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Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

Fronted by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel first came to the pop forefront in 1972 when they were signed by EMI Records. Yet Harley himself - a former journalist with a flair for self-publicity - had already made a small mark as a solo artist on the folk scene as a regular at famous London club Les Cousins. Fiddle and mandolin player John Crocker (formerly with Trees) decided to develop their line-up and style, adding drummer Stuart Elliott, bass player Paul Jeffreys and guitarist Nick Jones (soon replaced by Pete Newnham) and the unusual sound of a fiddle-led band and Harley's lyrical songs and appealing vocals quickly attracted attention. Their debut single, “Sebastian,” won them a following in Europe, but it was the Bob Dylan-influenced second single “Judy Teen” (1974) that made them a serious commercial force. Internal disputes within the band caused a bitter split, with Elliott becoming the only member of the original line-up to stay loyal to Harley as he put together a new version of the band, re-named as Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. With Harley as the undisputed leader and primary force, they achieved their biggest hit in 1975 with the million-selling “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me),” which also gave them their breakthrough in America. The group then split in 1977 when Harley relocated to America and launched a solo career. Steve Harley re-formed the group in 1989 for a tour and they have sporadically continued to put together different Cockney Rebel line-ups for occasional gigs. Chiefly focused on his solo career, Steve Harley was sidelined – along with the rest of the world – when a planned tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He resumed touring in 2021 and continued performing until October 2023, when he cancelled shows due to health issues. At the end of 2023, he announced that he had cancer. Steve Harley died on March 17, 2024, at the age of 73.


©Copyright Music Story Stephen Schnee 2024

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