Tumbling Down (Cockney Rebel song)
|Single by Cockney Rebel|
|from the album The Psychomodo|
|Genre||Pop, Glam Rock|
|Length||3:23 (single version)
5:55 (album version)
|Producer(s)||Steve Harley, Alan Parsons|
|Cockney Rebel singles chronology|
"Tumbling Down" is a song by the British rock band Cockney Rebel, fronted by Steve Harley. It was released in 1975 as the third and final single from the band's second studio album The Psychomodo (1974). Released as a promotional single in America only, it was written by Harley, and produced by Harley and Alan Parsons.
In June 1974, Cockney Rebel released their second studio album The Psychomodo. At the end of a major UK tour in late July, the band split due to growing tensions. Harley then assembled a new line-up under the name Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. In January 1975, EMI chose to release "Tumbling Down" as a promotional single in America. It was released under the new band's name.
As a promotional single, "Tumbling Down" was not eligible to make a chart appearance. Although it was not a single in the UK or Europe, the song remains one of Harley's most popular. Since its release, it has become a regular inclusion at Harley and the band's concerts and has appeared on numerous compilations. The song was recorded during February-March 1974, and was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. It features an orchestra and choir, with arrangements by Andrew Powell.
"Tumbling Down" was released by EMI Records on 7" vinyl in America only. For its release as a single, the album version of "Tumbling Down" was cut down from six minutes to almost half the duration. Both sides of the vinyl feature the same song; the A-side in stereo and the B-side in mono. The single was issued in a generic sleeve.
Following its release on The Psychomodo album, and as a single, the song has also appeared on various Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel compilations, including 1975's A Closer Look, 1980's The Best of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, 1987's Greatest Hits, 1999's The Cream of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and 2006's The Cockney Rebel - A Steve Harley Anthology. The song has also appeared on the 2013 various artists compilation Love Ballads.
The song's regular inclusion in live set-lists has meant live versions of the song have also been recorded and released. On 14 April 1975, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel performed the song as part of their set at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The concert was filmed and released as a film titled Between the Lines. In 1977, the song was included on the band's live album Face to Face. This version was also placed on the B-side of "The Best Years of Our Lives (Live)" single, released from the same album. The song was performed at the band's 1984 concert at the Camden Palace, London, which was filmed for TV and released on the VHS Live from London in 1985. Two acoustic versions have also appeared on Harley's 1999 live album Stripped to the Bare Bones and 2003's Acoustic and Pure: Live.
- 7" Single
- "Tumbling Down (Stereo)" - 3:23
- "Tumbling Down (Mono)" - 3:23
Upon release, Record Mirror reviewed The Psychomodo album and noted: "...they now have a raw edge that got lost amid the sweet production of their first album. If your never ends are tattered by the lyrics, you can almost look to the music for comfort. At times it's punky - "Sling It" - or grand and orchestrated - "Ritz" and "Tumbling Down" - then just plain loony - "Mr Soft"." American morning broadsheet The Milwaukee Journal said in 1975: "There are flashes of talent here, particularity on "Psychomodo", "Mr. Soft" and "Tumbling Down." A full orchestra often backs him up. Interesting, but we've heard a hundred better albums so far this year - and it's only February." Jon Marlowe of The Miami News mentioned the song in a 1976 review of the band's Love's a Prima Donna album: "For those not familiar with Harley's previous musical accomplishments, suffice to say he's only written two all-time classic songs "Cavaliers" and "Tumbling Down"; and to hear him lead the audience in a rousing sing-along of "Oh dear look what they've done to the blues" is nothing short of a musical miracle."
Dave Thompson of AllMusic retrospectively reviewed The Psychomodo and commented: "The hopelessly romantic "Bed in the Corner" opens another door entirely - relatively straightforward, astoundingly melodic, it was the closest thing in sight to the music Harley would be making later in the decade. Here, however, it swerves in another direction entirely, the dawn of a closing triptych - completed by "Sling It" and "Tumbling Down" - which encompasses ten of the most heartstoppingly breathless, and emotionally draining minutes in '70s rock. Indeed, though the latter's final refrain was reduced to pitifully parodic singalong the moment it got out on-stage, on record it retains both its potency and its purpose. "Oh dear!" Harley intones, "look what they've done to the blues." The fact is, he did it all himself - and people have been trying to undo it ever since." Donald A. Guarisco of AllMusic also spoke of the song in a review of the A Closer Look compilation. He stated: "As for the epics, the most impressive ones are "Sebastian," a slowly building ballad that adds layers of orchestration and choral vocals as it lays out a gothic tale of a romantic obsession that gives way to insanity, and "Tumbling Down," another dramatic opus that gradually builds from quiet piano chords to an orchestral blowout as Harley vocalizes a pained but elegantly crafted tale of facing a grim destiny."
