INTERVIEW with Steve Harley
COME UP AND SEE HIM…MAKE HIM SMILE
Steve Harley is one of the great survivors.
The man who fronted Cockney Rebel is still touring , writing and recording because he loves his job.
He loves his wife Dorothy, his family, his fans. He’s a happy man. And it shows.
His classic song Make Me Smile (Come and Up And See Me) me is one of the most played songs ever – confirmed by the Performing Rights Society. It is a Seventies gem and Steve says he never, ever tires of playing it.
His career spans four decades. And he has no intention of retiring. A fact he illustrated at Paul McCartney’s LIPA (Liverpool Insitutute for Performing Arts) when he held a Master Class.
He spoke from the heart about his beginnings, his writing skills and he performed two of his classics in an unplugged session that many, lucky enough to be there, will never forget.
Outside Macca’s ‘Fame’ school he said to me with a smile that things always happen to him in Liverpool.
I caught up with him again recently. He he remains one of my favourite people to interview and he has agreat sense of humour which he displays with abundance during his stage shows.
He is looking forward to his forthcoming gig.
We have kept in touch since I first met him 20 years ago.
The former journalist with the Colchester Gazette has a great memory and loves to recall special moments.
At 65 he has had many and many more are planned.
He told me how much affection he has for the city of Liverpool and still does. Steve relishes playing his music around the world and enjoying ongoing success not only as a performer but as a much-in demand songwriter.
Sir Rod Stewart rates him highly saying he is one of the ‘finest lyricists this country has produced.’ Rod recorded his beautiful ballad Friend for Life on his best-selling last album Another Country.
Michael Buble could be the next megastar to interpret this beautiful love song was co-written with Rod’s legendary guitarist Jim Cregan.
South Londoner Steve, for now, is looking ahead to a concert at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall – with his Acoustic line-up: Barry Wickens (violin/guitar/mandolin) and James Lascelles (piano /percussion).
For Steve, who has filled the Albert Hall and has been playing outdoor venues of late, this Liverpool show is a more intimate setting.
In a career spanning more than 43 years, he has enjoyed success as an actor, writer,and BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.
Merseyside, he says, has always been good to him. He shoewed his own respect when he paid tribute to the late George Harrison
at a special tribute night at the Liverpool Empire.
”Things happen to me in Liverpool,” says the , man born Steve Nice in 1951. ”I have great memories of various shows there in different venues. ”I remember in the 70s playing the Liverpool Stadium and there was a fire. ”And I fell into the orchestra pit at the Empire. I saw a doctor then got back on stage all bandaged up and I finished the show. I was in lot of pain though. I’m sure some of the audience thought it was part of the show. ”
Steve, who last played on Merseyside at the New Brighton Pavilion, says he is made to feel so welcome in the area.
He played the official re-opening show for the Palm House In Liverpool with a fun-raising concert. He even bought his own tickets for the show for friends and paid for his band to play on this memorable show.
Steve was instrumental in raising funds in the early days of its resoration. On his last visit there he called in and was pleased to see it flourishing. ”I was knocked out to see a barbershop there performing and an audience of about 40 sitting there enjoying an afternoon concert. ”I want to go back there in the future and play a charity gig.”
Steve fell in love with the place when he saw it in a wrecked state after its years of neglect. He was staying in a nearby hotel in Sefton Park – a place where he says hehas written many of his songs.
”It’s a special place,” he says with pride. ”I was happy to be even a small part of its regeneration.”
Steve smiled . He smiles a lot.
Smiles are important to him.
Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) with his band Cockney Rebel in 1975 made Number 1 and has been used in adverts, stage shows (the Full Monty being one) and films.
He never tires of performing it.
And he is no stranger to string accompaniment. He was the original Phantom of the Opera for a brief period recording a duet with Sarah Brightman. Michael Crawford got the bigger gig.
Now Steve has become an international star in his own right and he has a huge back-catalogue of work to dip into and out of.
Hit singles from Judy Teen to Mr Soft are stamped with his distinctive lyrical and melodic style. His version of George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun is regarded as one of the most unique covers of a Beatle song.
The Harley classic – the sweeping Gothicesque Sebastian – is a favourite on all his live performances especially around Europe where it was a number one. ”I heard it on the radio the other day and even I thought ‘wow – that’s a BIG, MASSIVE record.’ ”
He loves performing live whether it with his acoustic stalwarts; with an eight-piece band or with 57 people on stage courtesy of an orchestra as he has done at the Albert Hall. ”No two shows are the same. I call it psychlogical mayhem.”
Away from the stage , Steve is a horse-racing fan and he is happy to share life on the road and career to date via his first class website and on-line diary.
When he comes to St George’s Hall on November 24, Steve says he will be marking 40 years since the release of his Timeless Flight album
and playing six to eight songs from the critically-acclaimed work.
”I have never played St George’s Hall Concert Room before. A first.
” I have checked its history and it was interesting that Charles Dickens read there. ”I will have a good look around when I come, ” says this fan of literature, art and travel. His love of words from Virginia Wolf to Ernest Hemmingway came to him when he spent years in hospital as a child.
He is to this day an avid reader.
And he has been a music fan since he was given a guitar at the age of ten. He is also pretty nifty on the violin but says he can’t read music.
Steve says this acoustic show will be extra-special. Formidable musicians The Mona Lisa Twins will play a 30-minute support slot before
joining Steve and his two virtuso musicans for the show.
He says he has a play-list of 25 songs ready but in the end he has the luxury of being able to play what he wants.
But every single show has value- for-money stamped on it.
He values his fans. He values his memories as much as values the future. ”Yeah, things do happen for me in Liverpool, ” laughs Steve.
Long may they continue, old friend.