Alex Harvey: Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster
In the summer of 1976 Alex Harvey went searching for the Loch Ness Monster. The Glasgow-born singer was on a rare break from his group the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, which at that stage at the height of their career were touring constantly and also recording two albums a year. Harvey had long held a fascination with the Monster, and that summer took his family on holiday to Loch Ness, where they based themselves in a set of caravans situated in Invermoriston, one of the villages set along its shores. Harvey never saw the monster personally, but while there, however, he spoke to several local eyewitnesses in a series of interviews that his father, Leslie, who had arrived at Loch Ness ten days before the rest of the family, had set up for him.
The resulting album, ‘Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster’, is an obscurity and the oddest record in Alex Harvey’s career. Released originally in February 1977 on K-Tel Records, it sold poorly and, deleted for over thirty years and only ever available on vinyl, has now been given a CD release on Voiceprint Records.
In contrast to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s glam rock/blues riffs and theatricalism, there is only one song which appears at the very end of the album. It is a brief untitled folk ballad which lasts barely thirty seconds and in which Harvey, amidst howling animal sounds in the backdrop and with typical offbeat humour, concludes in its last line that “although I love my teddy bear, I like monsters too.”
On the rest of the album Harvey argues a pretty convincing case for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and pulls together a series of eyewitnesses including a priest, a policeman and a local water bailiff. Richard O’ Brien from ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ provides some plum-voiced narration at the beginning and middle of the album and Harvey, who concludes that the Monster is a whole family of creatures not yet acknowledged by science, comes across as an earnest Neil Oliver type. As one eyewitness account of the Loch Ness Monster is rolled out after another, whether this is absolutely fascinating or deadly boring, all, however, of course depends on one’s own interest in the Monster.
‘Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster’ was recorded at what turned out to be one of the last brief moments of happiness in Harvey’s short life. Ten days after the Harvey family returned from Loch Ness, Harvey’s manager, mentor and best friend Bill Fehilly was killed in a plane crash. The trauma of this single event has often been accounted for the subsequent swift decline in Harvey’s career. Little over a year later, he walked out on the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, by now burnt out by the rigours of touring and regularly drinking a bottle of vodka a day, but having recorded with them one last album, the disappointing ‘Rock Drill’(1978). Two solo albums, ‘The Mafia Stole My Guitar’ (1979) and the posthumously-released ‘The Writing on the Wall’ (1983), that followed were similarly lacklustre. Harvey died of a heart attack in Zeebrugge in February 1982, a day short of his 47th birthday, while waiting at the end of a month long European tour for a ferry to take him back home.
‘Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster’ was the last album by Harvey in which he sounded on form. While essentially a record for Harvey collectors or those similarly interested in the Monster, ‘Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster’ is also surprisingly poignant and moving.