By Cheri, a fan from California
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 21:29
I’m not normally a big fan-type person. I don’t even go to concerts. This all changed when I discovered Steve Harley.
I discovered him by accident a little over a year ago. I was on Facebook when a friend-of-a-friend posted a music video of Steve singing “Make Me Smile.” It was the one where he was wearing the brown bomber jacket with the fox collar. I like my friend’s taste in music usually, so I listened to it. This time, I liked it so much, I listened to it twice. Later, when I had some free time, I looked up Steve Harley on YouTube. I believe the first song I heard there was “Sebastian” from the old Live from London DVD. My mouth fell open. I thought, “WHY on EARTH have we never heard of this guy? He’s brilliant!!”
I spent weeks after that, approximately two hours every night, searching out every video I could possibly come up with. I felt like an archaeologist, unearthing treasure after treasure. I couldn’t believe the body of Steve’s work. There was so much of it, it was very varied, and there wasn’t a bad song in the entire repertoire. Then I came across an interview—I believe it was in Ireland—where after the interview, the interviewer asked Steve if he had a website and Steve answered that it was www.steveharley.com. I went there and registered, then held off for three days. I knew I had to say something because I was so moved by his music, performances and persona. Finally, I introduced myself and Steve sent me a free DVD!! He even wrote on the website when time passed and I hadn’t received it yet, asking me if it had arrived. Who does that? Who cares about his fans enough to write whether or not they had received a complete gift from them? Someone special with a big heart, that’s who. And the rest of my presence on the website is history.
I have been listening to Steve Harley exclusively for over a year now. I am passionate about him and his music. I believe that life is too short not to take an opportunity to see him live if I can. My mother passed away last February 4, 2011. She left me an inheritance that would make the trip possible. Ana did it—she went in July. I decided to go during the spring/summer of 2012. Then, I found out that Steve wouldn’t be doing any concerts at all during 2012. If I was going to go, I had to go now. It was mid-August. Initially, I was thinking of going to Wavendon, Bury St. Edmunds, and Bilston. Then, the concert at London’s Indigo O2 was scheduled. I was going to be staying right in London—why not go to the London concert and Wavendon? I bought tickets for the O2, thinking well, even if I can’t swing this, at least buying the tickets won’t break me. I finally decided to go to the London concert and the one at Wavendon. Rachel and Steve very kindly offered me free tickets to Wavendon and it looked like the trip might actually take place.
I didn’t want to go alone. I asked my American friend Kathy to go with me. She and her husband were having some financial difficulties, as well as harassment by a neighbor. Kathy needed a break. Plus, I’ve known Kathy since I was in high school. I wanted to go with someone with whom I felt completely comfortable. She hated me in high school with good reason because her then boyfriend decided that he wanted to date me. I told him no, that we had Kathy to think about, but he had a mind of his own. We dated for two years. Kathy and I ended up at the same college, in the same dormitory, and sort of held on to each other since we were the only people we knew. We found out that we had a lot in common and became best friends. I decided to invite Kathy to come along with me on the trip and she said yes!
I wrote to an English friend of mine telling her that we were coming to England to hear Steve Harley in two concerts and could we have lunch? I hadn’t seen her in about 15 years or so. Another back story is that my English friend, whose name is Ros, is someone I have known since I was 16 years old. My father was a pilot for TWA and her father was a pilot for BEA. At the time, there was an organization located in London that would put together exchange programs for children of airline pilots from any airline anywhere in the world. I wanted to go to England to see the Beatles and Rolling Stones and The Who, etc., plus the whole English “scene.” The exchange turned out so well, that we continued to visit each other’s’ homes every summer for about three weeks each. Ros and her sister Zoe became not friends, but family. Her sister Zoe and I bonded over the C.S. Lewis books about Narnia and also became very close. We would take adventures together. Once, we hitchhiked from London to Morocco, spending a week in Tangiers, a week in Paris, and a week in transit. We also spent 9 months on a road trip around the United States. Initially, it was supposed to be a 3-month trip to see Kathy and her then boyfriend who were living in North Carolina. But three months into the trip, we had only gotten as far as New Orleans and the Mardi Gras was the next day. I had to call work and tell them I wasn’t going to be back.
