Steve Harley is back on the third of October with a new album of songs entitled "The Quality of Mercy". I say back but he's not really been away as you can listen to his half-hour radio show, "Sounds of the Seventies", every Tuesday night just after 10pm on BBC Radio2. I usually catch up with it on the BBC Radio Player, online, sometime during the week.
Recently, Steve did a special show featuring photographer Mick Rock over from the States to take the cover shot for Steve's new album. Their collaboration goes back to Steve's second album "The Psychomodo" which spawned the hit single "Mister Soft". It was interesting to learn that Mick did that cover the same week he did the one for "Queen II". His first cover was for Lou Reed's album "Transformer" from which the single "Walk on the Wild Side" was taken, which just about sums up the glam rock era of pop music in the early Seventies! This album was produced by David Bowie and his band's guitarist at the time, the excellent but underrated Mick Ronson. It seems only natural, therefore, that Mick Rock took the shot for Bowie's most famous album, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars".
Instead of being credited as a solo record, Steve's new album is billed as by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. As far as I'm aware, Steve hasn't used the Cockney Rebel moniker since the Seventies. Until now, the live performances have been credited simply as The Steve Harley Band but he says the time is right to return to the Cockney Rebel ident. This then, presumably, is the third version of Cockney Rebel. The original lasted two albums, "The Human Menagerie" which gave us the haunting but commercially unsuccessful, at least in the UK, "Sebastian" and the aforementioned "Psychomodo". It was with the second incarnation of the band, renamed Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, that they hit the big time with the number one single "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)", perhaps better known now for its appearance during the football sequence in Brit flick "The Full Monty" but originally taken from their third album, "The Best Years of Our Lives".
I was lucky enough to see the second line-up of Cockney Rebel perform twice, both in Bristol at the Colston Hall. The first was to promote the third album and then again a year or so later on the "Timeless Flight" tour. Duncan Mackay was the keyboard player on both occasions. I saw him play live a third time a while later, at the same venue, and met him backstage afterwards, when he was part of the second version of 10cc, the very week they were at number one with the single "Dreadlock Holiday", from the album "Bloody Tourists". As well as playing on this single and "Make Me Smile", Duncan also played on Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights", so he's had a trio of number one singles and practically nobody has probably ever heard of him! Also a part of the Cockney Rebel line-up on these two tours was guitarist Jim Cregan who played the acoustic solo on "Make Me Smile". When Rebel eventually split, he joined Rod Stewart's band and more recently has been playing with Katie Melua.
So many connections! With the release of Steve's new album imminent, it seemed like a good time to mention a few of them!!!