How the pandemic has changed Steve Harley's appreciation of music

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel head to Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Sunday, December 18

Steve Harley
Steve Harley

Inevitably, after the longest break in his career, Steve has been absolutely delighted to be back out on the road again this autumn.

He says he has done so with a rather different appreciation of what music means to people.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Just how much music matters is one of the things that the pandemic has helped underline, Steve believes.

The pandemic was tough. It was also boring, he says.

“My struggle is that I always carry the burden of commitment on my shoulders. I am not a believer in astrology, but there is maybe something about being Pisces. It is the last of the 12 signs and they carry all the others.

“It is the same with my Pisces friends. They are committed to people. When I work with the rock band, it is 15 people that work plus the theatre staff. When I work with the acoustic shows, it is ten people that work plus the staff.

“And I was concerned that all these people lost their income. Some of them had a little bit of self-employed government help, but it was really difficult for people. I was really concerned that some people would be giving in or giving up, but they somehow got through and it is great to be back together again.”

Steve is relishing the return: “It is the longest break I have ever had, but the point is that it was a mystery. It was an enforced break because there was poison in the air. There was a virus in the air. It was a different feeling.”

And there is a different feeling coming back.

“I am a 70s pop star. In those days it was all limousines and no connection with the audience.

“We were above it all. It was distanced. A star was a star. But I have learnt to drop my guard and relax a lot more. I have done so many podcasts and Zooms.

“We did a Zoom for 250 fans around the world. It was professionally run for me. 50 questions were accepted that I went through, and it lasted two hours.

“And the thing I learnt that night and I saw it at a gig was just how much the music meant to them. I didn’t know. I just looked out the other night at 10,000 people in the dark in Faversham, and I said it – and there was just this huge cheer. There was this real feeling of connection.

“We do what we do. I do what I do. I come across on stage as Mr Approachable. I am very, very relaxed. I will tell an anecdote or two. I know what I am doing, and it is very natural. But it is job. And I love my job. It is a real privilege to have an audience after all these years. And it is a privilege to be able to provide the work for these wonderful guys that I play with. But it is a job. I go off stage and we go to a hotel and the next day we do it all again to a different audience.”

But Steve feels differently now: “I have learnt through the Zoom calls how many gigs people will come to.

“There are people that I don’t know who will come to five or six or seven gigs a year of mine – and also 20 other gigs.”

And that is precious. If someone approaches Steve now and says they remember seeing him at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, Steve’s response will be: “Tell me about it.

“I want to know more. Frankly, I will have forgotten. I have done 10,000 gigs since then. But I will want to know more…”