Ros wrote back saying that it was “interesting” that we were coming to see Steve Harley, and even more “interesting” that she lives only 1 ½ miles from The Stables. So why couldn’t we come stay with her for two nights. Fantastic! What are the chances of that??? A miracle! I had no idea where she lived, only that I thought she worked in London. So, we made plans to stay with Ros. I e-mailed Rachel to see if there was a possibility of getting Ros a free ticket also, but Rachel said the concert was TOTALLY sold out. She said that if Ros called the venue and begged charmingly, she might be able to get a standing-room-only place. It turned out that Ros HAPPENED to know someone who works there who was able to get her one of the very last standing-room-only places. Another miracle!
Back to the trip: I bought airline tickets, I rented a cell phone during my stay, I arranged for transportation from the airport to the hotel (thanks for the link, Stella!) and back again. I made reservations at two hotels: one in London and one near Milton Keynes (that I cancelled once I knew we would be staying with Ros). I had a dress especially made. I had to research a way to get a birth certificate so I could get a passport, which turned out. I got my passport. I converted money into English pounds. This trip was really happening! I bought a suitcase and a new purse that was large enough to hold our itinerary with all of our reservations and confirmation numbers in it. I scouted out a tour of London that we took on our first full day, ending with tea at Harrods. I made plans to visit the National Gallery. (And yes, Steve, we saw all of the Turners; magnificent pieces they are. In fact, Kathy and I saw skies in London that reminded us of Turners, albeit not so vivid. ) Finally, it was time to leave on our trip. Two friends stopped by the night before and we talked of the trip over wine and Margaritas. It still didn’t seem real!
The flight was Virgin Atlantic Flight #20 from San Francisco to London’s Heathrow. Our seats were exceptionally cramped and the flight was 9 ½ hours long! But we made it! We were so excited to be in England. Kathy wanted to see the architecture; I wanted to see Steve Harley. We made a great team as each of us has strong and weak points and we tend to fill in the gaps with each other. Our driver dropped us off at the wrong place! He dropped us off at an apartment house, so we had to pull our (very heavy) luggage about 1 ½ blocks to the hotel.
The first day in England (a half-day, really), we just sort of crashed from jet lag. Kathy was more tired than I was; I was just excited about everything. Poor Kathy fell asleep on her bed in her coat after we went down for dinner she was so tired. We slept a good, long while, then woke up early to take an 8 ½ tour of London, which was fascinating. It ended up with tea at Harrod’s—so delicious!!—and a little shopping for a Christmas present for a friend back home. On the second day, we went to the National Gallery, which was absolutely amazing. We saw almost everything! All of the REALLY old paintings, mostly religious in nature, to Van Dyck, the Dutch painters, the Italian painters, the English painters, the impressionists, etc. I cannot recall all of the names of the artists we saw. I remember we wanted to see Vermeer, but there was only one work by him in the gallery. There was a Van Gogh exhibit going on, but the line was too long to go see it. When we finished, we decided to walk to the British Museum. We saw the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, both of which were AMAZING. Then upstairs to see more than half of what they have in there. By the time we got to the Egyptian mummies, our backs were hurting, it was dark outside, and we decided to taxi home. The next day was the London concert at the Indigo O2 and I was getting excited about it.
The Indigo O2
The concert at the Indigo O2 was something I will never forget. I had organized a pre-concert dinner for some of the fans. Stella was kind enough to make the reservations. Jonathan (he posts as “ffcforever” on the website) was our guardian angel. He actually came to our hotel and led us through the maze of underground tunnels to North Greenwich. Kathy and I would never have made it alone. At dinner, Jonathan’s friend Jeannie, then Jumbo turned up. Jumbo is a dear of a man, who stood by me during the entire concert and seemed to have “the scoop” on everything. In fact, a roadie named “Shop” came to Jumbo and asked if I was in the audience. I was pointed out to him and he went backstage. To this day, I don’t know why Steve wanted to know if I was there or not. I kind of thought he might throw his plectrum to me at the end, but he didn’t. Jumbo also said that Steve had asked him at another concert how to pronounce my name. I thought that was just so thoughtful! Here are two pictures of us having dinner before the concert: Kathy, Stella, Jimbo, Jeannie and Jonathan.
