A Friend for Life

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"A Friend for Life"
Steve Harley A Friend for Life 2001 Single Cover.jpg
Single by Steve Harley
from the album The Quality of Mercy
B-side "Safe (Live)", "Loretta's Tale (Live)"
Released 30 April 2001
Format CD
Genre Pop, Rock
Length 4:45
Label Intrinsic Records
Pinnacle Records (distribution only)
Songwriter(s) Jim Cregan, Steve Harley
Producer(s) Jim Cregan
Steve Harley singles chronology
"Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) (re-issue)"
(1995)
"A Friend for Life"
(2001)
"The Last Goodbye"
(2006)

"Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) (re-issue)"
(1995)
"A Friend for Life"
(2001)
"The Last Goodbye"
(2006)

"A Friend for Life" is a song by British singer-songwriter Steve Harley, released as a non-album single in 2001.[1] The song was written by Harley and ex-Cockney Rebel guitarist Jim Cregan, and produced by Cregan.[2]

Harley's first release of new material since the 1996 album Poetic Justice, "A Friend for Life" was later included on Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel's sixth studio album The Quality of Mercy, released in 2005, where production credit would be shared by Cregan and Harley.[3]

In 2015, the song was covered by British singer Rod Stewart for his album Another Country.

Background[edit]

"A Friend for Life" was written when Harley stayed with Cregan at his home in Los Angeles during 2000. On his return flight back to the UK, Harley came up with the song's lyrics. In 2015, Harley recalled: "I was in Los Angeles, staying at Jim's (then) house. We wrote most days and that tune came from one lazy afternoon's messing about. I wrote the entire lyric on the flight home." Later in the year, the song was recorded at friend and songwriter Mike Batt's home studio. Batt arranged and conducted the song's string quartet and also played keyboards on the track. The recording of the song inspired Batt to record extensively at his home and most of Katie Melua's recordings have since been made there.

In 2000, Harley had also started negotiating with various record labels over the release of a new studio album. In an online diary entry in September that year, Harley said: "Plans to further the recording career at in hand. Negotiations are taking place daily and constantly. I am determined that "A Friend for Life" will be available in the shops and on the radio in time for the next Spring band tour, with an album, God willing, in the can."[4] By 2001, Harley had come to an agreement with Intrinsic Records for the release of "A Friend for Life" as a single. No new studio album would materialise until 2005's The Quality of Mercy. In a January 2001 diary entry, Harley gave an update on the song's release:

"We are pretty sure that "A Friend for Life" will be released mid-March. It should, with a little luck and the efforts of a good plugger, start getting airplay around the country towards the end of February. I can't in all honestly seriously expect a hit record. It will not be released by EMI or Sony, but by a small independent label with a good heart and much belief in the product. But airplay will help sell tickets for concerts, anyway, and to play is my first love, of course."[5]

"A Friend for Life" began to gain airplay in March and was released as a single in April, coinciding with Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel's 'Back with the Band' tour - a 38 date UK tour which was the band's first in four years.[6] "A Friend for Life" reached No. 125 on the UK Top 200 Singles Chart in May 2001, and stayed in the Top 200 for four weeks.[7] It also reached No. 45 in the UK Independent Singles Chart Top 50.[8]

In December 2003, Cregan was interviewed for the fan site The Harley Fanzone, where he spoke of his role as producer on the song: "We did "A Friend For Life" together which was a real change for me because suddenly instead of Steve being the producer, I was. I thought, "this could be strange" because he had always been the man in charge. Was he going to let go of the reins? How hard was that going to be? But it was fine - he obviously put his two cents in. We have a couple of other songs which haven't been fully recorded yet."[9] Later in 2013, Harley played at the Rewind Festival and was interviewed after his performance. When asked what song of his he felt was a "hidden gem" and that people should listen to, Harley replied: "Oh, that's a good question! A hidden gem? There's a song called "A Friend for Life", which I sang today. It touches people of a certain age. A lot of my audience are grandparents, 50s and 60s. It touches them."[10]

Release[edit]

"A Friend for Life" was released by Intrinsic Records on CD in the UK only, with Pinnacle Records handling its distribution. The song had been licensed to Intrinsic Records by Harley's own company Comeuppance Ltd.[11][12] The single was mastered by Doug Shearer at Sanctuary Mastering, London.[11]

