Shove It! - Part 3: Fan Feature by Gavin Noble
Shove It! The Cross Story Part III
by Gavin Noble
So this is it. Part III of The Cross story. If you listen to writers of television drama series or sitcoms the third series is always the trickiest to write. In many cases, writers stop after two series saying that a third series is beyond them. My own favourite TV show Doctor Who used to have stories that were four episodes long and each time I hear the writer interviewed they all state the third episode was the hardest one to write. I hope that I do not experience the same difficulty!
At the end of Part II The Cross had released their debut album, Shove It, to a warm reception from the critics and to respectable sales for a relatively unknown (outside of Queen circles anyway) band. On the back of that they were gearing up for their first UK and German tour.
Being Roger Taylor back in February 1988 and stepping out on stage live for the first time in 18 months must have been somewhat of a surreal experience – and somewhat of a comedown! August 1986 had seen him playing live in front of an estimated 150,000 fans at Knebworth at Queen’s last live show on the Magic Tour. February 1988 sees The Cross step out on stage to a vastly smaller crowd as part of the bill at a student ball at Leeds University.
Nevertheless, anyone seeing the band in the UK would be treated to songs live that had not featured on the album. Two of which, Feel The Force and Manipulator, would feature as b-side and a-side on single releases respectively. Another track, Let’s Get Drunk, remained unreleased. Most of the Shove It album features in the set-list throughout the tour, with I’m In Love With My Car putting in a nightly appearance alongside tracks from Roger’s previous solo works, Fun In Space and Strange Frontier, making their first live appearances.
A large part of the audience are naturally Queen fans wanting to see Roger and the UK promoters intended to capitalise on this interest by printing the posters with the legend ‘Roger Taylor and The Cross’ on them. However, Roger, disagreed with this and insisted the billing read The Cross, with ‘featuring Roger Taylor’ in small print. In the end he won, though for the German leg of the tour the billing read ‘Roger Taylor and The Cross’ after the German promoters stated they did not feel they would attract the audiences they should command. In the end the decision partially helped fill the venues fuller - though even then they were not filled to capacity.
After the German shows the band played at the Montreux Rock Festival and finished off the year with a concert at the Queen Fan Club Christmas Party. This exclusive gig for fan club members only also featured appearances by Brian May and John Deacon on stage and can now be viewed as a foretaste of what Queen would be like without Freddie – something unthinkable back then.
Life for Roger then turned away from The Cross for a time. Something bigger was demanding his energies – that all-consuming monster Queen required him to finish off work on The Miracle album and to get involved in the promotion of the album. For the rest of The Cross his absence meant they could start to spread their [song-writing] wings, as Roger found out when he met up with the band in September 1989 to begin work on their second album. He was reported to be shocked at the amount of material they had at their disposal.
For their second album the band decided to make a straight rock album therefore abandoning completely the dance influences from Shove It. Each band member contributes at least one song each for the album, with the entire band writing the opening track, Top of the World, Ma and Josh Macrae, Peter Noone and Clayton Moss collaborating on Power to Love. The CD version of the album also included a cover of Jimi Hendrix classic Foxy Lady – a song which like Queen’s own Bohemian Rhapsody would gain a new lease of life in the movie Wayne’s World. Clayton Moss also sings lead vocals on his own track, Better Days.
Released in the UK on 26 March 1990, this time on the EMI Electrola label, the album, titled Mad: Bad and Dangerous to Know, sinks quicker than the Titanic (this multi-part feature is hopefully faring better with the critics than the recent ITV1 series did!). After the failure of Shove It in the USA it is not even released in that territory, it does not chart at all in the UK - though in Germany it does reach 48. Poor UK sales should perhaps have been expected after lead single Power to Love only reaches 83 in the Top 100.
Power to Love would sadly prove to be the final single released by the band in the UK yet got good reviews on its release for its epic sounding chorus. Its failure could perhaps be partially down to the video being censored heavily due to the level of debauchery featured in it! One scene featuring two ladies eating the same banana from opposite ends has to be removed entirely before it will be played on TV – a decision that seems incredible compared to some of the music videos around today!
From a personal point of view I think it is a huge shame the album flopped. It is by far and away the best Cross album. From the opening guitar riff to the last note on Final Destination the album exudes confidence. Personal highlights include the aforementioned Power to Love, Sister Blue, Liar (not to be confused with the Queen song!) and the standout track Breakdown. It is fair to say that each band member is given the chance to shine instrumentally and they all prove to be decent song writers to such an extent that the two tracks Roger writes, Old Men (Lay Down) and Final Destination, are among the album’s weaker tracks. Even then they are still better than much of Shove It.
At a time when Queen’s own albums had become more pop-rock than hard rock Mad: Bad and Dangerous to Know proved that Taylor could still deliver hard rock and that he was a vocalist of no small ability. Perhaps a bit more limited when compared to Freddie (but then who isn’t?) he nevertheless delivers on each track.
Frustratingly for UK fans of the band there is no British tour as a result of the poor sales. The only UK concert is once again at the Queen Fan Club Christmas Party, where once again Brian May makes a guest appearance. Concerts are confined primarily to Germany with the odd gig in Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Austria. The entire album is played live in the tour (though Passion for Trash is only rarely played).
EMI Electrola drops the band at this point leaving them without a UK record label. The story goes on…but for how much longer? If you are asking that question about this fan feature then you will be pleased to know the next part is the finale!