In 1972 The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was formed. They were cashing in on the huge glam movement that was breaking all over Europe. Alex Harvey, who was of Scottish descent, fronted the band and to my surprise he had sung in the original version of the London production of the musical Hair.
He definitely had this theatrical presence when the SAHB (Sensational Alex Harvey Band) performed. His character was always diabolical and border line perverse. While performing he’d run beer through his hair and mock greasers or he would take a pair of women’s panty hose and stuff it into his mouth and continue to sing. The band in all had this perverse vibe to them. Guitarist, Zac Cleminson dressed up with full makeup and looked like a cross between a mime and a pixie. Yes, pixie! In France he was referred to as a “Pierrot”, always a fool and the butt of pranks, nonetheless very trusting. He sported a green costume while wailing at his guitar.
Actually, the SAHB had a hit in England with their re-make of Tom Jones’ song “Delilah” which went as high as #7.
Their popularity in America had eluded them. Probably, due to their “odd” presence. Frankly, I felt it was too much for the American audiences to handle Harvey’s evil character.
My favorite song by SAHB was “Faith Heeler” which had the chant in the chorus “can I put my hands on you?” However, this song resonates with a synthesizer part playing throughout the song. But Harvey’s performance is what made this band watchable. While wearing a black and white stripped shirt, like a convict in jail, he would literally “act out” each song. You’d watch in awe to see what he would do next. He was an actor, performing a role of a demented criminal.
TSAHB’s influenced many bands from everywhere. They all wanted to resurrect the glam movement and one version of “Faith Healer” that stuck with me was
performed by The Cult. Honestly they just tear it up.
His “character”, I’ve always thought was a mold similar to the original singer from AC/DC, Bon Scott. Like Harvey, he too was born in Scotland and was a heavy drinker. Even their voices were phonically similar due to their accents.
When I hear Scott sing the song “Night Prowler” from the “Highway to Hell” album it reminds me so much of Alex Harvey. They even dressed alike with their striped black and white shirt with cuffed jeans.
One common thread was each character they played was sinister and sexually deviated.
Alex Harvey was an actor! He commanded with superb excellence the “forth wall”.
Lou Reed, Johnny Thunders and Alex Harvey lived the Rock n’ Roll swindle.
I had the chance to see them perform once in San Diego and they were everything I had hoped for. Yelling at the audience, reminiscent of the professional wrestler Gorgeous George. You know, “the human orchid” and “the toast of the coast”. For some reason the crowd didn’t mind Harvey’s antagonism. It was just part of the show. Mind you, there was no huge production or light show; it was just a band rockin’ and acting out their characters.
In 1982, a day before his 47th birthday he had suffered two heart attacks and had died. He left a legacy that very few artists could possibly aspire. His command of the stage was that compelling.
I read this quote from Anais Nin and I just had to include it in my piece about Alex Harvey.
“I want to hear raucous music, to see faces, to brush against bodies, to drink fiery Benedictine. Beautiful women and handsome men arouse the fierce desires in me. I want to dance. I want drugs. I want to know perverse people, to be intimate with them. I never look at naïve faces! I want to bite into life, and be torn by it.