Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 05/06/12

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Into the woods. Nettles a metre high, so the Chestnut tree is out of reach until the Hayterette is fired up and given its head. Blossom, both cherry and then apple, came and went quietly this year, as the climate played silly buggers, confusing the flora, the fauna and us. Apple trees we planted three years ago are in leaf, which comes as a relief considering the sharp frosts we had here on occasion from November to May. But old (ancient) apple trees have fallen. It didn’t take gale force winds to knock them over, just a force three, I reckon, but lie there they do, forlorn but not entirely worthless. There are several others that fell long ago, probably in the storms of ’87, which still flower every spring and still bear fruit, giving good, robust eating apples. As I pass a clutch of Scots pines, a high-pitched squabbling catches my ear. Fifteen feet up the trunk of one, in a near perfect circle, there is a hole, roughly 3 inches in diameter. The squabbling cacophony of newly-hatched birds is coming from there. Woodpeckers. But Titch, our local carpenter and good neighbour, suggests they might be nuthatches. We’ll know soon enough, because whatever they are they will soon fledge and I’ll train one of the Stealth cameras on their hideaway, thereby keeping a 24-hour watch.  Titch was born and bred around here and has a few years on me, so he knows his stuff. But my money is on woodpeckers. Greater spotted. We see the mum and dad all the time, banging at the old wooden feeder stand, digging out grubs, or knocking on an ash tree when calling a mate. They even sit on the lawn and peck at the bird seed strewn for the garden birds. Right now (just back at desk from brewing tea in kitchen), on that lawn, there are chaffinches, yellowhammers, greenfinches, a sparrow, two robins and a host of starlings, both mature and juveniles. In one corner of the roof eves, the starlings have been nesting, and in the diametric opposite corner, the sparrows dwell and fledge. I wonder, do they know of the existence of each other? The young must cry out when needing breakfast, surely. We allowed the meadow, the size of a goalmouth, at a guess, to overgrow this year. The wild flowers are having difficulty getting their heads above the grasses, but we were keen to see how it all develops without the sight or sound of a mower in the vicinity. If we grow frustrated, missing the flashy display of wild field flowers, we’ll call on the Hayterette: “One man and his dog and a bottle of pop and a sausage roll…..” We took delivery of some rolls of turf just a day or two after the hose-pipe ban came into force. How stupid was that? We have a big, old water-bucket on a frame and wheels (1930s, we estimate; my dad saw it a few years ago and told how as a kiddie they put him in one similar and pushed him down the streets of Deptford) which we are filling from an outside tap, then wheeling it, heavily and awkwardly, to the far end of the land, to the five-bar gate where the turf struggles for survival. We spray it by decanting into a watering can. It’s a slow business, but that turf will live and grow, I swear!  And I swear, too, when the young muntjac appears. He’s (she’s?) eaten a dozen irises, as well as plenty of foliage. It is a nuisance and I can think of no way to stop it entering the garden, out of the woods where we’re happy for it to live and roam and eat. A pair of mallards is visiting the big pond daily. I might put a duck-house out there, floating, fox-proof, to see if we can get them to stay and breed. You see six ducklings one day, and a week later…one, maybe none at all. Sparrow-hawks get them. Foxes, too. But sightings of Reynard are rare around here. Too rural, I think.

The internet is a strange contraption. It gives a voice to everyone with just a smart phone. Don’t even need a computer these days. Personally, I find the use of nicknames a little spooky. On Forums and Guestbooks, why not declare yourself? My name is Steve. There, I said it. I recognise names on this website: Stella is Stella; Cheri is Cheri, and Michael Carraway is, I trust (!) Michael Carraway. Jollyroger is Reg Cornwall, and Rebelfreak1 is Big Jimbo – he of the parish of Chesterfield. Mr Softie is Ray Smith, and Phantom is, we now all know, Mark, supporter of Chelsea FC. Many others are just nicknames and, while I don’t condemn their anonymity, it’s sometimes difficult for readers to believe a written view when they can’t put a face (a name) to its author. But carry on, as you were. The Forum in here is getting livelier by the week, and that’s good to know.

