“It’s quite vicious lyrically, but you still want to sing and dance to it”
Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel
EMI 2263 (UK) / EMI 4070 & 4201 (USA)
Recorded at EMI, Abbey Road
Released February 1975
Writer Steve Harley
Producers Steve Harley & Alan Parsons
UK #1 22/2/75 2 weeks USA #96 2/76
Written as a sarcastic jibe at a former constellation of Cockney Rebel with whom Harley had parted company, allegedly following disagreements over songwriting royalties, this hit was a double-whammy for EMI engineer Alan Parsons who also produced the song that preceded it to Number 1 in Britain, ‘January’ by Pilot. Harley (born Steven Nice) formed Cockney Rebel in London in 1973 (the group name came from a poem he wrote the same year) and after just a handful of gigs the band got a deal with EMI Records and recorded their first single, ‘Sebastian’. Not a UK hit, it did however attract some attention on the Continent before ‘Judy Teen’ became a UK Top 10 hit in May 1974, followed a few months later by ‘Mr Soft’, both composed by Harley. At this point, following 2 albums and 2 hit singles, most of Mr Harley’s band departed after a UK tour, apparently fed up with their erstwhile leader’s exploding ego (though Harley felt they somewhat left him in the lurch) and Harley continued on his own using session musicians for recording purposes, and putting his name up front.
‘Make Me Smile’, which shot to Number 1 in its second week on the market, was lifted from the third Cockney Rebel album, The Best Years Of Our Lives. Recorded at Abbey Road and Air studios in London it was a highly infectious little ditty with unusual silent pauses between the verses and some particularly nifty acoustic guitar playing by Jim Cregan who also played on the Parson’s produced Al Stewart hit ‘Year Of The Cat’ a couple of years later and has more recently been a member of Katie Melua’s band. (It’s also alleged that Marc Bolan plays on ‘Make Me Smile’)
Harley now admits, “It’s quite vicious lyrically, but you still want to sing and dance to it”. Future starlet Tina Charles and Linda Lewis supplied backing vocals on the session produced by Alan Parsons who had formerly worked with the Beatles and Pink Floyd at EMI’s Abbey Road studios and would shortly launch his own recording career with a series of concept albums as, The Alan Parsons Project. Cockney Rebel disappeared from the charts a year later following a couple of further Top 30 hits which included a cover of George Harrison’s Abbey Road classic ‘Here Comes The Sun’, though ‘Make Me Smile’ (Harley’s only US hit, #96 in 1976) has returned to the UK charts on three occasions (1992, 1995 & 2005), been covered over 100 times (there’s a live version on the B-side of Duran Duran’s 1984 #1 ‘The Reflex’) and remains one of the finest pop moments of the 1970s.
This song may have been influenced by the famous Mae West catch-phrase, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime” which first appeared in the 1933 Paramount movie She Done Him Wrong. Mae West was famous for her double entendres including, “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me”, a misquote from the same movie. It is perhaps worth noting that such risqué comments appeared in Hollywood movies in the early 1930s shortly after ‘talkies’ had arrived but before censorship was introduced!
Copyright © 2017 SongStories/Tony Burton