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Significant Scots
Alex Harvey


Alex HarveyALEX HARVEY, singer and entertainer. Born Glasgow, Scotland, 5 February 1935. Died Zeebruge, Belgium, 4 February 1982. Married twice, first to Mary Martin, with whom he had a son, Alex; second to Trudy, with whom he had a son, Tyro.

ANYONE who ever saw Alex Harvey live will never have forgotten. Quite simply, there's never been a man like him - he could dominate a room just by entering it; his energy and character were terrifying and exciting; and his band, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, were the most unforgettable act of their era.

Harvey died 20 year ago this year, but his influence is still stunningly powerful. From Nick Cave, Robert Smith and AC/DC to any famous Scots music star over the last 30 years, everyone doffs the cap to Alex Harvey.

Remembered for his gravelly Glaswegian delivery, which he used in preference to his top-quality crooner's voice, Harvey had had 36 jobs, including lion tamer, by the time he became a star in 1957. In the 60s his Big Soul Band were a big live draw and were responsible for a cult album, The Blues, recorded during the beat explosion in Hamburg.

But the best of Harvey was undoubtedly the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Between 1972 and 1978 they became legendary. Zal Cleminson, the mime-artist clown and hair-raising guitarist; Chris Glen, the glam-strutting bass player; Hugh McKenna, cool, smooth keyboard genius; and his cousin, Ted McKenna, the power behind the magic on the drums.

It was simplicity itself: theatre and music, performance and attitude. Framed, Faith Healer, Sgt Fury, Gang Bang, Vambo, Delilah, Gamblin' Bar Room Blues, Boston Tea Party. SAHB really put on a show, creating larger-than-life characters and 3-D images with a fake wall, a can of spraypaint, a lamp post and old mac Harvey bought for 50p in an Oxfam shop. Simple and effective.

SAHB supported Slade in 1973 when they were the biggest thing in Britain and everyone else was too scared to go on before them. They gave the Who a run for their money in the stadium tour of 1976. If you didn't have a ticket for the legendary SAHB Christmas Shows by July, you weren't going. They became the biggest-grossing live act of their time.

The band released eight albums in their five-year life, winning legions of fans through the variety of playing styles and Harvey's natural leadership abilities. He was 17 years older than his band and affectionately known as "the world's oldest punk", but he used his influence to preach peace and community spirit, and often stopped the show to break up fights in audiences.

SAHB split up in 1977 when Harvey decided he couldn't go on any longer. But he returned with a new band a year later and made two more albums before his death on 4 February 1982, one day short of his 47th birthday.

Twenty years on the music is still played and fans still remember Harvey's words of wisdom: "don't make any bullets, don't buy any bullets, don't shoot any bullets. And when you get your freedom, don't pish in the water supply."


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