We had another miracle at that concert. Jumbo and I were one line back from the railing directly in front of where Steve would be singing. Kathy and Stella were behind us. There was a rather large woman in front of us who all of a sudden just fell over!! Steve was onstage at the time; I don’t think he realized what was happening. The woman just stayed down and didn’t move. Jumbo was crying for help and my friend Kathy handed the people her water bottle. Finally, it was decided that the woman just needed some fresh air, so they left. That meant that Jumbo and I got a place right against the railing in the very front, about six feet from Steve himself.
Well, all I have to say is that the concert was pure joy and immersion in the music. I’ve never felt like that, so happy and wonderful. I could hear the music inside me. I found myself singing along to all the songs (most of which I knew the words to). When I wasn’t singing, I was looking at Steve sing his heart out and I know my face showed the awe and reverence I felt. Barry was a prodigy on “The Lighthouse”, simply brilliant! The concert was even better than I thought it would be: they had a great set list, starting with “Ritz”, then one of my favorites, “Coast of Amalfi.” They did “Muriel the Actor” and “Hideaway”, Mr. Soft, and ended the first set with another of my favorites, “Riding the Waves.” I didn’t write down the set list, so forgive me if I’m leaving out some songs or getting them mixed up.
They started the second set with “Cavaliers” and ended up with “Sebastian”. “The Lighthouse” was in there somewhere, and so was “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” which was brilliant! I should have written down the set list. Bad me. Then they left the stage before doing an encore of three songs. The first encore they did is another one of my favorite songs: “Saturday Night at the Fair.” I swear I caught Steve grinning at me as I moved and clapped and sang along with all of the words to Saturday Night at the fair. Then, he got all professional again, of course. They did another encore song before ending with “Make Me Smile.” Jimbo, do you remember which one it was? I was so sad that the concert was over, but brimming with joy and happiness at having been through such an exhilarating experience. It all went so fast!! What makes him so good? The whole place was up on its feet moving and singing along. Steve has this amazing capacity to reach people with his music. It’s a combination of remarkable lyrics coupled with astoundingly good music, his ineffable charisma, his huge heart and the great band of back-up players that he has. We are so lucky to have him in our lives, don’t you think? I just didn’t want it to be over.
Jonathan led us back through the tube and pointed us in the direction of our destination. We would have to make the last change by ourselves. We were slightly terrified, but we did go part of the way with Stella, which made us feel better. We followed the signs to the Central Line, and then got onto a train that was packed to brimming. We were smashed in there so closely that we were like sardines in a can. If we had had to exit on the other side of the train, we never could have gotten off. Somehow we made it back to our hotel and I was singing Steve Harley songs all night.
Next day, Kathy and I got up early and had our usual breakfast. The hotel had a breakfast buffet that was to die for. Scrambled eggs, roast potatoes, bacon, sausage, broiled mushrooms, broiled tomatoes, baked beans, all kinds of toasts and breads, cereals, pastries and muffins, fresh fruit, a wall of juices, and even a menu for Muslims, I believe. Then, we checked out of our hotel and headed by coach to Milton Keynes where my friend Ros was waiting to pick us up. We did some sightseeing (Woburn Abbey and the grounds) and the area around Milton Keynes, and then it was time to see her father in her old house, the one I used to visit as young girl. Ros was apologetic because her family hadn’t updated the house at all—I was grateful for that because it was just as I had remembered it, down to all the gold star stickers on the walls and ceiling of Zoe’s room (Zoe is Ros’s sister). I remember so many conversations with Zoe about the meaning of life, etc. then sometimes she would read me horror stories. No one can quite read a horror story like Zoe can. And no one could make me laugh as hard as she could. Sadly, Zoe passed away in 2002, from pneumonia and complications of lupus. Her mother, who was like a second mother to me, passed away in 2004. So, when I entered the old house, which was just as I remembered it, I cried from all the good memories I had of Ros and Zoe and her mother and I sitting in the drawing room around a fire, sharing cigarettes (yes, I used to smoke), and talking about anything and everything. Ros’s father is now 89 and has lost quite a bit of his short-term memory, but he looks good, just like he always did. We went out to dinner at a real old English pub that was all decorated for Christmas. The garnishes on the dishes were holly, which I have never seen done before. Here is a picture of us having dinner.
