Love's a Prima Donna

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Love's a Prima Donna
Love's a Prima Donna.jpeg
Studio album by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Released October 1976
Recorded June–September 1976
Genre Glam rock[1]
Length 45:39
Label EMI
Producer Steve Harley
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel chronology
Timeless Flight
Love's a Prima Donna
Face to Face: A Live Recording

Love's a Prima Donna is the fifth studio album by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, released in 1976. It was produced by Harley, and would be the band's last album before splitting in 1977.


In February 1976, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel released the album Timeless Flight, which reached the UK Top 20. Having embarked on a tour to promote the album, Harley began writing new material and the band soon returned to the studio to record their fifth album, Love's a Prima Donna. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London between June and September 1976.[2]

While work on the album continued, EMI would release the preceding single "Here Comes the Sun" - a cover of the George Harrison song, originally recorded by The Beatles for their 1969 album Abbey Road. Released in July 1976,[3] the band's version became the most successful UK cover, peaking at #10 in the UK Top 50, and lasting on the chart for seven weeks.[4]

In the 11 September 1976 issue of Record Mirror, it was announced that the album had been completed, with Harley due to fly to Los Angeles to cut the disc. Having finished recording the album, guitarist Jim Cregan left the band to join Rod Stewart's touring band.[5]

Released in October, Love's a Prima Donna peaked at #28 on the UK Albums Chart, remaining in the Top 50 for three weeks. It became Harley's last studio album to reach the UK Top 100. During the same month, the second single, "(I Believe) Love's a Prima Donna", was released. Although it failed to reach expectations, it did peak at #41 in the UK Top 50, remaining on the chart for four weeks.[4] Additionally, EMI had made plans to release "(Love) Compared with You" as the third single, however the release was cancelled. Instead, the song was released as the album's only American single.[6][7]

Following the album's release, the band embarked on an eight-date UK tour in December 1976. On the tour, Cregan was replaced by Jo Partridge. Having toured with the band for the Timeless Flight tour, Partridge also contributed to two tracks on Love's a Prima Donna. He provided guitar and backing vocals on "Here Comes the Sun", as well as backing vocals on "(If This Is Love) Give Me More".[2] During the tour, Harley recorded a number of concerts, which he used to create the double live album, Face to Face: A Live Recording, which was released in 1977. It reached #40 in the UK and includes six tracks from Love's a Prima Donna.[8]

The album's concept revolves around the theme of love, including "soldier loneliness, true love, lost love, mother-and-child love, valentine sentimentalism and a fan's infatuation with a musician".[9] The album also showcases a range of musical styles new to the band's material, including progressive rock, folk, doo-wop, and reggae.[1]

Speaking to Melody Maker's Harvey Kubernik in early 1977, Harley commented:

"I feel on this album I achieve something as a singer, producer and songwriter. If it only sold three copies, I wouldn't worry. The achievement is more important than the success. This is entirely autobiographical: it's the only way I can write. I did a lot of it with the running order in mind. I wrote for two months before we went into the studio and the pattern was obvious when I started writing: "Seeking a Love" had to open the album. There's a lot of different music styles that are confusing some people. It's taken the maturity of an older man to come out and say things in the first person. When I first started writing the album, six of the lyrics dealt with love. So I thought I'd follow this with the rest of it. It's an album which dwells on the emotion we call love. I became very confident writing this album. I've come back stronger now 'cause I believe in myself. I like writing all about human relationships. There is also humour in this LP: "GI Valentine," and "Give Me More".[9]

Later in 2015, Harley revealed to the albums that had most influenced him. One of the album's was his own Love's a Prima Donna, and he revealed:

"This is not self-indulgence, I swear! I gave free rein to Jim Cregan during the recordings and he rewarded me with some brilliant parts, which I could harmonise with the keyboards. The more outlandish my production became, the more Jim pushed himself. Cockney Rebel started as a non-guitar band, and here we are offering up lashings of electric mayhem!"[10]

Song information[edit]

The album track "Sidetrack II" was preceded by the non-album "Sidetrack 1", which was the B-Side to the "(I Believe) Love's a Prima Donna" single.[11] The "Here Comes the Sun" single also contains the non-album B-Side "Lay Me Down", which like "Sidetrack 1", remains exclusive to the single.

