Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

Steve's Online Diary

DIARY 09/02/08

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Spent Sunday in Biggleswade. Had to have a good reason. Recorded "The Coast Of Amalfi" as a duet with Belgian classical singer Hans Peter Janssens. HP sings it in Italian, I in English with the occasional Italian phrase slipped in. He has a fabulous voice, a deep tenor, close to baritone. Leading man in Les Miserables at the moment - until June. Get there before he ends his run. It's still an amazing show, and HP is perfect. "La Costa Di Amalfi" will be released in April, in Belgium, Holland and Germany. There will be downloads available via iTunes or whatever. HP has recorded "Sebastian", also in Italian. The translation makes it very pretty and deeply romantic. The language is, of course, musical, and my wee song has taken on yet another new guise. In fact, "Sebastian" will be out first, in April they say, with "La Costa....." to come later.

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DIARY 01/03/08

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New photo shoot with Mike Callow in the north-west. Think maybe we got something quite special this time. We have decided to print the collected on-line diaries in paperback form for the Spring UK dates, to sell as merchandise.

Maybe one of those pix is the front cover. Got a couple of Mick Rock's from New York to consider, too. What to call the book?

160 pages going back to 2000, right up to date (well, up to end March, say, when the printer needs final copy).

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DIARY 19/03/08

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Nothing shocks me anymore. But it came as a surprise to learn the BBC are dropping Sounds Of The 70s from their schedule. Been eight years, I reckon. I enjoy the research, and it's the closest I've come to having a proper job in 35 years, which hasn't done me any harm. Never say never, and Lewis Carney, who called to deliver the news, promised it hasn't actually been assigned to the annals of BBC History. We agreed that if and when the Beeb fancy re-incarnating the show, he'd get back to me. I'll miss it. Truth is, I sound like a mine of information on-air, but really I cram. Learn it all from copious reference books as I write, and most gets forgotten pretty soon after. Presenting radio is not unlike performing, which comes easy to me; always reaching out to perfect the impression of being relaxed. Recorded last show, for March 27th broadcast, last Friday. Then took in Peter Hall's re-vamp of Noel Coward's The Vortex at The Apollo. All that '20s flapper banter sounds dated, and the lines are not funny now. But it comes clamouring to life in the 3rd, last, act as the tragedy unfolds; as Felicity Kendall's Florence struggles to accept a) that she is not immortal, after all, and b) her errant son Nicky has a serious cocaine habit. Plus, he is gay! That role looks difficult, but Dan Stevens is terrific. For me, Phoebe Nicholls steals it.

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DIARY 04/04/08

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Can't keep away from Broadcasting House: 26th, record Tracks Of My Years for the Ken Bruce radio 2 show; 28th, record interview with Steve Wright. Chatting with Ken, I find myself getting a little shaky, searching on the hoof for the perfect word or phrase to describe my feelings about some of the wonderful records in my list. They ask for 15 titles and whittle it down to their own choice of 10. Don't hear the tracks at the time of the chat, just discuss them cold. I realise how deeply some of them have affected my life. Back to the 60s with The Beatles and The Hollies and you remember the mates, and the girls, the fun and the growing up; the loss of some of your innocence. And Millwall, and the unbeaten home record coming to an untidy end at the hands of Plymouth Argyle, bringing with it what might have been the first-ever pitch invasion, at least since 1923 and The White Horse Wembley Final, where the poor lucky buggers mostly had little choice. Ken keeps it flowing because he likes music, he respects musicians and he has a great knowledge of his subject. As does Steve Wright: but with him it's all done impromptu, it seems. Never know where it's going to go, and going with his erratic and comedic flow is best. Faith is restored at these times. Hearing A Friend For Life at 8.45 one morning last autumn, when Johnnie Walker sat in for Wogan, restored some faith, too. Make Me Smile is no albatross, but it's a relief to hear more recent tracks aired.

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DIARY 21/05/08

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Fiddling with the set-list. And so far in advance. But need some r 'n r. Saw The Stones' movie, Scorsese's "Shine A Light" at the comfy Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge. One for fans, essentially. I wanted more interview footage. They were amusing young guys, all of them. But they rock in that small theatre.

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DIARY 28/06/08

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Two concerts in, Southampton and Liverpool, and back to the airport. Out of John Lennon to Nice, for the Monaco Grand Prix. Partied Saturday night on a cool Sunseeker in the harbour, even sang a few songs with Eddie Jordan on kit. Stayed in San Remo, near the France/Italy border, driven back and forth several times by Sebastian, who scared three kinds of mulch out of me, roaring up the backside of any vehicle ahead, squeezing through gaps that looked impossible. He was too fast for the public highway, and showed no interest in the comfort of his passengers, so you'd have to mark him down as a poor driver, wouldn't you. Monday morning, dropped off at airport, I asked him what he did for a full-time job, as the chauffeuring could only have been for the Grand Prix weekend. "I'm a test driver for Lamborghini". I'd told him on Sunday that we'd come to watch a motor race, not take part in one. Leaving him, I was a bit lost for words.

