It was forty years ago. We were in the school playground huddled around the transistor radio listening to the chart run down. And in at number nine was Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel with Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).
A week later it was number one and Harley was vindicated. We were vindicated.
See Steve Harley – a man that makes Noel Gallagher seem shy and retired – had split up the band that a gang of us loved. Cockney Rebel.
The original Cockney Rebel were magnificent. They were decadent and bolshy, Glam and glamorous and they sang about girls called Loretta, Lorraine and Louise – in their Biba braces, skipping and jumping and leaping into a room full of clowns. There were violins and full orchestras. The band looked marvelous, odd and surreal. They were absolutely fucking great. Their first two albums were fucking great. Are fucking great. But back then forty years ago the gobby lead singer went and split up the band. We were devastated.
A single Big, Big Deal was released. It sounded like a stop-gap. It didn’t chart and then nothing…
But behind the scenes away from the inky press Harley was putting together the next Cockney Rebbel. Seasoned session men along with original Rebel drummer Stuart Elliot. We waited patiently and then that school day. Forty years ago. We heard the first product from Rebel Mark II. It was fucking great. It’s still fucking great and it was the beginning of/a continuation of a love affair with a pop/rock band.
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel released three absolutely fucking great albums. They were different to the original band’s albums but they stood up at the time and they stand up now.
Make Me Smile was featured on the Best Years of Our Lives album. This was followed by Timeless Flight and Love’s a Prima Donna.
Brilliant, brilliant releases.
But now as we look back it’s Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) that we’ll listen to this week. It isn’t my favourite Harley song. It’s not in my top twenty Harley songs but there’s no denying it’s a very splendid pop record.
This coming winter Harley is getting the old band back – those that played on the three magnificent Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel albums. Duncan Mackay, Jim Cregan, Stuart Elliott and Lindsay Elliott. Sadly the ace bassist George Ford will only be there in spirit as he passed away a few years ago. They are playing Best Years of Our Lives in it’s entirety and they will be magnificent nights.
If you haven’t heard the album or any of the Cockney Revel albums then dig them out – you won’t be disappointed. Be aware nothing else on them sounds like Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) but boy are they good.
For now, however, enjoy…