it’s so dramatic it’s like a light to Lou Reeds Shade.
‘Lying In The Sun’ sounds like a demo compared to the previous tracks and the unproduced nature is warming and engaging and to be fair the exact same could be said for the final offering of ‘Diamonds Couldn’t Bring You Back’ which has a certain Johnny Thunders quality to it and seems like the perfect way to end the record. I do hope that the quality of songs he was working on as late as 2015 surface and follow on from these recordings and we one day get to hear them. Rest In Peace Brett Smiley your star burned brightly if only for a new york minute and I’m glad it got captured on record. It might not be the greatest Glam Rock record ever made but its quality and if you like Mott The Hoople, Bowie, Reed, Bolan, the Dolls then fill yer boots this is a keeper. If you can pick one of these up before they cost a fortune.
Author: Dom Daley