In the 1950s, singer Alex Harvey won a “rock-a-like” competition as Scotland’s answer to British pop star Tommy Steele. It should have catapulted the youngster into a career as a teenage idol, but little followed the promise of this early success. Harvey moved on and formed his own soul band that toured with The Beatles and were known for Harvey’s distinctive singing style and their signature song called “Shout!” Yet, nothing much happened for Alex Harvey’s soul band, and their best known song only became a hit once a wee Glaswegian lass called Lulu decided to sing it for herself.
It seemed the Fates were against Alex Harvey—even with all his great talent, skill and his voice that was second to none. Harvey gave up bands and joined the London cast of the musical Hair. It brought him good reviews, a regular income, and a taste for the theater that would later come in handy.
This wasn’t what Harvey wanted to do though. Harvey was a star, but at that point only he appeared to be aware of this fact.
Then things changed in 1970, when Harvey hooked up with a talented band called Teargas. They saw Harvey’s experience and ideas as useful to their own ambitions and together they formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
If you lived in Glasgow in the 1970s, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were bigger than Jesus. Well, Alex was at least, for he was one of the city’s three religions—the other two being soccer and binge-drinking. While soccer could disappoint, and alcohol left you hungover, SAHB never let you down.
Live there was no one to match SAHB’s performances. Their shows were mesmerizing, as can be vouched by a story of band’s residency at The Roxy in LA, when the bar made a loss as the audience were so captivated by Alex and co, that they wouldn’t get up and order booze.
Alex described himself as the director who created films to which Zal Cleminson (guitar), Chris Glen (bass), Hugh McKenna (keyboards) and Ted McKenna (drums) provided the soundtrack. This excellent short documentary on Alex Harvey will tell you everything you need to know about the great man and SAHB—for everything else, well, just watch them in action.
Harvey died in 1982, of a heart attack at the age of 48, but still all these years later Vambo Rools, OK?
“Faith Healer” on The Old Grey Whistle Test
SAHB in America, here’s “Vambo” on ABC’s In Concert series
“Next…” on OGWT
“Framed,” live in 1974
Previously on Dangerous Minds
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band