Next day, we went to a neighborhood party with Ros and her husband Dave. The guests were all very aristocratic, but they were very interested in the “Americans” and very hospitable. I just kept repeating the story of how I came to know Ros, and I mentioned Steve Harley to everyone I talked to. Many of them didn’t know who he was! I probably should have said Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, that might have rung a bell. After the party, it was time to get ready for The Stables!! Here are some pictures of Ros and Kathy and I just before we left for The Stables.
We walked into The Stables and got our free tickets. Ros got her standing-room-only ticket from her friend Jenny, who worked there. Ros and I decided to order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc before the concert, which was a good idea because I needed to calm down. I went to order the wine and as I reached to pay for it, I felt a hand put my hand down on the counter and a very nice gentleman paid for the wine. Then, he said, “I’m the Phantom.” It took me a second and I said, “You’re Mark???” He said, “Yes, and I have a Christmas present for you.” Big hugs all around. He gave me two CDs: one of Steve Harley and one of Duncan Mackay. I asked how he recognized me since I wasn’t wearing my long, white coat (no coat check) and he said he followed us as soon as we entered. I guess he recognized my picture from the website. We sat down at a little table and two ladies who are the ushers came up to Kathy and I and said that Steve wanted to know if we were there. People began to fill the auditorium. It was so exciting! Kathy and I were seated on the right side of the auditorium, nearest to Barry, about four rows from the front. The view was great. The auditorium is very small, but its acoustics are very good.
Finally, the band arrived onstage and the audience erupted in applause. They did much the same set as at the Indigo O2, except that they added “Sling It!” and the encore was only two songs, not three (“Saturday Night at the Fair” and “Make Me Smile”). I was singing along with all of the songs again and clapping at everything I thought was wonderful, so I was clapping a lot. During the middle of the first set, Steve suddenly pointed to two empty seats in the front row, about four rows in front of Kathy and me. He said something like, “Look, there are two empty seats right there that no one is using. They told me that this concert was TOTALLY sold out. Is someone lying to me??” He made a big deal of the two seats and everyone wondered who they belonged to.
During the end of the first set, when Steve was singing “Riding the Waves”, he tried to get the audience to participate, but they did not go into the “We got the feeling, whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhhhh.” There was one lone voice singing the refrain; Steve pointed in that direction and looked at the audience. Steve, if you wondered who was singularly singing along with the chorus of “Riding the Waves,” that was me.
We went into the lobby for the interval. I had ordered another glass of Sauvignon Blanc. A fan named Deborah came by (we had seen her at the Indigo O2 two nights earlier) and we had a chat. The Phantom was there, as well. All of a sudden, the two ladies who were ushering came up to Kathy and me and asked us if we would like the two empty seats in the front row. We excitedly said that of course we would!! That meant that Ros and The Phantom could take our earlier seats instead of having to stand. That was good because Ros was wearing high-heeled boots and The Phantom had had a toe amputated and his foot was hurting. So at the beginning of the second set, we were seated right in front of the band, very near Barry.
The band came out and we were clapping and shouting out “Barry!” “Steve!” Again, it was a brilliant show, with Barry really shining on “The Lighthouse.” About halfway through the second set, Steve suddenly stopped and pointed to the seats that Kathy and I were sitting in. He said something like, “Oh, I see the two empty seats are filled now. So, tell me, where do you come from?” We yelled out, “California!” Steve said, “No wonder you were late.” Then, he said, “WHY would you come all the way from California to see ME??” And I called out, “Because we love you!” He said, can you say that again? I don’t think the audience heard you. So, I yelled out, “BECAUSE WE LOOOVE YOU!” Then he said, “Alright, which one is Cheri?” and I waved my hand. He explained to the audience that I had been writing on his website for about a year now and asked if that was right. I nodded yes. Then he said, “Right then, come on up.” I was simply astounded. He wanted me to come up onstage! I had a moment of panic, then I composed myself and went up onstage, trying not to fall down. As I crossed the stage, Steve was grinning ear-to-ear and had his arms out, gesturing as if to say, “COME on. COME on.” When I reached him, he gave me the warmest, deepest, most wonderful hug I have ever received, apart from perhaps when I was little and my father would hug me. It was just the most wonderful feeling. I could smell his skin, and I can tell you that he smells good, even when he is sweating! I said to him, “I have flown nine thousand miles just to hear you sing live.” He said, “Well, I hope I haven’t disappointed you.” I said, “You haven’t!” The audience was smiling and clapping, it really was quite something. Then I sat down again and the show proceeded brilliantly. Everyone was now trying to see who was in those two seats! It really was the most special thing to be called onstage; I still can’t believe it happened. We all suspect that Steve had planned the entire thing, but we’ll never know for sure. All I can say is that I love him for it.
