PB : The band’s decline started the following year in 1976. Your manager, Bill Fehilly, was killed in a plane crash. That’s often cited as the reason for the beginning of the band’s downfall. Would you agree with that ?

ZC : Alex lost a lot of spirit after that. He and Bill were like brothers. Alex had an awful lot of respect for Bill, and he was one of the people that he would listen to. He was like a mentor to him. When Bill went, Alex lost a bit of guidance, and that transmitted down through the band.

CG :SAHB’s decline wasn’t 100% down to the death of Bill. but the band certainly lost a lot of direction after that. Bill had been very interactive with the band, but after he died the group became more of a company thing. The people at Mountain who took over from Bill. started to try mould us, and that had never really happened before. They were saying ‘Try this, try that. Can you do that ?’ And we we were like ‘Eh...what ?’ And that didn’t help at all.

Alex also had a very bad back by then, and sometimes he would drink quite a lot to take away the pain, which certainly didn’t help the situation either.

ZC : Alex’s drinking and his health were major factors as well in the band’s break-up . It got to the stage where he was doing things like falling asleep at the microphone on stage. When things like that started happening, everybody started   looking at each other  and thinking ‘Is this what it has come to ?’

PB : SAHB by that stage was putting out two albums a year. That must have put immense pressure on you all. Do you think that that as well also contributed to the band’s break-up?

ZC : We were touring, recording, touring,and recording again. We didn’t think too much about it at the time, but to put it in perspective and in hindsight that obviously had an effect on Alex as well.

Alex always gave the impression that he was indestructible. He was a typical Glaswegian in that respect. ‘I’m the man. I can stand up and do it’. I think that it probably crucified him  to think that he was going to have to go on when he wasn’t up to it. To feel that you have to go on stage when you’re not 100% fit. or to feel that you have to go on and do something when you’re not in control, that must have been horrendous for him. I think that’s why he eventually decided to pull the plug.

PB : Alex collapsed after playing a gig in Sweden in the middle of 1976 and had to take some off to recuperate. The rest of the band then went off to record their own album, ‘Fourplay’ without Alex. How did that come about ?

CG : Management suggested that we might like to do our own album. We recorded ‘Fourplay’ really quickly. We were really hungry and full of ideas.

TM : A lot of the songs were written specifically by Hugh, but Chris wrote some stuff. Zal wrote some stuff, and I wrote some stuff. Nobody said to anybody ‘Don’t play like that’ while when Alex was there he was always trying to redirect us and the way we felt like playing. I sung one song. Zal sung one song, and Hugh sung the rest.

CG : Some people think that it is a pile of shit, but some other people think that it was the best musical thing that we have done.

TM : We were big fans of bands like Little Feat. and started with that to play the way we liked to play. Alex would always say ‘Well, what’s the point in doing that ?’ He was right because we were playing material that had been already done by the Americans. Although we were pretty good at it, and a lot of Scottish bands, like the Average White Band,are good at soul and funk music and we had a flair also for that kind of thing, it wouldn’t have got us anywhere because it was emulating other styles of music too much. Alex’s one hand was to make us go in his direction.

ZC : I wasn’t really very impressed with ‘Fourplay’ to be honest. It doesn’t hold up that well. It’s not particulary strong. There’s some strong musical ideas on it, but for me it doesn’t quite hang together.

CG : It was suggested that we do a little tour of Britain to promote the album. Halfway through that tour Alex , who had been in a health recuperation centre, started getting the urge to go out on road again and started saying that he was ready to go back

In actual fact he wasn’t ready at all, but the management began to lose interest in promoting the ‘Fourplay’ album off and started saying ‘Hurry up and finish this off , so that we can get to what we we were doing with the Alex Harvey Band.’ It was sold short. In my humble opinion Alex was brought back far too early but management wanted us to catch festivals and to make an album.

PB : After Alex came back, the band didn’t last that long afterwards. It was all over in about 9 months. Hugh McKenna left the band shortly after the ‘Fourplay’ tour. Why did he decide to leave ?

TM : He fell out with Alex. Hugh always had a different agenda musically. In fact if you listen to any of the stuff Hugh has done on his own since then it’s in my opinion a totally different genre of music. Hugh was always the muse for Alex to create ideas.

