PJ Proby is mentioned on pretty much every other page of Nik Cohn’s Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, which was the first and last time I ever heard of him.
Anyway, new from DangerousMinds:
When Tom Jones was just starting out, he was often accused—unfairly I think—of copying Proby’s act. In many ways PJ Proby and Jones are performers in that same general mold: powerful belters, macho, sexy, equally at home singing heart-breaking lonely boy ballads or bellowing balls-out rockers. When Proby’s infamous onstage trouser-splitting stunt occurred in Croydon (more on this below), it was in fact Jones who hastily replaced him on the package tour he was embarked upon after Proby was summarily banned from most of the live stages in Britain. If you like early Scott Walker, or the big ballady material Dusty Springfield excelled at, or even Nick Cave, then PJ Proby is probably in your wheelhouse. His records are easy to find—usually for really cheap—in used record bins. Every one of them is a mixture of filler and hits, but when he connects with the material, something sublime happens. I think he’s one of the all time greatest talents in rock and roll history, but few people would know that in 2017, or care. (…)
There are all kinds of crazy PJ Proby stories involving Jack Daniels, bankruptcies, guns, underage girls, more guns and more Jack Daniels. Every once in while during the 80s he’d turn up again in some completely insane or scandalous situation. He went through six wives. He worked as a shepherd on a farm before running off with the farmer’s daughter. He recorded some totally off the wall covers of songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Heroes” and “Tainted Love” for the Manchester-based Savoy label, there was at least one fairly lurid television news piece about him (see below) and several “where is he now?” type articles. He was able to keep the wolves from the door singing on the oldies circuit for many years and been sober for a long time, but still has a reputation for being a bit “difficult.” (He is said to have burned through five road managers on a 2015 Australian oldies tour.) Proby recorded the remarkable Legend album with Marc Almond and Neal X, with a duet with Almond—the soaring “Yesterday Has Gone”—reaching #58 on the UK pop charts in 1996. (It’s well worth seeking out if you are so inclined, I think it’s a super strong album.) He toured with the Who during their 1997 Quadrophenia US and Europe show playing the role of the Godfather.