The Many Manes of John Miles

John Miles burst onto the English rock scene in early 1976 with an orchestral glam/pomp sound crossing the lavishness of Steve Harley with the dynamics of Kayak on his blazing debut album Rebel, which he topped with a striking James Dean/Daniel Boone-style image comprised of cuffed, denim straight-legs and a sleek, manicured quiff. A musical whirlwind, his long-player absorbed all senses in the lilting vocal prowess of “Highfly”, the campy romp of “Rebel”, the heartfelt poignancy of “Lady of My Life”, the climactic catharsis of “Pull the Damn Thing Down”, and the popular pride of purpose embodied in “Music”.

John Miles, 1976

John Miles, 1976

His uber-cool image – which would have looked fairly casual a few years later – caused a ruckus amongst the mostly hirsute audience of his chosen musical style. So after being chased down Notting Hill Gate by a gang of Teddy Boys, Miles opted for a hammy, mustached disguise on his sophomore release Stranger In the City, where his lavishness was downscaled for a humbler set of songs spanning the 20th century lexicon of pop: brassy ’60s showtune pastiches like “Manhattan Skyline”, thumping Music Hall on “Music Man”, feverish disco with “Slow Down”, cinematic balladry like “Remember Yesterday”, and eerie alleyway night rock such as the title track, amongst others.

For 1978’s Zaragon, Miles adopted yet another renegade likeness in the white-robed and frizz-permed imagery of Luke Skywalker, while ace producer Rupert Holmes steered Miles back towards pomp rock, only this time in a more stripped down trio setting, which drew him closer sound-wise to stateside contemporaries like Ambrosia, Trillion and Zon. Compositionally grand as ever, the set was propelled by the sinister triplex complicity of “Nice Man Jack”, the modulated heights of “I Have Never Been In Love Before”, and the bombarding might of the cautionary tales told in “Overture”.

Six songs from his phenomenal first three albums, plus a clip for his 1976 UK hit “Music”, can be experienced right here.



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