Wickham Festival News

Steve Harley still smiling after 40 years

By Graham Hiley

Recently Steve Harley and his wife Dorothy were sitting in the back of a taxi in Montenegro heading for a night out when the car radio played Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me).

The driver tapped the steering wheel in time to the catchy beat, totally oblivious to the fact that he was transporting the man he was listening to.

Steve chuckled: “I did think about telling him – and I have done that in the past. It can be quite fun to say: ‘That’s me.’ And then they stare hard and say: ‘Hey, it IS you.’ But I left him to enjoy the song. He did not recognise me at all but it was interesting to see his reaction.

Steve Harley
Steve Harley is looking forward to returning to Wickham

“My wife just raised her eyebrows as if to say ‘Not that again!’ but I must admit it did give me a bit of a warm glow.”

It should come as no surprise that the 1975 Number One hit should still be getting air time across the globe; it is still regularly voted in polls of the top 100 songs of all time.

Steve added: “It is fair to say it has stood the test of time! People ask if I ever get tired of playing it, how could I? That song has been very good to me. It is a different version every night and I love playing it and I love the reaction from the audience.

“The place usually goes ape as soon as we play the opening notes. People love it; I would never fail to play it. That would be disrespectful and churlish.

“I have written more than 130 songs but that one stands out though I do get a bit miffed if people think that is all I have done, especially semi-professionals who don’t do their research.

“I trained as a reporter so I know all about research and I know it does matter so I get a bit fed up with people who don’t do it. I was always taught to check, double-check and then check again but it is a very different world these days.”

Steve Harley
Steve Harley in Bonn (Photo by Karlheinz Beck)

Despite scoring just 24% in his mock O Level in Maths, Steve’s first job was as a trainee accountant at the Daily Express.

But his love of journalism saw him train as a reporter – despite leaving school without an English A Level; he eventually took it in his mid-Thirties.

It is easy to assume now that Steve would have gone into music journalism but that was never his aim. He added: “I trained as a hack and I would have stayed that way.

“I loved being a news reporter and mixing with journalists but I have no regrets about switching to the music industry. I trained with some people who have gone on to become very successful in the industry but I never look back and wonder what might have been.

“I have lived a life full of highlights. Everything has been such an adventure and I have travelled the world,” said Steve.

“Three years ago I took my acoustic show to Norway. We went to Tromso in the Arctic Circle where they have six months of daylight and six months of darkness.

“It was dark after the gig so I guess it must have been winter and as we were being driven back to the hotel, the driver asked if we wanted to go and see the Northern Lights.

“I said I thought that would be quite pleasant so we drove out somewhere it was pitch dark and then saw the most magnificent spectacle of nature. Playing a concert for 700 people and then seeing that was a real highlight.

“Another would be waking up in Beverley Hills to a phone call from the managing director of EMI to say we had reached Number One with Make Me Smile.

Steve Harley circa 1975
Steve Harley hit Number One in 1975 (Photo by Mick Rock)

“But the highs just keep happening and hopefully there are a few more to come.”

So, what next for the 64-year-old who shows no sign of slowing down?

“There is a lot on the burner. One of my songs has just been recorded by a major international superstar. I can’t tell you who he is because it is being kept hush-hush until it is in the shops but he is one of the world’s biggest selling artists so that is a buzz.

“I have just been in the studio and made a beautiful record which might get a bit of air play but it is very difficult to get that these days. Life has changed so much; you can get spotted and dumped in a matter of weeks.

Steve Harley is embarking on a 40th anniversary tour
Steve Harley is embarking on a 40th anniversary tour

“In the autumn I will be going out on a 40th anniversary tour which will be a lot of fun. Duncan Mackay is coming over from South Africa to play with us so it should be fantastic.

“Before then we are playing several festivals, all in the south which is good because it means we can get home afterwards and save on hotel bills.

“I do so many festivals that it can be hard to remember too many but Wickham genuinely stands out for me, partly because the organiser Peter Chegwyn is such a good man and partly because it is such a good event.

“I played there a couple of years ago and loved the atmosphere. Everyone was very chilled and relaxed. And they have what I call proper musicians who just love to play.

“This year they have a fantastic line-up of real good people. I have bumped into Billy Bragg on many occasions and I have known Graham Gouldman for ever. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer are old friends.

“I have known Tom Robinson since he was in short trousers and the Proclaimers played with me at Wickham in 2012. They came and watched my set and were so kind.

“But that sums up Wickham. It is full of good people as well as good musicians. That is why I am genuinely delighted to be asked back. It means they must think I am a good person as well as a decent artist.”

Recommended by the Guardian

The Wickham Festival is top of the list in the Guardian’s rundown of family festivals.

The national newspaper has published a selection of some of the best boutique festivals this summer and we are delighted to be featured so prominently.

Check it out here.

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  • Facebook Posts

    For those with plenty of puff, we'll have didgeridoo workshops at this year's Wickham Festival. ... See MoreSee Less

    For those with plenty of puff, well have didgeridoo workshops at this years Wickham Festival.