The single featured two live tracks, "Safe" and "Loretta's Tale", both of which were recorded at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, during Spring 2000.[2] "Safe" was originally recorded for the 1996 album Poetic Justice, while "Loretta's Tale" was from Cockney Rebel's 1973 debut album The Human Menagerie.[13][14]

As Harley was happy with the original recording, no changes were made to the song when it was later included on The Quality of Mercy album in 2005. The song has also appeared on the 2006 EMI box-set release The Cockney Rebel – A Steve Harley Anthology.[15]

Promotion[edit]

No music video was filmed to promote the single. The song was included in the band's set-list on their 2001 tour and has remained a regular feature at Harley's live shows to date. Some live versions have been released officially, including on 2003's Acoustic and Pure: Live,[16] 2004's Anytime! (A Live Set)[17] and the 2005 DVD Live at the Isle of Wight Festival.[18]

In January 2011, Harley performed the song live with Cockney Rebel members Barry Wickens and James Lascelles, and the "Herreavdelingen" radio show's orchestra at the NRK Marienlyst in Oslo, Norway.[19] Harley also performed the song as a bonus session track that year for the BBC Radio 2 Bob Harris show Old Grey Whistle Test 40.[20] In 2012, the recording was released on the BBC box-set compilation The Old Grey Whistle Test Live.[21][22]

Critical reception[edit]

In a 2005 review of Anytime! (A Live Set), Peter Makowski of Classic Rock spoke of the song in comparison to the performances of past hits: "...it's the lesser-known material like the emotive "Friend For Life" that makes Harley sound fresh and edgy, like a latter day Libertine."[23] eFestivals writer Karen Morrison described the song as having "soothed the night air" in a review of the band's performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2005.[24]

Upon release, The Sunday Express said in a review of The Quality of Mercy album: "A genuine Seventies pop maverick, Harley has evolved into a highly-literate and intimate balladeer. "The Coast of Amalfi," and "A Friend for Life" are elegant if care-worn gems."[25] Nick Dalton of Record Collector described the song as "reflective" and noted Cregan's "delicate solo".[26] Nick Hasted of Uncut was critical of the album, but added: "A Friend for Life" "retains some brutal Cockney bite about married stasis".[27]

Carol Clerk of Classic Rock commented: "The Quality of Mercy is brimful of songs that are intensely personal and sometimes harrowing but, musically, very approachable. Here, Harley surveys his reality as a middle-aged father hoping his 25-year marriage will survive the empty-nest crisis. Still, the bright up-tempos of "The Last Goodbye" and the lovely, gentle melodies that carry "Journey's End (A Father's Promise)" and "A Friend for Life" offset the deep anxieties at the heart of the lyrics."[28]

In a review of the band's concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in May 2008, the Liverpool Echo commented that the song was "one of [Harley's] most beautiful heart-felt ballads".[29] Concertnews.be said of the song in a review of the band's December 2010 concert at Sportpaleis Merksem in Belgium: "Steve Harley himself put much feeling in his voice as in a very weathered version of "A Friend for Life" where a flute player made it even more richer."[30]

Track listing[edit]

CD Single
  1. "The Last Goodbye" - 4:45
  2. "Safe (Live)" - 4:08
  3. "Loretta's Tale (Live)" - 6:35

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2001) Peak
position
UK Independent Singles Chart Top 50[8] 45
UK Singles Chart (The Official Charts Company)[7] 125

Personnel[edit]

A Friend for Life
  • Steve Harley - vocals, bass
  • Jim Cregan - guitar, producer
  • Robbie Gladwell - guitar
  • Mike Batt - piano, arranger and conductor of String Quartet
  • Matt Butler - recording and mixing engineer
  • Steve Sale - assistant recording and mixing engineer
Safe (Live)
  • Steve Harley - vocals
  • Robbie Gladwell - guitar
  • Lily Gonzales - backing vocals
Loretta's Tale (Live)
  • Steve Harley - vocals
  • Robbie Gladwell - guitar
Other
  • Kitrocket UK - sleeve
  • Doug Shearer - mastering at Sanctuary Mastering, London

Rod Stewart version[edit]

"A Friend for Life"
Song by Rod Stewart
from the album Another Country
Released 23 October 2015
Length 4:42
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Steve Harley, Jim Cregan
Producer(s) Rod Stewart, Kevin Savigar

