One piece that I enjoyed putting together a while ago was the look back at the rather strange world of Mr Soft, the character who appeared in a memorable series of adverts for Softmints in the 80s and 90s, and for some reason I always found them fascinating. I thought that I would take a look at the story behind where the “Mr Soft” song that featured came from.
Steve Harley is an English musician who in the early-70s formed a band called Cockney Rebel. They had already had a Top Ten hit with “Judy Teen”, when in August 1974 “Mr Soft” was released (and this is going to be one of the oldest songs that will feature in these pop music series), and reached no. 8. This was also performed on various TV shows including TopPop. The follow-up to this was the most successful song though.
In February 1975, “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)” was released (now credited to Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel), and this was a chart-topper for two weeks in the UK. There would be a further Top Ten hit with “Here Comes The Sun” in 1976. Now all of this was happening long before I came along of course. But after a long period away from the chart, Steve returned for one more Top Ten hit in 1986, almost a decade on from the previous one.
“Mr Soft” was actually re-released in March 1988 after the success of the advert, but wasn’t a hit. His biggest hit would return to the chart on several occasions, the first time being in April 1992. My introduction to the original “Mr Soft” song though was in December 1995, when “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)” was re-released after being used in an advert for Carlsberg, making the Top 40 again two decades on. Now I still have the cassette version of this.
And this is because the other track is “Mr Soft”, and that was a good a reason as any to get hold of this. It was the first time that I heard this, and it was a rather unusual experience to hear the original lyrics for the first time, as I was more used for the rewritten ones for the Softmints adverts (that were performed by a convincing soundalike).
But “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)” has endured for many more years though, making the chart for a fourth time in July 2005, and then for a fifth time in February 2015 (meaning that this has also been a hit single in four different decades, which I imagine not many other songs have done). Although that will always be many people’s favourite song of his, “Mr Soft” will always be mine.