Steve Ellis, an English rock and pop singer, chats with Kevin Cooper about his knee surgery, loosening the screws on the late Val Doonican’s rocking chair, Love Affair’s number one hit Everlasting Love when he was just 17 years old, and the forthcoming Sixties Gold Tour.

Steve Ellis is an English rock and pop singer. His biggest success was with the band Love Affair, best known for their songs Everlasting Love, A Day Without Love, Rainbow Valley and Bringing On Back The Good Times.

Ellis later felt that Love Affair had run its course and he left in December 1969 to pursue a solo career. In the early 70s he formed the band Ellis, a short lived partnership with keyboardist Zoot Money, guitarist Andy Gee, bass player Jimmy Leverton and drummer Dave Lutton. The group released two albums, Riding On The Crest Of A Slump in 1972, and Why Not? the following year.

Before leaving Love Affair they released four further top twenty hits; Rainbow Valley, A Day Without Love (both 1968), One Road and Bringing On Back The Good Times (both 1969). At the end of that year, they also released the album, The Everlasting Love Affair.

The group became frustrated at being treated like teen idols, unable to hear themselves on stage because of the constant screaming and at being pigeonholed as a ‘pop group’. All the A-sides featured heavy orchestral and brass arrangements behind Ellis’s vocals, with minimal participation from the others, although they wrote and played on the heavier B-sides themselves.

Ellis performed briefly with the New Amen Corner during 2013 and had an album with Paul Weller and Roger Daltrey out on Deacon Records in late 2015, called The Best Of Days.

Following a horrific accident that necessitated an eight year fight to regain his mobility, Ellis now tours as Love Affair’s Steve Ellis. In 2017 he was inducted into The Music Walk Of Fame, and 2018 was a very important year for him, because it saw the 50th anniversary of Everlasting Love and the release of his latest album, Boom Bang Twang!

Whilst recuperating at home following knee surgery, he chatted with Kevin Cooper about his forthcoming Sixties Gold Tour.

Good morning Steve how are you today?

Hi Kevin, I’m alright thank you, or should that be I think that I’m alright (laughter). No seriously I’m fine thanks, and when I get out of bed, if there is someone looking back at me in the mirror, then I am quite happy. Anyway, more to the point how are you today?

I’m very well thank you, and before we move on, let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

That’s okay, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Not too bad, thanks for asking. About five years ago now I had a bad injury to my knee when I was practicing karate. I have had to have five operations on it; the first two messed it up, the last three attempted to put things right, and I have found myself having to have a new knee. So, I am just getting over that operation and I am now trying to ensure that I am fit for the tour. What I will tell you is that I am bored to the point of counting the number of pictures that are hanging on my wall (laughter).

And, of course, there is no Jeremy Kyle for you to watch, is there?

Oh god no, I don’t want to even think about watching Jeremy Kyle thank you very much.

In that case you will just have to watch Judge Rinder (laughter).

No, I don’t do him either (laughter). To tell you the truth, I have been reading books and stuff, but I really don’t have that great an attention span. So I have recently been through all of the channels on the telly and I am now watching something called Alaskan Bush People which is about a family who have set-up home in the middle of Alaska for reasons best known to themselves (laughter). I’ve also found a programme about antique hunters called American Pickers so with that and Alaskan Bush People that is about the extent of my TV limit in between my current daily limp (laughter). Seriously, I am doing three lots of physio every day and it doesn’t half take it out of you. But I’m getting there. Now then, that’s my little moan done for today (laughter).

I guess that we should really talk about the forthcoming Sixties Gold 2019 tour, hadn’t we?

Well if you insist, then I suppose that we really should (laughter).

Are you looking forward to being back out on the road?

Oh yes very much so. Especially now, anything that can get me out of these four walls has to be a good thing (laughter). I have been stuck indoors for the past two months so I really can’t wait to get back out on the road once again. I like playing live; for me, that is what it is all about. I like making music. I made a new album last year which did alright, and it keeps me ticking over. I will be performing a few of the tracks off that album plus what everyone wants to hear from the sixties so, it will be a rolling set list considering the amount of time that we are allocated. Are you coming to any of the dates on this tour malarkey?

Yes, I am, I am intending to be at The Symphony Hall in Birmingham on Sunday 24th November.

You’re not from Birmingham, are you?

No, Nottingham.

Good man, you don’t want to be from Birmingham (laughter).

Swiftly moving on as I must go back to Birmingham at some stage (laughter) you usually play the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham but this year it has been left off the tour schedule.

