Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel reached number one in 1975 with Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me.) Now, 46 years later, Steve could be about to repeat the feat, this time he hopes to top the Christmas charts for a cause that touched his heart, and those of millions of others across the country.
Following the tragic murder of MP Jo Cox, Steve, along with Kaiser Chiefs’, Ricky Wilson, KT Tunstall and David Gray, formed The Friends of Jo Cox and their new charity single - released tomorrow (Fri Dec 16) - is raising money for causes supported by her.
Here Steve explains why the single is a classic protest song which he hopes could change Britain ...
“Like so many people across the country, I was incredibly shocked and saddened when I heard about the death of the wonderful Jo Cox on June 16 of this year.
She was just 41 years old when she was killed in the most horrendous way - gunned down and stabbed by Thomas Mair as she was visiting her Birstall constituency to hold a surgery.
The more I learned about the causes which were close to her heart, and the more I learned about Jo in general, the more I felt compelled to pay tribute to such a unique woman.
So I joined forces with Ricky, KT and David to record a great track, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
It’s a charity single, with all profits going to the Jo Cox Foundation which helps the charities supported by her, including the Royal Voluntary Service, which helps elderly people, the White Helmets, who help people trapped in Syria’s civil war and Hope not Hate, which combats prejudice.
But this single isn’t just a way of raising money for charity, it’s also a protest song. And what we’re protesting against is the rise of extremism in our country.
It’s not a political song in the sense that we’re campaigning against the far left or the far right. But we are campaigning for the vast majority of Brits who hold balanced, sensible, level-headed views. And we’re protesting against those people, like Mair, who want to challenge that.
I like to think our track is made in the spirit of the best protest songs, because those songs which have a long and illustrious history, such as those produced by the likes of Bob Dylan in the 1960s which talked about change.
The ultimate example was The Times They Are a-Changin’ which he released in 1965, when the world was going through a hugely turbulent time, but he wanted to give a voice to the masses who wanted to see society move in a different direction.
By the 1970s protest songs changed, often focussing on single issues to protest over. Over in the US in 1975 Dylan recorded Hurricane about the wrongful imprisonment of New York boxer, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in 1967 for murder.
Meanwhile here in the UK in 1977 The Sex Pistols released God Save the Queen, which controversially compared the monarchy to “a fascist regime.” It was supposed to be a protest against the establishment, but it was one of the worst examples of a protest song. It was just a hollow rant.
Things improved hugely in the 1980s, suddenly people had even more to protest about. UB40’s One in Ten, released in 1981, was a brilliant commentary on the fact that in the band’s native West Midlands, like so many other parts of Britain under Thatcher, almost 10% of the population found themselves on the dole.
Unfortunately, around this time the protest song became a victim of its own success. When Band Aid recorded Feed the World in 1984, it was an amazing way to combine raising money with raising awareness of an issue.
The trouble was, there all sorts of similar records released over the next two decades and by the time Band Aid 30 was released in 2014, I think a lot of people had developed a degree of compassion fatigue.
I just hope that, two years later, the public have got over that because this protest song is a very important one.
Jo Cox represented democracy, she represented the will of the people, and when she was killed that democracy and that will was attacked. We simply can’t let that happen without some sort of protest.
We can’t let people believe that, through acts of terror, they can take society in a direction it doesn’t want to go in.
The Friends of Jo Cox have an important message to bring to Britain, and to the world, and we’d love it if people supported us by buying the single.
It would be wonderful if this single did top the Christmas charts and, if the bookies are to be believed, our single’s a favourite to do just that.
I think it would support her family too, particularly her widower, Brendan, and their two young children who will be spending their first Christmas without her.
It might just give them some sort of comfort to feel she didn’t die in vain, and that people in Britain are prepared to stand up for what she believed in.”
*You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Friends of Jo Cox is released Friday 16th December, and is available to pre-order now.