Archive for the ‘Alex Harvey’ Category

Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977

Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
reading1977prog1Reading 1977 was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the line-up finally (and sadly in my view) lost all traces of the festival’s jazz and blues roots. Instead we had lots of classic rock, with a (small) smattering of punk and new wave. Although 1977 was the year of punk, it was another year before the new music finally started to make its mark at Reading. And second, the main feature of the 1977 festival was MUD. Lots of it. Possibly the worst I have ever seen at a festival. It had been raining heavily for weeks before, which resulted in most of the site becoming a quagmire with rivers of mud, and a large mud lake right in front of the stage. Wellies were at a premium and were being sold for incredible prices in the town.
Friday’s line-up: Staa Marx; S.A.L.T; Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat; Kingfish; 5 Hand Reel; Lone Star; Uriah Heep; Eddie and the Hot Rods; Golden Earring.
A strange mix of bands on the first day. Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat (ex Bowie’s Spiders from Mars) closed their set with Suffragette City. A highlight for me was Uriah Heep; now with John Lawton on vocals. Heep were always one of my favourite bands, and still are; I was a little sad to see them third on the line-up; they would have headlined a few years earlier. Lone Star were also good; showing lots of promise at the time, and Eddie and the Hot Rods went down well with the crowd. Golden Earring closed the day with a strong performance (Radar Love!).
Saturday’s line-up: Gloria Mundi; Krazy Kat; No Dice; George Hatcher Band; Ultravox!; Little River Band; John Miles; Aerosmith; Graham Parker and the Rumour; Thin Lizzy.
I remember being impressed by Ultravox!; this was the early version with John Foxx on vocals. Aerosmith seemed a big band to feature third on the bill, drew a large crowd, and were excellent. “Dream On” from those days remains a favourite song of mine. But the stars of the day were Graham Parker (the whole crowd sang along to (Hey Lord) Don’t Ask Me Questions) and of course, headliners Thin Lizzy. Lizzy were massive at the time and played a classic set including: Jailbreak; Dancing in the Moonlight; Still in Love With You; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Don’t Believe a Word; Emerald and closing with The Rocker as encore. A good way to spend a Saturday night.
reading1977Sunday’s line-up: Widowmaker; The Motors; Tiger: The Enid; Blue; Racing Cars; Wayne County and the Electric Chairs; Hawkwind; Doobie Brothers; Frankie Miller; Alex Harvey.
The Enid were a big Reading favourite and Robert Godfrey got the tired crowd going with versions of classics like The Dambusters March. The Motors and Widowmaker got the day off to a good start. Steve Ellis had left Widowmaker by this point and had been replaced by John Butler, and they still featured that crazy showman Ariel Bender. Tiger featured the excellent guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (I used to love watching him play on the Tom Jones show in the ’60s), and Blue had some neat songs (try listening to “Little Jody”) and deserved bigger success. They were fronted my ex-Marmalade Hughie Nicholson. Racing Cars went down well with the crowd; this was the year that they had a massive hit with “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” Wayne County was greeted by a hail of cans from a tired and twitchy crowd who didn’t take well to his punk songs, including the classic “If you don’t want to F**k me, F**k Off! Hawkwind were OK, as were the Doobies and Frankie Miller, but we were all there to see Alex Harvey. SAHB played the usual set and Alex told his quirky stories: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Gang Bang; Last of the Teenage Idols; Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong; St. Anthony; Framed; Dance to the Music. Alex hadn’t been well and this was their first gig for a few months. It was good to see them, but it wasn’t one of their best performances, and sadly it was the last time the band would play together. The end of an era.
By Sunday many people had given up and left because of the atrocious conditions. Poor John Peel tried to keep the crowd amused, partly be starting the famous “John Peelโ€™s a C***” chant which continued into the next few years.
One final note. I had been to see The Sex Pistols play at Scarborough Penthouse club the night before the festival, and I was still buzzing with the memories of that gig. It had opened my eyes to the raw energy of punk, and that, coupled with the mud and awful conditions at Reading, meant I didn’t enjoy the weekend as much as usual. And just to make the experience complete, the alternator on my car packed in on the way back up the M1, and the car finally ground to a halt somewhere near Nottingham. After a wait of an hour or so, a kind AA man towed us back to Barnard Castle, where we waited (a few hours) for another AA relay van to pick us up and take us home. We arrived back after midnight on Monday, tired, hungry and very muddy, soggy and scruffy….the joys of festival going. Happy Days ๐Ÿ™‚

