The 60's were, no matter what anyone says, the golden time for music. So much good music was being produced. So much so that many albums and singles, even by well-known bands, failed to see much chart action or sell as many copies as was expected.

‘The Everlasting Love Affair’ was the first album by The Love Affair. In spite of featuring both of their biggest songs, ‘Everlasting Love’ and ‘Rainbow Valley’, the album didn’t fare too well. It was always a mystery to me. Not only were those two classic singles on the album but there were some very solid interpretations of songs made famous by their contemporaries plus a few band compositions. It’s an album I still play today 40 years down the line.

For a young man like me at the time of the album’s release the main reason The Love Affair were such a big thing was because of the vocals of lead singer Steve Ellis. The girls who went to the concerts and screamed so loud the band couldn’t hear what they were playing were more interested in how Ellis looked and they couldn’t really be blamed for that. With his strangely cut short hair and boyish looks Ellis was the perfect front man for any band. But for us guys it was his vocals, a blue-eyed soul singer who could match Marriott, Winwood and all the others note for note.

Their singles may have been brass heavy with sweeping orchestral backing from the genius that is Keith Mansfield but there was more to The Love Affair than a handful of classic pop singles and a pin-up lead singer. They introduced many to the songs of the talented Phillip Goodhand-Tait and actually wrote some pretty good songs within the band. When the band finally split Ellis started his own band and found an audience more willing to listen than to scream. For a while there he was successful but disappeared from the scene for some time.

Now Ellis is back with a fine collection of songs, ‘The Best Of Days’, which is a much better set than we dared hope for. When we look back on the competition Ellis had in those days it’s sad to see that, even though many of them are still around, we hear very little from them and when we do, well, let’s just say it’s probably best that we are left with our records and memories. But ‘Best Of Days’ is that exception ; it’s an album that looks back to former glories while never losing sight of the fact that those days are gone and this is, after all, 2008. Ellis has made a comeback of sorts and for once it appears to have been done for the right reasons and thankfully he can still belt out a song some 40 years after we first heard him with that passion and soul in his vocals still shining through. It’s no wonder that a number of contemporary musicians have admitted to Ellis being an influence.

I make no secret of the fact that The Love Affair was one of my favourite 60's groups. They had the looks, the songs and had progressed from being just another soul / mod / beat band into a number one classic pop group. And in Steve Ellis they had a front man who had one of the best blue-eyed soul voices Britain has produced. Their first album is still played regularly round these parts and it never fails to move me. I have tried to keep track of what Steve Ellis has been doing musically through the years. When given the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his musical past and plans for the future it was a chance I couldn’t pass up on.

PB : Your new album, ’Best Of Days’, is out in September. Are they all recent recordings or have you been working on them for some time ?

SE : They were mostly all newly recorded a few years ago in my keyboard player and co producer's garage studio. It was sectioned off into two and measured about 10ft x 8ft. I did the vocals in his front room but his Mrs wouldn`t stand for a drum kit set up by the dining table so we used samples, which was not ideal but those were the circumstances presented.

The live version of 'Everlasting Love' was recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon with Paul Weller and Steve Cradock a few years back. Paul gave me the master and said do what you want with it. It had been bootlegged on the internet, so I thought I would put it on as a bonus track and any monies accrued would go to St Mark's Hospital in London where my son was an in patient and gravely ill which is why the release was delayed for several years.

The only other older track included is 'Step Inside' which quite coincidentally also has Paul playing on it. We recorded this for the NSPCC children's charity about ten years ago and released a 1000 copy limited edition single which sold out, so I thought as it had cost me a lot of money (and my best guitar which is a long story) I would slip it onto the album. It is very soulful and some reviewers have indicated it sounds a bit like the Style Council, but I can`t see it myself. It is just music to me. Blame Mr Weller ! He was in that band.

PB : Apart from the obvious cover versions on the album how many of the songs did you write ? The title song and ‘Little One’ for example could be autobiographical.

SE : It was probably about half of them. Some of them were written on my own and a couple with co-writers. Rex Brayley, the original Love Affair guitarist, co-wrote 'Step Inside' some years back .The title track, 'Best of Days', is indeed sort of autobiographical as you say and it originally had soundbites on the fade of Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Kenneth Wolstenholme, but the record company thought we might get sued. As they were tributes I thought it unlikely but unfortunately it was pretty much non negotiable. A real shame.

