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.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tony Poolan on September 7, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I saw them at Newcastle Mayfair when Anthem was accompanied by the arrival of bagpipers and through his Newcastle City Hall gigs – the versions of Framed with Alex pleading his innocence versus the band – and as they were so superb it was a great shock when they split before a BBC Sight & Sound Concert(?). Great band great memories.

    Reply

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