Brilliant Debut Albums #17

Cockney Rebel – The Human Menagerie

1973 and Glam Rock was the next big thing; Bowie and Bolan were huge.  A very precocious young Steve Harley had big ideas.  He had written a handful of songs and busked them in folk clubs.  Along with Jean-Paul Crocker on violin he auditioned a keyboardist and drummer; and so Cockney Rebel were born.  EMI quickly gave them a record contract, and producer Neil Harrison suggested using a full orchestra for a couple of longer tracks.  That, and Crocker’s violin – and the lack of a guitar player laid the template for a highly unique and original album.  But, like all great albums it is actually the quality of the songs which make it.  At times it seems that Harley had swallowed a compendium of literature, his words, both bizarre and hauntingly beautiful dominate.  His delivery is unique too, no-one sounded like him at all.  The album sparkles and is one of my all-time favourites; I have always loved that combination of rock and classical – and this album achieved that marriage brilliantly.  Best tracks – ‘Sebastien’ ‘Chameleon’ and the bombastic but wondrous ‘Death Trip’.  Steve is still playing live (I’ve seen him countless times) and dropping the occasional album – though nothing quite matches this ambitious opener.

p.s. I owned exactly the same chair as on the cover, bought at John Lewis (before I bought the album too)

Human Menagerie