Archive for the ‘Cockney Rebel’ Category

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel with Orchestra & Choir Sage Gateshead 21st June 2014

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel with Orchestra & Choir Sage Gateshead 21st June 2014
steveprog It was a truly amazing experience to see Steve Harley perform the first two classic Cockney Rebel albums “The Human Menagerie” and “The Psychomodo”, accompanied by full band, the Orchestra of the Swan and Choir, conducted by Andrew Powell, last night. This concert was first performed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in 2012, and is now available on DVD. Steve Harley said at the time “ It’s been a long time coming – something like 39 years. Now we’re here, at last, with an orchestra and a choir and a big rock band, to play those first two albums pretty well the way they appeared on the original vinyl. Maybe some things should never change, in spite of progress. Welcome, my old friends.”
First Half; The Human Menagerie: Hideaway; What Ruthy Said; Loretta’s Tale; Crazy Raver; Sebastian; Mirror Freak; My Only Vice; Muriel the Actor; Spaced Out; Judy Teen; Chameleon; Death Trip.
Second Half; The Psychomodo: Sweet Dreams; Psychomodo; Mr. Soft; Singular Band; Ritz; Cavaliers; Bed in the Corner; Sling It!; Big Big Deal; Black or White; Tumbling Down.
Encore: Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).
A great concert. Stand-outs (although there were many, with standing ovations for several songs) were: “Sebastian”, “”Tumbling Down”, and “Make Me Smile”.
Steve Harley put his heart and soul into the performance last night. His voice just gets better with time, and the songs found a new life when played with the full band and orchestra. Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet) was star number two of the show, playing great sax and clearly enjoying every minute of it. stevetixSteve had some great craic with us all, telling us stories about his days with the band in the 70s, and bringing back memories for me of classic gigs at Newcastle City Hall and Reading 1974, all of which he referred to. He related a memory from the City Hall of a guy jumping off the balcony and climbing down the light tower. He introduced “Tumbling Down” by reminding us all how we would leave the hall still singing the closing line “Oh dear!….look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues…”. Steve quoted Hammersmith Odeon as an example, with the Cockney Rebel crowds entering the tube still singing, but I recall the very same thing happening at Newcastle City Hall, and Reading in 74 and at a gig at Redcar Coatham Bowl. But for me the high point has to be “Sebastian”, Steve shrouded in dark gothic lighting, wringing every drop of emotion out of the epic, haunting, enigmatic ballad. Stunning and beautiful. And the mass singalong, including the full orchestra singing the “ooh la la la”s, for “Make Me Smile” took us all back to our youth. Me, I was back in the City Hall, Steve was No 1 in the charts and the atmosphere was simply electric; I thought the roof would come off.

Thanks for another great night, Steve.

