Tag Archives: EMI

Cockney Rebel 1975 Tour Programme (IV)

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A ghastly sweaty pic of Mr Harley himself.

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“Dear Mick… I’d like you to blow some pretentious smoke up my arse for the tour programme… thanks… lots of love from Steve H”

More tomorrow…

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Cockney Rebel 1975 Tour Programme (III)

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The nuts’n’bolts info about the band, Harley’s management and more.

Looks like the programme cost me an utterly outrageous 40p?!

More tomorrow…

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Cockney Rebel 1975 Tour Programme (II)

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The inside front cover of the programme is a pretty straightforward ad from Harley’s record label EMI.

Please note that “Best Years of our Lives” was available on 8-Track Cartridge. Oh, yes.

More tomorrow…

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February 25th 1975

BE-BOP DELUXE – CANCELLED”

OK, here’s where I KNOW I saw Cockney Rebel play live somewhen in 1974.

I’m sure of this because I saw Be-Bop Deluxe as a support band to Cockney Rebel long before I saw them headline… plus I spent more than two weeks after the show trying to hunt down a copy of their debut album, “Axe Victim”

As excited as I must have been to see Cockney Rebel in concert – presumably for the first time? – I can still remember how Bill Nelson’s tight little band completely blew me away that night. It’s certainly embedded in my memory how, on their final number (no encores for a support band), Bill created some screaming feedback on his guitar, coolly unstrapped it and laid it on the stage to continue screeching whilst the band walked off to tumultuous applause.

I’m not kidding when I say I really hunted for “Axe Victim”. None of my regular haunts seemed to have it in stock and no-one seemed to be able to obtain copies of it from EMI, Harvest Records’ distributor. I was phoning shops on a regular basis, all to no avail. None of the mail-order companies stocked it. No-one I knew owned the album either so I couldn’t settle for a taped recording of it to tide me over. Then my Mum took a phone message one day to inform me that Whitwams had received stock and they had popped a copy aside for me. I rushed in to Winchester and was probably never as eager to pass over my £2.99 or so.

In retrospect I know exactly why Be-Bop Deluxe appealed to me back then. Guitarist and founder Bill Nelson successfully merged prog rock sensibilities with a glam rock sound and image which, when totaled, was almost impossible for me to resist. “Axe Victim” is a perfect merger of snappy pop songs and extended proggy guitar-solo-ridden pieces that go off several tangents. I’d go so far as to say everyone will find a little something they would like about Be-Bop Deluxe.

(links to You Tube videos except where stated)

• “Axe Victim” (@last.fm)
sets out Nelson’s stall perfectly, telling a kind of Ziggy Stardust-lite tale about a post-glam band apparently disintegrating…

You came to watch the band, to see us play our parts
We hoped you’d lend an ear, you hope we dress like tarts
But back stage we stand naked, all the make-up cleaned away,
My poet sheds his pretty skin, and turns to face the day

And there’s nothing to be done, no nothing to be said,
Last night I felt immortal, this morning I feel dead

And the love that gave its blaze to my heart,
Now brings a haze,
Be careful…I’m an axe victim

Hung up on these silver strings,
Like wings,
Like time machines…
Like voices on the wind

We hit the road to Hull, sad amps and smashed guitars,
Played badly at ‘The Duke’ to almost no applause…
But someone made it worthwhile, when smiling with bright eyes,
They gave me full attention and took me by surprise…

But today the feeling’s gone.. no, faded like a ghost,
Last night I saw the future.. this morning there’s no hope

And the words that I sung so clear
Are now clouded by my tears
Please be careful…’cos I’m an axe victim

Hung up on these silver strings,
Like sails,
Like seagulls cries…
Like church bells in the night…

The final 90 seconds of the song is, essentially, an instrumental, Nelson showing off his not-inconsiderable guitar skills.

Someone once remarked something along the lines of that whilst Nelson had the intellectual ability write about ‘other wordly’ things in his compositions, he often threw in down-to-earth remarks about his own upbringing, preferring here to mention an unfashionable Northern city, Hull, rather than any number of ‘romantic’ American cities he could have chosen to accentuate the story.

• “Love Is Swift Arrows” (@last.fm)
Again shows off Nelson’s slick guitar work, this time overlaying a drumbeat that, for some reason, always reminds me of The Kinks. I always liked the lyric “Echoed words spoken by token romantics” and how easily it trips off the tongue.

