70s Top Steve Harley Reveals How Viagra Raised His Profile With New Fans

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COCKNEY rebel frontman Steve Harley has revealed how he shares a strange connection with The Proclaimers – after their songs were used in Viagra adverts.

The English singer saw his 70s No. 1 hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) used to promote erectile dysfunction drug before Craig and Charlie Reid’s hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

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Steve Harley is still in top form as he celebrates his 70th (plus 1) birthday in Glasgow this weekend.Credit: NAOMI DRYDEN-SMITH
Steve's classic track was used in the first Viagra Connect TV advert in the UK.

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Steve’s classic track was used in the first Viagra Connect TV advert in the UK.

And Steve – who will celebrate his 70th birthday with a special in Glasgow next month – thinks the naughty adverts mean their music continues to stand up and get noticed.

He says: “The profile he gives you is great because a whole new generation will google to see who sang the song.

“It’s interesting because I’ve noticed at my shows there’s a lot more 20s in the audience these days.”

In the ad, a bearded man is seen dancing with his blonde partner on Steve’s 1975 chart after taking Viagra Connect.

It was the first TV advert for sex pills to air on UK television in 2018 before a deconstructed version of The Proclaimers 1988 footstomper was used for the follow-up two years later.

It featured an animated video of lovebirds Tom and Jess “seeing how things can fall apart and get back together with the help of Viagra Connect.”

However, Brazilian soccer legend Pele was the first to score a big payday when he talked about erection problems in a Viagra ad in 2005.

Steve says: “When Pfizer – which makes Viagra – approached the idea of ​​using it for their campaign, my editor told me it was going to cost a lot of money because they wanted the song as an exclusive.

“When I was told exactly how much they were going to pay me, I said ‘let me think about it – YES! “, although I suggested they might use another hit single of mine called Mr Soft instead.

“The commercial ran for two years and then they used the Proclaimers song. So we were the first to advertise Viagra in the UK – how weird is that?”

Born in Deptford, London, in 1951, Harley – the son of a milkman and a jazz singer mother – survived childhood polio which forced him to use crutches until he was a teenager.


The Proclaimers’ iconic anthem, 500 Miles, is now used to advertise Viagra


But he learned to perform as a musician playing in tube stations, then exactly 50 years ago he formed his band Cockney Rebel which recorded its first hit Judy Teen the following year.

After huge success, Steve went solo, singing the title track from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera with Sarah Brightman which reached number 7 in the UK charts.

However, during rehearsals for the lead role in the 1986 West End show, he was disappointed to be replaced by Michael Crawford at the last minute.

ROD STEWART

Steve also co-wrote tracks for Sir Rod Stewart with the remaining couple of good friends.

But Steve says, “First Rod stole my guitarist Jim Cregan, and then we became friends.

“Jim plays the pretty special guitar solo on Make Me Smile and Rod had come to see me in concert and liked Jim so much he pinched him from me.

“But since then, I’ve been friends with Rod. We are both big football fans. My team is Millwall and he is always threatening to take me to Celtic Park.

“Rod also covered one of my songs A Friend For Life on his recent album Another Country.

FOOT AGAINST THE WALL

“He said, ‘You owe me fish supper’, so we took him to a really nice restaurant for a fancy fish supper and again he asked me to come to Celtic Park. ”

Steve never went to Parkhead but attended a Rangers game in the late 80s at Ibrox with his late stepfather Alex Crombie.

The singer, who has been married to Glasgow-born wife Dorothy since 1981, said: ‘I remember leaving a pub with Alex and two of his friends when we all piled into an old mini to go to Ibrox .

“We were going over cobblestones and it was agony so we had to stop for everyone to pee against a wall.

“I’m standing there with dozens of other guys just outside the football field and this guy turned to me and said ‘Steve Harley – what are you doing here?’ .

SCOTTISH WELCOME

“I keep my private parts chatting with him when he offered to put me up for the night. I explained that I was with my family and being looked after, but it was a typical warm Scottish welcome.

And Steve maintains he had always booked Glasgow to host his 70th birthday celebration concert, which takes place on March 5 – a year after it was postponed due to Covid.

The father-of-two said: “I have such fond memories of Glasgow because of Dorothy and her family and also playing The Apollo.

“If you could sell the Apollo, they gave you a statue and I have five Apollos sitting at home.

Crazy gigs

“These were crazy concerts. The stage was incredibly high and fans were rushing to get front row tickets and then all they could see was my nose – they didn’t even know I had a drummer.

“And the balcony really moved – it’s not just legend. I would finish after a few hours and the crowd would go crazy and you could see it start to wobble.

“I remember thinking ‘I better stop and get out of here before it collapses’.”

EDDI PLAYER

Steve recently recorded a duet called Star of Belle Isle with Scottish singer Eddi Reader for his new album Uncovered.

He adds: “I went to see Eddi play a few years ago and after her concert she came up to me, gave me a huge hug and told me that my Psychomodo album was the first one she ever had. bought.

“So I asked Eddi to come and play at the Glasgow Armadillo for my birthday where she’ll do half a dozen numbers on her own, with me and my band. It will be a great evening.

However, Steve admits he feared losing his Cockney Rebel image after striking a deal with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer – and even sought advice from his showbiz pal Bryan Adams.

STEVE owns three Scotland-based racehorses, but reveals how he once robbed bookmakers for a fortune after heavily backing a thoroughbred called Cockney Rebel.

The horse became best known for winning the Irish 2000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas in 2007.

And Steve said, “It belonged to a friend of mine, an underwriter named Phil Cunningham, who asked me if I could call it Cockney Rebel.”

“I live half an hour from Newmarket where he was trained and would travel every few weeks to see him gallop at 6am.

“I was so impressed that I would come home and open online betting accounts – ended up with ten or 11 at the end – putting just a few hundred pounds at a time with odds of 40.50 or 60-1 for about six months.”

He adds: “When he won the 2,000 guineas at Newmarket, it took me a few weeks to count all the money, as I opened some of these accounts at midnight after a few glasses of wine.

“I had completely forgotten about them, but I would find two thousand here and three thousand there. In total I won around £67,000 for Cockney Rebel.

Now Steve is hoping for similar success from his horses, including Havana Gold and Zumarty, who are trained by former jockey Iain Jardine at his stables in Dumfries and Galloway.

He says, “They’re all going to run soon so I’m going to fly out and see them run in April.” I can not wait.

He says: ‘I met Bryan for lunch in London and he was talking about how he had heard Come Up And See me on the radio and seen it on TV and also heard it in the movie The Full Monty.

“I asked him if he thought I was prostituting my songs. But he said “No, your song is doing its job”.

He adds, “So if it was good enough for Pele and the Proclaimers, then it’s good enough for me.”

* Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel play the SEC Armadillo on Saturday, March 5. Tickets available at ticketmaster.co.uk

Scottish duo The Proclaimers were the second act to have a song used for erectile dysfunction medicine.

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Scottish duo The Proclaimers were the second act to have a song used for erectile dysfunction medicine.Credit: Getty
Steve has been a friend of Sir Rod Stewart for almost 50 years, even though the tartan rocker nicked his guitarist.

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Steve has been a friend of Sir Rod Stewart for almost 50 years, even though the tartan rocker nicked his guitarist.Credit: Unknown, clear with photo office

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