George Starostin retrospectively reviewed the album for his website, writing: "...fortunately, after testing our patience with these lumpy monsters, the album picks up steam again with the remaining three songs - the mock-sentimental "Bed in the Corner", the amazing, crazy-violin-heavy "Sling It!", and the romantic, soothing finale in the "Tumbling Down" ballad where you won't understand a single line until you get to the plaintive "oh dear, what have they done to the blues?" coda. If anything, though, the song is so goddamn beautiful it serves as a perfect example of lyrics not being important. At all. More of that gorgeous orchestration that made "Death Trip" such a wallop. An anthemic singalong which causes you to join in even if you don't know what the hell you're doing." German website Altona Info spoke of the song in 2009, commenting: "Steve Harley and his band were in any case always in both areas in the Middle. With its extravagant outfit was undoubtedly the formation of the then-current glam rock. So it's good that at least the music has withstood the test of time without damage. Songs such as "Sebastian", "Tumbling Down" or the aforementioned "Make Me Smile" are to this day as a real pop gems." In the 2007 Italian book 24.000 Dischi (24,000 Discs), authors Riccardo Bertoncelli and Cris Thellung said: ""Sweet Dreams", "Psychomodo", "Mr. Soft", "Tumbling Down" are fine examples of a decadent rock that uses a lot of the shape of the ballad and enriches it with very theatrical choreography."
- Cockney Rebel
- Steve Harley – vocals, producer
- Jean-Paul Crocker – electric violin, guitar
- Milton Reame-James – keyboards
- Paul Jeffreys – Fender bass
- Stuart Elliott – drums, percussion
- Additional personnel
Yvonne Keeley version
|Single by Yvonne Keeley|
|Released||23 August 1974|
|Producer(s)||Steve Harley, Alan Parsons|
|Yvonne Keeley singles chronology|
In 1974, following the split of the original Cockney Rebel line-up in July, Harley met Yvonne Keeley and decided to work in the studio with her. She recorded "Tumbling Down", as well as "Loretta's Tale", which had originally appeared on Cockney Rebel's 1973 debut album The Human Menagerie. EMI released the single in August 1974, however it was not a commercial success and failed to enter the UK Top 50. Harley would go on to form a relationship with Keeley and they would work together in the studio again. Keeley provided backing vocals on future Cockney Rebel albums, while Harley would produce her second single "Concrete and Clay", released in June 1975.
On "Tumbling Down", Scottish musician Ian Bairnson recorded the guitar part with a Les Paul. It was one of Bairnson's earliest sessions and was one that had the most impact on his career. At the time, Bairnson had moved from Edinburgh to London to make it in the music business with the Scottish rock band Pilot, who had yet to gain a hit single. After being impressed by his playing on the song, Harley had asked Bairnson to join Cockney Rebel. At the time, Harley was still searching for a new Cockney Rebel line-up. Faced with this dilemma, Bairnson ended up choosing to stay with his band, who gained their first hit with "Magic" later in November that year.
The single was released by EMI Records on 7" vinyl in the UK only. The B-side was "Loretta's Tale". A UK promotional demo/DJ copy was also issued by EMI, which simply highlighted "Demo Records - Not for Resale" as the only difference from the main release.
- 7" Single
- "Tumbling Down" - 4:25
- "Loretta's Tale"
The song was featured in the 1998 British/American drama film Velvet Goldmine, directed and co-written by Todd Haynes. The fictional band who covered the song for the film soundtrack were Venus in Furs and lead vocals were handled by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Meyers would also cover "Sebastian" for the film, while Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel's original version of "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" was also included. Meyers' version of "Tumbling Down" was made available on the Velvet Goldmine' original motion picture soundtrack release.
Speaking to the Swedish web publication Bomben in 2000, Harley said of the version:
"I was never much of a part of all that [glam rock]. More theatrical for one album, I suppose. But it ended there. When my friends and I first saw Velvet Goldmine, we thought, "straight to video." i.e.: not much of a film, really. My opinion was not improved after seeing it a second time, I'm afraid. I was only caught up at all when the Bowie character "recorded his video" for his "new single" "Tumbling Down". I thought there was magic about the shoot. But in all it isn't the best portrayal of a hedonistic time, simply because it was made by an American who really never was part of it all."
Later in 2010, Harley told independent.ie website:
"Velvet Goldmine... actually, I saw that in the cinema. I'm one of the few! It didn't run for very long. We were invited to the opening in Edinburgh. When it finished my tour manager stood up and said, 'straight to video'. I understand Bowie refused to let them use his music. I agreed they could use mine. Thank you David (hah!). God bless you mate. It's always flattering that people would do one of your songs."
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