I wrote 'Little One' for my son many years ago with Darren Aldridge who is a very talented mate.

PB : How did the live version of ‘Everlasting Love’ with Paul Weller and Steve Cradock come about ?

SE : Paul and I have been mates for twenty five years or so, but it was quite accidental. Paul was touring 'Wings of Speed' and had Steve "Slasher" Cradock on guitar with him. He phoned me and asked if I wanted to come to the gig, so I went up to Croydon and we did 'Everlasting Love' and Paul's 'Broken Stones' at the sound check. They sounded pretty good, so he invited me to do them onstage at the gig. It was a good vibe that night. The audience seemed to really love it.

PB : Looking back a little now, when The Love Affair were at their most popular you were still in your teens. Did you ever think that say nearly 40 years down the line you’d still be making records ?

SE : Absolutely not. It was live for the day. You never think beyond the day when you are a raging hormone full of teen spirit.

PB : At the time of ‘Everlasting Love’ and ‘Rainbow Valley’ there was a lot in the papers about the band not playing on their records. It didn’t seem to damage your popularity, did it?

SE : We did the Jonathan King show on prime time Saturday night TV. It was 1968. People only had two channels in the 60`s, BBC and ITV. So half the nation were watching when King, who was a clever bastard, asked the bass player, Mick Jackson, if the group actually played on the record. He knew they hadn`t and that I had sung on it, but utilised session musicians like the great Clem Cattini on drums. Anyway the bass player stumbled his way through after being caught on the back foot. Jonathan King got himself and us headline news in the Sunday papers and the band got a bad reputation, but we had been gigging at the all nighters at places such as the Flamingo the Marquee and mod clubs everywhere for two years prior to any success. We earned our stripes in that respect so we just carried on gigging.

It did not seem to bother supporters at concerts. I hate the word fans, but they were great about it and people bought our next five chart records which were all recorded in the same way. As I have often said it was a bit of a paradox but we were a good live band. I`m not bragging, just telling you how it was. We did the Royal Albert Hall supporting the Small Faces in 1966 before we had any success. Our drummer was fourteen and the rest of us were sixteen and we were better musicians than they were, but we rehearsed every chance we had and would play anywhere for free in the beginning.Three of us had to go to the home office to get visas when we played abroad because we were under age and had to have an adult accompany us. Bizarre or what ?

PB : The band played on all the songs on their first album (except those first singles), ‘The Everlasting Love Affair’, though, didn’t they?

Yeah, sure, stuff like 'Hush', 'Tobacco Road', 'Handbags and Gladrags' by Mike D`Abo and songs I wrote with Morgan Fisher that we were doing live. When we were told the record company wanted an album we put those tracks for the album down in literally about two days and mixed them. We were playing pretty much every night and sometimes twice. We never had the chance to sit down, write an album and then promote it. Things were different then. We were worked like dogs and unfortunately what I would call a proper Love Affair album was never recorded as such. Maybe if we had been given the opportunity we would have been taken more seriously by the media at the time and perhaps stayed together longer. Who knows ? Such is life. I am afraid we were branded teenybopper and it was a bitter pill for the band because we kicked arse live. Ask anybody who saw us play then.

PB : Apart from a few originals on that album it had its fair share of covers. Songs that were heavily covered by many bands in those days. Rarely did covers of songs like ‘Handbags And Gladrags’, ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ and ‘Please Stay’ come up to the standard of the 'hit' versions. But the Love Affair’s versions were different, mainly, it has to be said, because of your vocals. Did you personally have any say in the songs the band recorded for that album ?

SE : It was pretty much as I have already said. We were already playing those tracks live every night of the week. They were just good songs that we enjoyed playing on stage.

PB : I always felt that The Love Affair, because of those hit singles, were never given the recognition they deserved as a ‘serious’ band. If ‘Everlasting Love Affair’ had sold more and been promoted more then I think people would have realised that there was so much more than those hit singles to the band. Do you think the band would have lasted longer if you’d sold more albums ?