• “Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus
If the Bowie influence is not immediately apparent then this cut is the giveaway, just managing to fall short of being an out-and-out parody. Once again it is the guitar work that separates it from the ‘ordinary’ here, and I’ve always thought that – for whatever reason – Nelson sings this weaker than he’s otherwise capable of. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fantastic track – the chorus again reminding me of the Kinks – just that it feels ‘undersung’, if that makes any sense? The ending is about as prog rock as you can get!

• “Third Floor Heaven” ( @last.fm)
feels a weak cut to me nowadays. It didn’t feel weak back then. It’s based around a ‘Stones’ riff that Nelson pulls off to perfection – which, yes, I tried to emulate on my own guitar… with predictably terrible results – but the lyrics, seemingly about an S&M hooker, fail to move as much as they did when I was an impressionable 17-year-old.

• “Night Creatures
This is where Nelson listened to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” or “Sweet Jane” and created his own take on ‘people of the night’. I love the laid back acoustic feel of this cut, Nelson’s voice matching the mood perfectly. It feels like the ‘calm before the storm’ of the next track…

• “Rocket Cathedrals
Opening with what sounds like a garbled ‘public warning’ message, this quickly turns into an almost ‘pub rock’ anthem, worthy of someone like Ducks Deluxe. It just ROCKS. I never had it pegged as a song that was worthy of covering in any way shape or form, so imagine my utter surprise when, whilst researching a few things for this post, I stumbled across an awesome Brian Setzer Orchestra version of it!

• “Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
This is the ‘tour de force’ cut of the album, almost single-handedly summing up what BeBop Deluxe are/were about. Romantic words (here, Nelson waxes lyrically about Northern England, poets, churches and more) highlighted with crafty guitar work and alternate bursts of energy and quiet. It’s one of Nelson’s songs that could have equally slotted onto any of the follow-up Be-Bop albums or the guitar-centric solo work later on in his career

Poster from a later tour

• “Jets At Dawn” (@last.fm)
is magnificently languid in its lyrics and presentation, Nelson’s guitar chops again coming to the fore. I’ve commented on this before, but it remains amazing to me that guitarists (who I consider third-rate hacks) such as Eric Clapton get all the ‘fame’ and attention for their (apparent) tricky guitar skills when they couldn’t/wouldn’t hold a candle to the likes of Bill Nelson in his prime.

• “No Trains To Heaven
has always disappointed me. Did then, does now. Seems to go nowhere and has always felt like a ‘filler’

• “Darkness (L’Immoraliste)” ( @last.fm)
returns Nelson to Bowie/Ziggy territory, having a “Five Years” feel to its composition. It’s grand, orchestral and theatrically pompous in a manner that Nelson would repeat on later Be-Bop albums. You can imagine it performed by a huge chorus on a West End stage. (The only other artists I have ever known to have pulled this sound off successfully are Simon Warner and The Divine Comedy)

“Axe Victim” is, by far, the Be-Bop Deluxe album I know the best, but its far from their finest work. I think Nelson was still finding his artistic feet and whilst its a very admirable debut, his latter fascination for all things ‘sci-fi’ would prove to the making of him and the band.

Maybe the gig was cancelled because their tour bus burned out?

Tonight though, in 1975, the anticipated return of Be-Bop Deluxe onto the live stage was cancelled. Of course, in true EFA70sTRO fashion I have not gone into any detail as to why the gig was called off, nor given any indication that it was going to be rescheduled in the future.

However, by way of a little trivia I can impart that this new tour would have featured two members who I saw perform with Cockney Rebel the previous year. Bill stole Rebel bass guitarist Paul Jeffreys and keyboard player Milton Reame-James from under the nose of Steve Harley. Bit naughty, but this kind of thing happened a lot with bands back then.

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Cockney Rebel

One of the huge drawbacks of EFA70sTRO 1974’s diary being ‘light’ on entries – particularly in the latter half of that year – is that we’ve missed out on several of my musical discoveries during that time.

I therefore feel it necessary to offer an ‘aside’ post about Cockney Rebel, one of the very few acts in my lifetime with whom I have shared a relationship bordering on ‘fandom’.