Yes, you are right; we do usually play Nottingham, so I really have no idea as to what has happened there. Normally what happens is that Robert (Pratt) who organises these tours and I have to say, looks after everybody properly, was recently telling me that sometimes you simply cannot get the theatres that you want. In fact, you must now book them a year or even eighteen months in advance.

So, whilst it’s a shame that you are not playing the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham, what a venue the Birmingham Symphony Hall is; I love it.

Yes, it really is a great venue. I have played there a few times over the years. I remember it well; it is the big domed one. Don’t get me wrong, most of the venues that we play are big, which is needed especially when you have got a package deal going on.

So, let’s speak more about the Sixties Gold 2019 staring Hermans Hermits, who will actually be celebrating their 55th anniversary, The Merseybeats, Marmalade, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders and your good self.

(Laughter) okay let’s do that. Well as you know, the tour kicks off at The Concorde Club in Eastleigh on Friday 27th September which I am quite pleased about. The Concorde really is the kind of club that we would all have played at some stage in our careers. It is a much smaller and much more intimate venue which I really do like. It gives me the opportunity to get eyeball to eyeball with the audience. It really will be up close and personal. In fact, for a change I should be able to see exactly what is going on (laughter). In some of the other venues that we will be playing, it feels as though the audience are miles away from the stage.

And as for the poor buggers up there in the God’s, you really can’t see them (laughter). That is why I am always asking the technicians to turn the house lights up, so that I can see people. I like to be able to see just what is going on otherwise I find myself on stage standing there thinking ‘is there anybody out there’ (laughter).

I must ask you, are the tours as much fun as they appear to the audience?

What can I say, the tour last year was great, so I suppose that the answer to your question would have to be ”yes” especially if everyone leaves their ego at the door. Having said that, there really isn’t that much of that nowadays because we now all know each other. We are all sixties bands and whilst I know that the members change over the years as people pass away, retire or change jobs, most of the guys have stayed a constant so you really do get to know them over the last four or five tours. As you have pointed out, on the forthcoming tour we have got Herman’s Hermits, and I must tell you that Barry (Whitwam) their drummer really is a comedian.

I really do like Barry and every time that we hit a new town, he will immediately head off to the joke shop, and buys a load of nonsense. You will get to the gig and you will find a parking ticket on your car. You naturally go mad, but then when you open it you find that it is a joke one (laughter). But he gets pay back for that in lots of other ways. Barry really is a good lad. Marmalade, what can I tell you except they are all good lads. I have done a couple of tours with them. I have only done one previous tour with Wayne (Fontana) and that was last year over in Ireland, so I don’t really know him that well. He’s a great singer but I don’t know him that well.

Then you have The Merseybeat’s who really are a great bunch of guys. Billy (Kinsley) is a good mate of mine. In fact, they are all good lads; Lou (Rosenthal) their drummer is a top bloke. They are all good lads, and we all get on well together. The last few tours have been great so touch wood we should be fine.

You have mentioned egos and you have mentioned the fact that everyone gets along. Is there still a rivalry to see who puts on the best performance on the night?

No, I don’t think so. I think that everybody simply goes out onto the stage, does their thing and that’s it. There are certain parts of the audience who like different bands and will have a leaning towards those bands more than others. So some bands have their own little group of people who come along to the show and support them, but we all have these fans. For example, whenever we play in Liverpool, it will be The Merseybeat’s who will go down a storm. So there really is none of that; there is none of that at all.

I have to tell you that I saw you a couple of years ago now at the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham and being an old soulie I have to be honest with you and say that your cover of Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) blew me away.

Really, thanks for saying that. I was only thinking yesterday that I might just put that back onto the set list. At this stage of the game, absolutely nothing is finalised but what I will say is that Do I Love You is most definitely back in the mix. I try not to play the same set every night. I have six or seven numbers that I roll around, and as I haven’t done Do I Love You for a while now, perhaps it is time to bring it back. We will see.

What, in your opinion, makes these tours so popular? Is it good songs, nostalgia or is it simply a bit of everything?

I personally think that it is down to a bit of everything really. I think that you got a hole in one there. The audiences who come along to the shows are not all of a certain age if you get my meaning (laughter). You can have sixteen-year olds, you can have thirty-year olds, you can have seventy-year olds, plus it also depends on where you are playing. There is one venue in particular which is a bit staid, and I think that everyone who has ever played there has said the very same thing. I think that there is something in the water (laughter). I don’t know what it is, but I shall remain tight-lipped on where it is (laughter). Generally, everybody is up for a good time, plus all the guys onstage have a laugh.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a comedy show, and I don’t do a lot of talking as you will know if you have been to a gig; I just tend to crack on and do the numbers together with a bit of a laugh. So, I think that your theory has hit the nail on the head.

