Shove It! - Part 1: Fan Feature by Gavin Noble
Shove It! The Cross Story Part 1
by Gavin Noble
One of the side effects of really getting into a bands music is that if the said band members have a solo career either outside of the group, as in the case of Queen, or after the end of the group, as in the case of The Beatles, you feel an overwhelming urge to see just how a solo effort measures up to the collective effort. Certainly the two bands name checked have a lot in common in that regard.
Both bands members all wrote tracks for albums by the group. Both bands had at least three member’s who were all competent vocalists in their own right (The Beatles also had Ringo!). Both bands had members who released solo albums during their group’s careers and both bands had members who would go on and enjoy success in those solo careers after the end of the band (and The Beatles once again had Ringo!).
It is no coincidence that out of all the bands I listen to Queen and The Beatles are right up there as my two favourite bands. I admire both for their ability as songwriters (yes, even Ringo’s!), musicians and the influence over music in general; in their eras – and beyond. As a result I take pleasure in following their careers beyond the band that made them famous (and then there’s Ringo – again!).
After buying all the available Queen albums (with the exception of Hot Space as laid out in my last fan feature – cheap plug there!) when I got into the band the next logical step whilst waiting for the release of The Miracle was to track down the band’s solo albums. At that time Freddie had released Mr Bad Guy and Barcelona – two wildly different sounding albums taking the listener to different ends of the music spectrum whilst Brian had only released the Star Fleet EP. What a TV series that was – it made Saturday mornings something to look forward to. Roger had been the most prolific with Fun In Space, Strange Frontier and something called Shove It by his new band The Cross. John, the Ringo of Queen solo, had only released with The Immortals the theme song from the Biggles movie, No Turning Back. Getting hold of some of those albums (and in John’s case the 45” single!) would prove to be a tricky business.
The Mr Bad Guy, Fun In Space and Strange Frontier albums had all been deleted by the record companies, which meant tracking them down in second hand shops was a task and a half. This was in the days before the Internet – hard to imagine such a time existed. In those days if you wanted to write to somebody you would have to use a pen, paper and actually post it to them, when it could then take days or weeks to get a reply.
That’s not counting the cost of buying a stamp and it makes me chuckle when I hear people moaning about the price of stamps going up shortly. I mean come on, if somebody handed you an envelope and said here is 60p to take it to the other end of the country you would tell them to shove it (excuse the pun) – or something stronger – but once more in these features I tend to digress slightly. Apologies.
The aforementioned titles would have to wait a while before making their way into my collection but of those readily available it was The Cross album that immediately grabbed my attention. Sure Barcelona had a certain grandeur to it, but Montserrat’s voice was going to take some getting used to on certain tracks. Star Fleet, whilst interesting for Blues Breaker, was perhaps a bit too self-indulgent for my liking but Shove It – this was an album that was something different. Kerrang called it “a beautifully produced slab of super sophisticated pop rock” (Source: Queen: As It Began) and they were not wide of the mark.
Perhaps at this point I should explain to those unfamiliar with the band exactly whom The Cross were? Let us take a step inside the TARDIS and go back to 1987. A year when Stock, Aitken & Waterman were just flexing their creative muscles, Kylie Minogue was still in Neighbours and Belinda Carlisle had just set the hormones of teenage boys everywhere on fire after Heaven Is A Place On Earth was released! It was a year when the four members of Queen had decided to take an extended break following their spectacular achievements of 1986. Freddie had commenced work with Montserrat Caballe, Brian was producing various artists including future wife Anita Dobson and John, well he was off holidaying – so some things never change then!
Roger meanwhile had decided to commence work on his third solo album. With David Richards onboard, whom he had worked with on Strange Frontier, (which reminds me of an old Queen gag – How many ears does Roger Taylor have? Three – a left one, a right one and a strange front ear…I’ll get my coat!), work got underway in earnest in May 1987. During the recording process our erstwhile drummer felt he wanted to perform these tracks live – something he had not done with his previous two solo works – and in order to do that he needed to get another band together.
After discussing it with the other Queen members and getting their blessing on the proviso that Queen came first should the two ever clash Roger decided to place an anonymous ad in the music press. His reasoning was that if he put his name in it he would attract the ‘wrong sort of people’ thus the ad simply stated “Drummer of a top rock band looking for musicians”. At first this logic looked to be a bad decision as replies were thin on the ground. When the ad was re-run a week later with a couple of subtle changes the applications began to flood in. As is often the case, as those of you who watch The X-Factor or American Idol will know, the quality of these audition tapes (all sent by regular mail, remember no Internet) varied from the completely brilliant to the oh-my-word-what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-this-is-incredibly-bad!
After listening to the tapes Roger short-listed 20 bass players, 20 guitarists and 20 drummers (Roger had decided that he did not want to be stuck behind the drums on stage – it is hard to run across stage with a drum kit strapped to your body I imagine). The keyboard slot had already been filled by honorary fifth Queen member, Spike Edney. They were then invited to auditions at a venue called Paramount City in Soho for a three-day audition.
Each prospective member would be played a backing track just once and they then had to play along to it. In keeping with the secrecy of the original advertisement Roger stayed out of sight for the auditions and by the end of the three days he had made his choice…but that’s for another time!