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Glam rocker Steve Harley dies | DiePresse.com

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Glam rocker Steve Harley dies |  DiePresse.com

Steve Harley, head of the band Cockney Rebel and soulful tamer of singing crowds, is dead.

He was able to handle blush and eyeshadow early on. This was essential for those Brits who wanted to make something happen in the new genre of glam rock in the slipstream of Marc Bolan, the superstar of the early 1970s. Introduced in 1972, the musicians here simplified sound ideas from progressive rock until they were compatible with teenagers. David Bowie, then still a disciple of Bolan, was an early dazzling figure of glam. Also dubious characters like Gary Glitter and Alvin Stardust.

With the release of their debut album “The Human Menagerie,” Steve Harley and his band Cockney Rebel, founded in 1972, immediately became one of the shining lights of the glamorous wave that attracted attention with its eccentricity and androgyny. Harley’s charismatic voice led through songs that had a literary quality. The ten-minute ballad “Sebastian,” which Harley sang as a street musician, became a classic of the 1970s.

Steve Harley in a picture from the 1970s. Imago / Michael Putland / Avalon

The confusing language images arose from Harley’s LSD use at the time, as he later admitted. Live, the song reliably became the dramatic climax of the shows. As you can hear on the legendary live double album “Face to Face” (1977), Harley exhausted himself here in a theatrical, but still soulful way. This anarchically intoned son of a jazz singer whined, groaned, chuckled, screamed and whispered to the precious piano motif. Singles like “Judy Teen,” “Mr. Soft” and “Make Me Smile”, their only number one single, are among the standards of the era. Of course, director Todd Haynes couldn’t ignore “Make Me Smile” in his film “Velvet Goldmine,” which focuses on the glam era.

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Incomparable atmosphere

Unlike David Bowie, who was constantly evolving, Harley preferred to vary his magic formula. The fans loved him for it. Cockney Rebel concerts conveyed an incomparable atmosphere. On the one hand there was the band on stage, on the other hand there was the audience choir, which was surprisingly lyrical. It was a sound like a football stadium. At his funeral, he once said humorously, a David Bowie song or the Frank Zappa instrumental “Peaches en Regalia” should be played. In any case, something that will lighten the mood, because: “I don’t want misery.”

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