Hugh was under a lot of pressure to bend to Alex’s musical will. He had a specific grounding in music, and had trained at the Royal Academy in Glasgow. He was technically speaking the most accomplished musician in the band. Alex’s whole plan was to try to bend it, change it into something else, but one of the things Hugh didn’t like, particulary after ‘Fourplay’, was to have to constantly try to play the impossible, and to do something that he felt was aesthetically wrong.. Hugh wanted the songs to go a different way, and that was why he left.

The chemistry of the band changed, after Hugh left. That was another major factor for the band’s break-up. He was replaced by our dearly beloved late friend, Tomy Eyre, who died in 2001. Tommy was a great all round musician, and a fantastic player, but the chemistry when he joined the band was nevertheless not the same . There was a different feeling about the band.

CG : Tommy wasn’t given enough time to gel into the band. The band wasn’t a cohesive unit. You have to take time to bring a new member in, and Tommy wasn’t given that. I still think it was fantastic under the cirumstances, but I suppose from the perspective of an outsider looking in it wasn’t as good.

PB : You went out in style though and played your final gig headlining the Reading Festival for the third time in August of ‘77. Alex performed ‘Framed’ as Jesus. That was apparently quite a show. What happened at that ?

CG : I came on the stage on a skateboard. I was not bad on a skateboard and had practiced beforehand. but, unfortunately when I did it with my bass on, I forgot about stopping, and I came on one side of the stage and straight off the other . I then had to walk back on again. I felt like a complete prick (Laughs).

The classic storyfrom that show, however, is that is Alex had this big crucifix, this big polystyrene crucifix. A lot of the BBC DJs were big fans-Johnny Walker, Alan Freeman and all of them-and Alex threw the crucifix off the stage into where all the press was, and it hit Alan Freeman on the head (Laughs).

PB : Did Alex pretending to be Jesus cause any controversy or upset ?

CG : No, none at all. Noone was pissed off. You’ve got to remember the thing about the Alex Harvey Band was that to describe it on paper it all sounds a bit heavy, but if you were there everyone knew it was tongue in cheek. You couldn’t possibly take it seriously if you had seen it. Describing it you would say sacrilege. When we played Berlin, Alex did ‘Framed’ as Hitler. He He put a bit of black gaffa tape across his lip and did this with his hair (Mimics sweeping it back). Phonogram went fucking ballistic, but the audience loved it because they saw what it was all about. What are you going to do about something like that? Laugh about it or cry about it ? The one thing to get up any Nazi Youths back is to do something like that to them, rather than to take them seriously.

PB : The end for the band came in October of that year when Alex walked out four days before a European tour. What do you remember about that ?

ZC : We were rehearsing in Shepperton out at the big studios there. We had a big production set up. There was the usual lots of props and lights and things like that. We were running through one of two things and he suddenly turned around to Ted and said ‘I can’t do this anymore.I am not going to do it. I just can’t do it anymore.’

TM : I had arrived late at Shepperton and my cab was still waiting outside. I don’t know why. Maybe I hadn’t got around to paying him. I came in and Alex gave me a bit of a bollocking for being late. I was having quite a lot of problems at that time with my marriage and that why I was late, but it was totally deserved.

Anyway he was sitting on the drum rise in front of me and at one point he just turned around and said to me ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ He was just as straight as that, and I bent over him and talked to him and he said ‘I can’t do this. I can’t go on doing this. I don’t want to go on doing this anymore.’ I walked out to the cab with him and he got in it and I shook his hand and I said ‘It’s been great, Alex’ .

I was quite relieved because by that point I had stopped believing in it. I stopped believing in it essentially when Hugh left. I stopped believing in the chemistry of what was the band was about. I was also in a marriage I didn’t want to be in, so when Alex announced he was leaving it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I suddenly thought ‘I am going to be free from all this.’

CG : I am 75% sure that if hadn’t happened then it would have happened within the first two weeks of tour. What some of us was calling hard work, Alex was calling pressure.The band was also no longer running on our terms. It was on the new management’s terms.