Re DVD Birmingham, here’s the deal: maybe, maybe not. It’s six months away, so a business decision can wait for a long time yet. No rush to decide. We are taking advice and looking at estimates. It’s not a pretty sight, to be honest. To do it properly, and that’s the only way we would do it, needs five cameras, two of them hand-held and many bodies. The editing process is costly beyond most people’s imagination. I don’t enjoy business stuff much at all. I actually can’t read a balance sheet. But the costs of filming the concert to the highest quality, weighed against the potential income, make it an unlikely contender, at least as a Comeuppance production. The DVD Rachel mentioned from Indigo2 was filmed cheaply by two fixed in-house cameras. They have a man in situ at every performance. They ask, would you like us to run the cameras? We said yes, and for £250 I brought home a couple of DVDs in a cool, embossed silver tin, a record of the entire show. But I find you get what you pay for in life, and for £250, I got two hundred and fifty quid’s worth. So it looks ok. It’s a little under-lit, because my Lighting Director lit a Live rock show, not a film. So it’s quite dark at times. And there’s no audience response audible, because we didn’t record it with ambient microphones picking up the crowd’s responses. Essentially, it is a record of a show purely for my own use. I have seen it a couple of times. I pull some strange faces at times, don’t I? Nobody has ever told me. I know fans might like to see it, anyway. So provided we advertise it locally and honestly, so no complaints should be forthcoming, we may get it on sale on this website only. But you will have been warned!! And you will need to imagine and believe that the crowd of almost two thousand did actually react throughout. Believe! I’ll ask Mark Scarf to consider artwork. We’ll probably press a few hundred as a Limited Edition. But on the wider scale, DVDs of pop concerts do not sell well. We will be recording the Symphony Hall show, for sure. My Production Manager, Roger Searle, is already arranging for a mobile recording studio to be there on the day. So there will be a proper professional CD of the event, if not a mega film. And even that is still a possibility – it has not actually been ruled out. One alternative to producing it through my own company is to approach film companies who specialise in such jobs. And that we are doing. As for Crazy Horse’s rant this morning, since when has keeping a business decision a private matter been a case of treating you like teeny-boppers? How are the two related? Six months away, and you demand we share our business thinking with you and the world wide web? How is this? What line of thinking is that, my friend? Keep it rational, please.  You’re normally so readable. And I, too, would like to see Eric Hall’s autobiography, Monster. eBay beckons, eh.

Sending a batch of 20+ photos to Mark tomorrow for use in the November 24th brochure. Will write a piece for it. And a professional writer (not music business – slightly more high-brow, dear!) is writing an essay for the brochure, outlining the history of early Cockney Rebel and the recording of the two albums. I will talk to him, so you might get the truth, the whole truth, for the first time ever. I have the 1974 Melody Maker with the front page splash Rebel Split! Have one of those scarves Deborah (Deborah is Deborah) has been talking about somewhere among the Harley Archive. How about this: you send us any vintage pix you might be sitting on? I don’t really have much that hasn’t been put up on this site. Not a lot of photos were taken by fans in that era, most being taken by professional snappers from the Press, and they own their copyrights, as a rule. If you have something you think might look good in the Symphony Hall brochure, a photo of the time that will interest us all, maybe you might scan it and email it to us.

I guess there’s a Contact Us email address somewhere in here. If not, start a Forum thread with a description of what you’re holding, and we’ll get something organised. But don’t post the photo on the website for everyone to see – that would kind of be missing the point!

Rachel was directed to a “Signed” photo of me recently, on eBay. It was indeed signed, but who by? Sure wasn’t me. The perpetrator hadn’t even made any attempt to copy my real signature. It was miles off. A thousand miles away. The internet is a strange contraption, allowing strangers to hoodwink each other like that, without compunction. They wait for me at stage doors, the downloaders. They wave poor prints, on cheap paper, for signature. “I’m a big fan, Steve. Looking forward to the show tonight”. Sure. We throw bored, resigned faces at each other, each knowing there is no chance he/she has a ticket for that show. They go straight home and stick the stuff on eBay, asking a fiver. It’s hard to stay civil, to be honest. I do. But it’s hard. Luckily, there’s always someone to take my elbow and remind me, in a slightly raised voice, we have a sound check to do and we’re running late.

It’s been a quiet period, with so few Live shows to play. Had a good chat with Les McKeown backstage on Saturday. We used to hang out a bit in Los Angles, late eighties. Brit Ekland was a mutual friend. He and his Bay City Rollers played a good set, too. Robbie Gladwell got into the spirit magnificently, pointing out that there wasn’t actually one original in The Three Degrees, and that they should really be called The No Degrees. He could imagine two of them, in their wobbly high-heeled bootees, falling off stage into the mosh pit and then it would be minus two degrees out there, really cold for an outdoor gig. I know I don’t really belong among them, but there was little in the diary when I was asked, and we love to play. It was good to meet up with all the team, the musicians and crew, for a day and night. We played, as per contract, a 45-minute set and didn’t feel for a moment like a 70s band, stuck in time. I won’t, though, be likely to accept any further invitations to such events. It was all fine, brilliantly professional, as any Tony Denton event would be. But next night, The Charlatans headlined with one other band supporting, and I knew that really that should have been our slot, not headlining a 70s night. But, as I say, we love to play. My boy, Kerr, was on keyboards again. James was at a family wedding in America, so Kerr stood in, and did a fine job. And seven thousand people seemed to go home happy enough.