There are some songs I have listened to all my life, without really stopping to think what they are about.
So it is with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile (Come And See Me”), which I’ve spent around 20 years assuming was some sort of love song.
When I wrote about the song in this month’s Uncut, Harley told me the song was actually a rebuke to his old bandmates who asked for more money and then left him – he felt – in the lurch – shortly before he entered the recording studio. Harley’s response was to immediately write the accusatory “Make Me Smile” (‘Blue eyes, blue eyes, why must you tell so many lies?’) and sing it with a Dylanesque sneer, but bury the sentiment beneath a layer of perfect pop production. So a song written in a despondent stew made his fame and fortune and still follows him all round the world.
The favourite thing Harley told me though, was that one of the backing singers for the song’s famous ‘ooooh la la’ chorus was the actor and singer Clarke Peters, now better known as Lester Freamon from The Wire. You won’t find that on Wikipedia. Yet.
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Great Site, Great Post Well worth the read.
Great post! Worth it for the Clarke Peters fact alone…
I think the clue is in the first line. Your reference to it being sung in ‘Dylanesque’ style, I’d agree. I’ve always likened it to Dylan’s Positively Fourth Street. The frst line … “You got a lot of nerve” bears similarities, although Dylan is far more scathing – you can almost taste the venom. Both brilliant works!