The band only did two encores: “Saturday Night at the Fair” and “Make Me Smile”. Everyone in the audience was moving and clapping, some were standing. The people near the bottom came down and danced to the music. I was on my feet swaying back and forth, singing and clapping. It was extraordinary.
After the show, we waited around in the auditorium for someone to usher us back to meet Steve. Deborah had caught Steve’s plectrum at the end of the show and she gave it to me. She encouraged me to write a gig report. She said she used to write a lot of them. Finally, Steve’s tour manager came up and I introduced myself. He said, “How are you feeling?” I said, “Excited.” He said, “Don’t be too excited,” and looked serious. I composed myself and he let us all back into a corridor with a room at the far end. I could see Robbie crossing the room, getting ready to leave. Lincoln had already left. When we entered the room, Steve gave me another one of those wondrous hugs, lifting me off the ground. It was wonderful, I can tell you. I told him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for your music. Not just the words, but the music, too.” We took some pictures. Here are the ones taken with my camera.
At one point, I remember impulsively kissing Steve on the cheek, then taking his hand and bringing it to my lips and kissing it. Ros told Steve, “I’m a Cockney Rebel virgin.” Steve said, “I haven’t heard that since the sixties!” It was really funny. We had some more words, I remember telling him how I met Ros, and how I discovered him, but much of it is all kind of a blur, then Steve’s uncle came up to him and they left to go into a private room to talk. I introduced myself to Adam and talked with him just briefly. Then, I introduced myself to Barry, who was just great. Kathy and Barry got along really well. Kathy said that Barry told her, “You just keep doin’ what you’re doin’.” James came to me and introduced himself and we talked for a while. He offered me some wine. Then, Steve came back and said that he had to ask us to leave. I think my face fell, because he said that they make them do that and that they had to go to dinner. As we were exiting the Green Room, they all huddled in the doorway. I sought out Steve and told him, “You’re a treasure.” Then we left.
We walked toward Ros’s car when someone called out, “Cheri! Cheri, come back inside. Steve wants to give you something!” So I went back inside into a darkened corridor and Steve slipped out of a doorway. It was just him and me. He said, “Open your bag.” So I opened my bag. He said he had some “rubbish” to give me and proceeded to put some guitar strings into my bag. He said that the guitar strings were from the very guitar he played that night, that they change them out every time. I kept saying, “Oh, my Lord, Oh, my Lord.” Then, he got sort of shy, but looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You touched me, too.” And then he slipped out again. I’ve never felt so special. Steve is a true gentleman. I can’t say enough good about him, it simply doesn’t get better.
I’ve never had such a joyous experience as I did in those two concerts, and the fans who were there made it all the better. It was great to meet Jonathan, Stella, Jimbo, The Phantom and Deborah. And, of course, meeting Steve was the icing on the cake. Thank you, Rachel, for helping to plan everything; your effort does not go unnoticed. I am on a Cockney Rebel high and I can’t come down and don’t want to. All I want to do is experience that phenomenon of Steve and the band bringing everyone together in pure joy. I want to go to Steve Harley concerts forever, although I doubt that nothing could ever top this experience.
Jonathan and his wife Sallie took Kathy and me around London on the following Tuesday. I remember being worried that I may not be able to keep up with a PE teacher, but I did fine! We saw Abbey Road, the Bank of England, Covent Garden and much more. We had lunch in a pub overlooking the Thames and The Globe Theater. Kathy found some old pieces of pottery in the low tide that turned out to be quite interesting. She wishes she picked up more to make a mosaic, but many of the pieces were painted on top and bottom—it’s better to be able to look closely and handle them. We stopped to chat in another pub. All together that day I had 2 ½ pints of lager. Good stuff! Jonathan, again, thank you so much!
