The original Cockney Rebel is preparing to go back on the road – to mark the 40th anniversary of one of his biggest albums.
Best Years Of Our Lives was a number-four hit for Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel in 1975, featuring songs such as Mr Raffles (Man, It Was Mean) and number-one smash Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).
Now Steve is reuniting the surviving original band members from the album – guitarist Jim Cregan, drummer Stuart Elliott and keyboard player Duncan Mackay – for a nationwide tour, including a show in South Yorkshire next month.
Steve says: “Fans have been urging me to play the Best Years album for some time, and now is the time.
“It will be like old times,” adds the 64-year-old Londoner, who says he is excited to catch up with his “very, very funny” old friends.
“The three guys are still my mates. The fun we had back then, when we toured and recorded together, holds fabulous and special memories.
“I’m thrilled to think they’ll be up there on the great UK concert hall stages with me once again.”
Steve admits he was not sure how the three would respond when he first suggested the idea of the anniversary tour.
“It was tentative,” he says. “I wrote to them, saying it’s the 40th anniversary of Best Years, which had songs like Make Me Smile, which was a monster hit.
“I said ‘the fans are pushing me to reunite and play the whole album. are you up for it in principal?’
“I said ‘talk among yourselves’ and independently they all came back saying ‘I’m up for it’.
As well as Jim, Stuart and Duncan, Steve is also using the present Cockney Rebel band to offer the full band experience.
And he is confident the music – some of which he has not performed for decades – will come flooding back to all of them.
“Duncan hasn’t played live for 20 years, so coming back from Cape Town, he’s got to learn an entire album.
“Everyone is now busy learning their individual bits.
“But you don’t forget how to play. It’s amazing, it just comes back to you. It’s almost robotic.”
As well as Best Years of Our Lives in the second half of the show, the concert will feature songs chosen by fans.
Steve says: “The first set, an hour and 10 minutes, is made up of tracks the fans have chosen.
“We ran a poll, where they sent in their three favourite tracks they want to hear. There were some old favourites, but it was an eclectic mix from about 750 entries, although Stuart joked it doesn’t matter what they sent in, you’ll just play what you want anyway.
“I have done about 140 songs apparently, so there was a lot to pick from.”
“Then we’ll play the whole of Best Years, with some B-sides, as the album is only about 38 to 40 minutes long. It’s a proper show.
“I’m really excited by the prospect of tracks like Back To The Farm getting an airing after so many years…I might play a slow, bluesy Make Me Smile, as I presented it to the band originally, as track six, then the full-blown version at the end of the night. It’s a tough one to follow.”
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Best Years Of Our Lives 40th Anniversary Tour 2015 is at Doncaster’s Dome on Sunday, November 8.
And Steve admits he is a big fan of Yorkshire and Doncaster, particularly.
“We drive out into the countryside. I love being up there. It’s beautiful. Who wouldn’t love being there. It’s a great county.
“I have got to say, Great Britain is beautiful as a whole, it’s an amazing island.
“I haven’t played Doncaster before, but I look forward to it.
“I was in Doncaster recently, I was at the St Leger. Racing is a great favourite of mine. I first went in 1981, to see Shergar. I lost a lot of money on Shergar – “I got it all back this year though.”
n For tickets, priced from £30, visit www.the-dome.co.uk