When punk erupted in 76, 77, it washed away glamrockers like Steve Harley and his band Cockney Rebel. Harvey was all high heels and eyeliner but when he was in the mood he could write a son of a bitch of a song. “Judy Teen” was an early hit and in 1975 he recorded his masterpiece The Best Years Of Our Lives.
“Make me Smile (Come Up And See Me)” was a smash in the UK with Harley’s very cockney vocals and back up chick singers going “ooooh, lalala”. But the title track was better “You’ll think it’s tragic when that moment first arrives, oh but it’s magic it’s the best years of our lives” he sings while a heavy orchestration backs him into a corner. “Panorama” has a great lyric, “Murder follows me like a leech from sunset, hard on my heels to the midnight”. “Mad, Mad Moonlight” is a second cousin to Ray Davies “Lola” as skinny Steve is warned “You’re so young and tender and don’t be concerned with my gender…” as he worries, “should I go, should I stay, could I do it all day and be a certain gon-na”. It’s a fun song on a fun album.
Best Years is a masterpiece of the glam rock genre and something Harley wouldn’t repeat again. There would be moments here and there but he overestimated his abilities and that plus suddenly being extremely out of fashion did him no good. Best Years stands up over the years because even when the lyric creeked (“Fresh faced imbeciles laughing at me”?) the songs were lively and fun for the most part.
Harley is on the nostalgia circuit in ENGLAND but we could sure use him here!!
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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – March 1975 (Volume 6, Number 10)
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