Tumbling Down (Cockney Rebel song)

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"Tumbling Down"
Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Tumbling Down 1974 Single.jpg
Single by Cockney Rebel
from the album The Psychomodo
ReleasedJanuary 1975
GenrePop, Glam Rock
Length3:23 (single version)
5:55 (album version)
LabelEMI Records
Songwriter(s)Steve Harley
Producer(s)Steve Harley, Alan Parsons
Cockney Rebel singles chronology
"Mr. Soft"
"Tumbling Down"
"Big Big Deal"

"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).[1] Released as a promotional single in America only, it was written by Harley, and produced by Harley and Alan Parsons.[2]


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.[3] In January 1975, EMI chose to release "Tumbling Down" as a promotional single in America. It was released under the new band's name.[2]

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.[4][5] It features an orchestra and choir, with arrangements by Andrew Powell.[2]


"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.[2]

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,[6] 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.[7][8] The song has also appeared on the 2013 various artists compilation Love Ballads.[9]


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.[10] In 1977, the song was included on the band's live album Face to Face.[11] This version was also placed on the B-side of "The Best Years of Our Lives (Live)" single, released from the same album.[12] 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.[13][14] Two acoustic versions have also appeared on Harley's 1999 live album Stripped to the Bare Bones and 2003's Acoustic and Pure: Live.[15][16][17]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, Record Mirror reviewed The Psychomodo album, describing "Tumbling Down" as, "grand and orchestrated." [18] American morning broadsheet The Milwaukee Journal contemporarily said, though they have, "heard a hundred better albums so far [in 1975]," "Tumbling Down" shows, "flashes of talent." [19] Jon Marlowe of The Miami News mentioned the song in a 1976 review of the band's Love's a Prima Donna album, referring to "Tumbling Down" as one of, "only ... two all-time classic songs [Steve Harley has written] ... 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."[20]

Dave Thompson of AllMusic retrospectively reviewed The Psychomodo and said that "Tumbling Down," along with the preceding track "Sling It," "encompasses ten of the most heartstoppingly breathless, and emotionally draining minutes in '70s rock." He continued, "though ["Tumbling Down"]'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."[21] Donald A. Guarisco of AllMusic also spoke of the song in a review of the A Closer Look compilation, referring to the song as, "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."[22]

German website Altona Info spoke of the song in 2009, commenting, " ... the music has withstood the test of time without damage," and calling the song, "a real pop gem."[23] In the 2007 Italian book 24.000 Dischi (24,000 Discs), authors Riccardo Bertoncelli and Cris Thellung said "Tumbling Down" is one of a handful of, "fine examples of a decadent rock that uses a lot of the shape of the ballad and enriches it with very theatrical choreography."[24]

Track listing[edit]

7" Single
  1. "Tumbling Down (Stereo)" - 3:23
  2. "Tumbling Down (Mono)" - 3:23


Cockney Rebel
Additional personnel

Cover versions[edit]

Yvonne Keeley version[edit]

"Tumbling Down"
Yvonne Keeley Tumbling Down 1974 EMI Single.jpg
Single by Yvonne Keeley
B-side"Loretta's Tale"
Released23 August 1974[25]
GenrePop, Rock
LabelEMI Records
Songwriter(s)Steve Harley
Producer(s)Steve Harley, Alan Parsons
Yvonne Keeley singles chronology
"Tumbling Down"
"Concrete and Clay"

In 1974, Dutch singer Yvonne Keeley released her own version of the song as her debut single.[26] Like Cockney Rebel's version, Keeley's was produced by Harley and Parsons.


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.[27][28][29]

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.[30][31]


The single was released by EMI Records on 7" vinyl in the UK only. The B-side was "Loretta's Tale".[32] 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.[26]

Track listing[edit]

7" Single
  1. "Tumbling Down" - 4:25
  2. "Loretta's Tale"


Velvet Goldmine[edit]

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 over the final credits.[33] Meyers' version of "Tumbling Down" was made available on the Velvet Goldmine' original motion picture soundtrack release.[34]


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."[35]

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."[36]

Critical reception[edit]

In a December 1998 issue of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a review of the soundtrack album described the song as "a rainy-day cover of Harley's "Tumbling Down"."[37]


  1. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Tumbling Down (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel - Tumbling Down / Tumbling Down - EMI - USA - P-4023". 45cat. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  3. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20150703025222/http://steveharley.www.50megs.com/bio.html
  4. ^ "Cockney Rebel - The Psychomodo (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. 2 June 1974. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Cockney Rebel - The Psychomodo (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - A Closer Look (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. 5 August 1976. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Tumbling Down - Steve Harley : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  9. ^ "Love Ballads - CD". Images.plixid.com. Archived from the original on 7 October 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  10. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DWDZW1-oXI
  11. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Face To Face (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel - Best Years Of Our Lives / Tumbling Down - EMI - UK - EMI 2673". 45cat. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  13. ^ Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (1989). The 'Come Back, All is Forgiven' Tour Official Programme. Print Simplicity.
  14. ^ "Steve Harley + Cockney Rebel - Live From London DVD NTSC: Amazon.co.uk: Steve Harley: Music". Amazon.co.uk. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  15. ^ Thomas, Stephen (3 August 1999). "Stripped to Bare Bones - Steve Harley : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  16. ^ Thompson, Dave (19 March 2001). "Unplugged - Steve Harley : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  17. ^ "Acoustic and Pure - Live by Steve Harley : Reviews and Ratings". Rate Your Music. 18 December 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  18. ^ "New bands show the way". Harleyfanzone.com. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Thompson, Dave. "The Psychomodo - Cockney Rebel, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  22. ^ Guarisco, Donald A. "A Closer Look - Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  23. ^ "Glam Rock in der Fabrik mit Steve Harley". Altona.Info. 20 October 2009. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  24. ^ Bertoncelli, Riccardo; Thellung, Cris (2006). Ventiquattromila dischi. Guida a tutti i dischi degli artisti e gruppi piů ... - Google Books. ISBN 9788860181510. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  25. ^ http://www.45cat.com/record/emi2206
  26. ^ a b "Yvonne Keeley - Tumbling Down / Loretta's Tale - EMI - UK - EMI 2206". 45cat. 30 August 1974. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  27. ^ "The Great Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Story". Steveharley.www.50megs.com. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  28. ^ http://www.oocities.org/sunsetstrip/backstage/3020/Hanstev.html
  29. ^ "Yvonne Keeley - Concrete And Clay (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  30. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/15155/pilot/
  31. ^ "Ian Bairnson Official Site Discography - Yvonne Keeley - Tumbling Down". Ianbairnson.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  32. ^ "Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Velvet Goldmine (1998) : Soundtracks". IMDb.com. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  34. ^ Thomas, Stephen (3 November 1998). "Velvet Goldmine - Original Soundtrack : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  35. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Swedish web mag interview by Bengt Wallman (English translation)". Steveharley.com. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  36. ^ Ed Power – 16 April 2010 (16 April 2010). "Q&A: Steve Harley". Independent.ie. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Post-Gazette.com". Nl.newsbank.com. 11 December 1998. Retrieved 22 May 2013.

External links[edit]