Shove It! - Part 4: Fan Feature by Gavin Noble
Shove It! The Cross Story Part IV
by Gavin Noble
Here we go. The final part of Shove It! The Cross story (what do you mean thank goodness for that?). If this were a TV series I would hopefully be building up towards a BIG finish. In my imagination we would see The Cross conquering the world with multi-platinum album sales, sold out world tours and a memorable show stealing appearance at Live 8.
Unfortunately, real life does not always provide a happy ending. Heck, like the recent four part TV series ‘Titanic’ proved it does not always sustain interest either – though I hope no one thinks that about my own four part mini-epic?
Indeed, as we move into 1991 it would prove to be a year of contrasting highs and earth shattering lows for Roger Taylor and his two working bands. At the start of the year Queen would be celebrating a first UK no.1 single since Under Pressure following the release of Innuendo. Just a few weeks later the album of the same name would also reach no.1. At the end of it another no.1 single is less celebrated given the devastating circumstances of its release – namely the tragic death of Freddie Mercury.
By contrast The Cross will release their third and final album, Blue Rock, to little fanfare, smaller sales and will also play their final tour as a band. Indeed, much of 1991 will see Roger concentrating his work on Queen, meaning that once again the other members of The Cross will take on much of the song writing duties for the band’s third album.
This time it is keyboardist Spike Edney who steps to the fore by either writing or co-writing seven of the album’s ten tracks. Roger himself contributes two tracks on his own - The Also Rans, New Dark Ages and also writes with the other four band members album opener Bad Attitude.
Of the three tracks Roger writes it is New Dark Ages that is perhaps the standout track on the album. Certainly EMI Electrola view it that way as it is one of only two tracks released as a single – the other being the track Life Changes, which is written by the whole group bar Taylor. The singles are only released in Germany and due to the poor sales of Mad: Bad and Dangerous to Know, the album is also only released in Germany - though some promo copies make their way to Japan, Italy and France.
Despite it once more being an accomplished sounding album sales are poor and it fails to follow up on the relative success of Mad: Bad by failing to chart after its release in September 1991. From a personal perspective it may not be as strong an album overall as Mad: Bad and Dangerous to know but there are still some gems on the album making it a worthwhile purchase.
The album starts strongly with Bad Attitude, which like previous album opener, On Top of the World, Ma, offers a memorable guitar riff and catchy chorus before the tone changes slightly with New Dark Ages. For me this is the album’s highlight with a laid- back drum-beat from Josh Macrae providing a suitable backdrop to Roger’s vocals. Indeed, this is one of the band’s more laid back efforts yet is also one of their best. Had this been released in the UK I believe it could have possibly helped break the group over here – certainly releasing it at a time when Queen’s own profile was so high may have helped The Cross.
Spike Edney compositions Dirty Mind and Baby It’s Alright follow but it is Clayton Moss’ Ain’t Put Nothing Down that provides the next album highlight. The Also Rans, Put It All Down To Love and Hand of Fools are competent if undemanding tracks. Millionaire, another track written by the band bar Taylor, contains the closing lyric “Have to stop now guys! You can’t afford me anymore” - lyrics that could be considered prophetic given what was to come later for the band? Album closer Life Changes is a more laid back offering from the band and yet is the perfect way to close the third album and also the band’s recording career.
October sees the band supporting Magnum on tour in Finland, Sweden and Germany meaning that the set length compared to earlier tours is shorter. Following the end of the tour the band’s only other concerts together would be at The Marquee Club in late 1992 (one of which features a Smile reunion on stage of Messrs May, Taylor and Tim Staffell) and a set at the Gosport Festival in 1992 and 1993. The 1993 date is the last concert by The Cross and the band disbands soon afterwards.
A TV voice over would say here: “Roger Taylor would commence work with Queen on finishing the final tracks with Freddie Mercury’s vocals on them before going on to tour with Brian May and Paul Rodgers in 2005 and 2008, as well as recording a new album in 2008. Currently his efforts are concentrated on The Queen Extravaganza and a series of summer shows with Adam Lambert. Spike Edney would form the SAS Band and also tour with Queen + Paul Rodgers. Josh Macrae would work behind the scenes as a sound and Pro Tools Engineer as well as providing percussion on Taylor’s own solo tours in the 1990’s. Clayton Moss is still recording his own tracks according to his website. Peter Noone is somewhat harder to track down – putting his name into Google brings up plenty of entries for the Herman’s Hermits Peter Noone but none for The Cross bassist other than an entry for an earlier band called Explorer. His current whereabouts are unknown!”
How best can The Cross’ career be summed up? I think it would be fair to say that they showed a great deal of unfulfilled potential in their short career. Undoubtedly they were all competent musicians and all relatively talented songwriters, but the timing of their career was perhaps wrong? There is no doubting that Roger was sincere in wanting to be in a working band that was playing live, but circumstances within the Queen mother-ship helped to conspire against him being able to put the time into The Cross that maybe he thought he would be able to. Following the release of Mad: Bad and Dangerous To Know he was practically straight back into the studio with Queen to work on Innuendo and even after Innuendo had been released, rather than going back to work with The Cross, Queen demanded his attention – once again rightly so.
Out of all the members of Queen I have always been a bigger fan of Roger’s solo output than the rest. True, for John Deacon I only have The Immortals No Turning Back to go on. One year at the Queen Fan Club Convention in Southport (I think it was the ’92 one) where each band member had their own slot for their solo videos and No Turning Back was played more than once to fill it! It is also the three albums that Taylor recorded with The Cross that I think are the high points of his solo career and maybe the reason for that is that Roger seems to work better within a band environment than on his own?
Not everyone can be successful with one band let alone two. Others have tried and failed. Even global superstars such as David Bowie have failed to find success with a band – anyone remember Tin Machine? The Cross were certainly no Tin Machine – they were far better than that! The Cross were also no Queen – proving once again that the chemistry Taylor, May, Mercury and Deacon had as a unit was a real one-off.