Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 25/06/14

  • Read: 6635 Times

Listening as I write to the Best Years compilation. I passed the test CDs a few weeks ago, but the real thing is a pleasure to hold and play. It’s a sharp, bright, clean and sympathetic cut by one of Abbey Road’s master mastering engineers, Andy Pearce (Andy, it’s brilliant, flawless, thank you). Check the backing vocals and horns on Panorama. Sensational.

It will surely make a splendid project for next year: the entire album, in sequence as half of a Live show. But Make Me Smile coming in at number 6 on the set-list? Maybe I’ll play the slow blues version, the way I first aired it in the studio that winter’s morn in ’74. The real thing really ought to come a little later, didn’t it? We were so young. But those guys could play. And Yvonne with Liza Strike and Linda Lewis and Jim and George: that’s a backing vocal choir! Alan Parsons was (probably still is) a gifted studio engineer. Make Me Smile is one of his classic achievements. The whole album is. Listen to that guitar sound on Back To The Farm, Cregan and Parsons in inventive tandem. I can’t wait to hand one of our Promo copies to both Jim and Stuart at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday. They can be proud. Cregan and Mackay in harmony parts on that solo in 7/4 time. We were on fire with crazy, daring ideas. “We was angry – “ Bits of 9/4... “Putting new coaches on the train...” Slowed-down tape, sped up tape. Stuart on Chinese cymbals and cross-tempo snare fills that owed more to the playing of great jazz drummers (Buddy Rich et al) his dad, a pro drummer, would have fed him as a boy than to rock music.

And dear George’s voice, “And we mustn’t laugh at the end...” Bless his soul.

Another Journey: “Yes, I’d give everything to be free – (would) sit in (through) a million trials to be free; there’s motivation, obviously – it’s coming to nothing, nothing. You’ll see.” The harmonica is always a lonesome sound.

Rough voice track on Make Me Smile – well, now you know. It don’t come in an instant very often! Takes a few cracks at it. There were probably a dozen attempts after the one we’ve included here. Took a while to acquire the right attitude. But that guitar solo was sorted by then, and how good does that sound? Jim? Out there.

The Best Years Of Our Years acoustic demo (why do I allow this to reach your ears? WHY?) is proof if needed that all songs start and finish as just that, as a song– not productions, not records. The song comes first. On this original, I attempted to invert the “tragic” and “magic” or was I just tired? That demo was played just to Alan and our tape operator in the early hours when the long day and night had been wrapped. I just told Alan I had something new for tomorrow but didn’t fancy going home yet (I would have been alone at Landward Court, Marble Arch, and was slightly Martini-ed up).
I might watch the DVD tonight, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, April 1975. We exploded in musical mayhem. We were fearless. Many have been asking for this for a long time. Here it is. At Amazon. Hope you enjoy it, guys. More to come....