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Sebastian - Cockney Rebel

It's curious that, arguably the best composition by Steve Harley, who died a week ago today, was his band Cockney Rebel's first record release and a flop. Some connect the song "Sebastian" with Sebastian Flyte, a character from Evelyn Waugh's novel of declining British aristocracy, "Brideshead Revisited"; but, in "Sebastian", Harley's riverside Deptford roots come to the fore to evoke an earlier era and locale of decline, fading glory and decadence: apply the needle to track 5 side 1 of the Cockney Rebel album "The Human Menagerie" for the longer 7 minute version, and be transported back to another waterbound city in another time, eighteenth century Venice, land of masquerade and carnival, satin dresses and velvet gowns.

Grandiose, majestic, dark and Baroque yet bright and Rococo, the orchestral glory of "Sebastian" puts paid to any thought that Cockney Rebel were just another seventies glam rock band. The young Harley's aspirations were far more grandiose than that. Here's a man obsessed by the romance of words, the poetry of drama and intrigue.

Douse the lights, close your eyes, forget about the neighbours, turn the volume up to full: lie there and drown in its richness.


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