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974
readingprog74This was my third visit to the Reading Festival; I felt I was a seasoned festival goer ๐Ÿ™‚ . By now a large crew of local people were going to the festival, so there were lots of mates there, and we spent much of the weekend in the pubs in town, and down near the Caversham Bridge; particularly The Griffin. We would nip back to the festival site to catch the bands we wanted to see. The line-up in 1974 wasn’t particularly strong in comparison to the previous couple of years, and quite a few bands who had been advertised didn’t show (notably Eric Burdon, Ronnie Lane and Blodwyn Pig, all of whom I was looking forward to seeing). The Friday line-up was : Nutz, Johnny Mars, Hustler, Beckett, Camel, 10c, Fumble, Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The first night of the festival saw the triumphant headlining return of the Alex Harvey band, who lived up to their name and were truly sensational. SAHB had appeared low down on the bill the previous year; there will have been many in the crowd who saw that performance, and knew how good they were. Johnny Mars and his Sunflower Blues Band gigged a lot in the early 70s; they played traditional blues; I remember seeing them at Sunderland Poly a few times; pretty good too. Fumble were a rock’roll revival band who also gigged a lot. Beckett were local North East heroes, featuring singer Terry Slesser. The SAHB setlist was something like this: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Can’t Get Enough; Give My Regards To Sergeant Fury; The Return of Vambo; The Man in the Jar; Money Honey; The Impossible Dream; Schools Out; Framed.
readingtrafficSaturday line-up: Jack the Lad, G T Moore and the Reggae Guitars, Trapeze, Sutherland Brothers, JSD Band, Procol Harum, Thin Lizzy, Long John Baldry, Heavy Metal Kids, Greenslade, Georgie Fame, Traffic.
Two bands stick in my mind from Saturday: Thin Lizzy who were excellent, and about to break through a year or so later, and Traffic. This was the classic Lizzy line-up featuring front-man Phil Lynott, the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and Brian Downey on drums; at the time of the Nightlife album; they were at the top of their game. Traffic were excellent. They had just released their album When the Eagle Flies, and their set at Reading featured a few songs from that album, plus some old classics. The line-up at the time was Steve Winwood (guitar, vocals, keyboards); Chris Wood (flute, sax); Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals); Rosko Gee (bass); Rebop (percussion). Stand-outs were Steve singing John Barleycorn, simple and beautiful with acoustic guitar, and Rebop’s congas and percussion throughout. I found a published setlist for Traffic, which shows they played: Empty Pages; Graveyard People; Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring; John Barleycorn; 40,000 Headmen; Love; When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard. I also have it in my mind that they performed Feelin’ Alright, but maybe that’s my memory playing tricks again. Also worthy of mention are Procol Harum (great version of Whiter Shade of Pale and a big success during the late afternoon), the late great Long John Baldry (excellent voice and a hero of mine), Heavy Metal Kids (the late Gary Holton as crazy and manic as ever), and Georgie Fame who seemed a bit out of place as part of the Saturday night line-up, but carried on the jazz and R’n’B tradition of the festival and went down pretty well.
readingtixSunday Line-up: Gary Farr, Chilli Willi and the Red Hod Peppers, Esparanto, Strider, Barclay James Harvest, Chapman & Whitney Streetwalkers, Kevin Coyne, George Melly, Winkies, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Harvey Andrews, Focus.
My main memories of the final day are of Steve Harley. Cockney Rebel had split a few months before the festival, and this one of Steve’s first appearances with his new band. They stole the show; appearing just as it was getting dark; the audience was with Steve from the start, and the performance was a triumph. Tumbling Down closed the set with a mass crowd singalong of “Oh dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues”. It was clear that Steve was back, as cocky as ever; 1975 would bring him massive success with Make Me Smile.
I also remember watching Kevin Coyne (Marjory Razorblade), George Melly (a return after his success the previous year) and Focus who closed the show, and were also great, but seemed a little of anti-climax after Steve Harley’s performance.
DJs for the weekend were John Peel and Jerry Floyd. Oh and there were lots of cheers of “Wally”, “John Peels a c**t” (not sure how that one started), and a revolt at the prices of food in the arena, which resulted in a fish and chip van being trashed. Crazy, happy days.

The Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1973

The Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1973
readingprogAugust 1973 and I was back at the Reading Festival. This year I hooked up with a large group of mates from town who had traveled down in a Transit van. I discovered Reading town centre, and the local pubs for the first time this year, and as a result missed some of the bands. The line-up was pretty mixed, with a clear attempt to become international; featuring bands from France, Italy and the USA, and also retaining jazz elements with appearances by Chris Barber and George Melly (who was great and a surprise success).
Friday line-up: Embryo (Germany), Alquin (Holland), Stray Dog (USA), Greenslade, Capability Brown, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (USA), Jo’Burg Hawk (South Africa), Rory Gallagher. The successes of the day were Commander Cody and of course Rory, who was just amazing. This was classic Rory at his best: Messin’ With the Kid; Laundromat; Walk on Hot Coals; Pistol Slapper Blues; Going to My Home Town; and Bullfrog Blues. The crowd loved him. Capability Brown grew out of the ’60s band Harmony Grass; prog rock with great harmonies. readingtixThe other thing I discovered was the bridge over the Thames, and we spent many an hour watching people dive off and down into the river (which seemed crazy and dangerous to me).
Saturday line-up: Dave Ellis, Clare Hamill, Tasavallan Presidentti (Finland), Riff Raff, Fumble, Magma (France), Lindisfarne (Mk II), Chris Barber band, Status Quo, Sensation Alex Harvey Band, Strider, Andy Bown, The Faces.
My memories of the Saturday are of Status Quo going down a storm, and the Faces being OK, but the real success of the day being the Sensation Alex Harvey Band. SAHB were just about to release “Next”; I think they started the set with “Faith Healer” which sounded incredible, the intro throbbing across the field. Alex was electric and made a lot of new friends that day. 800px-Reading_BridgeThe Faces set was nowhere near as strong as the previous year. This was one of their first gigs after Ronnie Lane had been replaced by Tetsu (who was great by the way); you could sense that the band were losing their enthusiasm and a Rod would soon be on his way. Lots of footballs into the crowd again. Oh and Jesus dancing naked during the afternoon. I don’t recall Andy Bown’s set and didn’t know much about him at the time, other than he was in The Herd with Peter Frampton. I do remember being surprised as how high up on the bill he was. I think this was where he made friends with Quo; he joined them shortly afterwards on keyboards. Fumble were a rock’n’roll revival band who played a lot of gigs at the time; I recall seeing them several times at local student union dances.
readingposterSunday line-up: Aj Webber, John Martyn and Danny Thompson, Ange (France), Tim Hardin and Lesley Duncan with the Tim Horovitz Orchestra, PFM (Italy), Jack the Lad, Medicine Head, Stackridge, George Melly and the Feetwarmers, Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, Mahatma, Jimmy Witherspoon (USA), Spencer Davis, Genesis. I think Roy Buchanan may have played also; he was advertised in early flyers, but doesn’t feature in the programme; I think I recall watching him. The stand-outs on Sunday were (surprisingly) George Melly who wore an incredibly sharp suit and totally engaged the crowd with his crazy jazz campness, and of course Genesis, with Peter Gabriel appearing with a strange pyramid arrangement on his head. Stackridge were good as always (Slark still a favourite of mine); Spencer Davis played all the hits, and had a great band featuring Charlie McCracken, Pete York, Ray Fenwick and Eddie Hardin. Tim Hardin sang his beautiful moving songs (If I was a Carpenter, Reason to Believe) and John Martyn went down well in his early slot, accompanied by the excellent Danny Thompson on double bass. The weather was pretty good as I recall, I don’t think we got much, if any, rain. Not one of the strongest Reading line-ups, but still a good weekend of music and fun, with excellent performances by Rory, George Melly, Alex Harvey, Quo and Genesis. Thanks to Ben Sutherland for making his photograph of the Reading Bridge available through WikiMedia Commons. The programme was once again produced by the local newspaper and cost all of 10p ๐Ÿ™‚ . The poster of the Faces comes from the centrepages of the programme.