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974
readingprog74This was my third visit to the Reading Festival; I felt I was a seasoned festival goer 🙂 . By now a large crew of local people were going to the festival, so there were lots of mates there, and we spent much of the weekend in the pubs in town, and down near the Caversham Bridge; particularly The Griffin. We would nip back to the festival site to catch the bands we wanted to see. The line-up in 1974 wasn’t particularly strong in comparison to the previous couple of years, and quite a few bands who had been advertised didn’t show (notably Eric Burdon, Ronnie Lane and Blodwyn Pig, all of whom I was looking forward to seeing). The Friday line-up was : Nutz, Johnny Mars, Hustler, Beckett, Camel, 10c, Fumble, Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The first night of the festival saw the triumphant headlining return of the Alex Harvey band, who lived up to their name and were truly sensational. SAHB had appeared low down on the bill the previous year; there will have been many in the crowd who saw that performance, and knew how good they were. Johnny Mars and his Sunflower Blues Band gigged a lot in the early 70s; they played traditional blues; I remember seeing them at Sunderland Poly a few times; pretty good too. Fumble were a rock’roll revival band who also gigged a lot. Beckett were local North East heroes, featuring singer Terry Slesser. The SAHB setlist was something like this: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Can’t Get Enough; Give My Regards To Sergeant Fury; The Return of Vambo; The Man in the Jar; Money Honey; The Impossible Dream; Schools Out; Framed.
readingtrafficSaturday line-up: Jack the Lad, G T Moore and the Reggae Guitars, Trapeze, Sutherland Brothers, JSD Band, Procol Harum, Thin Lizzy, Long John Baldry, Heavy Metal Kids, Greenslade, Georgie Fame, Traffic.
Two bands stick in my mind from Saturday: Thin Lizzy who were excellent, and about to break through a year or so later, and Traffic. This was the classic Lizzy line-up featuring front-man Phil Lynott, the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and Brian Downey on drums; at the time of the Nightlife album; they were at the top of their game. Traffic were excellent. They had just released their album When the Eagle Flies, and their set at Reading featured a few songs from that album, plus some old classics. The line-up at the time was Steve Winwood (guitar, vocals, keyboards); Chris Wood (flute, sax); Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals); Rosko Gee (bass); Rebop (percussion). Stand-outs were Steve singing John Barleycorn, simple and beautiful with acoustic guitar, and Rebop’s congas and percussion throughout. I found a published setlist for Traffic, which shows they played: Empty Pages; Graveyard People; Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring; John Barleycorn; 40,000 Headmen; Love; When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard. I also have it in my mind that they performed Feelin’ Alright, but maybe that’s my memory playing tricks again. Also worthy of mention are Procol Harum (great version of Whiter Shade of Pale and a big success during the late afternoon), the late great Long John Baldry (excellent voice and a hero of mine), Heavy Metal Kids (the late Gary Holton as crazy and manic as ever), and Georgie Fame who seemed a bit out of place as part of the Saturday night line-up, but carried on the jazz and R’n’B tradition of the festival and went down pretty well.
readingtixSunday Line-up: Gary Farr, Chilli Willi and the Red Hod Peppers, Esparanto, Strider, Barclay James Harvest, Chapman & Whitney Streetwalkers, Kevin Coyne, George Melly, Winkies, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Harvey Andrews, Focus.
My main memories of the final day are of Steve Harley. Cockney Rebel had split a few months before the festival, and this one of Steve’s first appearances with his new band. They stole the show; appearing just as it was getting dark; the audience was with Steve from the start, and the performance was a triumph. Tumbling Down closed the set with a mass crowd singalong of “Oh dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues”. It was clear that Steve was back, as cocky as ever; 1975 would bring him massive success with Make Me Smile.
I also remember watching Kevin Coyne (Marjory Razorblade), George Melly (a return after his success the previous year) and Focus who closed the show, and were also great, but seemed a little of anti-climax after Steve Harley’s performance.
DJs for the weekend were John Peel and Jerry Floyd. Oh and there were lots of cheers of “Wally”, “John Peels a c**t” (not sure how that one started), and a revolt at the prices of food in the arena, which resulted in a fish and chip van being trashed. Crazy, happy days.

Steve Harley Sunderland Empire 2001

Steve Harley Sunderland Empire 2001
stevesunderlandempire2001 This is my last day of blogging on Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. The last time I saw Steve Harley was at a concert at Sunderland Empire. It was billed as the “Resistance is Useless” tour, and “Back with the Band” (to make it clear that this was not an unplugged show). The front cover of the programme promised a show that was “Definitely Plugged In”, with “No Support” and thus “Maximum Steve”; and indeed thus it was. Marie came along with me to the gig, having been impressed with Steve when we saw him play unplugged at Billingham a couple of years earlier, and he didn’t let her down. steveempire This was another great gig, with Steve on fine form, and all the classics played. I haven’t seen Steve Harley in concert since that concert; it does seem like 12 years ago. He has toured quite a lot during that period, so I don’t have any excuse. In fact I did have tickets to see him at the Sage a few years ago, but couldn’t make it for some reason and gave the tickets to a friends. So its definitely about time to put this right and see Steve again. It seems to me that I have a couple of opportunities to do so; a tour is planned for November 2013, and he is also planning a concert, backed by orchestra and choir, at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester in April 2014. The latter gig will feature the first two Cockney Rebel albums in full, repeating a similar gig that Steve performed in Birmingham last year. Now that’s a gig I should definitely attend.

Steve Harley Billingham Forum Theatre 1999

Steve Harley Billingham Forum Theatre 1999
stevebillingham Ten years after I had last seen Steve Harley at Sunderland Empire, I noticed that he was playing an unplugged show at Billingham Forum Theatre. Marie rang up and booked a couple of tickets on the day of the concert, and we went along and picked them up on the night. Steve had recorded a live alum “Stripped to the bare bones” at the Jazz Cafe the year before, and this show was in a similar format, with Steve telling stories about his life and performing great acoustic versions of his songs. He was accompanied by another guitarist, I think it may have been Nick Pynn. We both enjoyed seeing Steve, and listening to him tell us about his life and sing those great songs with just his voice and a couple of guitars. Marie particularly enjoyed the concert, and still talks about it. The track listing from the “Stripped to the bare bones” album is shown below. The show we saw was similar. Tracklisting: My Only Vice (Is the Fantastic Prices I Charge for Being Eaten Alive); Star for a Week (Dino); Best Years of Our Lives, The; Judy Teen; Last Time I Saw You, The; Mr. Soft; (Love) Compared to You; Tumbling Down; Only You; Bed in the Corner; Sling It!; Riding the Waves (For Virginia Woolf); Sebastian; Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).