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DIARY 28/08/08

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End of June: lunch at the Express Newspaper building, Lower Thames Street, in the exec. suite of proprietor and erstwhile drummer Richard Desmond, with Sunday Express editor Martin Townshend. Martin was a rock music writer way back and our paths had crossed, fleetingly and impersonally, several times over the years. Martin wonders whether I might have a topic to write on for his paper. I feel flattered, being offered the chance to be a hack once more. Trouble is, while I feel strongly about many issues, I wonder whether airing it all in public is a good idea. To the Barbican later for the Scottish National Theatre Company's "Black Watch". A stupendous, emotional piece. Power all over the stage. Real power from pretend soldiers. Hard to accept at times that they are actors. Iraq and back. Bad life. Brilliant play. Faultless production. Billy Sloan recommended it to me, and he is clearly a good judge, as he also thought the Abba musical rubbish! That's my kind of pal.

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DIARY 30/09/08

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Man On Wire. Unmissable. Stunned for hours, even days. Envy Philippe Petit's great courage and unnatural skills. Am in awe and want to go to New York and bore him with my admiration. For a time I feel slightly obsessed. Must write about it, in a song. Stunned and disheartened, to be honest, as the writing is coming so slowly, but life does go on, so called in a Dowser. Man with rods and a magic touch. Apparently. Hovered his glorified coat-hanger around an acre and a half of our woodland. Found nothing worth reporting. Incredible. There are springs all along the lane out there; all local water was brought by yoke from 50 yards along until the late 50s. There is a well in the cellar of our own house. Will try with the JCB. Want a large pond/small lake to float a boat on. If the Dowser is right, we'll line it. May keep sycamore roots around one side for wildlife. Birds might nest in them. Cut over 100 of them this year. Weed of a tree, but makes good firewood. Now there is light getting in, I will de-ivy the apple trees and get the orchard thriving. Plenty of cookers this year, in spite of overcrowding until we lopped in big style. And a couple of delicious eaters still come good. Intend plucking a batch, eat with breakfast cereal.

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DIARY 23/11/08

  • Written by Steve Harley
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My dad came over from Spain; first time in England since my mum, his mate for over 60 years, died at Easter 2007. Never known a man like him: 82 and fit as a butcher's dog. Built a 4 panel (each 6' x 6') wood shed in among the apple orchard, pretty well single-handedly, save assistance from my son and Greta's boyfriend, Nelson. They passed the hammers, the nails, the bags of pre-mix and the posts. They learnt a lot from a very clever and wise man. The energy! Took him to Huntingdon to see my Vacario run in a bumper. He talks to everyone and anyone. I tend to keep my head down. Horse ran a good second and will hurdle later in the year. Decent type. Land Hawk continues to impress at home on the Newmarket gallops, and will win a maiden early next season, I believe. No Cockney Rebel, but few ever are. My dad said he'd never fly again, after my mum died, ensconced as he is in the Spanish sunshine so comfortably, but he did. And now he's talking over there about his next trip.

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DIARY 29/01/09

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Can't believe John Martyn has died. Watched in awe as he picked his acoustic and then slammed a fuzz-boxed Strat in Les Cousins, a hip London folk club, in the early seventies. I sang between his sets, in one of my first public efforts, Muriel The Actor and Sebastian, free and to near-silence. They wanted folk music, and I gave them The Human Menagerie. Happened the same at Bunjie's. But I played as a floor-spotter at folk shows by Bert Jansch (mesmerising), Noel Murphy (hilarious), Martin Carthy (perfect) and John Martyn (unpredictable). He was touched by the hand of some Muse, to say the least. "May You Neve" will forever live among my most wanted songs of all time. But I'll always know I can't have it. It was his, and no matter who or how many covered it (Jim Cregan produced the best of all I've heard for Linda Lewis), it will always be his. His own. To mumble and to tease us with. To intrigue and inspire. He intrigued me, back in ‚'71 and last year at the Folk Awards, where we talked backstage. He in wheelchair, having lost 30% of a leg, me feeling guilty and self-conscious towering over him. I wanted to squat like an adult does to chat to a child in a pushchair, but he'd have spotted the condescension straightaway and might have hit me. Always seemed unpredictable. Not charming. But Phil Collins will tell you that that was part of his charm, after all. And he'd be right.

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DIARY 02/03/07

  • Written by Steve Harley
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Been writing songs and recording demos. Something is happening, but I have no idea whether it's magic or mere mediocrity as yet. Time and my own nervous judgment will tell.

To Las Vegas Sunday to start the MAG trek across Death Valley on the California/Nevada borders. It's a comfortable 24-29C at the moment, but could get hotter at peak times. All precautions taken, and all and any happenstance considered, but still you never know. It is an adventure all right. And I am a betting man. There will be lessons learnt and experiences that will eventually find their way into songs and stories. I have been apprehensive and distant over this, but now am feeling that tinge of excitement, the one you feel a day or three before the holiday starts, before Christmas, before the big day. It's something like nervousness, but in a melange of so many emotions it's never going to be pinned down. The adrenalin is starting to pump, I guess. It's not performing, but it's something like that.

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DIARY 30/01/07

  • Written by Steve Harley
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I've been presenting Sounds Of The 70s for BBC Radio 2 for seven years and the depth of the decade's musical talent continues to surprise. We re-discovered poor Nick Drake a couple of years ago and found more than a few gems and cool oddities along the way. Now Judee Sill. She didn't live a long or happy life and her sombre melancholy is etched deep into her well-crafted songs. "The Kiss" caused a stir among listeners. We received a large block of emails after that was aired. And "Jesus Was a Cross-maker" has recently had much the same effect. Look out now, she'll be all over the radio 2 airwaves 'ere long, and they'll all be claiming her for themselves.

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