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SAHB Stories: Everything you need to know about The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
08.11.2014
12:11 pm
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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?
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.11.2014
12:11 pm
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Alex Harvey was the Director: SAHB was the soundtrack

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They were making a film, and Alex Harvey was the director, creating the different scenes, to which SAHB put the sound track. And what a great film it was too.

It’s 30 years since Alex Harvey died on the eve of his 47th birthday. Hard to believe, but there it is. It seems so recent but is now so very far away. Yet, we all need some Alex Harvey in our life, just to remember the brilliance of the man, and of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Here is Alex in a brief interview with “Whispering” Bob Harris on the Old Grey Whistle Test, where he talks about his early days as the Scottish Tommy Steele, playing in the Big Soul Band, and performing in the musical Hair. The key thing to note here is the long apprenticeship Harvey had before he reaped success.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band


 
3 bonus tracks from SAHB, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.02.2012
07:35 pm
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The 60s in 4 Minutes & 2 Songs: The day the musical ‘Hair’ invaded the BBC

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The London cast of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical perform 2 songs (“Aquarius” and “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)”) on BBC’s news show Nationwide, before taking over the studio and getting the presenters, including future coke-snorter, Frank Bough, up to dance.

The original 1968 London production of Hair opened at the Shaftesbury Theater, and provided a starting block for a diverse range of young talent including: Sonja Kristina, Paul Nicholas, Melba Moore, Elaine Paige, Paul Korda, Marsha Hunt, Floella Benjamin, Alex Harvey, Oliver Tobias, Richard O’Brien and Tim Curry. This was where Curry first met future Rocky Horror Picture Show writer O’Brien, and where Alex Harvey conjured up SAHB.  Hair ran in London from 1968-1973, for 1,997 performances, until it was forced to close after the theater roof collapsed. It then relocated to the Queen’s Theater, where it ran for a further 111 performances between June and September 1974, when it finally closed. This was the cast performing before the final show on September 28th, 1974.
 

 
With thanks to Nellym
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.26.2012
07:21 pm
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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

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Musical tastes are important when it comes to relationships, something I realized the night Alex Harvey died, in 1982. The radio was playing a loop of tracks in memory of the great man, when my then girlfriend asked why I liked The Sensational Alex Harvey Band? I explained, and she replied, ‘But he looked so dirty, like a bad workman that would come to your house and drink Dad’s booze and fuck Mom.’ She had a point, and some imagination, but that was the moment I knew we wouldn’t last.

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 alcohol. While soccer could disappoint, and drink left you hungover, SAHB never let you down.

As Charles Shaar Murray wrote, after Alex Harvey’s death in the NME:

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were one of the craziest, most honest, most creative and most courageous bands of their time, and also the most public and best-known phase of the career of Alex Harvey, the man who won a Tommy Steele rock-alike contest in Glasgow in the mid-fifties and thereafter dubbed himself The Last Of The Teenage Idols.

Alex Harvey was a genuine working-class hero, born in Plantation, the harbor district of Glasgow in 1935, he grew up with a love of Billie Holliday, Big Bill Broozny, Charlie Parker, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. In 1959, he formed his first band, Alex Harvey’s Soul Band, which established his great, cigarette and alcohol voice that didn’t mimic American inflection, but delivered songs in his native Glaswegian. The band toured the U.K. and Europe, and for one gig had the embryonic Beatles as support.

But Harvey was more than just a Blues singer and he moved on to performing in the musical Hair, which inspired the theatrical style he used with his most successful group, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

SAHB were unique as they mixed genres and styles - Weimar cabaret, film, Blues, rock and torch song, with which, as Murray writes, “they achieved their impact simply because Alex Harvey had the insight to locate the central core of the song and the passion to get him to that core.”

What showed most about Alex Harvey the performer was his very real devotion to his audiences. He would go to any length to enlighten and to entertain, and - as his notion of theatrical presentation developed from a few simple costume changes and bits of business to complex arrangements of props and gadgets - his work was never bombastic and never attempted to substitute extravagance for genuine communication. Time after time, he would exhort his audiences to avoid both private and institutionalized violence - “don’t make any bullets, don’t buy any bullets and don’t shoot any fucken bullets” - and to behave responsibly towards each other and their environment - “don’t pish in the water supply.”

During the period of Alex’s greatest popularity, he did not just provide an escape from everyday existence through dem ol’ rock and roll fantasies, but he depicted and celebrated that existence and the process of that escape, and the relationship of one to the other.

Vambo still rules.
 

 
Bonus clips of SAHB plus an interview with Alex Harvey after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.29.2010
06:16 pm
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