Indulging for the first time in Cockney Rebel's debut album – and one uses the word "indulging" deliberately, for like so much else that's this delicious, you cannot help but feel faintly sinful when it's over – is like waking up from a really weird dream, and discovering that reality is weirder still. A handful of Human Menagerie's songs are slight, even forced, and certainly indicative of the group's inexperience. But others – the labyrinthine "Sebastian," the loquacious "Death Trip" in particular – possess confidence, arrogance, and a doomed, decadent madness which astounds. Subject to ruthless dissection, Steve Harley's lyrics were essentially nonsense, a stream of disconnected images whose most gallant achievement is that they usually rhyme. But what could have been perceived as a weakness – or, more generously, an emotionally overwrought attempt to blend Byron with Burroughs – is actually their strength.
If The Human Menagerie, Cockney Rebel's debut album, was a journey into the bowels of decadent cabaret, The Psychomodo, their second, is like a trip to the circus. Except the clowns were more sickly perverted than clowns normally are, and the fun house was filled with rattlesnakes and spiders. Such twists on innocent childhood imagery have transfixed authors from Ray Bradbury to Stephen King, but Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were the first band to set that same dread to music, and the only ones to make it work. The Psychomodo was also the band's breakthrough album. The Human Menagerie drew wild reviews and curious sales, but it existed as a cult album even after "Judy Teen" swung out of nowhere to give the band a hit single in spring 1974. Then "Mr Soft" rode his bloodied big top themes into town and Rebelmania erupted.
Although he created a decadent glam rocker image through early albums like The Human Menagerie and The Psychomodo, Steve Harley soon revealed a romantic heart beating beneath all the artsy sleaze on singles like "Judy Teen" and "Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me)." This 1976 album, the last studio outing Harley would record under the Cockney Rebel banner, allowed him to give full vent to his romantic thoughts via lushly crafted songs about the travails of love. Love Is a Prima Donna features two of Harley's finest songs in the title track, a bracing song that features the writer waxing comical about the pitfalls of love over a briskly paced pop tune that fleshes out its pub-piano melody with flamenco guitar and a choir, and "(Love) Compared With You," a delicately orchestrated love ballad that manages to be touching and heartfelt without lapsing into sappy sentimentality. This album also produced one of Harley's biggest hits with an arty, synthesizer-laced cover of the Beatles' classic "Here Comes the Sun".
From their early days in the 1970s through to recent sell-out rock festivals Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel have written and performed some of the most timeless songs. This DVD includes some of the most popular tracks including Make Me Smile (Come Up See Me) which has been confirmed by the PRS as one of the most played records in British Broadcasting being featured in films and television advertising across the globe. Recorded in 1982 over two nights at the Dome Theatre, Brighton and Derngate Theatre, Northampton.
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are an English rock band from the early 1970s. Their music covers a range of styles from pop to progressive rock. Over the years they have had five albums in the UK Albums Chart and twelve singles in the UK Singles Chart. Steve Harley (born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice, 27 February 1951, Deptford, London), grew up in London's New Cross area and attended Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College. His musical career began in the late 1960s when he was busking (with John Crocker aka Jean-Paul Crocker) and performing his own songs, some of which were later recorded by him and the band. After an initial stint as a music journalist, the original Cockney Rebel was formed when Harley hooked up with his former folk music partner, Crocker (fiddle / mandolin / guitar) in 1972.
Original Hits: 70s is a decent six-disc set, highlighting 111 pop singles released in that decade. Along with the original versions of radio classics by Al Stewart, Blondie, the Knack, KC & the Sunshine Band, and Dr. Hook, are less-than-obvious inclusions by Peter Tosh, XTC, the Move, and Benny Hill!