Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 30/01/07

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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.

Dylan's "Theme Hour" is good radio. His speaking voice is now as melodic as his singing voice, both inflecting in the strangest places, and both packed full of character and charisma. Occasionally, I've been thinking he was speaking in verse, a la Mo Ali of yore, but then the song kicks in and I realise the wily old bird is reciting its own lyrics, thereby filling both the airtime dedicated to speech, and entertaining the listener. Wily Bob. Poetical Bob, who knows all about cold coffee in the china.

I've allowed myself a quiet start to the new year. The long touring miles took something of a toll last autumn, even though I took a thrill-a-day from it all, as ever. Some stick more permanently than others, of course, like returning from the big Bospop Festival in Holland, way down on the German border. We travelled overnight by ferry to The Hook, and returned next day to a bomb scare on Harwich docks which left the ship treading water in the North Sea for an hour or more which allowed us to see the World Cup Final through to the end. Saw the Zidane head-butt Live and thought it typical of today's game and the men who play it. I mean, by that, that the way the victim went down, in all that sorry melodrama, was more sinister and damning than Z.Z's own act of aggression. One French, the other Italian. In the heat of the moment, what language do you think they shared? English? Both men were victims, of course, but then so is football itself. It's a victim of greed and avarice. I used to love the game, but now I have so little respect for those who play it, those who run it and those who run those who play it (the agents) and run it (the supporters ultimately), that Pele's famous tag "beautiful game" seems now somewhat twee and affected. I shall stick to Horse Racing: a real man's sport, where everyone is scrupulously honest. Yeh, I'm kidding. But the attitude overall is much more worthy of respect than most major sports can claim.

The midnight sun near the Arctic Circle when we played Bronnoysund Festival, north Norway, stays with me plain and clear, too. The Modigliani exhibition at The Royal Academy in July: stupendously sexy. And the show of 60 Chagall lithographs in a small castle in Beveren, Belgium, was a wonder. The Curator had been at our concert the previous night and came backstage (friend of the Promoter) to chat and she understood immediately my passion for Chagall and she offered to open the Castle and allow me to take a private viewing next morning. It was Sunday, and the last day of the exhibition before it was to move on to another room in another city. What are the chances of that happening, eh? And she was delightful and gave me and a few others from our team a guided tour of the magnificent Schloss and its great collection of antiques, art and wood carvings. As well as letting us loose among the Chagalls for all the time we could afford.

Cockney Rebel the racehorse won his debut race and ran 2nd and 3rd (twice) in extremely valuable races later in the summer. He is generally 33/1 for the 2000 Guineas, the renewal to be run at Newmarket, May 5th, and word from the stable is that he has wintered well, grown into himself (he was dwarfed by most of his conquerors as a two-year-old) and is something of a good punt at the odds, each-way. Take advantage now, because if he gets there, he'll do justice to your faith.

"The Anthology" release was the equivalent of the gold watch for long-service, but gave me a lots of warm feelings. (Now we are recording new tracks, but the writing process, as ever these days, is slower than it ever was for the young man in the fur collar.) Then we covered 3,000 miles or so in 12 days in Germany, thrashing the autobahns in the big V12 7-series. Boys' Own, I grant you (you've read it elsewhere in these diaries), but it needed to be done. Then another special moment was to tread the boards again after 30 years at The Carre Theatre in Amsterdam. Some hall, and some night. Then all the fine nights in the UK. The date list for the coming year may look pretty sparse at the moment (empty bar one, to be accurate), but behind the scenes, beavering away, is a dedicated agent, phone against ear hour in, hour out, dealing and negotiating and building up that list. We think the UK will have to be put on hold until Spring 2008, when we'll tour the theatres again with a new studio album, but the summer weekends may bring outdoor shows my way.

Meanwhile, retired Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Dickinson and I pound the lanes of Suffolk to build up physical strength to resist the battering which the 350 miles we'll be cycling on the tandem through Death Valley in March are likely to inflict. Tom looks the part, all lycra and glow-in-the-dark strips on yellow jacket and crash-hat with a point at the back, so that I feel quite slovenly in jeans and trainers and a peaked cap. But, hey, it's for Charity and an exceedingly good cause. And what an adventure lies ahead! Check out the website to read all about the work MAG does and maybe you'll consider sponsoring me. Sponsor me to help me help to save a village. It's a slogan, sure. But they need us. Suck it and see.


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