Alex’s goals were more or less the same as ours. He wanted us to make money, but he wanted us to be happy doing it because if you’re happy you’ve got longevity. You want to carry on doing it. The worst case in the world for me is if you think what you’re doing is shite That’s how bands split up and that’s how all the arguments start, and that’s the way it was going. Financially it was a disaster, but I was just relieved that it wasn’t halfway through the European tour because that would have been really crippling then with the promoters and people like that.

PB : Did you see much of Alex after the Sensational Alex Harvey Band broke up ? When was the last time you saw him ?

ZC : I didn’t see a lot of Alex after that. I ended up driving a mini cab in London. Alex lived quite near me in North London, only a few streets away, and the next time I saw him was when I picked him up in the mini cab. He was going to do a gig with the new guitar player in his band. It was totally coincidental, but I had to go down and pick him up. He got in the back of the cab and he said ‘Oh aye, what you are doing ?’ and I said ‘I’m driving this mini cab’ and we both just kind of looked at each other as if to say life goes on and all that. We just chatted away after that, and I dropped him off in this place in Canning Town and that was that.

CG : I saw Alex just as he had had nearly finished his‘ The Mafia Stole My Guitar’ album. He asked me to meet him in the studio and I went down to see him and he asked me to play bass on the album and I said ‘No’. He then asked me to manage him and I said ‘No’ and then I went off home and that was the last time I saw him.

TM : I went out with Alex a year or so before he died to a pub to see one of his old mates from Hamburg who was playing a gig in London. He had played in the Star Club over there with him, and I bumped into this studio engineer that I knew when we were at the gig. That’s indirectly how I got the job with Rory Gallagher because he told me that an old friend of ours had been working with Rory Gallagher. It was from that night out with Alex that I landed the Rory Gallagher job. I sadly never saw him again after that.

PB : Were you surprised when he died ?

CG : I wasn’t surprised. You knew from the way he was living his life that he was cutting away at it it. It was a shock, but it wasn’t a surprise if you know what I mean. It was still very, very sad though.

TM : I was friendly with a guy who had a daytime radio station in London. It was one of the first talk radio shows. Another friend of mine called up and said ‘Did you hear about Alex ?’ and I said ‘No’ and he said ‘Alex died’ . I had just literally heard about that and put the phone down, and then the phone rang again and the friend from the live talk radio asked if I would do a live reaction and I said the same thing. I wasn’t surprised. I was just sad because that was the way Alex lived his life. He was always pushing on the edge of it the whole time.

ZC : I was really surprised when he died. Aye, it was a real shock. I had heard that he was out working and touring with a band again, and I had thought ’Well, good. He must be well. He must be looking after himself. He must be in good shape.’ Obviously, however. it wasn’t quite like that.

In some ways it was probably what Alex wanted. You know that phrase about being a teenage idol, and dying before your time. Alex wasn’t young, but he certainly died before his time. It was a tragedy.

PB : When Alex died, his profile had declined quite a lot, but since then his stature seems to have grown. When did you first become aware that there was this incredible interest in him ?

ZC : I spent most of the 80’s out of music and I never really went back to the early 90’s. When we all started coming out of the woodwork ourselves and became SAHB again that was when I realised that there was this cult thing going on and how big an influence SAHB had been on bands in certain circles. You hear bands talk about who influenced them, and then you hear them mention the Alex Harvey Band,. You go away then and you think ‘Well, we must have been doing something right.’

CG : I think I saw right away what the interest in the Alex Harvey Band was when we split up. I went on to work with Michael Schenker and John Martyn. John Martyn loved the Alex Harvey Band. Michael Schenker was a massive fan of the Alex Harvey Band. We found out later that Bon Scott was a massive fan of the Alex Harvey Band as well.

Once I stopped playing with these guys, I started playing with other people and became accessible to all sorts of other musicians, many of whom told me how great they they thought we were. They had never got the chance to get near us before. If we met them it would be for ten minutes at a festival. It was like ‘Hi ! Goodbye !’

I realised how much Alex was respected very early on because Zal went away with Elkie Brooks, Ted went off with Rory Gallagher and I went away with Michael Schenker. They’re three very different kinds of musicians, who wouldn’t appear in any one person’s record collection, but they were all SAHB fans.

