Michael Des Barres

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About Michael Des Barres

Michael Des Barres had several shots at the big time, as an actor, a member of a variety of different bands, and as a solo artist, but failed to break through for reasons unknown. Born Michael Philip Des Barres in England on January 24, 1948, the future singer/actor grew up in the town of Surrey, and eventually attended drama school, where he acted in several plays. Des Barres eventually landed a bit part in the 1967 classic Sidney Poitier movie To Sir With Love. By the early '70s, he had appeared in another film (albeit far less successful), I Monster, before forming a glam rock outfit, Silverhead. With Des Barres as their flamboyant frontman, Silverhead was picked by many to follow in the footsteps of David Bowie and T. Rex straight up the charts. But, despite favorable press, the group managed to only issue a pair of overlooked cult classics during their short career, 1972's self-titled debut and 1973's Sixteen & Savaged, before splitting up. Just prior to their breakup, Silverhead was offered a cameo appearance in a movie called Arizonalism (which has never been released). It was on the movie set that Des Barres met his future wife, notorious groupie Miss Pamela, who he wed in 1977 (the pair would divorce in the late 80s, with Pamela penning a tell-all book in 1991 that chronicled their relationship among other things, I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie). Des Barres wasted little time landing his next musical gig, as he formed the Led Zeppelin-esque Detective in the mid-'70s, even signing to Zep's label, Swan Song. But, like Silverhead, Detective failed to break through commercially despite high hopes, as they too managed to only issue a pair of albums during their short career: 1977's self titled debut and 1978's It Takes One to Know One. Des Barres landed a recurring role in the popular TV series WKRP in Cincinnati, and by the dawn of the '80s was able to successfully nip a dangerous substance addiction in the bud. Around the same time, the singer issued a solo debut, I'm Only Human, before forming a "supergroup" along with such musicians as bassist Nigel Harrison (a former member of Blondie, and a one-time bandmate of Des Barres' in Silverhead), drummer Clem Burke (ex-Blondie), bassist Tony Sales (ex-Iggy Pop), and guitarist Steve Jones (ex-the Sex Pistols), called Chequered Past. Predictably, the group lasted for a short time, issuing a lone self-titled release in 1984. But it was as a member of Chequered Past that Des Barres befriended Duran Duran (when Des Barres and company opened several dates for the British new wave hit makers), which would soon lead to the singer's next project. With Duran Duran taking a breather in 1985, its members pursued side projects, with bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor forming the Power Station alongside former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and singer Robert Palmer. The band was an immediate hit, on the strength of such smash singles as "Some Like It Hot" and a remake of T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," but when it came time for the group to tour, Palmer bowed out. Des Barres replaced Palmer shortly thereafter, which included a performance at the mammoth Live Aid benefit concert in 1985, but Des Barres failed to record with the group since they split after honoring their previously planned touring schedule. It was also around this time that a track that Des Barres had co-penned a few years previously with songwriter Holly Knight, "Obsession," was covered by the new wave synth-dance outfit Animotion, who scored a massive hit with it. A year later, Des Barres returned as a solo artist, issuing a five-track EP, 1986's Somebody Up There Likes Me, which faded from view upon release. This would prove to be Des Barres' final solo musical offering, as he focused primarily on acting, landing roles in such movies as Ghoulies, Pink Cadillac, Midnight Cabaret, and others; as well as such TV shows as The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Melrose Place, MacGyver, Roseanne, Just Shoot Me, Lois and Clark, and Nash Bridges. In 2000, Des Barres lent his vocals to an Elvis Presley tribute, A Special Tribute to Elvis, credited to the Swing Cats (which also featured members of such '80s rockabilly revivalists as the Stray Cats and the Polecats). ~ Greg Prato

Surrey, England
January 24, 1948

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