Sensational Alex Harvey Band returns 2004

Sensational Alex Harvey Band returns 2004
sahbtix2004 I was in two minds about going to this gig and revisiting my memories of the great SAHB gigs I saw during the 70s. I’d seen a SAHB gig advertised at a pub in Felling and couldn’t quite believe the band had reformed without Alex. I didn’t go to that gig, but when I saw the band were touring in 2004 I couldn’t resist in the end. David was studying in Leeds at the time, and I’d already been to the Roscoe with him once to see the Groundhogs, so we decided to go along. The new band line up was the original SAHB band (Zal Cleminson guitar, Chris Glen bass, Hugh McKenna keyboards, and Ted McKenna drums), with the brave Max Maxwell on vocals and stepping into the big man’s shoes. sahbprog2004 The place was completely packed and the band got a great reception. Max did his own take on the songs, rather than trying to recreate Alex’s personna, which was probably the best way to approach it. Zal still had the make up. They played all the favourites that night. A live CD Zalvation: Live in the 21st Century was released a couple of years later, and includes the following tracks: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Swampsnake; Next; Isobel Goudie; Framed; Give My Compliments To The Chef; Man In The Jar; Hammer Song; Action Strasse; Vambo; Boston Tea Party; Delilah. The set that night was similar. It was good to see the old songs played again, and Max did a great job. But for me the night was tinged with sadness for the great man for wasn’t there and yet was as much there as any of us. PS note the typo on the ticket ๐Ÿ™‚

SAHB without Alex Redcar Coatham Bowl 1977

SAHB without Alex Redcar Coatham Bowl 1977
sahbtixwithoiutalex In early 1977 Alex Harvey was busy producing an album Alex Harvey Presents: The Loch Ness Monster. The album is spoken word, apart from a very short track at the end, and features Alex interviewing locals and an eye witness about Nessy. The album is now very rare and quite sought after. While he was bust tracking down Nessy the rest of the band decided to record their own album and went on tour to promote. Several of the tracks on the album were instrumentals, and on those tracks which had vocals they were handled bu Hugh McKenna, Ted McKenna and Zal. Alex does not appear on the album, but he is pictured on the back tied up and gagged while the other four members sing into a microphone. A group of us went to Redcar on a Sunday night to see SAHB (without Alex), as they were billed. The gig was good and featured tracks from Fourplay. I remember hoping they would play some SAHB songs, but I guess I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Set list: Smouldering; Chase it into the night; Jungle Rub Out; Big Boy; Outer Boogie; Love You for a Lifetime; Young and Rich (a Tubes number); Stay (a Bowie number); Pick it up and kick it; Too much American Pie; Theme from King Kong. Encore: Zal’s Riff.

The New Alex Harvey Band Newcastle City Hall 1980

The New Alex Harvey Band Newcastle City Hall 1980
alex1980 The last time I saw Alex Harvey in concert was at Newcastle City Hall in January 1980. Alex left SAHB in 1977, after their performance at the Reading Festival. He released a solo album, The Mafia Stole my Guitar, in 1979. This gig was announced at relatively short notice, with very little publicity. I went with Marie, unsure as to what to expect. The concert was very poorly attended with the crowd filling only the front section of the stalls. There can’t have been more than 200 people there. I read that at a gig at his home venue Glasgow Apollo the night before, they were giving tickers away in the street to try to fill the venue. Alex was dressed in a white jacket, black shirt and white tie; very much the gangster image. His band featured Matthew Cang on guitar, Simon Charterton on drums, Tommy Eyre (who had been a member of SAHB in the last days) on keyboards, Gordon Seller on bass and veteran sax and horns player Don Weller. The set was a mix of tracks from the new album and a few old favourites (Midnight Moses, Framed, Delilah I think) plus a couple of covers: Shaking All Over, and Just a Gigolo feature on the album, but I also recall Alex playing a couple of other older standards. As a performance it was ok, but I had the grandeur and madness of SAHB in my mind, and I’m afraid this didn’t compare to Alex’s past glories. A couple of years later Alex sadly passed away as a result of a heart attack after a gig in Belgium. He was 47. We will never see the like of Alex again. He was larger than life, crazy, without fear, and for a few short years SAHB were the best live act on the circuit, and were one of the bands who laid the foundations for the punk revolution which was to follow. Vambo Rool.