ZC : I think that it has something that snowballed over the years, the fact that the band has been an influence on all these other younger acts.

Just as were were collapsing the punk thing started taking off. Many of them liked us. It certainly didn’t feel like that that we were in the forefront of anything,that we were in the vanguard of anything, but I suppose that we were.

PB : You finally got back together in 1993. You played some shows together under the name of the Party Boys and then as SAHB. Why did you decide to get back together ?

ZC : Ted was the catalyst really. He is the one who felt the most about the band’s legacy and that we should be doing something and we should be trying to finish something that was unfinished in a sense,

TM : It was my fault (Laughs). I was working with Womack and Womack in Australia, and when I was there I played a Party Boys gig with the original Party Boys who were this Australian band who would have Joe Walsh and Eric Burdon and different people guest with them. I thought that it was a great idea and when I came back to Scotland I decided to do something similar over here.

Zal and I ended up getting together with Dan McCafferty from Nazareth and Ronnie Leahy from Stone the Crows, and a guy called Neil Clark, who is the brother of Nigel Clark, the Scottish jazz guitar player, and that was the Party Boys.

We opened a venue called the Rocking Horse on the South Side of Glasgow and it went well for a bit . Fish came and sung with us for us a while also. Then the bass player couldn’t make it because he was working with Carol Laula and so I called Chris and asked him he would be interested.

CG : Once I arrived with Zal, Ted and myself now involved, there was all this pressure on us to play Alex Harvey songs. Neither, Fish or Dan McCaffrey were very keen though...

TM : And so with all this pressure on us to reform we got Hugh back on board and did it for a while with Stevie Doherty on vocals

PB : Why did that end ?

TM : It wasn’t the right time. This is the right time now and, although we tried it for a while then , it wasn’t really going anywhere. We were just floating along. We didn’t have the right ingredients. We didn’t have the right frontman and the right manager.

CG : And the right motivation.

ZC : Our priorities were elsewhere. That’s why we have always fallen down a bit in the past in trying to resurrect this band. We have always had to ask ‘Can we all stay committed to this ?’ and the answer has always been no, not just financially, but also politically. This time around, however, it’s been a little bit different.

CG : Back then we would say ‘Okay, we’ve got a gig in two months time.’ And someone would say ‘Oh, I can’t do it’ and then someone else would say ‘I can’t do it either.’ It was all done like that, whereas this time we’re all saying ‘we’re going to do be doing these gigs in six months time. Who are we going to do it with and who are we going to get singing. Are we going to do it right this time ?Are we going to rehearse and are we going to get it fucking right ?’

PB : You’ve said this is the right time now. What makes you think that and why do you think it is the right time now when it hasn’t been in the pasr?

ZC : Bringing Max Maxwell on board has been the real catalyst. He’s given the band the impetus to  say ‘if we are going to go out and play these gigs, let’s go out and play with the same kind of professional attitude that we had when we started the band and to try be a bit more proactive about it things.’ Max’s whole approach is to try theatrics and to try and bring that element back into play. That has been a real big factor. Max has got books full of ideas. He’s that kind of guy. He’s very visual. He’s very much a perfomer.

TM : As far as we’re all concerned this is the first person who has made us go “Right ! Let’s do it. ‘ since Alex. We can work with this person visually. With all due respect to Stevie and Billy who were great, it wasn’t like that when they were in the band . They came on and sung the songs. but they didn’t actually perform the songs. We need someone like Max who is going to demand attention

CG : And want to be the focus of attention.

PB : These forthcoming dates in November and December are, going to be your UK farewell tour. Are you pleased then to be going out on such a high ?

TM : We’ve all got the hunger back . We're all really excited about it.

ZC : There’s a real buzz about  the whole thing. I think we have got the right ingedients to actually let people see a little bit of the magic of what the band originally was like. We’ve never approached it like that in the past. We’ve almost always turned up like a pub band, so hopefully this will be prove to be quite refreshing.

It’s up to us basically to go out and produce the goods now. We are all looking forward to it.

PB : Thank you












Related Links:



Commenting On: Interview Part 2 - Sensational Alex Harvey Band








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last