Steve Harley: What makes the Cockney Rebel singer smile Relaxing in the living room at his Suffolk home
My haven: Steve Harley in the living room of his Suffolk home
1 A WORK OF ART
The late Tony Zemaitis made the most beautiful guitars. I’d always wanted one, so I treated myself with my first royalty cheque in 1976. We met up and he built me a custom-made guitar for 500, though it’s worth far more today.
It’s the finest-sounding guitar any musician could imagine and I often use it when I’m recording new songs in my studio, but it’s far too valuable to take on the road.
2 GOOD CAUSE
I’m an ambassador for the Mines Advisory Group, which clears landmines and bombs in war-torn countries. People can barely get out of their villages in some places without having a leg blown off, years after fighting has ended.
Coincidentally, I’m a collector of the British artist Paul Horton, and he kindly contributed the money he raised from a limited-edition print run of this terrific painting, Onward And Upward, to the cause.
3 POP POET
Being a real T.S. Eliot nerd, I had to buy this 1943 first edition of his Four Quartets – four interlinked poems – when it came up for sale. He changed the world of poetry, transforming the way we thought of verse.
He enjoyed pop star-like popularity in the Thirties and Forties, and was hounded wherever he went. I take a paperback copy of the book wherever I go and I’m forever trying to demystify this modern masterpiece.
4 MAGIC MOMENT
Make Me Smile quite simply changed my life. When we recorded it at Abbey Road in ’74, we sensed something magical was in the air.
It topped the charts in ’75 and has been covered by more than 100 artists. My publishers owned this original handwritten sheet music, and when they auctioned it ten years ago I just had to have it.
I was bidding against some drunken execs but I finally got it, although it cost me the price of a nice car.
5 ROCK SOLID
The rock world isn’t known for stable marriages, but I’ve been lucky – and I love this photograph of my wife Dorothy and I, and our children, Kerr, 26, and Greta, 29. It was taken in New York five years ago on our 25th anniversary.
I’m away a lot – I still play 100 gigs a year at the age of 60 – and while I enjoy travelling I love coming home. There’s something very reassuring about this photograph of the most important people in my life.
6 MY HERO
Lester Piggott is a hero of mine, and I could never part with my limited-edition Wedgwood bust. Not only was he one of the greatest jockeys ever, but he was a maverick with little respect for authority.
I’ve owned racehorses on and off for 25 years, and racing has been one of the great pleasures of my life. When I finally met Lester at Newmarket in 2010, I was just like a kid at Christmas. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
As told to York Membery. Steve performs at the Birmingham Symphony Hall with orchestra and choir on 24 November. www.steveharley.com