Following three hit albums and a number of singles including Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), Harley decided on a different approach.
“It shocked people,” he says. “It was so different from what had come before.”
The two singles taken from the album in 1976, Black Or White and White White Dove, failed to make an impact on the charts and the album, which veered away from Harley’s glam-rock image, only reached number 18 in the album charts.
“I thought it would either be a big hit or would be a flop. It was a flop,” Harley said at the time.
“I respect the album,” he says 40 years on. “It’s a bit scatter-brained and there’s no flowing hook.”
He laughs. “It’s the naughty child in the family.”
This year, Harley did some summer shows with his full electric version of Cockney Rebel amongst which was an important show in Hull.
“I was a big mate of guitarist Mick Ronson, who played with David Bowie and we went up to do a big show with an 80-piece Yorkshire Choir to raise funds for the Mick Ronson Music Foundation.
“It was a fantastic show and we raised about £30,000.”
And old mate Rod Stewart has just included Harley’s song A Friend For Life on his latest album.
“It’s beautiful, man,” says Harley. “It’ll make you cry, it’s such a sensitive reading.”
Ever the wandering minstrel, Steve love to tour.
“Yeah, I’m the eternal troubadour,” he smiles. “Travelling is fun and this year has been great – we’ve even played in the grounds of three castles.”
For Harley’s autumn tour, he is taking band members James Lascelles (piano and percussion) and Barry Wickens (violin, guitar and mandolin) with him as an acoustic trio.
“I’m proud to be on the stage with musicians of this calibre,” Harley enthuses. “I’m just a bog-standard rhythm guitar player, really, and we always have a lot of fun.”
He adds: “I’ve always been choosey about the musicians I work with and I’ve been pretty blessed with talented people. I never audition people, I get recommendations. Then I meet them in a pub to see if they’ll buy a round.
“If they do – they’re in.”
Going back to the Timeless Flight album, Harley won’t be playing the whole it on the tour.
“There are one or two songs I won’t be playing as they are too produced and need a full band, but having said that, there are some songs I’ve never sung on stage before.
“The song Understand is one I only did on the one tour, when the album first came out. Also Nothing Is Sacred is a joy to perform and Red Is A Mean Mean Colour is another I’m really looking forward to playing.”
As for what else he will be playing, he tells it straight.
“I will almost certainly play what I believe the ticket buyer wants to hear, people don’t want to sit through two hours of unfamiliar material.
“I’ll play the hits as well as the big album tracks and I’ll be giving James and Barry space to perform too, they are both outrageously brilliant.”
Steve Harley will be performing at Wakefield’s Warehouse 23 on Friday November 18. www.steveharley.com