Steve Harley Redcar Bowl 1980 and Sunderland Empire 1989

Steve Harley Redcar 1980
steveredcar1980 Although it was only four years since I had last seen Steve Harley, this gig had the feel of a comeback. Steve had played few concerts during that four year period between 1976 and 1980, and this was his first tour with a band, using the Cockney Rebel name since 1977. He had also released a few solo albums during that period, but they had not been particularly successful. Redcar Coatham Bowl was a great, intimate venue, and it was good to see Steve in a close-up situation. The crowd gave Steve a great reception, and he played all the favourite. Steve was back!! I saw Steve again some 9 years later at Sunderland Empire. stevesunderlandempirejune9th To be honest I remember less about this gig; in fact I don’t recall being there at all, but I have a ticket stub, so I must have been! I found a setlist from the London show of the 1989 tour: The Best Years of Our Lives; Mr. Soft; Irresistible; Mr. Raffles; Freedom’s Prisoner; Judy Teen; Riding the Waves (For Virginia Woolf); Dino (Star For A Week); Why Does My Light Always Shine; Sebastian; Sophistication; Tumbling Down; Sweet Dreams / Psychomodo; Sling It; Here Comes the Sun. Encore: Dancing On The Telephone; Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me); (I Believe) Love’s a Prima Donna. As you can see, Steve was playing all the hits and live favourites, but that setlist also includes quite a few songs which I don’t recognise, which must be album tracks from Cockney Rebel and Steve’s solo albums. It was to be another 10 years until I saw Steve in concert again.

Steve Harley Newcastle City Hall Dec 1976 Love’s a Prima Donna

Steve Harley Newcastle City Hall Dec 1976 Love’s a Prima Donna tour
No Support act.
stevedec76 Steve Harley was back at Newcastle City Hall in December 1976, less than a year after appearing at the same venue for two nights in February. In the 10 months that had passed since his last appearance at the City Hall, and during that time Steve had released a new album, Loves a Prima Donna, and had been back in the Top 10 with his version of the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, which reached No 10 in the UK Charts. A second single, the title track from the album (I Believe) Love’s a Prima Donna also reached the lower regions of the charts. They are both great singles; Steve Harley at his best. steveprima This was the last time I saw Steve and Cockney Rebel at the City Hall. I remember he started the set with Here Comes the Sun, which was a great opener, and the start of another great gig. For this tour the band was augmented by backing vocalists including the great Tony Rivres (of Tony Rivers and the Castaways and Harmony Grass). Steve was to disband Cockney Rebel soon after this tour, to follow a solo career. However a few years later he would be using the Rebel name again. Setlist (from London gig around the same time): Here Comes the Sun; The Mad, Mad Moonlight; Mr. Soft; Red Is a Mean, Mean Colour; Sweet Dreams; Finally a Card Came; Innocence and Guilt; Is It True What They Say?; The Best Years of Our Lives; (Love) Compared With You; (I Believe) Love’s a Prima Donna; Psychomodo; (If This Is Love) Give Me More; Sebastian. Encore: Seeking A Love (Part 1); Tumbling Down. Encore 2: Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)

Steve Harley Newcastle City Hall Feb 1976 Timeless Flight

Steve Harley Newcastle City Hall Feb 1976 Timeless Flight
stevefeb76 Steve Harley was back at the City Hall in February 1976, almost a year after his previous triumphant gig. This time he chose to play two nights; I went along to the first night’s show. I recall wondering if he could sell out two nights at the time and although it was quite full, the City Hall was no means full on the night I attended. The singles which followed Make Me Smile had not been very successful. The first single from the latest album Timeless Flight was Black and White, and didn’t register in the charts at all. Steve said at the time “I knew it was either going to be massive – top three – or a complete stiff. It turned out to be a stiff.” For me the stand out tracks on Timeless Flight is Red Is a Mean, Mean Colour. A second single from the album White, White Dove also failed to chart. stevetimeless None of this seemed to bother Steve who was on fine form at the gig in February 1976. In his mind, and through his performance, he remained a superstar and never seemed to doubt the course his music was taking. I went with my friend Ian, who was also a Steve Harley fan at the time, and we both enjoyed the gig. I don’t think there was any support act for the tour. As well as tracks from the new album, all the favourites were played. The closing song at the time remained Sebastian, with Tumbling Down and Make Me Smile held back for the encore. Steve Harley was an intriguing performer, coming over as very arrogant one moment, and then quite soft and sentimental the next. His songs were also difficult to categorise, and his lyrics quite deep. It seemed to me that he had immense confidence and self-belief, sticking to his own track even when the hit singles stopped coming, as was the case in early 1976. On stage his performance was as strong as ever.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Newcastle City Hall 1975