Sensational Alex Harvey Band on tour 1976

Sensational Alex Harvey Band on tour 1976
sahbprog76 SAHB toured again in May 1976. I have a programme for the tour, which I think must have come from The Who concert that I attended at Charlton at the end of May 1976. SAHB shared the bill, headlined by The Who, with Little Feat, The Outlaws and Roger Chapman’s Streetwalkers. I’ll blog on that event when I come to cover The Who. I also have a vague memory of sneaking into the City Hall to see the encore of a SAHB gig at Newcastle City Hall that year. The band played two nights at the City Hall in early May as part of the tour, with support from Pat Travers. I didn’t buy a ticket (big mistake, in hindsight) as I knew I was going to see them at Charlton at the end of the month. I’d been out in Newcastle, and wandered along to the City Hall with a couple of mates. The gig was coming to an end and the doors were open to let people out. We wandered into the Hall and caught the band playing Delilah and The Faith Healer. The programme for the 1976 tour comes in the form of a comic book, complete with a free banger (see below) just like the ones that came free with our comics in the 60s. The cast was: The Teacher: Alex Harvey; The Actor: Zal Cleminson; The Punk: CHris Glen; The Buffer: Ted McKenna; The Professor: Hugh McKenna; Dr Killjoy: As himself. The story is Vambo v Dr Killjoy with, SAHB as superheroes saving the word through Vambo Rool! The story starts: “England is under the oppressive rule of Dr Killjoy – Sinister head of the Ministry of Boredom! His rule has ground the will from the people.” Vambo coming to the rescue…sahbbanger Vambo, featured in the song Vambo Marble Eye, was a teenage punk and super hero of the future. When performing the song Alex would spray paint an imitation brick wall with the slogan ‘Vambo Rool.’ Alex and band were one of the best live bands around at the time, and certainly went down well with the Charlton crowd. I saw Alex and the guys once more after this tour, at the (very very muddy) Reading Festival 1977, which was their last live performance. Alex was reportedly not so well by that stage of their career, and it wasn’t their best gig, but still a strong point of the festival. I did see Alex once more in concert in 1980 and I’ll blog on that gig tomorrow. Typical setlist from the 1976 tour: Love Story, School’s Out, Tomahawk Kid, Isobel Goudie, Dance to you Daddy, Amos Moses, Framed, Midnight Moses, Vambo Marble Eye. Encore: Delilah, The Faith Healer.