There have been many other acts I have abjectly raved about over the years – Bill Nelson, Captain Beefheart, Bowie, Ian Dury, ELP and more – but only a tiny handful where I have been drawn in a little bit further. Prince is one such act, Eno is another. But if I LOVED an act as an impressionable teenager it would have been Cockney Rebel. Or more correctly, Steve Harley.. because when all’s said and done he really was Cockney Rebel.

My first exposure to Cockney Rebel was back in February 1974 when I saw them on BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test“. I think they performed the track “Hideaway“? If memory serves me correctly, Harley sported heavily applied dark eyeshadow, slightly rouged cheeks and an ugly velvet suit. (VERY glam in other words!) Then, in May 1974,  their hit single “Judy Teen” was all over the radio. The band appeared many times on Top of the Pops and I always found Harley to be something of of engaging character.

I bought “Judy Teen” and the accompanying album, “The Psychomodo”. Not longer afterwards I tracked down the band’s 1973 debut album, “The Human Menagerie” (which – over the years – has proved itself to be my out-and-out fave) as well as shelling out for the band’s next hit single”Mr Soft” (a marvellous carnival piece of earworm-worthy pop fluffiness) and the follow-up flop, “Big Big Deal” (So much of a flop it was actually withdrawn from sale after just a few weeks!)

(It would feel criminal if I didn’t do EFA70sTRO reviews of the bands first two albums… so expect them soon!)

 The weekly music press I was reading back then seemed to have a love/hate relationship with Harley, his own journalistic background evidently giving him a keen eye for what would represent a good ‘quote’. The statements he made seemed to purposefully wind people up, and whilst the press seemed to find favour with his music they treated him personally with a certain disdain. I can’t explain why, but this dichotomy appealed to me somehow, so I then wanted to find out more about the band.

Steve Harley started life as Steven Nice, born in Deptford, London in 1951. He attended Hatcham’s College in the 1960’s, lucky to be attending an establishment where music was a speciality. He started writing songs and began performing them as a busker on the London Underground, often accompanied by his friend, violinist John Crocker.

He got the aforementioned job as a music journalist, simultaneously forming a touring band with Crocker (now known as “Jean-Paul Crocker”), drummer Stuart Elliott, bassist Paul Jeffreys (who would later be one of the victims of the Lockerbie Air Disaster) and keyboard player Milton Reame-James. Harley named the band Cockney Rebel, doubtless a cheeky nod to his own disruptive nature. They played just FIVE gigs before they were spotted by EMI Records and signed to a multi-album deal.

They toured on the back of “Human Menagerie” and (even after 35 years) I remain disappointed that I never caught them at Southampton University in early 1974 whilst Harley was just starting his career. (If that OGWT performance had been a month or two earlier I think I would definitely have trekked to the gig)

My 1974 diary didn’t mention it – hell, it didn’t mention much at all – but I seem to remember Cockney Rebel played either the University or Southampton’s Top Rank later on in the year too. Maybe I have that wrong? I can’t find reference to it anywhere online, so there’s every possibility I am just imagining it.

At the end of 1974 Harley broke up the original band, egotistically renamed it “Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel” and started recording a new album with, again, Alan Parsons (of Pink Floyd, Beatles and…erm… Alan Parsons Project fame) on production duties. This album – and one of its cuts in particular – would prove to both make and break Harley’s career. EFA70sTRO will be covering it at a later date.

My utter fandom for Steve Harley has not remained in place into my middle-aged life. I still adore all those early albums but it turns out his ego eventually got the better of him and his output started to drift downhill fast thereafter.

However, the phrase “Cockney Rebel” stuck with me and has become something of a personal legacy. After moving to the USA in the late 90’s I joined an online message board affiliated with a radio station my wife worked for. I was invited to chose a user name and “Cockney Rebel” popped into my head. From then until now I am known by many people more as “Cockney Rebel” or “CR” than I am my real name!

1975 and beyond will doubtless refer to Steve Harley and/or Cockney Rebel many times. I can only apologise in advance.

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January 7th 1975

“My birthday – Got £4 record tokens and  a Mars Bar from Nig”

EMI Record Tokens had been around since the early sixties. (The advert, left, was always on the back of Parlophone singles sleeves)

They were the perfect gift to give to anyone you knew who liked to buy albums or tapes but weren’t sure what title to get them.

Basically the gift giver bought a card containing tokens to a certain value. Then the recipient could use the tokens to purchase whatever they wanted from any store that accepted them.

