The Sensational Alex Harvey Band placed five albums in the UK Top 20 in three years and were considered capable of much more.
Growing up in Scotland, Alexander Harvey turned to music in his late teens and was playing in a skiffle band by 1955 – which eventually evolved into the Alex Harvey Big Soul Band.
Harvey then recorded a number of solo albums and in the early 70s, he recruited Scottish band Tear Gas (consisting of Alistair “Zal” Cleminson, Chris Glen, Hugh McKenna and Ted McKenna) and christened the resulting quintet The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The band’s mixture of hard rock and theatricality, combined with Harvey’s vocals and demonic charisma, made them a powerful draw.
Their first two albums, Framed (1972) and Next (1973) didn’t sell well, but in 1974 The Impossible Dream became their first chart record, both in the UK and (briefly) in the USA.
Tomorrow Belongs To Me (1975) hit the Top Ten and spawned a Top Ten singles hit via a flamboyant cover of the Tom Jones hit Delilah. Further hit singles followed with Gamblin’ Bar Room Blues and Boston Tea Party.
Harvey and the band recorded separately in 1977. SAHB Without Alex (as they were billed) issued Fourplay while their leader made Alex Harvey Presents The Loch Ness Monster. They recorded a final LP together, Rock Drill, before breaking up.
Harvey returned with his New Band in 1979 and an album called The Mafia Stole My Guitar, but his moment had passed.
Unfortunately, Harvey suffered a massive heart attack on 4 February 1982 (the day before his 47th birthday) in Zeebrugge, Belgium. In an ambulance on the way to the hospital, he suffered a second heart attack, this one fatal.
Against all the odds, the band eventually reformed (albeit without their talismanic namesake). Since 2004 ex-Shamen sideman Max Maxwell has fronted the band that includes the other four original members, Cleminson, Glenn and the two McKenna’s.
Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Alistair ‘Zal’ Cleminson