Sensational Alex Harvey Band Newcastle City Hall 1975

Sensational Alex Harvey Band Newcastle City Hall 1975
sahbtix75By the time of this gig SAHB had released four albums: Framed (1972); Next (1973); The Impossible Dream (1974) and Tomorrow Belongs to Me (1975). The band were at the top of their game and were selling out concert halls up and down the country. SAHB had graduated from playing the clubs to playing venues like the City Hall, but their show remained as crazy and intimate as ever. Seeing SAHB was very much a show, with Alex as Master of Ceremonies. The 1975 programme explains it well: “He [Alex[ class it simply a 1975 song-and-dance act, yet it inevitably comes off as something of a morality play. The show is often surreal, difficult to follow, but there emerges, beyond Harvey’s unadorned, solid presence (which suggest sailor, lion tamer, master of ceremonies) beyond the more defined roles (paperback detective, leather-jacketed, graffiti-scrawling, framed prisoner) and in paradoxical contrast to the blazing cynicism he projects, a clear and present appeal to sanity, to escape from the repression and yes, to respect for freedom. His warning: ‘Don’t pish in the water supply'”. sahbprog75 Beneath all the show and bravado, Alex was a bit of a philosopher, and came over as an authentic, moralistic guy, a teacher, a role model, the older brother. He would tell us (in hos own words, also from the programme): “Dear Boys and Girls, As we start on our British tour – be good, don’t smash any windows or throw any rubbish. We look forward to seeing you because we love you and that’s why we don’t want you to get into any trouble, Love Alex xxxx”. So what we experienced in these concerts was part vaudeville, part morality lesson, part theatre, part madness, part proto-punk (and setting the scene for what was to come) and some great rock n roll music. We have never seen the like since and perhaps never will again. Yes it was that unique and ahead of its time. Setlist from 1975 (from Glasgow Apollo site): Faith Healer; Action Strasse; Tomahawk Kid; Give My Compliments To The chef; Delilah; The Tale Of The Giant Stone Eater; Vambo; Midnight Moses; Dance To The Music; Tomorrow Belongs To Me; Gang Bang; Framed

Sensational Alex Harvey Band: reflections of amazing gigs in the early to mid 70s

Sensational Alex Harvey Band gigs in the early to mid 70s
framedI first saw the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (or SAHB as they became to be known) at a gig at Sunderland Locarno. It must have been in 1972 or 1973, as it was at the time of the Framed album, and the band were unknown at the time. I was totally blown away by them; their name was correct; they were truly sensational. Their stage show was innovative, powerful and totally crazy; Alex was the ultimate frontman, having honed his craft with his soul band in the sweaty clubs of Glasgow and Hamburg. The guy had no fear, and took total command of the audience. And the rest of the band were also pretty sensational: Zal Cleminson playing the mad, evil guitarist in his white-faced pierrot make-up and suit; Chris Glen leering at us, wearing a codpiece on top of his jeams, and Hugh and Ted McKenna on electric piano and drums respectively. Framed is a very strong debut album, and the songs were great live: The Hammer Song; Midnight Moses; the epic tale of the Scottish witch Isobel Goudie; and St. Anthony. These are all great rock songs and the band performed them with a craziness, syncopation, and faultless choreography that no other band could match at the time. Framed was one of the last songs; it seemed like Alex was speaking the words directly to you. He would put a stocking over his head and fill his mouth with a bar towel. It was truly awesome to see them close up in a small ballroom, with a reasonably size, but by no means packed, crowd. There went down so well they were booked again and came back a few weeks later.
I then saw SAHB at Newcastle Mayfair, at Newcastle City Hall, and at several festivals: Reading 1973 (low down on the bill), Reading 1974 (headlining the Friday night), Buxton 1973, Knebworth 1974, supporting Yes at Stoke Football ground in 1975, supporting the Who at Charlton in 1976, and back at Reading in 1977. The Buxton and Stoke gigs stick in my mind for similar reasons. On both occasions Alex took control of a difficult crowd situation. At Buxton the festival was over-run by Hells Angels who were driving their bikes through the crowd, harrassing us all, and fighting amongst each other. When Alex took to the stage he negotiated with the Angels to behave themselves, talking directly to theie leader and telling him to get his guys to behave themselves. At the Yes Stoke gig, a fight broke out down near the front, and Alex jumped straight into the crowd and pulled the guys apart. As I said earlier, this guy had no fear, and was so impressive and captivating. Other memories are of them playing The Faith Healer at Reading and thinking how different it was, with the opening rhythms throbbing across the field, and of those great and off the wall covers. I can think of Del Shannon’s Runaway, the Osmonds’ Crazy Horses, Jethro Tull’s Love Story and Alice Cooper’s Schools Out. These songs all got the crazy SABH treatment. And then of course there was Delilah. There was truly no-one like the Sensational Alex Harvey band on a good night, and indeed every time I saw them in those early days were great nights! I’ll blog a little more on SAHB, and a few specific gigs over the next few days.