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Colin Lacey 😱😱😱

    Bill Wallace

    Charlotte Birch 😍

    Fiona Chivers 😊

    Rosemary Nash you’ve got to give this a go

    Ben - I'm sure you could borrow one of Martin's 🙂

    Edward Fletcher

    You jest Rachel but rob can play one we have three at home 🤣

    Andrew Terry

    Clive Lightfoot Mel Lightfoot 😂😂😂

    Cindy Harrison?

    Steve Lawless

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    Good to see our Wickham Festival mentioned in today's Daily Mirror interview with Judy Collins. She's appearing at Wickham on Thursday 1st August, same night as her long-time friend Graham Nash of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame. ... See MoreSee Less

    Good to see our Wickham Festival mentioned in todays Daily Mirror interview with Judy Collins.  Shes appearing at Wickham on Thursday 1st August, same night as her long-time friend Graham Nash of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame.

    Couple of late additions to our 2019 line-up. The wonderful traditional Irish singer Cara Dillon and the award-winning musician Luke Daniels. www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiGsYjyeeuUwith Sam Lakeman and John Smith ... See MoreSee Less

    Video image

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Better and better!

    Absolutely brilliant! Well done Wickham 😎👍

    Can I ask what day will cara dillon be playing?

    Excellent Wickham 👍👍👍

    Excellent. She was terrific with Transatlantic Sessions....!

    Jonathan Coppock

    Absolutely superb additions - looking forward to August more and more each day!

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    A few more names to announce this Wednesday evening including one of the best female vocalists on the traditional & Irish music scene plus an award-winning folk musician and former Riverdance band member. Any guesses? ... See MoreSee Less

    A few more names to announce this Wednesday evening including one of the best female vocalists on the traditional & Irish music scene plus an award-winning folk musician and former Riverdance band member.  Any guesses?

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Cara Dillon would be good

    Cara Dillon?

    Maire Brennan would be great though

    Sharon Shannon?

    it's already Wednesday

    Lisa O’Neill

    Mary Black?

    Luke Daniels ? Moya Brennan? Sharon Shannon?

    Val Doonican ??????????????

    That looks like Florence to me 😂

    Have I missed it ? Wednesday now lol Btw Have you asked wildwood kin yet ????❤️

    Julie Feeney?

    Brilliant line up this year best one yet Cara Dillon?

    Wickham Music Festival who was the announcement ?

    Davy Spillane

    Are we still waiting....patiently 🤔

    Still waiting!

    Who is it?! 🤔

    Brendan Power?

    Moya Brennen and Luke Daniels??

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    1st-4th Aug. Wickham, Hampshire. Voted the UK's Best Small Festival. Click the photo to enlarge. Please 'Like' & 'Share'. Cheaper per day than Camp Bestival; Cambridge; Cornbury; Cropredy; Larmer Tree and the Isle of Wight Festivals... and with a great line-up on four stages. www.wickhamfestival.co.uk ... See MoreSee Less

    1st-4th Aug.  Wickham, Hampshire.  Voted the UKs Best Small Festival.  Click the photo to enlarge.  Please Like & Share.  Cheaper per day than Camp Bestival; Cambridge; Cornbury; Cropredy; Larmer Tree and the Isle of Wight Festivals... and with a great line-up on four stages.  www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Would love to but realise we are in Scotland that week - running around the forests orienteering! You will have to enjoy it for me! X

    That is a belting line up. Frank Turner, Alabama 3 (full band or Sound system? Either is good), Afro Celt Sound System, Proclaimers, Dreadzone, 3 Daft Monkies, BSSOVD (ooerr!) Well done the booking team.

    Half way down the post, below the headline acts is this guy, who I have loved since the 1980s https://youtu.be/wzHSJSJ_ias

    Better line up then Larmer Tree Festival !! In my opinion

    Scott have you announced this yet? I’ve lost track. 😂

    Never seen The Proclaimers live.

    The ‘Kiefer Sutherland Band’? Fuck off! Make it on merit not on your celebrity in another field!

    All booked.. do we leave on a Monday?

    Hope to see Big Brother Soul again, they were one of last years highlights x

    Great line up. Wish I didn’t stay north of the border😢

    Fantastic lineup! Why is Sam Kelly hidden away at the bottom? BIGGER 😁

    How much please

    Tracy McAndrew Edies 1st festival??

    I hope they put the main acts in the big top n not on 2nd stage as they did last year n thats its not so flamin hot

    Stephanie Loveridge

    When will you publish stage and time slot per artist please?

    The proclaimers when did they sneak in ?

    The best lineup you guys have ever had. 👍

    That is a wicked line up for Wickham Festival?

    Are we going ? Jasper Mark Haywood

    Brilliant line up well done Peter I know you have been working hard on this.

    Better Line-up than the Isle of Wight !

    Shame its not Wickham Market!

    Dave Randall have a look who's there..lol

    What a brilliant line up this year 😁 x

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