Steve Harley headlines Bognor's Southdowns Folk Festival

Steve Harley
Steve Harley

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) is playing somewhere in the world every second of the day.

“People ask me if I ever get tired of it,” says the man who gave it to the world, Steve Harley, the original Cockney Rebel.

“But how could I? How could I ever get tired of it when you always get the audience singing along!”

Inevitably, it’s a song which, even after all these years, brings a huge amount of recognition for Steve, who is among the performers at this year’s Southdowns Folk Festival when he brings the Steve Harley Acoustic Trio to the Alexandra Theatre on Saturday, September 22 at 7.30pm.

“There was this cab driver in York the other day, and he was looking at me.

“He knew who I was, and then finally when I got out, he said ‘You are Steve Harley, aren’t you?’ and I said yes, and he was wanting a photograph. So I said yes, and he took one and then he wouldn’t take a penny for the ride. I said ‘Look, mate, you are out of pocket,’ and he said no, the photo was all he wanted.

“So yes, maybe I get a bit blasé about it. It has been 45 years! But not too blasé. I don’t take anything for granted.

“I was in a cab with (his wife) Dorothy in Montenegro, and we were going from the restaurant back to the house we had rented, and the song was on the radio, and the driver didn’t know me from Adam.

“When I paid him, I was staring at him and I gave him a tip and I was still looking at him.

“And in the end, I said to him ‘Good record this!’ and he said ‘Yes, good record!’ and put his thumb up. But then another time, it will be like every cab driver knows who I am.”

It’s all part of the song’s great legacy. And if he could possibly know why the song has had the impact it has, he’d bottle it, Steve says. Otherwise, it’s one of the great imponderables.

“But I suppose it comes down to airplay – and someone is always playing it.”

For the Bognor gig, Steve is relishing the trio line-up, joined on stage by band mates of long standing Barry Wickens (violin and guitar) and James Lascelles (piano and percussion).

“They are great. They are two of the nicest, funniest, most friendly people you could ever meet. They are just really, really good company, and I treat them as friends 90 per cent of the time.

“The other ten per cent, I am the boss! And it is the same with the crew. With the acoustic trio, there are just six of us traveling around, and it is very comfortable.

“We have already got something like 36 or 37 acoustic dates lined up for next year.

“And the great thing is that it varies every night. They are both virtuoso musicians. There is a lot of improv-isation now, a lot. You never quite now what is going to happen.

“There is a great understanding.”

And Steve is happy to chat. “I don’t chat so much about the songs, though. It is more eccentric memoirs!”

n In the Regis Centre the festival, headline gigs will be: Thurs-day, September 20 – TRADarrr and Kadia; Friday, September 21 – O’Hooley & Tidow and Mer-ry Hell; Saturday, September 22 – Steve Harley Acoustic Trio and Ed Goodale Band; and Sunday, September 23 – Dervish and Gerry Colvin Band.

More details on southdownsfolkfest.co.uk.

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