For his studio album Another Country, British singer/musician Rod Stewart recorded a version of "A Friend for Life". As a friend of Harley's for many years, Stewart had described him as "one of the finest lyricists the UK has ever produced".[31] In 1980, Harley co-wrote Stewart's 1980 track "Somebody Special" for his Foolish Behaviour album,[32] and in the mid-1980s, he also offered Stewart his song "Irresistible", who turned it down, advising Harley to record it himself in the hope of making a chart comeback.[33] Furthermore, Jim Cregan is a long-time collaborator with both Stewart and Harley.[34]

After Cregan and Harley had penned "A Friend for Life" in 2000, the song was offered to Stewart. In a November 2000 diary entry, Harley said: "Gave "A Friend For Life" to Rod Stewart at dinner the other night. He loves the song but said: "I don't like that line about "The cats, I'll feed yer cats..." I'll be releasing my version in the new year, but I am not averse to a world-superstar having a world-wide number one with the song. No matter."[35]

After Stewart recorded the song for Another Country, Harley first revealed that an "international superstar" had recorded one of his songs in a June 2015 diary entry. He added: "I believe totally that you will love it. I have it (the superstar sent me a file by email) and it is, for me, a beautiful reading of a slightly complex lyric. That's why the superstar is a superstar, I guess."[36] Stewart's version of the song was first played on BBC Radio 2 on 31 August, when Stewart appeared on the "Johnnie Walker Meets..." show. After Walker suggested playing "A Friend for Life" as the closing track for the show, Stewart replied: "Yeah, I'd love you to play that. Steve Harley - one of the most underrated songwriters, good old Steve." Describing Harley's reaction to the version, Stewart commented he was "over the moon".[37] In an October 2015 interview with Classic Rock, Harley commented on Stewart recording the song: "Was I happy with that? Just a bit! Rod really nails it in his old soul voice. Good old Rod."[38]

Speaking to The Leader in November 2016, Harley spoke again of Stewart's version: "Rod's one of the great song writers. I offered it to him over 10 years ago and he didn't get it, but now he's had these two lovely boys with Penny Lancaster and he gets it because it's a difficult lyric about children growing up and leaving the nest. I thanked him by buying him a fish supper in a very expensive restaurant in Mayfair."[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel A Friend For Life UK 5" Cd Single TOYCD1009 A Friend For Life Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel 5018766994193 991 217775". 991.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  2. ^ a b "CD Single - Steve Harley - A Friend For Life / Safe - Intrinsic - UK - TOY CD1009". 45worlds.com. 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  3. ^ "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - The Quality Of Mercy (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  4. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Steve Harley's Online Diary Archive 2000". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  5. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Steve Harley's Online Diary Archive 2001". Web.archive.org. 2006-12-15. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  6. ^ Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (2001). The 'Back with the Band' Tour Official Programme. Don Fraser Print. 
  7. ^ a b "Chart Log UK: H & Claire- Hysterix". Zobbel.de. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  8. ^ a b "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50 | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Jim Cregan (Graham Emondson Dec 2003)". Harleyfanzone.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
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  11. ^ a b http://images.45worlds.com/steve-harley-safe-intrinsic-cs.jpg
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  14. ^ "Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Steve Harley - The Cockney Rebel - A Steve Harley Anthology (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  16. ^ "Official Steve Harley Website UK - Acoustic and Pure LIVE (2002)". Steveharley.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  17. ^ "Anytime - Steve Harley : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 2005-02-15. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
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  20. ^ "BBC Radio 2 - Bob Harris Sunday, The Bible in Session, Steve Harley - Whistle Test 40 session track". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-09-25. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
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  28. ^ "The Quality Of Mercy - Classic Rock Review". Harleyfanzone.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
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  30. ^ "Recensie en foto's The Golden Years met oa Steve Harley en Cockney Rebel, Smokie, The Sweet, The Hollies, ea Sportpaleis Merksem". Concertnews.be. 2010-12-11. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
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  32. ^ "Rod Stewart - Foolish Behaviour at Discogs". Discogs.com. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-11. 
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  37. ^ 17:05 (2015-12-28). "BBC Radio 2 - Johnnie Walker Meets..., Rod Stewart". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  38. ^ Features / 02 Oct 2015 / by Dave Ling (2015-10-02). "Q&A: Steve Harley - Classic Rock". Teamrock.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  39. ^ http://www.leaderlive.co.uk/news/169124/wrexham-bound-singer-steve-harley-not-playing-your-hits-is-churlish-.aspx