Saturday, 2 June 2018

Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie (1973)


Released November 1973

Recorded at Air Studios, London

In 1973, we were only just getting used to David Bowie and then Roxy Music, then out of nowhere came Cockney Rebel. Led by the irritatingly cocksure, often pretentious,  Steve Harley, they evoked “Cabaret”-era Berlin and dressed accordingly. Harley's lyrics were full of bizarre imagery and he had a penchant for making somewhat preposterous pronouncements on the music industry, politics and life in general. Basically, Harley was a pain in the posterior, but wow what a debut album he and his band mates came up with.


1. Hideaway
2. What Ruthy Said
3. Loretta's Tale
4. Crazy Raver
5. Sebastian
6. Mirror Freak
7. My Only Vice
8. Muriel The Actor
9. Chameleon
10. Death Trip

Acoustic guitars married with a wailing electric violin and piano and a glam rock drum sound. Heady stuff indeed. Check out upbeat tracks like “Hideaway”, the jaunty “Muriel The Actor” and the frenetically bonkers “Crazy Raver”.

Then there are the two “biggies”. The mysterious, moody, magnificent “Death Trip” with its operatic Russian “Volga Boatmen” backing vocals and perplexing lyrics. Could it get any better? You bet it could. “Sebastian”. Seven minutes of glam rock’s first true opus. Tinkling piano, Harley’s plaintive opening vocal, The intoxicating lyrics, the monumental chorus. Ahead of its time.

“Mirror Freak” was written about Marc Bolan, apparently. Harley thought he was vain. Takes one to know one, Steve.

The non-album single, “Judy Teen” was our first introduction to this remarkable, creative band. Hearing it and seeing Harley camping it up on “Top Of The Pops” caught everyone’s attention.


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