Interview: Rock legend Steve Harley looks ahead to Harrogate Royal Hall concert with Cockney Rebel
Rock legend Steve Harley is confident he will make Harrogate fans smile when he brings Cockney Rebel to the Royal Hall next month.
It’s years since the charismatic performer played his biggest hits with a full band, not helped, of course, by the pandemic.
But, even at the age of 70, the prospect of delivering the likes of Mr Soft, Judy Teen and Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) is an enticing one for the man known for his sharp lyrics and, once upon a time, his sharp tongue.
“We’re throwing in a few less famous tracks the fans have been wanting me to play for years,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure if songs from albums such as The Psychomodo and The Human Menagerie would work as an older man but they’ve been going down extremely well on the tour so far.”
As a young man who started as a London-born journalist at the tail-end of the 1960s before forming Cockney Rebel in 1972, Harley was known for the cutting nature of his songwriting and interviews.
Hailed by Rod Stewart as “one of the greatest lyricists Britain has produced”, Steve’s tendency to shoot from the hip is something he is aware of and appears to regret, though he hasn’t completely put those guns back in the holster.
“I did sail close to the wind in those days. I would shoot myself in the foot,” he tells me over the phone from his home near Sudbury.
“I was a very young man with a young man’s attitude.”
It may be nearly 50 years since Harley’s hit-making heyday but he is still releasing albums; most recently Uncovered, and still writing new songs, possibly for a new Cockney Rebel album, which would be the first since 2005’s The Quality of Mercy.
Just don’t mention Sting to him...
“I’m writing all the time. There will be one more Cockney Rebel album but the lyrics get more difficult to write when you get to my age.
“What do you write about that isn’t about the pandemic or your grandchildren?
“I heard Sting’s last single on the radio and it’s dreadful.
“The lyrics are lazy and silly. It could be The Osmonds. I don’t want to write that sort of thing.”
Harley doesn’t mind looking back to the golden age of Sebastian, Mr Raffles and Love’s A Prima Donna, an era when he would work in the studio with Beatles’ alumni such as Alan Parsons.
“I don’t count the years but the one thing I always wanted to do was create an original sound. When I first formed Cockney Rebel it was all Woodstock clothes and laidback music. I wanted to get some colour and theatricality in music.
“Fortunately we had the likes of Alan Parsons and Geoff Emerick in the studio in those days.”
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel play the Royal Hall in Harrogate on Friday, December 10.
For tickets, visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk