The Human Menagerie

The Human Menagerie

"The Human Menagerie" was the first album released by 1970s art-rock group Cockney Rebel (later Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel). It was released in the summer of 1973 to moderate success.

Infobox Album
Name = The Human Menagerie
Type = Studio
Artist = Cockney Rebel


Released = 1973
Recorded = Air Studios London, June/July 1973
Genre = Rock, Art Rock
Length = 44:18; 51:23 (re-release)
Label = BGO Records, EMI
Producer = Neil Harrison
Reviews =
* "AMG" Rating|4.5|5 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:jzfpxq85ldte]
Last album =
This album = "The Human Menagerie (1973)"
Next album = "The Psychomodo"

Background

Steve Harley was working as a journalist and busking on the Underground and Portobello Road, where many of these songs were first performed.

The sound of Cockney Rebel was innovative at the time glam rock was coming to the fore with artists like David Bowie and T. Rex led by searing guitars - Cockney Rebel had a sound led by relaxed keyboards and intense violin.

The album is sometimes classified itself as glam, but in comparison to seminal glam works ("The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars") the album is individual and hard to classify. As a person and as shows in the music, Harley isn't a kind of self-styled glam God like David Bowie or a romantic like Bryan Ferry, or a camp caricature like Elton John - he is down-to-earth and very human despite the eccentric exterior unlike the aforementioned artists.

It borrows from so many sources and sounds like nothing else, partly like a funfair, full of theatricality, eccentricity, cabaret and variety show styled (especially apparent on the artwork).

In modern music, there are very few bands that have tried to emulate the sounds of this debut. This could be partly due to the fact that the album was not particularly popular (it has a small cult following but not really a widespread appeal), and the album has faded into obscurity - although it has dated well due to the individualistic and obscure style and content.

The lyrics seem nonsensical (although they mean so much thanks to the passionate delivery) and Harley's accent (strongly Cockney) is something that divides the opinions of the audience.

Recorded

The album was recorded in June and July 1973 in Air Studios London, produced by Neil Harrison. At that time the studios were located in Oxford Street above a department store.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Steve Harley.

ide 1

# "Hideaway"
# "What Ruthy Said"
# "Loretta's Tale"
# "Crazy Raver"
# "Sebastian"

ide 2

# "Mirror Freak"
# "My Only Vice (Is the Fantastic Prices I Charge for Being Eaten Alive)"
# "Muriel the Actor"
# "Chameleon"
# "Death Trip"

Bonus tracks

From 2004 re-release: contains the original single release of "Judy Teen" (A and B sides)
# "Judy Teen"
# "Rock And Roll Parade"

Personnel

Steve Harleyvocals Stuart Elliotpercussion Paul JeffreysFender bass Milton Reame-Jameskeyboards Jean-Paul Crockerelectric violin, mandolin, guitar

Production

Geoff Emerick – Engineer Andrew Powell – String arrangements (notable on "Sebastian" and "Death Trip")

Artwork

Peter Vernon – Photography Star Trek Enterprises – Design

Notes on Songs

ebastian

This was the first single released (on the 31st August 1973) by the band, seemingly a love song about a girl so absorbed into the superficiality of society. A surprising choice for debut single, seeing as it is a ballad, is too powerful for radio and has a 6:59 running length. Harley himself says in the 2004 re-release sleeve notes it's "possibly a sort of Gothic love song; possibly not: I'm not really sure". It was a hit in Europe (a number one in The Netherlands and Belgium) but didn't make it into the UK top twenty. The song is featured in the soundtrack to the 1998 film "Velvet Goldmine".

Mirror Freak

Supposedly about Marc Bolan according to the sleeve notes. It continues the theme of a person who's losing their identity to 'be someone', a recurring theme throughout much of Harley's work - depending on interpretation. Could also be self-referencing the cover, a dig at the image he's created.

Chameleon

Inspired, Harley says, from when he was working as a journalist, many of the lyrics of this 48 second song are taken from a testimonial given in court after the death of an old friend who had died of an overdose. The song acts as an opening to the following "Death Trip".

Death Trip

A ten minute epic in three sections. Prefaced by "Chameleon", the song builds from a simple riff and vocals. The lyrics are both senseless and mean so much. The emotion channelled into the delivery of the searing line "Can you think of one good reason to remain?" is the song's major catch, working as the chorus. A monumental and colossal end.

Judy Teen

The second single (released March 1974), not originally from this album, was included as a bonus track with the re-release. This was the band's first UK hit and is still one of Harley's most popular songs.


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