“The Best Years Of Our Lives” – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

Posted On 20 Dec 2021 at 12:15 pm

Steve Harley live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

STEVE HARLEY & COCKNEY REBEL – DE LA WARR PAVILION, BEXHILL-ON-SEA 18.12.21

Back in the 1970’s it was common practice in and around Brighton & Hove for families to take in foreign students as part of a host family scheme, whereby they would be paid a nominal fee to look after an international friend for a few weeks, whilst they brushed up on their learning English. My parents hosted a number of students during this time and the very first one we had was a blond Swedish girl called Tove. Her music taste was bang on hip! I can remember to this very day her telling my mum and me about this new band called Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and that we should check out their new single ‘Sebastian’. Within months of this, their follow-up single ‘Judy Teen’ went crashing into the UK Singles Chart and reached No.5.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

‘Mr Soft’ was also a Top 10 hit in the same year – 1974. By February 1975 the band had cracked it and ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ was sitting atop of the pile. This was the lead single from their ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ album, which my mum had purchased. It was one of just a few discs that she had and so got played quite a bit in our house. My parents weren’t really gig goers and thus we sadly didn’t attend Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s concert at the Brighton Dome on 17th March 1975.

Steve Harley live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Wind the clocks forward past the punk, ska and synthpop explosions to 1991 and ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ was released on extended CD with the new inclusion of an almost eleven minute live recording of ‘Sebastian’. It was epic and rekindled my interest in the band.

Moving forward in time, I finally broke my Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel concert duck by witnessing their 14th December 2006 concert at Brighton Dome and I must say that it was a most enjoyable evening’s entertainment, despite the fact that since my initial awareness of the outfit, they had undergone significant personnel changes.

Christmas lanterns inside the De La Warr Pavilion (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

A few months ago I saw that they were again touring, but this time around there was no Brighton date, but the nearest was to take place in the iconic De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. I had to attend.

Steve Harley live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Steve Harley was born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice and was the second of five children in his family. He started his musical career 50 years ago in 1971 by playing in bars, clubs and mainly at folk venues on open-mike nights. He sang at Les Cousins, Bunjies and The Troubadour on nights featuring John Martyn, Ralph McTell, Martin Carthy and Julie Felix, who were all popular musicians within the London folk movement of the time. Steve Harley is a consummate professional and music is very much still his first love. “We see the world and play to great audiences; how good is that! I see great cities and their galleries and museums in our down-time, beautiful landscapes from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean coast, all in my life as a touring musician. It’s still the greatest job on earth!” Harley said recently.

Barry Wickens from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Rod Stewart covered Harley’s song ’A Friend For Life’ on his No.2 ‘Another Country’ album in 2015, and has described Harley as “One of the greatest lyricists Britain has produced.” This evening at the De La Warr, Steve and his rebels performed the number as part of their 19 song set which was split across two performances (8:03pm to 9:00pm and 9:30pm to 10:41pm) thus lasting 2 hours and eight minutes.

Robbie Gladwell from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are touring in support of the latestUncovered album, which features a great cover photo shot by Michel De Pourcq. The musicians on this tour are: Steve Harley (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Robbie Gladwell (guitar), Oli Hayhurst (double bass), James Lascelles (keys, melodica, tambourine), Kuma Harada (bass), Barry Wickens (violin, guitar) and Stuart Elliott (drums).

James Lascelles from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

70 year old Harley and his chums take to the Bexhill venue stage at 8:03pm. You immediately get the sense that Harley is a talkative fellow that works at his own ‘I’m not going to be rushed’ pace. He’s an honest fellow that says things as they are and I salute him for this. He discussed the current Covid crisis and concluded that we (the audience) are all like-minded people as that’s why we are here. We also learnt that back in 1954, when he was just three years old, his father (who worked as a milkman) was informed that Steve wouldn’t make it through the night due to his polio. But tonight Harley said “Doctor’s made me better”. Harley also touched on his fathers death and informed us that his own wife, Dorothy, looked after his father in the latter years of his life in their Bury St Edmunds home in Suffolk. On his father’s passing, his discussion with the selected funeral director revealed a quick cremation option which they referred to as “a Bowie” on the account of the Thin White Duke being secretly cremated without any of his family or friends present after telling loved ones he did not want a funeral service. His ashes were scattered on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Kuma Harada from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Harley also told us about his Zoom broadcasts during a difficult period in lockdown with 300 people from countries all over the world. He found it fascinating to finally put faces to the names of fans that have been loyally following him for decades. He still enjoys making music, but is not a fan of the surrounding promotion for a release such as endless radio interviews. I totally get that. It’s been there, seen it, done it!.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Harley also told us that he doesn’t like the word “covers” as the latest platter ‘Uncovered’ is such a release, with nine of the eleven tracks being as he calls it “interpretations”. The criteria for these new “interpretations” which have been recorded by Harley and his Cockney Rebel, are that if he had wished that he had written them himself.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

