Ballerina (Prima Donna)
|"Ballerina (Prima Donna)"|
|Single by Steve Harley (Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel)|
|Released||17 June 1983|
|Steve Harley (Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel) singles chronology|
12" cover of "Ballerina (Prima Donna)"
"Ballerina (Prima Donna)" is a song by the British singer-songwriter Steve Harley, released as a non-album single in 1983. It was written and produced by Mike Batt. The song reached No. 51 in the UK.
"Ballerina (Prima Donna)" was Harley's first release since the 1982 single "I Can't Even Touch You". In 1983, Batt approached Harley with the newly-written song. After playing and singing it to him on the piano, Harley took a liking to the song and agreed to record it. It was recorded in the spring of 1983 at Lansdowne Studios and Abbey Road Studios, London. Released in June through RCA/Stiletto Records, the song gave Harley his first UK chart action in four years. It peaked at No. 51 on the UK Singles Chart, remaining in the Top 100 for six weeks. It had originally debuted at No. 91 in early August 1983.
During promotion for the single, Harley appeared for an interview on the TV show Scotland Today. On the show, he was asked why he had chosen to 'come back' to the music scene, to which he replied:
"Well, there's probably a lot of reasons. I never really left it. I've been very busy, I just haven't toured much or released many records, because I don't want to be known for putting out a string of flops. You have to wait for the right time. I'd like to think that I have some degree of integrity, I don't need to jump on bandwagons and release lots of them, just to try and get success for successes' sake. I have to wait for the right song."
In response to the song not being written by Harley or being a song of his usual style, he responded:
"I still obviously write nearly everything I record, but Mike wrote this song, came to me and my record company and said 'I've got this for Steve, I've known him a few years, never working with him though', and he sang it. And when he sang it to me on the piano, he's a very talented boy Mike Batt, and he sang it like me, and I fell for it. I couldn't help it, and so we recorded it yeah." In response to a possible new tour, Harley said: "We're doing the Reading Festival at the end of August, and when "Ballerina" is in the Top 10 then I can get all around the country again."
Later in 2013, the song received its first live performance by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel since 1983. In a January 2013 online diary entry, Harley spoke of the song:
"We're rehearsing "Ballerina (Prima Donna)" – I actually agree that it's a bit cheesey, but we've had lots of requests for it, all from women, to be honest. It has a bitter, accusing air, written by my good mate Mike Batt at a time of low self-esteem (wouldn't have lasted long!), but maybe we can give it a one-off night out at Buxton, then shelve it again."
"Ballerina (Prima Donna)" was released by RCA Records and Stiletto Records on 7" and 12" vinyl in the UK and Germany. RCA handled the single's marketing. Although the single's picture sleeve listed the song as being a Steve Harley solo single, the vinyl credited the song to Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. The 7" release featured the B-Side "Face to Face", which was written and produced by Harley. It has remained exclusive to the single since. The picture sleeve, designed by BBB Design, features a black background with a ballerina figure (Amanda Lord) at the bottom right corner. The back of the sleeve featured a photograph of Harley and the lyrics to the A-Side.
The 12" release was also released in both the UK and Germany. The German release featured a new version of "Sebastian" as the B-Side, which was originally released as Cockney Rebel's debut single in 1973, from the album The Human Menagerie. This new version was produced by Batt, who had suggested re-recording the song, which Harley agreed to go along with. In the UK, the 12" vinyl actually swapped both tracks around so that "Sebastian" became the A-Side and "Ballerina" became the B-Side. The 12" vinyl's artwork featured a drawing of a ballerina sat on a chair, holding a teddy bear to the ground. On the 7" vinyl release's sleeve, the 12" vinyl edition was described: "An extended 12-inch version of "Ballerina" - c/w a new, previously unreleased version of "Sebastian", is available in a different picture bag on Stiletto Records."
Following its original release as a single, the song has remained largely unavailable elsewhere and has never been issued on CD. It has not been included on any Steve Harley compilation, except the 1986 Steve Harley Anthology compilation, which was released as a double-vinyl set through EMI Records.
A music video was filmed to promote the single. The song was performed live on two occasions around the time of its release. In June 1983, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel performed it at their one-off London concert, and did so again in August 1983 at the Reading Festival. Shortly before the appearance at the Reading Festival, Harley's appearance on the regional news TV show Scotland Today saw the airing of an alternative music video for "Ballerina (Prima Donna)".
Harley also performed the song on the South West TV show Freeze Frame. He was accompanied on stage by the 16 year old ballerina Maria Roselli, who made her television debut on the show, performing ballet in the background during the song's performance. In September 1983, Roselli's appearance was reported in the Aldershot News & Mail. Speaking of Harley, she was quoted: "I'm a fan. I didn't really know of him until I heard him, but I thought the song was very nice."
The music video was filmed at the Prince Edward Theatre, Old Compton Street, London. It depicts the story of a ballerina performing at a theatre, where her boyfriend (Harley), who was in the audience watching her performance, then catches her with another man backstage afterwards, causing him to confront her in the dressing room. Harley leaves and in distress the ballerina hands back the bouquet of flowers given to her by her secret lover, and tearfully watches Harley's shadow disappear as he leaves down the stairs. Harley leaves the theatre and calls a taxi, while the ballerina sits on an empty stage in sadness. Other segments in the video feature the ballerina performing on stage and close-up shots of Harley singing the song's first two chorus sections. The video was created in similar style to a film and featured opening and ending credits.
The music video uses a slightly alternate version of the song, which is identical to the single version, except for an exclusive guitar introduction which is performed at the very beginning of the video. Later in 1986, Harley would return to the Prince Edward Theatre, where he auditioned on stage for the role of the phantom in the upcoming Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera. This was a performance in front of around twenty business angels. Although Harley was given the starring role, he was later replaced close to rehearsals by Michael Crawford.
Music video cast
- Steve Harley - The Boyfriend
- Olivia Komlosy - Ballerina
- Carlo Manzi - Stagedoor Johnny
- Rob Boughton - Stagehand
- Rosie Watts - Lady in Box
- Paul Watts - Gentleman
- Rosie Walsh - Young Girl
- Sam Cordani - Taxi Driver
- Sally Stairs - First Dancer
- Lyndsey Neal - Second Dancer
- David Otterwell - Theatregoer
- Maureen Hannaford-Naisbitt - Theatregoer
- Nipper - Dog
- Robert Harris - Man in Theatre Bar
Upon release, Simon Mares of the Reading Evening Post wrote: "This song is written, arranged and produced by Mike Batt and I have to say you can just about make out Steve's talent as a singer struggling through - but it's a difficult job and I'd rather hear his self-penned songs."
- 7" Single
- "Ballerina" - 4:57
- "Face to Face" - 3:29
- 12" Single (UK release)
- "Sebastian" - 4:06
- "Ballerina" - 4:57
- 12" Single (German release)
- "Ballerina" - 4:57
- "Sebastian" - 4:06
|UK Singles Chart (The Official Charts Company)||51|
- Steve Harley - vocals, producer of "Face to Face"
- Mike Batt - producer, arranger on "Ballerina" and "Sebastian"
- BBB Design - 7" vinyl picture sleeve artwork
- Terry Walker - 7" vinyl picture sleeve photography
- Amanda Lord at Freddie's - 7" vinyl picture sleeve model
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- Mares, Simon (30 July 1983). "Singles". Reading Evening Post.