Steve Harley grew up in London's New Cross area and attended Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College. His musical career began in the late 1960s when he was busking (with John Crocker aka Jean-Paul Crocker) and performing his own songs, some of which were later recorded by him and the band. After an initial stint as a music journalist, the original mystery band was formed when Harley hooked up with his former folk music partner, Crocker (fiddle / mandolin / guitar) in 1972. Crocker had just finished a short stint with Trees and they advertised and auditioned drummer Stuart Elliott, bassist Paul Jeffreys, and guitarist Nick Jones. This line-up played one of the band's first gigs at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London on 23 July 1972 supporting The Jeff Beck Group. Nick was soon replaced by guitarist Pete Newnham but Steve felt that the sound did not need an electric guitar and they settled on the combination of Crocker's electric violin and the Fender Rhodes piano of keyboardist Milton Reame-James to share the lead. The band was signed to EMI after playing five gigs. Their first single, "Sebastian", was an mega success in Europe, although it failed to score in the UK Singles Chart. Their debut album, today's mystery, was released in 1973. Although not a uk commercial success they did attract a growing following in London.
Harley managed to irritate a significant segment of the music press with his self-aggrandisement, even as their music was getting rave reviews and gaining a wide audience. It was becoming clear that Harley regarded the band as little more than accompaniment to his own agenda, and already there were signs that things would not last, despite having a big hit with their second single, "Judy Teen". In May 1974, the British music magazine, NME reported that the band were to undertake their first British tour, with the highlight of the itinerary being a gig at London's Victoria Palace Theatre on 23 June. There then followed the album The Psychomodo. A Live at the BBC album included material recorded during a BBC Radio 1 broadcast. Following the European single "Psychomodo", a second single from the album, "Mr. Soft", was also a hit. "Tumbling Down" was also issued in America as a promotional single. By this time the problems within the band had already reached a head, and all the musicians, with the exception of Elliott, quit at the end of a successful UK tour. From then on, the band was a band in name only, being more or less a Harley solo project.
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Today's mystery album is the debut album album by our mystery group, released November 1973. A handful of the album's songs are slight, even forced, and certainly indicative of the group's inexperience. But others -- the labyrinthine "Sebastian," the loquacious "Death Trip" in particular -- possess confidence, arrogance, and a doomed, decadent madness which astounds. Subject to ruthless dissection, tthe (tossers)lyrics were essentially nonsense, a stream of disconnected images whose most gallant achievement is that they usually rhyme. But what could have been perceived as a weakness -- or, more generously, an emotionally overwrought attempt to blend Byron with Burroughs -- is actually their strength. Few of the songs are about anything in particular. But with Roy Thomas Baker's sub-orchestral production driving strings and things to unimaginable heights, and our mystery band's own unique instrumentation -- no lead guitar, but a killer violin -- pursuing its own twisted journey, those images gel more solidly than the best constructed story. Today's mystery album is a dark cabaret -- the darkest. Though Harley has furiously decried the band's historical inclusion in the glam rock pack, there's no separating the nocturnal theatrics of "Muriel the Actor," "Mirror Freak," or "What Ruthy Said" from at least the fringes of the movement. The difference is, other artists simply sung about absinthe and Sweet Ipomoea. Harley actually knew what they were. Unquestionably, he drew from many of the same literary, artistic, and celluloid sources as both David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, the only performers who could reasonably claim to have preempted his vision. But he went far beyond them, through the Berlin of Isherwood to the reality of the Weimar; past the Fritz Lang movies which everyone's seen, to the unpublished screenplays which no one has read. And though Harley might not have been the first cultural genius of his age, he was the first who wasn't content to simply zap the prevailing zeitgeist. He wanted to suck out its soul. And he very nearly succeeded.
Here to get, it's 04 remaster..N'Joy
Goldy Rhox 205 (flac 312mb)
Goldy Rhox 205 (ogg 119mb)
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