So onto tonight’s music and the band gave us just four of the eleven tunes on the latest ‘Uncovered’ album, those being ‘How Can I Tell You’ (a Cat Stevens interpretation), ‘Absolute Beginners’ (a David Bowie interpretation) and his two self-penned numbers ‘Only You’ and ‘(Love) Compared With You’. The latter having originally been recorded by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel back in 1976 on the ‘Love’s A Prima Donna’ album, but only as a two chorus number, which Harley told has had felt unfinished until his father’s passing, whereby he immediately wrote the third verse and thus extended the original recording and is now a finished product. Also on the ‘Uncovered’ album is an interpretation of Hot Chocolate’s wonderful ‘Emma’, which incidentally the Sisters Of Mercy also recorded, and I wished that we had had the opportunity to have listened to Harley’s version this evening.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

The other career spanning material performed this evening included his aforementioned 1973 single ‘Sebastian’ which received a standing ovation and along with album title track ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ (which was performed as an extended version this evening) were my choice tunes of the evening. Two tunes from his 2005 ‘The Quality Of Mercy’ album were featured; namely ‘The Last Feast’, ‘The Coast Of Amalfi’ and ‘A Friend For Life’.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

They played just a few hit singles tonight; ‘Judy Teen’ (which no doubt Adam Ant listened to before penning ‘Prince Charming’), ‘Mr Soft’, (crowd favourite) ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’, and The Beatles interpretation ‘Here Comes The Sun’, but sadly there was no 1975 hit ‘Mr. Raffles (Man, It Was Mean)’ and 1974 popular album track ‘Tumbling Down’ wasn’t selected to be played this evening, despite showing up on the setlist.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

As usual the sound at the De La Warr Pavilion was crisp and clear and the musicians are arguably the best that are around; guitarist Robbie who was front stage right (our left) showed us exactly what he could do with his instrument. Barry Wickens flitted between guitar and violin, with the latter showing off his learned skills, by at one stage plucking the instrument. James Lascelles was stationed back stage left (our right) and was in charge of Nord Electro keys, and another keyboard, as well as the intriguing melodica which uses a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. Kuma Harada, who was stationed centre back behind Harley, briefly came to the fore with his bass solo during ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’. Oli Hayhurst arrived on double bass and drummer Stuart Elliott was manning his set to the back right of the stage (our left).

This was another enjoyable night out in a wonderful concert venue. Time well spent!

Barry Wickens from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel:
Steve Harley – vocals, guitar
Robbie Gladwell – guitar
Oli Hayhurst – double bass
James Lascelles – Nord Stage2 keys, melodica, tambourine
Kuma Harada – bass
Barry Wickens – violin, guitar
Stuart Elliott – drums

Robbie Gladwell from Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel live at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea 18.12.21 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey) (click pic to enlarge)

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel setlist:
Set 1:
1. ‘How Good It Feels’
(found on 1979 Steve Harley ‘The Candidate’ album)
2. ‘Promises’
(found on 1993 Steve Harley ‘Yes You Can’ album)
3. ‘The Last Time I Saw You’
(found on 1996 Steve Harley ‘Poetic Justice’ album)
4. ‘A Friend For Life’
(found on 2001 Steve Harley ‘A Friend For Life’ single & 2005 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘The Quality Of Mercy’ album)
5. ‘Nothing Is Sacred’
(found on 1976 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘Timeless Flight’ album)
6. ‘The Last Feast’
(found on 2005 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘The Quality Of Mercy’ album)
7. ‘The Coast Of Amalfi’
(found on 2005 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘The Quality Of Mercy’ album)
8. ‘The Lighthouse’
(found on 1993 Steve Harley ‘Yes You Can’ album)
9. ‘Riding The Waves (For Virginia Woolf)’
(found on 1996 Steve Harley ‘Poetic Justice’ album)

Set 2:
10. ‘(Love) Compared With You’
(recently found on 2020 Steve Harley ‘Uncovered’ album, but originally on 1976 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘Love’s A Prima Donna’ album)
11. ‘How Can I Tell You’ (Cat Stevens interpretation)
(found on 2020 Steve Harley ‘Uncovered’ album)
12. ‘Absolute Beginners’ (David Bowie interpretation)
(found on 2020 Steve Harley ‘Uncovered’ album)
13. ‘Only You’
(found on 2020 Steve Harley ‘Uncovered’ album)
14. ‘Mr. Soft’
(found on 1974 Cockney Rebel ‘The Psychomodo’ album)
15. ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (The Beatles interpretation)
(found on 1976 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘Love’s A Prima Donna’ album)
16. ‘Judy Teen’
(found on CD of 1973 Cockney Rebel ‘The Human Menagerie’ album)
17. ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’
(found on 1975 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ album)
18. ‘Sebastian’
(found on 1973 Cockney Rebel ‘The Human Menagerie’ album)
(encore)
19. ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’
(found on 1975 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ album)

Visit www.steveharley.com for further information.

Set times shown on large TV monitor in the De La Warr Pavilion (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Tonight’s setlist (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Performance times (pic Nick Linazasoro)

Signed copy of the latest ‘Uncovered’ album (pic Nick Linazasoro)

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