Steve Harley says Harrogate's 'good vibes' make him smile
Interview: Steve Harley may have been coming up to make people smile with that song for 45 years now but, like a growing number of famous 70s rock stars such as Neil Young and Ian Anderson, he keeps shaking up his career and seems to get busier, rather than quieter
Since he was last at Harrogate Theatre, the London-born 68-year-old has released a new album under the Cockney Rebel moniker, another one as a solo star and is now touring in two different guises almost at the same time
And then there’s his occasional collaborations with classical orchestras.
Fans here will see his newly-launched Steve Harley Acoustic Band bringing his new album and some classic tracks to Harrogate Theatre next month.
Talking on the phone, the Steve said: “I do it for the love of it now. I totally love playing live. It’s what I do.
“Harrogate is a beautiful town with beautiful venues.
“I’ve played both the Royal Hall and the theatre before. There’s a really good vibe.”
Harley’s new album Uncovered, which will be released sees him bring a fresh acoustic, approach to not only a few of his own songs but deep cuts by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Richard Hawley.
Steve said: “We went to Abbey Road and recorded it with the best acoustic instruments money can buy.
“It’s totally organic. There’s no EQ on it. It’s totally natural. It got’s an astonoishing sound.
“It’s not a covers album. I don’t see the point of most covers. They usually sound the same as the originals.
“We like to call them interpretations. They’re nothing like the originals.
“Once I’d recorded it, I got the loveliest message back from Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam saying I’d performed it from the heart and had made his song my own.”
Although he says he’s “fine with the digital world,” Harley says he’s thrilled by the vinyl revival and was delighted when his son in his mid-30s asked for a Dansette record player.
Life seems to have gone full circle for the songwriter who started as a journalist before playing in the folk club circuit in the early 1970s and finding fame with hits like Judy Teen, Sebastian, Mr Soft and, of course, Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) in the middle ground between glam rock and prog rock.
Well, except in one way.
Steve said: “I live in rural Suffolk with my wife Dorothy, who was from Glasgow originally.
“I do everything myself these days through my own company Comeuppance.
“I haven’t got an agent. I haven’t got a manager. I haven’t got a record label.
“I’m past that stage. I know what I’m doing. I’ve got control. You can’t manage me.
“The emails coming into my company never stop.
“I’ve already got 40 shows this year lined up in Britain and Europe.”
Once regarded as a bit of a prickly character by music papers such as NME and Sounds in the golden era of the music press, it’s more likely as an intelligent songwriter and former journalist himself, Harley simply knew his own mind.
And he still does.
Steve Harley at Harrogate Theatre
Steve Harley brings his acoustic band featuring guitarist/violinist Barry Wickens, double bassist Oli Heyhurst and lead acoustic guitarist Dave Delarre to Harrogate Theatre on Friday, February 21.