Most shops did, but not everyone. Some indie stores refused to accept them because when they were sent back to EMI for processing the credit they got was reduced by 5-11% by way of an administration fee. However, if you didn’t accept the tokens, you couldn’t sell them either.

The argument was always that the stores who took them got extra business, especially in that busy period after Christmas, from token customers spending in excess of what the face value.

I was always happy to receive them. The downside of having a birthday so close after Dec 25th meant I was often ‘short-changed’ present-wise, but a £4 token – presumably from my folks – was a very welcome gift indeed.

In other news the statement “got a Mars Bar from Nig” would take on a certain humorous significance as I got older – right about the time I heard about the infamous “Mars Bar incident” involving Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful.

Something I discovered even more years later was little more than a peculiar urban myth.

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July 24th 1973

“Went to get £3.50 from the Halifax – difficult job. Went up Trev’s for the day and borrowed Fragile, Dark Side of the Moon + Greasy Truckers Party”

I wonder why it would have been difficult for me to have withdrawn £3.50 from the Halifax? Perhaps it threatened to bring down the entire UK banking system?

Both Yes’ “Fragile” and the live compilation album “Greasy Truckers Party” have been commented on in these pages before. The only thing I find odd is why I would have borrowed them both again – as those previous entries would seem to suggest I had already committed them to tape. Maybe I was forced to ration my own C-90’s, taping over recordings on more of a regular basis than I would have (probably) liked?

I’m not sure what I can add by way of online comments to the third album I refer to in today’s diary entry… but why don’t I give it a shot?…

Who, in 1973, could have predicted what Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” would achieve over the next 35+ years in terms of sales and/or influence?

Music industry figures suggest that this 1973 album has sold in excess of 45 million copies worldwide since its release. That’s Forty-Five MILLION copies!

At it’s time of release I guess it was relatively unique, most certainly in terms of its packaging.

Once again – just as they did with Floyd’s prior “Atom Heart Mother” and “Meddle” – Hipgnosis design founders Storm Thorgeson & Aubrey Powell conjured up something special. George Hardie was actually the artist who came up with the (now iconic beyond belief) prism cover, a design that, apparently, was ‘merely’ one of at least ten presented to the band for their eventual approval. (I wonder if we will ever see the nine rejected ideas?)

The album sleeve opened up to reveal how the prism’s light source had morphed into “heartbeat” soundwaves, accompanied by song lyrics. The prism design was repeated (but reversed) on the rear of the sleeve, specifically, it has been suggested – and this was a masterful decision if true – to enable record stores to display visually-impressive continuous lines of the album in their storage racks.

To complete the packaging, Thorgeson and Co included not just a pair of fold out posters inside the sleeve (both destined for dorm roon walls across the world ad infinitum), but also a pair of small peel-back (crackback) stickers depicting the prism/pyramid theme.

Pink Floyd’s name is mentioned nowhere except on the “concert” poster. Just as with their prior albums EMI hated this notion, but were forced to accept it as part of their contractual agreement with the band.

To say this album pushed Floyd into the musical stratosphere is something of an understatement. Sure, the band had enjoyed commercial success – of a kind – with “Meddle“, but DSOTM took them to an entirely different level altogether.

The cut “Money” was released as a single in the USA reaching #13 in the Billboard charts, propelling sales of the album beyond the band’s wildest dreams. (No singles were released in the UK).

It was the #1 album in America for – and this seems astonishing now – just ONE solitary week in April 1973, BUT then remained in the Billboard “Hot 200″ for 741 consecutive weeks thereafter (that’s 14 years and 3 months) before sales rules were changed and it was ‘demoted’ (stupidly in my opinion) to no more than a ‘back catalogue” album. Even now, some 26 years after its release, its estimated that it sells almost 10,000 copies a week in the USA alone. There are artists out there who would probably donate a body part for sales like that per ANNUM, let alone per week.

Not bad for a concept album about mental illness and what makes us mad.