At night in our hotel, after it was dark and too late to go exploring around London, we would watch all of the British cooking shows: Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsey, etc., plus other “Christmassy” shows on the TV. No one does Christmas like England. I went to culinary school, so I’m ALWAYS interested in ANY cooking show. I watch them over here all the time. I love British TV, especially the channels with no commercials! We saw many Christmassy shows that were interesting and intelligent. Definitely better than American TV.
Now, I’m home. My cats are alive, thanks to my friends who came to feed them. I have to get back to reality, but my heart is in England. I didn’t have a Christmas this year. As I said, my mother passed away last February and I have no family to speak of. The trip to England was my Christmas present to myself. I’m so glad that I followed my passion and actually made the trip to see Steve in all his glory. Can’t believe I did it, even with all the months of planning. So many things could have gone wrong at every turn. But I definitely couldn’t have done it without the company of Kathy, and the guidance and friendship of Jonathan, Stella, Jimbo and The Phantom. And, Steve, thank you for making this the best trip I’ve ever taken. I will never forget it. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.
written by humphries , December 28, 2011
Thank you Cheri, what an adventure
What a wonderful story.
Wishing you a Great 2012 xxjo
written by PeterJH , December 29, 2011
Wow! Some essay Cheri!! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the read.
written by Deborah , December 30, 2011
Fantastic ! Truely Magical Cheri. Written straight from the heart , As it is ! truely captivating and true to the end, brilliant . I loved your journey you took me on , Thank you, thank you thank you . you just dont know how much it warmed this cold heart .
written by humphries , January 12, 2012
P.s. You have some lovely pictures there too.
I have just re read your gig report... It is so well put together I was right there with you. Best wishes Jo
written by Cheri Ives , January 17, 2012
Jo, thank you! I just started writing about everything as I remembered it. Wasn't sure if it was a boring report or not! Thanks for your nice comments.
written by Colin Fraser , March 18, 2012
Nothing boring about it at all. Nice to read about your excitement.
I was on holidays in Europe from 1972 to 1975 (from Australia) I bought Human Menagerie when it was released and still listen to it today. The quality is not too good any more because it is on cassette tape so I recorded it to my computer and play it from there. (hope thats not illegal). Obviously a favourite of mine. Very hard to find in Australia.
I was lucky enough to see Cockney Rebel twice in England, I think it was mid 1974.
written by TOM BARBOUR , April 30, 2012
WOW! I'm not normally one for reading anything more than a few lines but your report was compelling and every word was savoured!
Many thanx...even had tears in my eyes!
Take care...see you at a future gig!
Best Wishes from Scotland.
written by Cheri Ives , April 30, 2012
Thanks so much, Tom! It was an experience of a lifetime, never to be topped.
written by Phil Banash , November 01, 2012
Wow, I have only just found this site.
I have been a fan of Cockney Rebel since the beginning. My first wife and I really liked your music.
I'm planning on going to Cambridge to see your 3 man accoustic set and then discovered your 1 night only? gig in Birmingham with orchestra and choir.
Cheri, I saw your post and immediately thought what a load of drivel that must be. Whoever would post that amount and for what purpose.
I have no idea what made me start to read it 'cos I had already dismissed it as rubbish.
Blimey, how wrong I was. What a wonderfully written piece on your whole encounter with Steve Harley and the UK.
It moved me in many places and had captured me right from the start.
What a great story and thank you for sharing this.
Wish I had been there.
written by Cheri Ives , November 02, 2012
Phil, thank you! It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Steve is an amazing musician and man. I feel lucky to have been able to meet him. I'm so glad I could hopefully capture some of the magic I felt on paper for all to experience vicariously.
written by ian , January 07, 2013
Hi cheri,im that as you politely say it" that rather large lady"who fainted at the steve harley concert in front of you,thats nice of you to call me that,your pics on here arent exactly size 0 models either,glad you enjoyed the concert but a bit more care in what you call people would not go amiss.