|Intro||Scottish blues/rock musician|
|A.K.A.||The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Alex Harvey Soul Band|
|Was|| Singer |
|Birth||5 February 1935, Glasgow|
|Death|| 4 February 1982, Zeebrugge|
(aged 47 years)
Alexander James “Alex” Harvey (5 February 1935 – 4 February 1982) was a Scottish blues/rock musician. Although Harvey’s career spanned almost three decades he is best remembered as the frontman of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, with whom he built a reputation as an exciting live performer during the era of glam rock in the 1970s.
Harvey was born in the Kinning Park district of Glasgow, a working-class neighbourhood, where he grew up. By his own account, he worked in a number of jobs, from carpentry to being a waiter at a restaurant to carving tombstones, before finding success in music. He first began performing in skiffle groups in 1954. On Friday, 20 May 1960, at the Town Hall in Alloa, Alex Harvey and his Big Beat Band opened for Johnny Gentle and His Group, “His Group” being the Beatles (John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe and Tommy Moore), on this the opening night – and biggest audience – of the Beatles’ seven-date tour of Scotland with Gentle.
His musical roots were in Dixieland jazz and skiffle music, which enjoyed considerable popularity in Britain during the late 1950s. From 1958 until 1965, he was the leader of Alex Harvey’s Big Soul Band, playing blues and rock and roll songs and spending considerable time touring in the United Kingdom and Germany. He also won a competition that sought “Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele”. Harvey became strongly identified with British rhythm and blues music, although he was equally able to play rock songs.
After leaving the Big Soul Band, he briefly tried for a solo career but with little success. By 1967, he found a positive direction for his career, when he became a member of the pit band in the London stage production of the musical Hair. This band recorded the live album Hair Rave Up, which contained Harvey originals and other songs not from the stage show. In 1970, Harvey formed Rock Workshop with Ray Russell; their first, self-titled album contained an early version of “Hole in Her Stocking”, later to appear on Framed. Harvey remained with Hair for five years.
Harvey was also instrumental in the formation of the band Stone the Crows by introducing his younger brother, Leslie “Les” Harvey, to singer Maggie Bell. Also in Stone the Crows was bassist James Dewar, later of Robin Trower fame. Les Harvey was electrocuted in a freak accident while performing with the band in 1972.
In 1972, Harvey formed the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (often shortened to SAHB) with guitarist Zal Cleminson, bassist Chris Glen, and cousins Hugh and Ted McKenna on keyboards and drums respectively, all previous members of progressive rock act Tear Gas. SAHB produced a succession of highly regarded albums and tours throughout the 1970s. The band never achieved acclaim in the United States the way it did in Great Britain, but it had a cult following in certain US cities, especially Cleveland, where the group first played at the Agora Ballroom in December 1974. Thanks to airplay from WMMS, songs like “Next” and “The Faith Healer” became very popular. Cleveland remained a city where the Sensational Alex Harvey Band had a devoted following. However, they were unable to replicate that popularity in most other US cities.
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had Top 40 hits in Britain with the single “Delilah”, a cover version of the Tom Jones hit, which reached number seven in 1975, and also with “The Boston Tea Party” in June 1976. After Harvey left the group later that year, the other members continued as “SAHB… without Alex”. Harvey re-joined the group for 1978’s Rock Drill, but they disbanded shortly afterwards.
On 4 February 1982, a day short of his 47th birthday, Harvey suffered a massive heart attack while waiting to take a ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to England after performing a Belgian gig with his new band, the Electric Cowboys. He suffered a fatal second attack in an ambulance on the way to hospital. He left his second wife, Trudy, and two sons (Alex, by his first wife, Mary Martin, and Tyro).In 2002, a biography of Harvey by John Neil Munro was published: The Sensational Alex Harvey. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were voted the fifth greatest Scottish band of all time in a 2005 survey. After Harvey’s death, they released two live albums, Live in Glasgow 1993 (1994) and Zalvation (2006), which feature many classic SAHB songs. On 4 February 2012, a rowan tree was planted in memory of Harvey on the grounds of the People’s Palace museum in Glasgow. The tree was planted by Alex Harvey Junior and the remaining members of the band. A limited edition book entitled Alex Harvey: Last of the Teenage Idols, photographed by Janet Macoska and edited by Martin Kielty was released for the 30th anniversary of his death.
Two novels by Christopher Brookmyre, The Sacred Art of Stealing and A Snowball in Hell, reference SAHB’s work.
On March 18th 2016 Universal Music released an all encompassing 14 disc box set of Harvey’s work, entitled The Last Of The Teenage Idols. This multi-disc set was the most comprehensive compilation of Harvey’s music to date, including many rare and out of print titles, and was released to great acclaim.
- Alex Harvey and His Soul Band (1964)
- The Blues (1964)
- Roman Wall Blues (1969)
- The Joker is Wild (1972)
- Framed (1972)
- Next (1973)
- The Impossible Dream (1974)
- Tomorrow Belongs to Me (1975)
- The Penthouse Tapes (1976)
- SAHB Stories (1976)
- Rock Drill (1978)
- The Mafia Stole My Guitar (1979)
- Soldier on the Wall (1982)
- Hair Rave Up (1969)
- Alex Harvey Talks About Everything (1974)
- Live (1975)
- Alex Harvey Presents: The Loch Ness Monster (1977)
- BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (1991)
- Live in Glasgow 1993 (1994)
- Live on the Test (1995)
- The Gospel According to Alex Harvey (1998)
- British Tour ’76 (2004)
- Zalvation (2006)
- Live at the BBC (2009)
- Band on the Wagon (1969)
- Alex Harvey and His Soul Band, 20 unreleased tracks, CD only (1999)
- Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album (2008) (an earlier version of The Impossible Dream, unreleased at the time)
- … Delilah, (Spectrum 1994)
- Considering the Situation (Universal 2003)
- Hot City (2009)
- Big Hits and Close Shaves (1977)
- The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Old Gold 1997)
- Teenage A Go Go (Alchemy Entertainment 2003)
- All Sensations (Vertigo 1992)
- The Best of the Sensational (UK chart peak: #148)
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Collection [ CD Castle Communications 1986 ]
- Last of the Teenage Idols a 14-CD / 217-track box set including 21 previously unreleased songs, 59 songs on cd for the 1st time and a number of rare recordings plus a hardback book of photographs (2016)
- “Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album – Alex Harvey”. allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
- “CHART LOG UK: NEW ENTRIES UPDATE : Chart Date: 06.08.2011”. Zobbel.de. Retrieved 6 August 2014.