Vincent Aloysius Cosmos is said to have been born in South London in 1948, and christened Vincent Albert Smedley. His parents were Albert Thomas Smedley, a hospital porter and Gladys Irene Smedley (Nee Mortimer), a shop worker and former munitions-factory foreman. The young Vince grew up in Hammersmith, later moving to East Dulwich following the death of his father in a tragic accident. Known at school as a dreamer, Vince didn’t excel academically, though his teachers recall a talent for making up outlandish stories. After school he found work in the advertising department of a local newspaper, drawing cars and household implements and inventing slogans. He played lead guitar in a variety of bands at this time, including Mod Era combo, ‘The Scooters’, before moving on to proto-prog rock group, ‘Multiverse.’ At around this period he attempted to break into mainstream showbusiness by appearing on BBC Television variety shows as Albert Smedley, singing jaunty Music Hall-inspired numbers, the most recognizable and catchy being ‘I’m a Bit of Fluff (in Your Hoover Bag.’) which troubled the nether regions of the hit parade in 1966.
As Vincent Elven Wishbone he attempted to exploit the hippie sound with a psychedelic album released on former children’s label, ‘Mr Parley-Chin.’ This project – written and recorded while he was living in a North London squat – was his much-vaunted concept album based on the writings of J R R Tolkien, which ran into trouble when the still-living Tolkien denied him the rights to exploit the books. A few songs remain from the original concept, including the single, ‘Pixies All Around Me.’ This gained minimal air time and sales in 1968, but charted as a novelty record, re-released (without the singer’s consent) in 1972 to exploit his sudden success as a Glam Rocker.
Various pub bands were his refuge during the very late sixties and early seventies, but a change in management in 1971, which saw Vince sign up with Hell for Leather Promotions and the notorious Arthur Korns, brought a huge turnabout in his fortunes. At around this time Vince had a series of extremely vivid dreams, he later told Daily Mirror reporter Sally Taylforth, in which the Cosmic Godhead spoke to him and actually dictated the lyrics of a whole album-ful of space-related songs. Thus, Vince Cosmos came into being and Glam Rock was invented. The next album Vince recorded, under his new name and with his brand new band, The Sky Rockets in Flight, was called Those Crazy Martian Cats. Both album and single of that name went to number one in the charts. (Vince had unceremoniously sacked his previous backing band, The Extraneous Organs.)
In the early 70s success followed success, and record followed hot on the glittering heels of record. As he became a household name – for the outrageousness of his stage outfits and persona as much as anything else – a number of assassination attempts were made upon him. A near-fatal shooting during a show at the Hammersmith Odeon left him in intensive care for several days. Not long after, the theatre in which he had just performed before Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret was blown off the face of the earth by forces unknown. Vince narrowly survived a variety of brushes with death throughout the Seventies, and his paranoia naturally increased as the supersonic decade streaked by. He made a number of public statements about Martians and other extraterrestrial hostile forces which were trying to destroy him, in order to prevent him from telling ‘the truth’ about ‘what was really happening in the universe, man.’ It seemed that, for a good portion of his years in the limelight, the line blurred for Cosmos, between the world of his songs and the actual, everyday world.
A series of weird accidents, financial disasters, sackings and behind-the-scenes dramas seemed to dog the rock star. In the mid-seventies, as Glam Rock went out of fashion, Vince and his people moved to the USA, where a massive, unwieldy stadium tour ended in ignominious disaster. As did Vince’s attempts to break into film stardom at the same time. A rock musical sci-fi epic funded entirely out of Vince’s pocket foundered during shooting and was universally panned when eventually released. (However, ‘The Diachronic Messiah’ was, in the 1990s, later reclaimed as a camp classic by some and the cornerstone of a new age religion by others.)
Embarrassment, penury and a paucity of ideas saw Vince return to England where he tried to re-engage with the folk scene via an experimental album called ‘Gourd’ in which all of the instruments were edible. He recorded this in Belgium, where he then tried to cure his addiction to Night Nurse and Silk Cut and developed an unholy fascination with the weird writings of reviled nineteenth century novelist E. T. Horriblismus, which led to his next double album – ‘A Sort of Morbid Panache’ – a Gothic disco fantasia which, like the folk-vegetable album, failed to chart anywhere in Europe or the USA, apart from Belgium. The music press and the public at large seemed to decide collectively that Vince Cosmos’s day was done.
However, a final, magnificent live concert at Wembley, televised on Christmas Day in 1978 seemed to prove them all wrong. Vince appeared to be on top form once more, performing all of his best numbers via a number of personae and thrilling audience and critics alike by reminding them all of highlights of his long and complicated career.
Then, in January 1979, he vanished off the face of the Earth.
Or so they say.
His long-term minder, collaborator and assistant, ‘Chuckles’ Glister made only one statement about the disappearance. ‘Mr Cosmos has returned to the stars,’ he growled, some time in the spring of 1979.
In the years since, various sights have been reported. Photographs have surfaced. There have been claims that Vince has sung backing vocals for a number of hip young bands whose work has interested him. An audience of twenty thousand in Sydney Australia claim to have witnessed his return to live performance when he sang a duet with pop diva Astrid Aerosol at the climax of her 1998 tour. Since then there have been reports of his death, murder, exile and imminent comeback.
Only one woman knows the answer to the quandary that is Vincent Aloysius Cosmos. She is one-time PA and founder of the Vince Cosmos fan club, South Shields chapter. Poppy Munday is currently living alone on a canal boat, somewhere in England, with no fixed abode. Word has it that, if anyone knows what became of the alien rocker who warned us in 1972 that we only had seven years till Glam and Disco died, then she’s the one.