Oct 232012

You know those artists whose albums you’ve seen sitting in used bins as long as you’ve been a music lover, bands like Bloodwyn Pig, The Strawbs, and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel? Well, Cockney Rebel just came up in the Freddie Mercury biography I’m reading, and I thought it was time I check them out. This is the first clip I tried:

Not what I expected! I need Happiness Stan and our long, lost friend tonyola to put their heads together and explain this band. I know we’ve got some other Brits and maybe even some closet-prog fans (if, indeed, this is a genre in which this band was loosely categorized) on board. Maybe they can help me. Let’s try another song by these guys:


  17 Responses to “Not What I Expected: Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel”

  1. misterioso

    I think I had heard two songs by them–“Make Me Smile” and “Judy Teen”–on a multi-cd 70s compilation I picked up in Ireland some years back. And by “heard” what I really mean is “skipped over.” They suck.

  2. plasticsun

    I’m not from the UK but I love Make Me Smile. However, the version you’ve posted is horrid. The studio version is pop perfection. I also enjoy Steve Harley’s ridiculous inflections on the song. As for the rest of their music..I’ve little use for it.

  3. My exposure to Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel came via the band, The Church, whom keep name dropping them (particularly Steve Kilbey) as a key influence.

    I actually like the The Human Menagerie LP by Cockney Rebel.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    Weird; I somehow knew “Make Me Smile” really well and had never heard of the band, whereas Mr. R was familiar with the name but looked at me like I had 2 heads when I was singing along. Was the song used in a movie or something? How would I know this song so well?

  5. ladymisskirroyale

    Ok, Google answered that. Yup, soundtracks to The Full Monty and The Velvet Goldmine. Mod, is that how you tracked down the band and the song?

    New RTH game – try to figure how Mr. Moderator got there…

  6. 2000 Man

    I like Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel! I think Love’s a Prima Donna is a great album, but then I first found it at a very young age in a very altered state. But I still have it and I still play it. The Best Years of Our Lives is a little more accessible, but it’s good, too.

  7. Ladymiss, it’s right there in the post: Harley is quoted a few times in the Freddie Mercury biography we gave out in a recent contest! That game you suggest, however, would have many uses. (Thanks, by the way, for the latest care package! I’ll be checking out the CD tomorrow.)

  8. I just listened to that title track. It makes more sense. That whole stretch of underground (to us, at least) mid-’70s English artists is fascinating to me.

  9. This song I’m listening to now, “White White Dove,” is fascinating in that way only oddball, intellectual English artists can fascinate me:

    Getting back to my suspicion that the XTC guys dug this band, this reminds me of Peter Blegvad, who is actually American but spends a lot of his musical time with Brits.

  10. misterioso

    I’m sticking with the “they suck” option until I hear something to convince me otherwise, but listening again to “Make Me Smile” I was surprised to hear such a foreshadowing of the early vocal style of Robyn Hitchcock, whom I love in all of his forms. Perhaps I’m wavering?

  11. diskojoe

    Steve Harley was the presenter of the BBC Radio show Sounds of the Seventies, which was only half as long as Sounds of the Seventies & didn’t last as long. According to a recent Kinks bio, he is related to the Davies brothers (cousin, I think).

    Speaking of 70s British artists, there’s also Brian Protheroe, whose most famous song is “Pinball” here done by Friend ‘ the Hall Martin Newell:


  12. 2000 Man

    Way back in the 70’s my friend’s dad had a night job cleaning offices in a building where Capitol Records had an office. He used to steal records for us all the time, and they weren’t just on Capitol. I’m sure that’s where we first heard Love’s a Prima Donna. Back then we used to smoke weed by the bag (I have no idea how we came up with the money – paper routes and caddying, I guess) and we’d just sit around and listen to stolen records and play frisbee all day. I’m sure I was the one that proclaimed (without ever hearing it) that “Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel are great. We have to listen to this right away!”

    It turned out to be a pretty terrific record of sort of classic Rock N’ Roll mixed in with a zillion studio effects. Perfect for stoned 14 year olds. Here’s a couple examples. This first one takes awhile to get going, but I always thought the guitar was cool. The nursery school – farm animal thing ends about 1:45 or so, so you can skip to there.


    This is how the album starts off. The three songs are so short they’re almost one song, and that’s how I always thought of it.


    This is the title track – it’s longer on the record.


    I’ve still got this. Not the record my friend had, I had to buy my own, but it’s one of my oldest records nonetheless. Old as in I’ve owned it since the 70’s. That’s getting to be a long time now!

  13. Perhaps you are just intimidated by the sound of rebellion?

  14. I never considered the Rebel to be oddball or intellectual though,from what I read & saw, I think Harley thought himself to be the latter. Here in the UK they could not be “underground” quickly enough. The Beatles cover shows they lack a lightness of touch and humour found in the best of 70s Britpop (10cc, Hot Chocolate). Harley took himself very seriously when the band (hired hands by 76) can be grouped with disposable bands like Sailor & Pilot.

  15. Sailor…wow, I don’t know if I know anything by them or have simply forever mixed them up with Pilot. I just learned from the Mercury book, by the way, that Pilot was formed by two former members of Bay City Rollers.

  16. I’d never heard of Protheroe. That song couldn’t have sounded more like on of Newell’s originals.

  17. This is the beginning of one of the greatest stories ever, 2K! It reminds me of a post I’ve been meaning to complete for the last 2 years.

    I’m suspect the record sleeve played a part in your 14-year-old, stoned experience.

    I’ll have to check these tracks out in more details – but I’m not getting stoned to do so, OK?

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