How long do you think these package shows can continue in their current format?

I really don’t know. As you know I have been a part of the tours for the last five years, but you must remember that I do a lot of other stuff as well. I try to keep going forward by making new records as well, in tandem with the tours. I enjoy playing the stuff that we recorded back in the 60s because when you look at it, that is my heritage. I enjoy doing the tours because I enjoy working with the people that we have spoken about. They are all organised properly by Robert, so I have to say that they are enjoyable. The only part that I would have to put my hands up to and say that it really isn’t that enjoyable is the travelling between gigs. Everyone on the tour will tell you that.

You can very easily find yourself sitting in a car for six hours in a traffic jam. That really is not fun. The good bit is when you are on stage but at the end of the day, that is my job and I simply must put up with the rest. There is no other way around it, if you don’t like it then don’t do it. For me, it is all about the playing and performing. I would love to play a longer set, but you get allocated a time slot and that’s it, you can’t. But there are no complaints from me on that front.

Have you ever given any thought to life after music?

(Laughter) are you saying that it’s time for me to pack it all in (laughter). Not really, but I do like the thought of having a bit of peace and quiet.

I asked Alice Cooper if he had ever given any thought to retiring and he said, ‘from what young man golf or music’ (laughter).

I personally think that every musician should have a hobby, and let me tell you, I’ve got several. The thing is that I think that if all you did was speed around the planet every night, well as the saying goes ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. I do it, it’s my job and I enjoy it and while I can still do it, I will do; ‘march or die’ is my motto. It’s like I say to guys in certain bands, who are proper mates although they are older than me because I started out when I was young, I say to them “why do you keep doing this, you are not well” and they say “what else can I do, stay at home” and I say “yes, spend some time playing with your grandkids, make some toys in your shed or whatever”. So to answer your question, just how long will these tours go on for, well as long as the public want them.

I can’t speak to you without mentioning Love Affair; were they good times?

Yes, they were, most definitely. They were good times right up to the very end when we had just got to the point where we had been on the road for so long, night after night after night, and we had only recorded one album and half of that album had been recorded live in the studio. So, we never really got the time to sit down and consider our options as a band if you see what I mean. We were out on the road, playing live, all the time. When we first started out, I was fifteen years old right up until I was twenty years old and all that I had done in that time was play live. We grew up on the road together, and then towards the end of it, the rest of the band wanted to go down the progressive rock path, which I really couldn’t be arsed with if I’m honest (laughter).

That really wasn’t for me; I had always been a soul boy. Having said that, the major part in us splitting up was the fact that you couldn’t hear yourselves or what you were playing anyway because we had somehow got inadvertently dragged into what they had branded teeny bopper bands; us and Amen Corner couldn’t hear ourselves think onstage. Andy (Fairweather-Low) is still a very good pal of mine; he’s a good lad and I really like Andy. We couldn’t hear what we were playing, singing, nothing; all that you could hear was a screaming noise. One night I just thought to myself ‘this isn’t about music anymore; this is just madness’, so I left.

After that, I did a couple of solo things, a movie soundtrack, and formed another band with Zoot Money and committed commercial suicide (laughter). That’s what you did, you kept on making music. That’s what it is all about isn’t it.

You were seventeen years old, and with a UK number one hit with Everlasting Love. That must have felt a little special?

Yes, it did but to be honest it all felt a bit surreal really. We really did work hard; we toured the country, slept in the van, we did all of that. We used to play three one hour sets down there in Southend. We really did work our ticket. But I must say that we were all in a state of shock when we heard that Everlasting Love was at number one in the charts. The press after that were all over us. That really was a bit of a shocker. You must remember that at that time we were still kids, we were little buggers (laughter). Bless him, we did the Val Doonican show over in Ireland, and we had all taken screwdrivers over with us and we dismantled his rocking chair and he caught us.

He chased us around the studio shouting “you little buggers, get away from here” (laughter). We used to do stuff like that all the time, but now, health and safety would be dragging you through the courts (laughter). We had a really good time for as long as we were together. The problem was that we finally outgrew it and went our separate ways.

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record that I ever owned was when my mum bought me Ray Charles’ Greatest Hits.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

That would have been the late, great James Brown at The Walthamstow Granada way back in 1966.

What was the last song or piece of music to make you cry?

(Laughter) Everlasting Love. To be honest I can’t remember ever crying to a song or piece of music.

On that note Steve let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. You take care and I will see you in Birmingham.

Thanks Kevin, it’s been great. You make sure that you come by and say hello. Bye for now.