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
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
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."