Sunday, May 15, 2011

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel -- "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" (1975)

Blue eyes, blue eyes
How can you tell so many lies?
Come up and see me,
Make me smile

It's so strange to hear a record you used to listen to over and over, but haven't heard in decades.  Of course, it's strange to be old enough to remember doing anything decades ago.  

Until I got married and settled down in Washington, I used to move often -- from school to my parents' house every summer and back to school every fall for seven years, from one apartment to another every year or so when I got out of school and was single and ready to mingle, etc.

What I took with me when I packed up and headed out was usually what would fit in my car, and that meant stuff was constantly getting left behind.

I must have left my Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel album (albums?) at my parents' house at some point, although it could be squirreled away somewhere in my basement.  

In any event, I haven't seen it in years -- it's probably been at least 30 or 35 years since I heard this song.  Until tonight, that is, when I decided to write a post for my series about the records I listened to in law school.

Steve Harley was a Londoner.  He attended a very highly regarded secondary school that specialized in music education.  Its name -- I kid you not -- was Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College.  (I'm telling you, those Brits are wack!)

Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College today
He formed Cockney Rebel in 1972, and the band quickly became popular.  But after a UK tour in support of its second album, The Psychomodo, most of the other band members quit -- apparently Harley was a bit of an egomaniac.  He formed a new Cockney Rebel in 1974 (putting his name out in front) and released The Best Years of Our Lives album -- which included "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" -- early the next year.

Steve Harley
"Make Me Smile" was a #1 hit single in the UK, and sold over a million copies worldwide.  In a 2002 interview, Harley admitted that the lyrics were aimed at the original band members who quit on him in 1974.

I must have heard it on good ol' WBCN in Boston -- my go-to rock station in those days -- and probably bought the "A Closer Look" album (a 1975 album consisting of songs selected from Harley's earlier UK albums that was released only in the US) at the Harvard Co-op.  But I wouldn't swear to it.

It's a very odd song.  It's very dated -- perhaps not as dated as Harley's haircut -- but dated nonetheless.  It's been used on the soundtracks of at least half a dozen movies (most notably The Full Monty), and there have been an amazing 120-odd cover versions of the song recorded.  The most well-known cover version is Duran Duran's, which is awful.

I do still like the song.  But I don't plan to dig through the old albums in my parents' garage the next time I visit them so I can repatriate it to my house.  I've got a turntable, but I haven't played a vinyl LP on it in 10 or 15 years.  And if I ever do break that fast and play a record on it again, it won't be this one.

Do any of you remember Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel?  I have a feeling someone among my friends will -- but I wouldn't be shocked if all I got in reaction to this post was shrugs and blank looks.

Here's "Make Me Smile":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song on iTunes:

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) - The Best Years of Our Lives

Here's a link you can use to buy it on Amazon:

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