THE words used were simple yet evocative of a talented singer / songwriter.

They were: “I am a writer and a singer and I am always looking for a good scan or metre.

“The words/lyrics need to taste good in your mouth and you need to feel them in your bones and body.”

The singer/songwriter who spoke them to me was Steve Harley, the lead singer of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

It is interesting to think about what Steve said for a moment in the context of two of his heroes - Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

He sees these not just as songwriters but as poets; he would never put himself in the same bracket for talent as these two legends, but they influenced him and Bob Dylan was the reason he wanted to be a musician.

As Steve said: “I was 12 years old when I got Freewheelin by Bob Dylan and then Another Side of Bob Dylan when it was all about drum, bass and guitar.

I bought into it all. Bob Dylan changed my life.”

Somerset County Gazette:

Music has been an important passion, indeed a burning ember throughout Steve’s life.

He said his mum who was a very talented jazz singer had a brilliant range and style which he said while not in the same class as an Ella Fitzgerald was very similar in sound.

She would sing along to the music on the radio and would always be singing at parties.

He felt she could have had a career as a singer but decided to be a mum instead.

But the musical scene and life changed when he heard Bob Dylan for the first time.

He said: “As a kid throughout my school years I was listening to Motown, Stax records, Otis Redding and Lee Dorsey. Music was a love and I have always been hooked on it.”

Steve was a journalist working for three-and-a-half years in Essex and London.

He covered Whitechapel which was Kray-land (where gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray operated in the 1950s/1960s).

As he said, he did enjoy it but, by 1972, he had become a ‘weekend hippy’ and decided to leave.

He said: “I was a bit of a rebel and needed to do something else and wanted to follow my spirit of adventure.

"And then I started Cockney Rebel. I started doing folk music and then moved on to more rocky music.”

Somerset County Gazette:

In 1972, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were signed up to EMI for a three-album deal.

Steve said: “EMI were beautiful. I will never hear a bad word said against them.

“They gave me an open cheque book, a blank cheque. We were young and had a lot of ideas and record companies in the 1970s were run by the A&R men and not the men in suits.

“It gave me a lot of freedom.”

In 1974, the band released ‘Judy Teen’ which reached number 5 and this was followed up in June 1974 with the groups second album The Psychomodo, produced by Harley and Alan Parsons.

The single “Mr. Soft”reached No. 8 in the UK.

Somerset County Gazette:

Things got very rocky for Steve but not in a musical sense when, apart from drummer Steve Elliott, the other members of the band quit.

To keep Cockney Rebel going Harley added guitarist Jim Cregan, keyboard player Duncan Mackay and bass guitarist George Ford, renaming the group Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.

The next album, The Best Years of Our Lives, was released in March 1975, and featured the number one and million selling single, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)”.

While talking about this famous song, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)”, Steve explained he never gets sick of singing it.

He thought many artists get sick and tired of singing songs which were written for them and have become huge hits simply because they did not write them.

But as far as he is concerned “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” is as Steve said: “It is my own baby. Why would I get sick of singing it. Whenever I sing it, it is never the same twice. There is different inflections and a different variation.

Somerset County Gazette:

There is a wonderful feeling knowing all these people are singing along and smiling to it.”

One of the things which seems to be part of Steve Harley’s reputation is his reputation for being difficult or arrogant.

Looking at this charge sheet, Steve said: “Everybody learns in their life and I have learnt in the past 43 years.

"Gosh has it been 43 years. Oh God, I have changed a lot but I have learnt about me.

"The young brash Steve was misconstrued as arrogant and a cocky young man. I think it was brought about by the way I was treated in the music press and their approach to me.

“In a way why they resented me, I was 23/24 years old and I was no wall flower.

“There are a lot of wall flowers in my business compared to me.

"Personally, I do not mix with many people in the music business, I just do what I do. The people I mix with tend to be very lovely people and are always far more tolerant than me.

“I try and be a good character but tend to be a bit spiky.”

As a singer/songwriter, one of the things which Steve needs to happen is for his muse to appear. The muse sparks something in their creative psyche which helps them produce works of art.

Somerset County Gazette:

Steve said: “When the muse sits on my shoulder it is a wonderful feeling. It is so restful, so calm, you can look into space and it is good.

You know you will put something on paper, you write it down and you know it makes sense. Something just happens.

“I do not know how, but it is a great feeling. It is like a jockey winning the Grand National and being asked what was it like to win and he says that was better than sex.”

You can see Steve along with Cockney Rebel as they are at the Cheese & Grain venue in Market Yard, Frome, on Saturday, July 15.

Doors open at 8pm.

Tickets cost £32.50 and are on sale at cockney-rebel/cheese-andgrain/ 1076012 or call Box Office: 0844 478 0898.