Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 12/03/09

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Thinking of Culloden. But it was seven weeks ago we were there. We trudged around the battlefield, site of the last action fought on British soil. I think that’s right. Cold, windswept in January, of course. Great museum on the site, quite brilliantly presented. Then to Belfast: “an audience with.....” show, with songs thrown in. That’s what they asked for, at least. Barry and I actually played a 50 minute or so set after the interview. It was something new to me, different, and very worthwhile. Read a passage or two from The Impression collection. Bright, sensitive audience who made it easy for me. Next morning, a workshop. Never before, and I did regret agreeing to it all through the early part of the day. Then we went in. A basement room at the hotel where much of the Belfast/Nashville Songwriters Convention performances had been held. Thirty people or so. Up close. Like at home. I asked Barry what a workshop would entail, as I reckoned he might have been involved in a few. They’ll want to know how it’s all done, he said. So I sat and broke the ice. “So, what’s a workshop?” Silence. “What do you want to know?” And we were off. And, as usual, I was glad I’d said I would, and thrilled with the experience. Never before, different. Worthwhile. Special people, all the organising team, and the audiences. Welcoming and thoughtful. Bright and appreciative. Brought a smile as we were carried back to the airport that afternoon. Clint Eastwood will win the Oscar next year for Best Actor for Gran Torino. When the betting starts, I shall steam in, regardless of what comes later this year. It is charisma writ large and potent. Non-PC, which I like. He perfectly enacts the role of Mr Angry-But-Sensitive right-wing American, albeit of “Pollack” ancestry. And to Bury St Edmunds, tiny Georgian Theatre Royal for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. They swing, these youngsters. But they aren’t quite the NYJO of ten years ago, last time I caught them. Only a few quid a ticket, and a big thrill to see young players like that.

Just finished stint as Chairman (chairman!) of the Jury picking Best Song Musically and Lyrically for the Ivor Novello Awards, due in May. Last year was a good vintage, but the awards are all-British, only tracks written by Bitish songwriters included, so some of the best tracks didn’t get in. Missed “Human,” The Killers. Thought it a sensational record, and a great song, too. But they are Americans. Still the choice was wide in range and quality and the short-list, knocked down from an original 93 entries, gave us a few hours of good sport. Good jury, too: Mike Rutherford, Hugh Cornwell, Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough), Beth Orton (“Which band are you in?” she asked me at the end of the first 4-hour session), Cerys Matthews and Glen Tilbrook.

Finally wrapped up a contract wrangle which has kept me sometimes awake and regularly disturbed for almost three years. Maybe now I’ll start writing songs again. The other party will not know how negative an effect his self-righteousness has had on my imagination...............the pragmatic, they think of the money, the money, Fagin-like, while the grinders toil for them. They sign a contract with fledglings and expect a living from it for life. Incredible. The artist works on while they wait for the cheques, year after year after year, while contributing nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m talking about people from professional relationships that may have ended many years past. Others replace them, yet still they can collect. Incredible. Cost me a great deal in all sorts of energies and resources to end this loathsome arrangement, but I knew in my heart I had to sort it. I had had enough of working for a now near-stranger who dealt with some aspects of my career aeons ago. Scary, incredible, how these contracts go on and on. In perpetuity, for the love of God. It doesn’t happen now, and never will again in my career. It was not quite a bloodbath; we’re all too reasonable for that. But I got sick of it and harboured bad, cruel thoughts at times, of which I am not proud. Thinking of Culloden; it was seven weeks ago, but now I understand why.

SH