Searching for the female Bryan Ferry

The other night, strolling the mean streets of cyberspace (does anyone use that term any more?) I came across Andy Shernoff's site. For those of you who don't know - and shame on you - Andy was the driving force behind The Dictators, sometimes described as the missing link between the New York Dolls and The Ramones. Which does the mighty Dictators a thorough disservice. They manage to pull off the combination of laugh out load lyrics with poppy heavy metal thunder like no-one else.

Andy has a page called Andy's Rock and Roll Museum. The first thing you see on the page is

My first response to seeing this was 'Oh to have lived in those halcyon New York times'. My second was 'Who the f*ck was Mandy Miami and why would anyone promote themselves as the female Brian (sic) Ferry?

Thinking I might perhaps be on the trail of uncovering a lost icon - a Jobriath or Brett Smiley - I decided to see if I could track down the mysterious Mandy Miami. 

What was the year that was?

It's clearly some time in the late 1970s. Burroughs and performance poet John Giorno began giving readings in 1974. Richard Hell toured the UK with The Clash in 1977, by all accounts a hellish experience for him and his band, but did he venture back to Europe again in the 1970s?

I saw Hell play at a shit hole in Newcastle called The Bier Kellar in the early 1980s. The place was packed with bullet headed 'Punk snot dead' little horrors who showered him with gob from the minute he walked on stage. By that time Hell was no longer elegantly wasted.  

His skin was bright yellow, presumably from the toxic substances he pumped into his body. He wore a fedora, either to protect his hair from snot or to give himself gravitas and looked more like Delmore Shwartz than a member of the blank generation. Although he occasionally spat back, I'll never forget the look in Hell's eyes as snot dripped down his face like melting green wax.

And what about The Angels?  Alongside the ramalama punk of bands like The Dead Boys, there were several bands around - the wonderful Willy DeVille, for instance - that drew on classic 50s and 60s pop rather than the MC5 and Stooges. 'My Boyfriend's Back' by The Angels has the same kind of 'nice girl with hoodlum boyfriend' feel to it that The Shangri-Las made into an art form with 'Leader Of The Pack' and the fantastic 'Out In The Streets'. So, it's easy to see why they'd be an attraction.

Apparently The Angels, who didn't have quite the tough, brassy, sex appeal of The Shangri-Las, have never stopped touring.

What about the Bryan Ferry reference? Ferry left Roxy Music in 1976 and, between then and 1978, made three solo albums: Let's Stick Together, In Your Mind and The Bride Stripped Bare. Although they were hits in the UK, these barely scraped into the US album charts. But I would imagine the hip New York crowd acknowledged Ferry, who spent a fair amount of time in the city in 1978. (I've often wondered whether he decided to record 'Take Me To The River' for The Bride Stripped Bare after hearing the fantastic Talking Heads version.)

So, I figured that Mandy Miami was knocking around New York some time between 1977 and 1980 for sure. Using a handy online calendar calculator, I discovered that 4 April, the date of her show, fell on a Wednesday in 1979.

Why the female?

Unless it's pure coincidence, Mandy Miami must have been aware of Janis Martin, crowned The Female Elvis by The King himself. Martin, a country child prodigy, joined RCA Victor in 1956  when she was just 16 and soon attracted the attention of Elvis, who sent her a bunch of red roses. His notorious manager Colonel Tom Parker, sniffing the potential of a boy and a girl Elvis, offered to manage Janis. Unfortunately, Elvis collapsed with exhaustion before the Colonel could try out this dubious idea.

Janis was far from being a gimmick. Like Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee and Tanya Tucker, she has a fantastic foghorn of a cracked country voice. An incendiary performer in the 1950s, by all accounts, she kept on rocking almost up until her death in 2007. 

I thought about listing the qualities I'd expect a female Bryan Ferry to have but I'll leave those to your imagination. Much as I adore Ferry, I'm always tempted to poke fun and that wouldn't be fair to Mandy Miami.

Finding Mandy Miami

I started with YouTube, where you can usually find clips of the most obscure bands ever. Nada. A Google search turned up Mandy's Twitter feed, which described her as a 'chanteuse and psychic'. This led me to a website on Tumblr that had nothing on it. Without expecting to find anything, I searched for Mandy on Facebook. She has a page.

One of the posts on Mandy's page is from a Vanity Fair article. It describes Mandy as a 'blonde British journalist who actually worked a bit at the Mudd Club'. The article refers to a W magazine feature from 1979. So I may well have been right about the date of the flyer on Andy Shernoff's Rock and Roll History wall.

There's also an extract from a book by Nick Valentine called Clubs, Drugs And Canapés: The King of London Nightlife. Mandy is described as 'a cartoon version of a cartoon character. Bleached hair, baby-doll dress, massive tits and a toy-boy boyfriend'. Va-va-voom but hardly lady lounge lizard.

I sent a message to Mandy asking if she was 'The female Brian Ferry'. She wrote back saying 'Yes. Had forgotten that!' I asked if I could interview her for this blog. That was over a week ago and she hasn't replied.

But, to be honest, I hope Mandy never gets back to me.


A digression

The other day I woke up in the middle of the night with a few words from a song going round and round in my head. Time was, I'd have driven myself half-mad with frustration trying to remember what the song was. Now I just tell myself 'Go back to sleep and Google it tomorrow'.

While this is a blessed relief it also takes a lot of the sheer joy out of waking up an hour or so later when I remember that the lyrics come from 'Out In The Streets' by The Shangri-Las, let's say. Apparently, we think we've forgotten stuff because our brains are highly efficient. If we don't need to remember unless we absolutely have to, we won't. Hence Gurgle.

Back to Mandy Miami

I like the idea that I won't ever know what she looked and sounded like as 'The Female Brian Ferry' and that I have to use my imagination.  I don't want to know where she lives now or what she does. Perhaps, in the immortal words of The Dictators, she's 'basking in the sun in Florida'.  Good luck to her.