Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 31/01/13

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Looks like our second “The Human Menagerie & The Psychomodo with Orchestra & Choir” performance will come next year, in April, at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. We’re waiting on clearance for either Saturday, April 12th or Saturday, April 26th. I imagine we’ll set up a similar ticket-buying link on the website as we did for Birmingham, giving registered members first dibs. Sounds a long way off, but – hey, it’s good to have something to look forward to! I’m still hoping the show will go on at the Royal Albert Hall, but single-night dates are hard to acquire at that venue, and I really do want a Saturday, so people who travel long distances can relax without losing time from work. I’ll try to give it a unique feel, so I’ll look for different “bonus” tracks to throw in. Keep to the period, but let us know any suggestions.

I’ve been in a studio in the West Country recently, mixing the Birmingham recordings. They sound good. Very good. At last I am hearing what you heard! One or two glitches have been sorted and the mad mess where an extra verse got added to “What Ruthy Said” has been repaired. I now know what happened: the organ solo was inaudible on-stage, and as I looked around, faces were either blank or questioning, so I took it that I, myself, had missed a verse of lyrics. Seems I sang part of the second verse a second time! You couldn’t make it up…anyway, that’s been repaired. I’m not ashamed of a word or two going astray or getting mangled or forgotten (there is a great deal happening up there, live and also in the monitors, by way of excuse) but I won’t humiliate myself on CD! A mistake on-stage, stays on stage; it exists only there and then, in its own moment. A CD (or a download) is for ever.

What a night it was! What a crowd! What a band! What orchestrations! “Sebastian”…..I only remembered as we mixed the track, they gave us a standing ovation. For a song!! “Death Trip”…..so big and so right. I got a thrill, a tingling down my spine, at the reaction to the out-of-the-blue burst of “Stranger Comes To Town”. And “Tumbling Down”…..boy, didn’t we all fancy that! Did you exit singing the refrain, like in the old days?

I hear stirrings among some (a tiny few) that our man in the grand tiers may have felt humiliated after I picked him out and told his story. Well, he didn’t. He stood and waved at me and seemed to revel in his own moment of glory. Good for him. He knew I was being friendly, trying to amuse. How could anyone think I would actually humiliate a stranger, a fan? It’s called humour. And it was true, and very interesting, his story. We saw the ticket go - a single £37.50, in the dead centre of the first of three rows at the back of the Grand Circle, when there were many still available in the best areas. But a fiver is a fiver, and I respect that. It intrigued me, as much does where human behaviour is concerned. I’m a writer. I notice these things and worry about them. But mostly I love human-kind and respect the lengths fans go to in support of an artist and an event. The financial commitment does not go unnoticed by most performers, to my knowledge. Respect, that’s the key. Our man had a sense of humour (you need one, if you’re going to listen to me talking, at random, on stage!) and I respect him. Of course I do.

Then we hit the road as a three-piece acoustic band. Some life-shift that! We’d seen some memorable sights around Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg up to a few days before Symphony Hall. Then we were off to explore much of the UK, again. But strange things occur in that set-up, too. My office has been dealing with a most bizarre tale of one fan who is rent with angst in the belief that he (or she, they won’t say!) was singled-out by me at one of those shows (they won’t say which!) and eye-balled or something like that, by me, causing consternation and humiliation! I don’t see much from up there, you know. Stage lights in the eyes. Eyes closed in concentration and passion. The only annoying nuisance really is the white or orange light some cameras give off when filming. Out of the dark, a close-up lamp, almost like a torch some of them, is incredibly distracting. And what are they doing anyway, paying for a ticket, then holding that up for two and a half hours, “seeing life through a two-inch screen”? Now that’s a good line. Apparently I used it on the night our friend was in, the one who thinks I stared him/her out for some length of time (hell, don’t they think I have other things on my mind than an eyeball bun-fight in public? The more I think about it, the more absurd it all seems.) But that good line, didn’t I get that from one of our contributors? Didn’t I read that on the website, maybe in a Forum thread: “Seeing life through a two-inch screen”. Good line, but not my original. Who claims it.

I saw a truly great tenor at the Royal Festival Hall, Joseph Calleja. He is special, the best since Pavarotti, to my ears. Maltese, charming and modest, and gifted. And we’ve been to the cinema a few times recently: Lincoln is long-winded, really. Great performance from Tommy Lee Jones, though: worth the ticket for that alone, whereas, I felt I could see Daniel Day Lewis acting all the time. Quartet was amusing, not much more, although Tom Courtney is a consummate actor. But Dame Maggie Smith – is it just me, or she playing Dame Maggie Smith in every role these days? She played Dame Maggie Smith in the Indian Marigold hotel movie (sorry, full title eludes me); she played Dame Maggie Smith in what little I caught of Downton Abbey, and she’s playing Dame Maggie Smith again in Quartet. The Tarantino is good, Django Unchained…extremely violent, though, and I didn’t fancy some scenes one bit. But his work is always unmissable.

Must sound like I do little but buy entertainment, but there are songs on the way, too. I write every day, lyrics here and there and the occasional tune. But the process is generally much more drawn out than when I was younger. There are many thoughts and worries clouding the mind, preventing the imagination to run really free as it once did. Maybe the fog will clear in time. I hope so. We’re rehearsing “Ballerina Prima Donna” – I actually agree with Stella, that it’s a bit cheesey, but we’ve had lots of requests for it, all from women, to be honest. It has a bitter, accusing air, written by my good mate Mike Batt at a time of low self-esteem (wouldn’t have lasted long!), but maybe we can give it a one-off night out at Buxton, then shelve it again. Steve Norman will almost certainly be with us at the Isle Of Wight festival. Main stage again. Now there’s a thrill! And I’ll have to include a few oldies with sax solos for him.

Love the new Prince single: basic and uncomplicated, yet brilliant. How does he do it?