Shove It! - Part 2: Fan Feature by Gavin Noble
Shove It! The Cross Story Part II
by Gavin Noble
Shove It!: Part 1 can be read here.
If this was a TV programme something along the lines of The Beatles Anthology I would be opening part two of Shove It! The Cross Story with a video clip montage of the end of Part One. It would show musicians playing away feverishly to the backing tracks, each hoping that they had done enough to win a place in the ‘drummer of a top rock band’s’ new project. Some would no doubt be smiling in satisfaction knowing they had pitched it just right, others left frustrated as they knew they had messed up.
Then at the pivotal moment the so far faceless critic would step out of the shadows to a mix of gasps and stunned silence. Is that really the bloke from Queen they would be wondering? Coolness personified; dressed casually and wearing his trademark sunglasses they would not be able to see the whites of his eyes. He starts to speak in that gravely voice that sounds like he gargles with granite every morning, thanking them for their efforts before revealing the lucky three final members of his new band.
Unfortunately this is not TV, but that is how I like to picture the scene as Roger announced his final choices. According to the Jim Jenkins and Jacky Gunn co-authored book, As It Began: ‘Roger had favoured two musicians from each instrument category right up until the last minute. He finally picked Clayton Moss, one of the best guitarists he had seen over the three days, Josh Macrae, blond, sporting sunglasses and almost a clone of Roger himself and finally Peter Noone on bass. Peter had auditioned with his brother, a guitarist, and they were almost identical which Roger thought would look great on stage, but unfortunately didn’t think Peter’s brother quite as good as Clayton, and didn’t select him.’
With the line-up complete (Roger would be lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, with Spike Edney on keyboards) the only thing left to do was to settle on a name for the band. After some argument The Cross was chosen, as like Queen, it was thought to be a short, simple, catchy and memorable name. With rehearsals getting underway almost immediately, Roger said in an interview at the time: “I wanted to be in a working group. I want to play music I sincerely believe in, that was heavy rock ‘n’ roll, and I want to do it live. The solo LP’s [Fun In Space and Strange Frontier] were my own expression of my own musical product at the time. This is a whole new group which is going to be taken seriously, I hope – this is a whole new career.” (Source: Queen The Visual Documentary by Ken Dean).
The album Roger had been working on with David Richards was by this point finished and he had already secured a deal with Virgin to release the album, but he wanted his new band mates to change some of the mixes and play on some of the tracks. Work initially began in Ibiza, before moving to Montreaux and then back to the UK where Freddie and Brian visited the band to listen to what their colleague had been working on. As a result Freddie sings lead vocal on the track Heaven for Everyone (later a huge hit for Queen after being re-worked for Made In Heaven) whilst Brian contributes guitar to Love Lies Bleeding (She Was a Wicked, Wily Waitress) – so much for stepping away from Queen then!
21 September 1987 saw the public get its first chance to listen to the first single from the new band when Cowboys and Indians was released. Like all tracks on the album, which would not appear for another four months, it was written by Roger and featured James Brown like Yep! Yep! Yep’s and lyrics paying homage to the influence of American culture, but what would the record buying public – especially Queen fans make of it?
Again, if this were TV this would be the point for a commercial break, after a sincere narrator had just asked that question to the viewing public. No doubt some of you would be heading to the kitchen for a drink or for a toilet break (in the toilet I hope not in the kitchen!). If you did though you would probably miss one of the most popular ads in history – the Cadbury’s Flake advert featuring a glamorous blonde lady in a night dress eating a Flake whilst the phone rings and a lizard runs over the dial. As an aside if there are any representatives from Cadbury’s reading this feature and wish to send me a free lorry load of Flakes for the mentions of the Flake product in this paragraph you can contact the Queen Online administrator and he will provide you with my contact details! And if there is anyone from Ferrari reading – drop me a line and I will work a plug in for you next time!
I am sure there are those thinking I am going off at a tangent – again, but there is a reason I mention that particular Flake ad (there’s another mention Cadbury’s!). The model in it, Debbie Leng, who later featured so memorably in the Breakthru video for Queen, also featured in the first promo video for Cowboys and Indians along with two other glamorous models miming to the track’s backing vocals. Sadly, their presence is not enough to help get the video played on TV and with radio virtually ignoring it the single barely scraped into the UK Top 75. It peaked at 74 so hardly a flying start and things would not improve with the release of the title track of the album in early January 1988. Shove It peaks at 84, with Heaven for Everyone (featuring Roger on vocals on the single release) going one better at 83.
The album fares slightly better peaking at 58 and getting some positive reviews in the music press – including the NME who call it ‘a nifty little debut’ – high praise indeed from a music paper so often anti-Queen. The album title stems from a phrase spoken frequently by Roger’s personal assistant, Chris ‘Crystal’ Taylor though is fair to say has one of the least inspiring photographic covers ever used on a record.
As for my own view on the album – I have to agree with the NME’s summation. It is a nifty little debut. Shove It, Cowboys and Indians and Heaven For Everyone are undoubtedly the stand out tracks. Heaven For Everyone definitely works better as a Cross track with Freddie singing over a wonderfully chilled out and relaxed backing track. Side one of the eight-track album is certainly the stronger side featuring those three tracks plus Contact. Remember a lot of us still bought vinyl or in my case cassettes back then purely so I could play them on my Walkman. For those who do not know what a Walkman was it was the precursor to the iPod (anyone from Apple reading?) though a bit bulkier and with headphones so clumsily designed that everyone on the bus could hear what you were listening to!
Side Two consisting of Stand Up For Love, Love On A Tightrope (Like An Animal), Love Lies Bleeding and Rough Justice may not be as strong but Rough Justice features some wonderful atmospheric drums, whilst Stand Up For Love has an incredibly catchy outro. With the album out in stores it is time for The Cross to go on tour…and that is the end of this section!