SE : I think we would probably have lasted a lot longer if we had made a decent band album, but as I said the opportunity never presented itself unfortunately.

PB : You recorded songs for the film ‘Loot’ after you left The Love Affair. How did that come about ?

SE : Keith Mansfield had arranged most of The Love Affair hits and I got on really well with him, so after I left the band he phoned me and asked me to do the 'Loot' soundtrack. It was a great time for me. I was about twenty and I had all the top session players of the day and people like Sue and Sunny, Doris Troy and Madeline Bell on backing vocals. I thought I had died and gone to ------- heaven.

PB : Then came Ellis (the band) and Widowmaker both of which met with some success. Suddenly you were being taken more seriously with those bands. Did you ever resent the fact that The Love Affair initially appealed to a young audience ? You must have played quite a few shows in those days where it didn’t matter what you played. It would have been drowned out by the screaming of girl fans!

SE : When The Love Affair had the big hit with 'Everlasting Love' live shows went crazy. Girls would tear our clothes off. We couldn`t go out anywhere for fear of being chased which at first was quite novel but after a while it was a nightmare. Once in Belfast we got torn to shreds at a record shop and all ended up in just our underpants. We would regularly have scratches all over and chunks of hair missing. It was pretty weird. No, you could not hear to much music some nights, but we soldiered on until it just got in the way of the music which was why we started playing in the first place. Things got a little out of kilter and I just thought the best thing to do would be to call it a day, write some songs and perhaps get another band together.

After 'Loot' I met up with the legendary Zoot Money again as we had become good mates through the years. We formed Ellis (The record company did not like KIN which is what we called ourselves initially) with great musicians and cut a good album which Roger Daltrey produced and then a second album produced by Mike Vernon of Blue Horizon fame. We toured for two years, but record company politics pulled the rug from underneath us and we were forced to fold.

It was an absolute tragedy for me as the band was so good musically we could pretty well cover all types of music-blues, jazz, funk, folk and rock. People still love 'El Doomo' so I re-recorded it in an updated style for 'Best of Days'.I loved that band. Repertoire Records are going to re-issue those albums set later this year on a two album set, I believe.

Widowmaker was the biggest bunch of misfits put together,a great live band but as personalities it was the biggest mismatch ever. We toured the UK and tore up America and I truly believe we would have broken it so to speak, but I think we would probably have killed each other in the process. Don Arden was our manager. Add that to the equation and it was a recipe for disaster. I left the band as I did not want to end up being a caricature of a 70`s rock star. I mean it really was Spinal Tap most of the time. On stage it was great, off the stage it was insanity. We played to half a million people in Nelson Ledges in Ohio, which was unbelievable.

I try and remember the good bits if asked. It helps me forget the chaos of it all. I am still good pals with Huw Lloyd Langton and speak to Luther (Ariel Bender) now and again, but I would never be in a band with Luther again much as I love him now. We had a fight in New York after one particularly tiresome argument and I hurt him really badly. We had to cancel some dates. Mind you, he did stab me in the back three times. To be honest we were always going to implode. It was pretty much written on the wall from the beginning.

PB : Was there ever a time when you thought you would give up music for good ? You had a horrific accident after which you didn’t record or tour for ten years or so. But that happened during a period when you weren’t working in the music business. So had you already given up music at that point ? If so what made you return to it ?

SE : The only reason I got out of it initially was because Don Arden did not pay my tax bill as promised when we were away touring the States for nearly four months. When I got back to England it was too late. I was bankrupt and I will never forgive that because I had a young family. They should not have had to pay the price. I moved to Brighton, recorded a great album and it got shelved again due to record company politics. Unbelievable !

I threw in the towel. I had a family to support and I wanted to get fit again so I took a job as a docker. It was physically hard work, but I worked with a great bunch of characters. I was athlete fit according to my GP, so I thought, " Perfect ! Now I can get back to maybe making some music again", but somebody dropped a Ryder Forklift Truck blade across my feet and basically broke and chopped them both in half. That put me in and out of hospital for many years with pins in my feet, bone grafts and so on. I took up Wado Ryu Karate during these years to restore my mobility and got fit again eventually.