I’ve listened to the album WAY too many times to even begin to remember what I might have initially thought about it in July 1973. (Not – as most of you will have come to realise – there’s much of a chance I would have remembered anyway, but you know what I mean)

There’s no doubting how much of a musical classic it is, even if parts of it have begun to grate on me over the years. “Money” is, sadly for me, another of those played-too-often-in-rotation cuts on “Classic Rock” stations across the entire USA… to such a degree that I am now heartily sick of hearing it. Also, and perhaps sacrilegiously for some, “Great Gig in the Sky” has always appeared somewhat ‘dirge’-like to me. When I used to play the vinyl, I would always listen to it, but when I got the album on CD it was a track I would invariably skip. (Now, I don’t think I even have the cut on my i-Pod?)

Like a lot of other people though it’s an album I wouldn’t want to be without. I’ve almost lost count of how many copies I’ve owned since that (doubtless recorded) tape version in 1973. Several vinyl copies, a legal cassette version for the car and almost every CD issue and reissue. It’s almost impossible to calculate how many babies might have been conceived – or virginities might have been taken – or plans may have been hatched – to the aural sounds of this album, but I bet the figures are staggering. It’s just one of “those” albums that everybody has and thinks they should have.

I wish I had one tenth of one tenth of half the royalties/residuals Roger Waters receives every quarter for sales of – and to give it’s full and PROPER title… which not everyone realises – The Dark Side of the Moon

Finally, for this lengthy post… some Dark Side of the Moon irrelevant trivia…
• The album was originally going to be entitled “The Dark Side of the Moon” until Floyd and EMI realised that the band Medicine Head had just released an album of the same name. Waters retitled the album “Eclipse” but it was swapped back to TDSOTM when the Medicine Head album disappeared without trace in terms of sales or recognition.
• Wings’ guitarist Henry McCullough supplied the spoken line “I dunno, I was really drunk at the time”, whilst actress Naomi Watts’ dad was one of the insane chucklers during “Brain Damage” and “Speak to Me
• Some of the early profits from the album were used to help make the movie masterpiece “Monty Python & the Holy Grail
• Yes – and perhaps predictably – my wife and I have attempted the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” phenomenon which suggests that the album’s core concepts and lyrics line up perfectly as a mildly head-tripping soundtrack to the movie “The Wizard from Oz“. You need to try the experiment yourself and decide whether it works or not.

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February 23rd 1973

“H-Term” / ” Went into Eastleigh and got new glasses frame – will cost £10.80 (Phew!)” / “Bort new record cloth in Rumbelows” / “had to go out on bike at work – Roger’s got flu”

Wow, specs were expensive even then! £10.80 is the cost of 4 or 5 albums in 1973. I secretly suspect, however, that my Dad forked out his own hard-earned money on my behalf.

I had totally forgotten about retail chain Rumbelows (from where I ‘bort’ a new record cleaning cloth). The chain was as utterly ubiquitous as Dixons or Comet ‘back in the day’ with branches on almost every high street.

The one in Eastleigh (now, I believe, home to a Carphone Warehouse?) was a weird mixture of mainstream record store and cheap electrical white goods.

It seems strange that, for something that was ‘everwhere’, there is scant mention of the chain online these days, although one research page reminded me that the chain was once owned by (Thorn) EMI, sponsored the Football League Cup from 1990-1992 and gave up the ghost as (shockingly, to me) recently as just 1995.

In other news…. damn that bloody Roger!

Of all the jobs at Lancaster & Crook, having to make deliveries around the neighbourhood – using the ‘bloody’ bike – was by FAR my most hated.

I was used to riding a bike with sit-up-and-beg handlebars and with an element – only an element mind you – of cool. The shop bike was the exact opposite. The frame size was completely inappropriate for me, the seat height (set for the 6ft+ Roger dude) too high for my teenage testicular area and the look as ugly as hell. Get a few households grocery deliveries in the rack on the front and the bike became as unstable as you could ever imagine.

I also became a figure of fun for the local gangs of ‘thugs’ with catcalls heading my way on a regular basis, only adding to my lack of confidence when riding it.

Indeed, I’ll go so far as to say the bike ID’d me as a “bit of a twat” in the eyes of the ‘hard kids’ in the neighbourhood, a stigma which I never lost until… well, really until I left. (35 years later, when I return to England and stay with my Dad, I sometimes recognise a few of those wankers – now balding and as fat as hell – grimly walking the same streets with their fugly wives and even fuglier children and consider karma to have worked)

Crap I HATED that bike. The comedy at the end of this “Open All Hours” clip (followed by this one and then of this one) pretty much sums up my feelings.

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