Forty years ago The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were making headway in the charts with their second album Next and early in 1974, a single from that LP called The Faith Healer displayed the band at the height of their powers.
With their unforgettable stage act, they were fast on their way to establishing themselves as one of Britain’s highest grossing live bands. Critics loved them and they were increasingly forging a very special bond with their fans, who would often travel far and wide to see the band play at every possible opportunity.
A major part of that loyalty was down to the personality of the singer, the inimitable Alex Harvey, who claimed to be an ex-lion tamer and a street-punk and who, unlike many of his mid ’70s contemporaries, was not being tempted to go down the ever more common route of rock star self indulgence and complacency, this being the era of tax exiled musicians happy to flaunt an excessive champagne and cocaine lifestyle unimaginable to the vast majority of the people who bought their records.
In fact, in interviews of the time, Harvey predicted a forthcoming new wave of rock that retrospectively sounded a lot like Punk. ‘Round about now, some little young guy is going to come out with something and freak everybody out,’ he informed NME’s Charles Shaar Murray. ‘If it isn’t this year it’s got to be next year…’
At a point when many musicians and, indeed, music fans were getting used to the idea of rock music revolving more around musicianship than originality, he foresaw that: ‘Somebody’s got to come along and say to all of us: “All your ideas about rock-and-roll, all your ideas about sound, all your ideas about guitars, all your ideas about this and that are a load of wank. This is where it is!” ’
By the heatwave summer of 1976, several SAHB fans, such as Paul Simonon of The Clash, Rat Scabies of The Damned and Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols were playing a vital role in fulfilling the forecasts of the man who would go on to be dubbed the ‘Godfather of Punk’.
As for Harvey’s band themselves, well, they carried on developing their own ideas about rock-and-roll, sound and guitars with much aplomb while touring and recording extensively. SAHB Stories came out in July, ’76 and as Allan Jones in Melody Maker put it: ‘Currently they are performing so devilishly that one imagines they’re the opening act for the apocalypse.’
Boys and girls, this is The Sensational Alex Harvey Band on The Old Grey Whistle Test early in ’74 with their version of Jacques Brel and Mort Shuman’s Next.
And doesn’t Alex completely inhabit the song?
Just as it can be dangerous to liken footballers in the early stages of their careers with one-off maverick geniuses like George Best, so too it can often be a bad idea to mention any new band in connection with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
In recent months though, one band from Glasgow have prompted such comparisons, with BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway describing them as ‘Alex Harvey meets the Gun Club’ while ‘like the bastard offspring of Jerry Lee Lewis and Alex Harvey’ is another quote I’ve spotted on their own publicity material.
See what you think. Here’s the official video for the fierce and spellbinding second single by The Amazing Snakeheads, Flatlining, shot rather stylishly by Alan Parks in Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on Govan Road, which, coincidentally, is remarkably close to the birthplace of Alexander James Harvey.
And you know what, I think Alex would have approved of The Amazing Snakeheads.
For more on The Amazing Snakeheads, and I’m guessing that if you hadn’t heard them before, then after watching that promo that you will almost certainly want to find out more about them:
Flatlining will be available from 20th January 2014 (RUG564D), with an exclusive B-side track, The Bullfighter but if you can’t wait for that, Flatlining is also available to purchase digitally now from iTunes, HERE.