About that time an agent phoned and said, "Do you fancy touring again as Steve Ellis` Love Affair?" I already had the nucleus of a band, so we gigged right up until 2000/1 playing festivals, concerts and clubs with the occasional corporate thrown in to keep the band playing tight.

We had a lot of fun and played to a lot of people but sadly Mike Mann our keyboard player( and resident off stage comedian) died of cancer and the band vibe sort of went as well. Mike was a real character. He told us he didn`t have long but wanted to keep playing until he died.At his funeral hundreds of people stood solemnly in the church waiting for the coffin to come down the aisle. What he had kept a secret was the fact that he had had a coffin especially made in the shape of a keyboard flight case and people were howling with laughter instead of tears. That was Mike for you. He even made you laugh at his own funeral, bless him. After that I decided it was an album that was needed. This morphed eventually into the new one, 'Best of Days'.

PB : You’ve ‘hung out’ with some of the best and well-known musicians of the late 60's / early 70's and have been and are great friends with many of them and toured with them. Keith Moon, for example, was a good friend of yours I read. Have you ever thought of writing a book about your experiences ? It would make a great read!

SE : Yes, it is written. I wrote it after the band split. I was writing a book and new songs as well, Very arty ,eh ? Seriously it stops at the end of 2000 and needs editing and some further work done to finish it.It is linear but not entirely about the music business. I have had talks with a few people including Paolo Hewitt and he seems to be up for finishing it with me. There will be maybe an interview bit in it as well after each chapter. I really cannot say yet. It is early days.

PB : How do you feel that through musicians like Paul Weller your name and music is being kept in the public eye? It must be satisfying to know that younger musicians recognise the work you did all those years ago and are trying to bring your music to a new audience.

SE : First and foremost Paul is my mate. As I said I have known him for a long time. He is a very talented man. For me it has always been about the music. I never made records for money. That is the soft option that leads to a short career. I always say if I am asked this sort of question that anybody who picks up a guitar or drumsticks or whatever and gets a real band together they have my respect, no matter how bad they are to start with. If young bands can nick something from me and the music I make or have made, I am delighted and flattered because we are all doing the same thing in my book. I learnt from the old soul and blues & r`n`b singers when I was a kid, so it is the same thing really in that respect.

PB : Your voice, on ‘Best Of Days’, is still strong ; you can obviously still hold a tune and still have that distinctive vocal sound. You’re also looking pretty well on the album sleeve! What’s the secret of holding onto that voice after all these years ?

SE : I just keep singing and try to keep my glass half full, not half empty, no matter what fate throws at me. The voice is a muscle. It needs exercising but you have to sing with emotion and feeling. You have got to mean it. Otherwise people will know you are just going through the motions. I am back gigging with New Amen Corner after an enforced lay off at present and loving it. As long as I enjoy it I will do it and as soon as it feels like a chore I`ll move along. They are great guys and good players, but the geography is a bit crap because they live in Birmingham so rehearsals are a bit awkward as I live in Brighton. Hope that answers the question .

PB : It’s so good, Steve, to have you back not only making records but making great records after all this time. What are your plans for the immediate future ?

SE : To record a new album hopefully and in a proper studio this time so we can use a real drum kit for starters. To get the book out and get time to write some more songs and to keep playing live as long as people want me to. I am 58. Some mornings I feel 108 but I am still a kid at heart and when I hear a great record I still get the same buzz. My weapon of choice is my voice and music is my occupation.............Thanks for the interview...........Keep the faith.

PB : Thank you.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Interview - Steve Ellis

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

23843 Posted By: loraine jennings (dagenham)

i fell in love with steve when i was 7 years old...the looks and the blond locks ..i loved him back then...and still do..

19453 Posted By: Ann-Marie Stubbs (Kent)

Steve Ellis was my all time favourite and whenever I hear the first bars of Everlasting Love my adrenaline races! I would love to have met him or see him perform live again, just as I did all those years ago! What a great experience to hear him since Motown that would be - Motown another serious legend in its time!

19102 Posted By: Gwenda Mitchell (Newry co down Northern Ireland uk)

i have been a fan of Steves since the 60s and think he is brillant i have copied some of his music on to my facebook profile page i watch and lisen to him all the time i would love to have met him ,but will have to do withjust watching hi o line .

First Previous Next Last