"G.I. Valentine" and other tracks on the album feature the use of the EMI voice vocoder. "(If This Is Love) Give Me More" features Harley playing electric guitar for the first time on record.[12]

"Innocent and Guilt", a seven-minute track, was later covered by German musician Guido Dossche. It first appeared on the 2004 single "Ich Bin Gotte", which itself featured Harley,[13] and the song also later appeared on Dossche's 2005 album Vulnerabel.[14] In a June 2005 interview for the unofficial fan site Harley Fanzone, Dossche commented: "The song "Innocence and Guilt" always meant a lot to me, a grown up son hidden by his mother. She won't let him go because she's afraid to lose him, she wants to keep him for herself."[15]


The album was released by EMI Records on vinyl in the UK, US, Canada and across Europe, including Germany, Sweden, Portugal, and the Netherlands.[16] Later in 1990, the album received its first CD release through EMI. In 2001, BGO Records released the album on CD as a double album set with the 1976 American compilation A Closer Look.[17]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Seeking a Love" Steve Harley 0:43
2. "G.I. Valentine" Harley 1:29
3. "Finally a Card Came" Harley 2:28
4. "Too Much Tenderness" Harley 4:16
5. "(Love) Compared with You" Harley 4:20
6. "(I Believe) Love's a Prima Donna" Harley 4:11
7. "Sidetrack II" Harley 3:13
8. "Seeking a Love, Pt. 2" Harley 1:09
9. "If This Is Love (Give Me More)" Harley 4:25
10. "Carry Me Again" Harley 4:30
11. "Here Comes the Sun" George Harrison 2:55
12. "Innocence and Guilt" Harley 7:13
13. "Is It True What They Say?" Harley 4:41

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[1]
Sounds 5/5 stars[18]
Record Mirror 5/5 stars[19]
Music Talk favourable[20]
National RockStar unfavourable[21]
The Miami News favourable[22]

In the 13 November 1976 issue of Sounds magazine, Geoff Barton reviewed Love's a Prima Donna, and stated: "Love's a Prima Donna goes closer to the bone than ever before. In the past, Harley's lyrics have tended to be oblique and obscure. With this album, however, he appears to be laying his life on the line - and it's often quite a painful thing to see. Dictionary definition of 'prima donna' is "a temperamental person" and this is how Harley would seem to regard love. The album is loosely conceptual, four subjects having overall dominance, these being - (a) looking for someone to love, (b) losing that love, (c) looking back to mother for 'spiritual' guidance and (d) expressing discontent with the rock 'n' roll business. Each sentiment comes across intensely, cutting through the listener like a keen blade. Suffice it to say that it is an incredible album, the playing and it's overall structure being unparalleled, voice effects and stacatto instrumental breaks abounding. "Love's a Prima Donna" is often amusing, sometimes embarrassing, but also - in a twisted, tangled sort of way - infinitely enjoyable."[18]

In a November 1976 issue of Record Mirror magazine, Barry Cain commented: "Choirs, nursery noises, nubile Lancashire lasses, you name it - Steve Harley's got it on his new album. He uses every conceivable gimmick in the book on this, his strongest LP to date. So what if the guy can't sing a note. But with a voice like that who cares? He doesn't seem to be taking himself quite so seriously these days... and that makes for a flexible, more relaxed sound. A great album."[23]

In the 20 November 1976 issue of National RockStar, Paul Phillips wrote: "Since this album contains the ugliest version to date of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" it naturally has to be approached with some trepidation. "Here Comes The Sun" bears all the hallmarks of the accomplished lyricist desperately attempting to become the acclaimed musician/arranger - mistaking clumsiness for cleverness and arrogance for art. Unfortunately, these faults permeate the entire album. "(Love) Compared With You" and "Carry Me Again" are two tracks which work, not because they are simple songs, but because they are simply presented. What spoils the rest of the album is the desperation which attends Harley's efforts to be musical/innovative/disturbing. A pity that such a promising and outrageous talent as Harley's should be allowed to stoop to the low level which this album achieves."[21]

