Steve Harley

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Not to be confused with Steve "Silk" Hurley.
Steve Harley
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.jpg
Steve Harley
Background information
Birth name Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice
Born (1951-02-27) 27 February 1951 (age 63)
Deptford, London, England
Genres Rock,art rock, progressive rock, pop
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1972–present
Labels EMI, Chrysalis, RAK, Gott Discs, Comeuppance, CTE
Associated acts Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Website Official website

Steve Harley (born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice, 27 February 1951,[1] Deptford, London, England) is an English singer and songwriter, best known for his work with the 1970s rock group Cockney Rebel,[1] with whom he still occasionally tours (albeit with many personnel changes through the years).


As a child, Harley suffered from polio, spending four years in hospital up to the age of 16.[2] It was in hospital that he first heard Bob Dylan, inspiring him to a career of words and music. At the age of 10, he received a guitar from his parents, and he played violin with the school orchestra. He left the Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Boys' Grammar School without completing his advanced level exams and took an A-level in English in his mid-30s.[3]

In 1968, at the age of 17, Harley began work as an accountant with the Daily Express, from which he progressed to become a reporter in a number of local Essex newspapers for a duration of three years. Later, he returned to London to work for the East London Advertiser.

Harley started out playing in bars and clubs in the early 1970s, mainly at folk venues on open-mike nights. He also busked around London on the Underground and in Portobello Road. While auditioning for folk band Odin in 1971, he met violinist John Crocker, with whom he formed Cockney Rebel in late 1972.[1]

Cockney Rebel went on to release The Human Menagerie and The Psychomodo before splitting up in 1974.[2] The band gained UK hit singles with "Judy Teen" and "Mr. Soft". Following the withdrawn solo single "Big Big Deal", Harley carried the band on with drummer Stuart Elliot, renaming the group Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, with whom he had more success.[4] From the next album, The Best Years of Our Lives, came the number one and million selling single, "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)".[4]

Harley had two more hits during the mid-1970s with "Mr. Raffles (Man, It Was Mean)" and "Here Comes the Sun" which were both Top 20 hits, but he did not have any further major successes. The album Timeless Flight was a top 20 UK success however the two singles "Black or White" and "White, White Dove" were not successful. In the late 1970s he all but faded from the public eye, relocating to the United States. He returned with the failed album Hobo with a Grin, which included the singles "Roll the Dice" and "Someone's Coming". The following 1979 album The Candidate featured the minor successful single "Freedom's Prisoner".[2] The first half of the decade saw a few one off singles; "I Can't Even Touch You", "Ballerina (Prima Donna)", "Irresistible" and "Heartbeat Like Thunder". He was set to star as the Phantom in the London premiere of The Phantom of the Opera, and recorded the promotional single of the title song, but was surprised to be replaced close to rehearsals by Michael Crawford.[1]

His songs "Sebastian", "Tumbling Down", and "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" were included in the Todd Haynes 1998 rock musical Velvet Goldmine. The soundtrack album included "Make Me Smile", but omitted "Sebastian", yet included a cover version of "Tumbling Down" with vocals by Jonathan Rhys Myers. "Make Me Smile" was also included in the 1997 film, The Full Monty.[3]

In 1992, he released the studio album Yes You Can which featured a remixed single of "Irresistible" and the promotional single "Star for a Week (Dino)". In 1999, Harley began presenting a BBC Radio programme The Sounds of the Seventies, of which the last programme aired on 27 March 2008.[3] That same year he released Stripped to the Bare Bones, a live acoustic album recorded in London in 1998.

During 2002, the acoustic live album Acoustic and Pure: Live was released, and this was followed with the live album Anytime! in 2004. A new studio album The Quality of Mercy was released under the Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel name in 2005, and Harley began touring more frequently, although mainstream success remained elusive.[1] The album's two singles were "A Friend for Life" and "The Last Goodbye". In 2006, EMI released a CD box set compilation album spanning Harley's Cockney Rebel and solo work, titled The Cockney Rebel - A Steve Harley Anthology.

In February 2010, Harley, a self-confessed technophobe, attributed poor literacy rates and the moral corrosion of British society to modern technology.[5]

Harley lives in Suffolk with his wife, Dorothy. They have two children, Kerr and Greta.[6]


Studio albums[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 424–425. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  2. ^ a b c "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Steve Harley biography. –
  4. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 358–359. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  5. ^ The Daily Politics, BBC, 24 February 2010
  6. ^ "Steve Harley: What makes the Cockney Rebel singer smile?". 17 February 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 

External links[edit]