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Newcastle City Hall 1975
The Best Years of Our Lives: Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)
Support band: Sailor
steve75 1975 was a big year for Steve Harley. The original Cockney Rebel, which he formed with violinist John Crocker, had split with a lot of bad feeling. Steve quickly formed a new version of the band, with only drummer Stuart Elliott remaining from the old Rebel. The new band was named Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel rather than simply Cockney Rebel, and also featured Jim Cregan (ex-Family), George Ford on bass and Duncan McKay on Keyboards. Steve wrote a song about the break-up, blaming his former band-mates for deserting him. That song was Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me). As soon as I heard it, I knew Steve was back stronger and better than ever, and that he was going to have a mega hit. Make Me Smile was Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s biggest selling hit singkle, selling over one million copies globally; it was to be their only number one hit, reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart in February 1975. The single was taken from the Best Years of Our Lives lp, which was the most successful Cockney Rebel album. A tour was announced and sold out immediately and called at Newcastle City Hall in April 1975. My memories of that gig are of an amazing night. Make Me Smile had just dropped off No 1, and the crowd gave Steve and the new band a reception like few I have seen before or since. Support came from Sailor who were wearing their sailor suits, and were soon to hit the charts themselves with Glass of Champagne. I think Steve came on stage very late that night. I seem to remember a big delay before he took to the stqge; my memory tells me that he explained to us that he was late because he had been recording Top of the Pops (this is where I start to question my fuzzy recollections as Make Me Smile had dropped out of the charts at that point and Mr Raffles had not yet been released, so a Top of the Pops appearance that week doesn’t seem that likely). My fuzzy memory also tells me that they started the set with Make Me Smile, and played it again at the end, before the traditional crowd singalong to Tumbling Down. I’m sure they also played old favourites like Sebastian. What I am certain about was it was an amazing night with the crowd going crazy; it was about welcoming back Steve, being pleased that the new band was so good, and celebrating the success of Make Me Smile. This is another gig that I wish I could go back and relive. I have also seen that there was a programme for the tour, which I don’t have. They must have sold out earlier on the tour, as was sometimes the case in those days. I must look for one on ebay.

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel 1974 gigs

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel 1974 Sunderland Locarno, Newcastle Mayfair and the Reading Festival
stevhlp I’m going to spend a few days blogging on Steve Harley, who remains to this day one of my all-time heroes, a great songwriter, a very cheeky guy, and a great performer. Steve in 1974: “I set out to be a winner. I don’t want to lose. I spent four years in a hospital but I never expected favours from anyone. I don’t give sympathy because I don’t expect it. Nice guys don’t make it.” I was a big Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel fan in the 70s and saw them on every tour. I first saw them at Sunderland Locarno, on the Psychomodo tour in April 1974. Support act was Be Bop Deluxe, who I have already blogged about. The place was packed and a lot of people, including me, came along earlier than usual in order to catch Bill Nelson, who was great. Steve had hit the chart with Judy Teen by this point and was dressing extravigantly; his stage gear was very Clockwork Orange. I’d seem him play Hideaway on TV, and had heard the epic Sebastian, which is a favourite of mine to this day. Cockney Rebel were excellent that night; Steve always has great stage presence and those early singles are pure class. A live favourite for me was always the beautiful and haunting Sebastian. I can picture Steve now, standing in a single spot light, framing his face in his hands, singing the open lines: “Radiate simply, the candle is burning, so low for me; Generate me limply, can’t seem to place your name, cherie; To rearrange all these thoughts in a moment is suicide; Come to a strange place, we’ll talk over old times we never smile; Somebody called me Sebastian…..”. Pure Magic. And nothing beats being in a packed concert crowd singing along to the anthem Tumbling Down: “Oh! dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues”. A group of us were so impressed by Cockney Rebel that we went along to see them again at Newcastle Mayfair a few weeks later, and lived it all again. And then I saw them at the Reading festival where they played the Sunday night, and the whole Reading crowd sang along to Tumbling Down. Simply awesome; you had to be there to understand. But the best was yet to come in the following year; and I’ll blog about that tomorrow. I think I’ll go upstairs and play Sebastian and Tumbling Down to remind me of those great days.