In a 1976 issue of the EMI Records Weekly News magazine Music Talk, issue number 72, Rex Anderson reviewed the album. Summing it up, he wrote: "Philosophers have been trying to define "love" ever since Eve. Steve Harley believes "love" is a prima donna: Love is beautiful but it's a pain in the backside. The album is Steve's look at love. He sees it as a necessary evil, as something both dirty and beautiful. Much of it is, of necessity, sexual, but it is also comic and tragic. Musically the album is a masterpiece and listening to it to write this review brought home perhaps one of the most important facts about it which is that it must establish Steve as one of the finest producers in the country."[24]

In the 3 December 1976 issue of The Miami News, music critic Jon Marlowe stated: "This is the one that should make Harley/Cockney Rebel as big in America as they are in their native England. With "Love's a Prima Donna", Harley has decided to undertake the tattered and worn idea of a concept LP - but don't fear, the kid pulls it off in grande musical style. The album also finds Harley disposing of his decadent words and feelings - and he's now writing of finding somebody to love. Like the "nubile Lancashire lass" says at the end of the LP, "Love's a Prima Donna" is "great, terrific, great, great, no really, great, terrific, great."[22]

Donald A. Guarisco of AllMusic, retrospectively reviewed the album, writing: "Although he created a decadent glam rocker image through early albums like The Human Menagerie and The Psychomodo, Harley soon revealed a romantic heart beating beneath all the artsy sleaze on singles like "Judy Teen" and "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)". This 1976 album allowed him to give full vent to his romantic thoughts via lushly crafted songs about the travails of love. Harley's ambitions occasionally overwhelm him, but the best songs rank with Harley's finest work and the album manages to overcome its occasional excesses thanks to a crisp, consistent production that keeps its genre-hopping sounding smooth. In short, it takes a few listens to assimilate, but it is an impressively crafted album that offers plenty of rewards for Harley fans and anyone who can appreciate glam rock at its most artsy."[1]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
UK Albums Chart[4] 28



Additional musicians

  • Lindsey Elliott - percussion
  • Jo Partridge - guitar (track 11), backing vocals (tracks 9, 11)
  • Tony Rivers - backing vocals (various tracks), backing vocal arrangement (tracks 5-6, 10)
  • John G. Perry - backing vocals (various tracks)
  • Stuart Calver - backing vocals (various tracks)
  • Yvonne Keeley - backing vocals (track 2)
  • English Chamber Choir - choir (tracks 1, 7-8)


  • Steve Harley - producer
  • Wilf Gibson - choir arrangements (tracks 1, 8), string section score (track 5), orchestral arrangement (track 7)
  • Tony Clark - engineer
  • Pat Stapley - assistant engineer
  • Ken Perry - mastering


  • Julie Harris - outer sleeve art direction for Splash Studios
  • Mick Rock - inner bag art direction
  • John Harwood - front sleeve colouring


  1. ^ a b c d Donald A. Guarisco. "AllMusic review". Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel* - Love's A Prima Donna". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Here Comes the Sun". 45cat. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "STEVE HARLEY - full Official Chart History - Official Charts Company". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "Prima Donna Harley". Record Mirror. 11 September 1976. 
  6. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel - Love Compared To You". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel - (Love) Compared With You". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  8. ^ "The Great Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Story". 3 July 2015. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Some of the fans' poetry puts me to shame - Steve Harley interview by Harvey Kubernik - Melody Maker - February 1977
  10. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Soundtrack of my LIfe". 2015-11-10. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  11. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel - (I Believe) Love's A Prima Donna". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel* - Love's A Prima Donna". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "Dossche Feat. Steve Harley - Ich Bin Gott". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  14. ^ "Dossche - Vulnerabel". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  15. ^ "The Guido Dossche 'Vulnerabel' Interview - June 2005". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  16. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel* - Love's A Prima Donna". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  17. ^ "Love's A Prima Donna (1976)". Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Barton, Geoff (13 November 1976). "Dark Clouds on the Harley Horizon". Sounds. 
  19. ^ Cain, Barry (November 1976). "Cockney Chameleon Changes Colour". Record Mirror. 
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ a b Phillips, Paul (20 November 1976). "Prima Donna Falls Flat on Face". National RockStar. 
  22. ^ a b Marlowe, Jon (3 December 1976). "Album Reviews". The Miami News. 
  23. ^ Barry Cain. "Cockney Chameleon changes colour". Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  24. ^ Anderson, Rex (1976). "Music Talk: Love's a Prima Donna". EMI Records Weekly News, Issue No. 72.