This Guy Wrote a Book About Fame and Oblivion So We Asked Him to List Five Artists History Forgot
Author Steven Blush takes a look at the flipside of fame and the artists on the cusp of stardom who ended up falling through the cracks.
Last month author Steven Blush released his book Lost Rockers: Broken Dreams and Crashed Careers, an exploration into what he calls “the flipside of fame.”
“It’s about great musicians who were on the cusp of stardom but fell through the cracks of history,” continues Blush, who’s also responsible for the 2001 book-cum-doc American Hardcore: A Tribal History. “The book examines the fine line between fame and oblivion, and looks at how a lack of success can scar one’s life. It’s a visual tribute to the art of digging in the crates and to the rediscovery of lost music online.”
The success stories in music are well documented, but this compendium is about “what happens when life doesn’t work out as planned.” The stories aren’t just being released in print, but Blush has teamed up with director Paul Rachman to turn these stories into a doc—watch the teaser above (they last worked together on American Hardcore). The film is scheduled to drop next Spring. So we asked Blush to give his top five artists from his book who flamed bright and flamed out.
This drop-dead gorgeous almost-famous blue-eyed soul singer got discovered at age 15 at the Brill Building by songwriters Chip Taylor (‘Wild Thing”) and Al Gargoni (“Brown Eyed Girl”). She is best known for the sad tale of her singles re-done by others as hits. A crooked promo guy got his hands on an early recording of Evie’s debut “Take Me For A Little While” and had Chess Records rush-release a version by their popular Jackie Ross. She then did “I Can't Let Go,” that radio refused to play as a sort of payback, so months later The Hollies hit big with it. Her “Angel of the Morning” was climbing the charts when the label Cameo-Parkway went bankrupt (the label’s president Neil Bogert then founded Casablanca Records, behind Kiss and Funkadelic). Merilee Rush’s rendition of the song the following year became a 70s anthem. Evie would later write for the likes of Barbra Streisand and Dusty Springfield, and she still makes music in the Hollywood hills.
The polysexual pianist played in a junior high school band with Billy Squier and toured in a lineup of Steam ("Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"). He then performed in the jazzy hippie group Elephant's Memory famous as John and Yoko’s backing band, (but not during that era, though Robison met John Lennon in the studio and sang backup with him on the Elephant’s album’s “Baddest of the Mean,” and he co-wrote “Power Boogie” which Lennon played guitar on). He recorded with “the next Hendrix” Velvert Turner, and then as a solo artist he released the first gay-rock albums with songs such as “Lookin’ For a Boy Tonight” (sample lyric: “I am not the only one who knows your own sex can be fun”) and brilliantly titled “You’ll Never Get Cheated on by Your Hand.” That work led to Robison playing on a Wicked Lester demo before they became known as Kiss, and in the “final” lineup of the New York Dolls, before getting fired for his alcoholism. In the wake of this he made a successful single with Blondie/Go-Gos producer Richard Gottehrer, and recorded with Keith Richards and Robert Gordon, before confounding all early expectations and marrying a woman and raising two boys in suburbia.
The Arizona-bred Jameson was yet another young singer who came to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. On his debut, a surf single, they misprinted his name as “Bobby James.” He then made two 45s with full-page ads in Billboard and Cashbox that hailed Bobby “The Next Phenomenon.” Jameson’s manager Tony Alamo never paid for those ads; instead, he split the music biz to form a Christian cult, and is serving 175 years for child abuse. To escape the madness, Bobby went to England where he cut a 7-inch backed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and marketed by Richard Avedon shots (listen below), and another one issued by a young Chris Blackwell. When Jameson returned to LA, he made a record under the pseudonym Chris Lucey—Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest—and starred in psychedelic 60s doc Mondo Hollywood—a cult classic which includes cameos by Sonny and Cher, Hitchcock, Bridgette Bardot, Jayne Mansfield, and Frank Zappa to name a few. Jameson appeared in that film with his girlfriend Gail, who later married his friend Zappa and in turn Zappa produced two singles by Bobby that few Zappa fans know about. Jameson then got the gig in The Monkees but quit because he thought it was too shallow. After more failed albums, he got deep into dope and acid, was arrested 27 times and declared dead from overdoses, not once, but twice. The press wrongly tied him to his friend Diane Linkletter’s suicide (daughter of media personality Art, who blamed her death on LSD), and his name arose during the LAPD inquiry into the Manson murders. He spent his last 30 years dealing with substance abuse living in a trailer park with his mom near San Luis Opisbo before dying last year at age 70. (See him ranting angrily about his life on YouTube here.) In 2010, Anton Newcombe’s Brian Jonestown Massacre recorded his “There’s A War Going On.”
This lovely Los Angeles soul singer, released the original version of "Tainted Love," and sang backup on hits like Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Jackie DeShannon’s “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” Phil Spector’s Christmas Album, and the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet. She became a Grammy-nominated songwriter noted for hits with Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight, and was the one who insisted on making the Commodores sax player Lionel Richie their lead singer. At the height of her Motown career, after recording a solo LP hailed as the female Barry White, Gloria fell in love with British glam rocker Marc Bolan and moved to London to join his band T. Rex. In the UK she had a nice solo career, and produced the hit disco act Gonzales, and sang on their tours with Bob Marley. However Gloria never recovered from the blowback of being behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper in the crash that killed Bolan. She and son Rolan Bolan endured decades of hardship back in LA because she and Marc were never legally married. Today she runs the Marc Bolan School of Music and Film in the “Blood Diamonds” killing fields of war-torn Sierra Leone.
This hot bassist was an El Lay hair metal hero with his Aqua Net hair-sprayed lion’s mane and skintight denim and leather. At the invitation of Blackie Lawless, Fox moved from NYC to LA and was in the original lineup of Blackie’s metal band Sister. Fox came up with a cooler name for that band: W.A.S.P. He then played in Ron Keel’s Sunset Strip sensation Steeler that launched guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen. 1983’s Steeler went on to be the highest-selling independent metal album of its time. Fox was notably interviewed in Penelope Spheeris’ epic rock film The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Plus Fox’s next band Sin—that featured the late great singer Frank C. Starr (later of a Rick Rubin-created “supergroup” The Four Horsemen)—cut a demo that former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent pilfered for his over-the-top flop Vinnie Vincent Invasion. But the raging alpha-male had no shot of making it after the Nirvana era.