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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Also known asSAHB
OriginGlasgow, Scotland
Years active1972 (1972)–1978 (1978)
Universal International
Atlantic (North America)
Past membersAlex Harvey
Zal Cleminson
Chris Glen
Hugh McKenna
Ted McKenna
Tommy Eyre
Julian Hutson-Saxby
Stevie Doherty
Billy Rankin
Max Maxwell
Phil Mount (drummer 1978)

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were a Scottish rock band formed in Glasgow in 1972.[1] Fronted by Alex Harvey accompanied by Zal Cleminson on guitar, bassist Chris Glen, keyboard player Hugh McKenna (28 November 1949–18 December 2019) and drummer Ted McKenna, their music was a blend of blues rock and hard rock,[2] with cabaret elements.[3] Their stage performances incorporated theatrical elements. The band were popular in continental Europe, and influential in Australia, most notably on AC/DC (particularly their singer Bon Scott) and on the young Nick Cave and his first band The Boys Next Door.


In August 1972, Alex Harvey formed the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (often shortened to SAHB, and pronounced "saab") with Zal Cleminson (guitar), Chris Glen (bass), and cousins Hugh (keyboards) and Ted McKenna (drums), all members of the progressive rock act Tear Gas except Hugh.[4]

They adopted distinctive stage costumes: Harvey wore vaudeville-like clothes and his trademark hooped shirt, while Cleminson assumed the identity of a "mime" in full make-up and green-yellow jumpsuit and Glen wore a dark blue jumpsuit reminiscent of a superhero costume incorporating a lighter blue codpiece. SAHB produced a succession of highly regarded albums and tours throughout the 1970s. The band did not enjoy large-scale success in the United States as it had in the UK,[5] though they did acquire a cult following in certain US cities, notably Cleveland, where the group first played at the Agora Ballroom in December 1974. Thanks to airplay from Cleveland radio station WMMS, songs like "Next" and "The Faith Healer" became popular.[6]

In January 1974, the band went into Advision Studios in London with the American producer Shel Talmy to record a third album. By April, the sessions were finished and the album was mixed. However, the band and management had some reservations about the overall sound and decided to scrap the entire album. Talmy returned to Los Angeles with his tapes. Most of the song titles appeared on the official album The Impossible Dream later that year with a different producer, though the songs were dramatically changed.[clarification needed] The original recordings formed an album called Hot City, released in 2009 by Major League Productions.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had top 40 hits in Britain with the single "Delilah", a cover version of the Tom Jones hit from their Live album that reached number seven in 1975, and with "The Boston Tea Party" in June 1976.[4] The song "Anthem" was a top 30 hit in Australia in 1975.[7]

Harvey left the group late in 1975; the other members continued with the name "SAHB (without Alex)". They recorded a new album, Fourplay, in February 1977.[4] The album steered towards a solid pop-rock with some slight prog influences. Harvey re-joined the group in mid-1977, while Hugh McKenna left. In 1978, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band recorded Rock Drill, with Tommy Eyre replacing Hugh McKenna, and disbanded shortly afterwards.[4] Harvey died of heart failure on 4 February 1982 in Belgium.[4]


In 1992, Glen, Cleminson and Ted McKenna banded together to form "The Party Boys" which featured guest vocalists such as Fish, Dan McCafferty and Stevie Doherty with the Stone The Crows keyboard player Ronnie Leahy.[4] This band lasted about one year before deciding to recruit keyboard player Hugh McKenna and finally reform as SAHB. A live album, Live in Glasgow 1993, was released, with Doherty on vocals.[4] This line-up of SAHB disbanded in 1995, before reforming in 2002 for a tribute night to Frankie Miller at The Barrowlands in Glasgow, with the ex-Nazareth guitarist Billy Rankin on vocals. After a year, "Mad" Max Maxwell replaced Rankin.

SAHB released another live album in 2006, Zalvation, which was their first official release since Rock Drill in 1978, and an autobiography called SAHB Story, written by the former tour manager and author Martin Keilty. The band performed numerous tours and festivals across the UK, Europe and Australia before disbanding again in 2008, after the departure of Cleminson on guitar. The band performed a handful of shows that were pre-booked with the guitarist Julian Hutson Saxby but after that, they decided to move on to separate projects.


In 2018, Nick Cave told Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, "My first band was basically an Alex Harvey cover band. We did "Framed", "Isobel Goudie", "Faith Healer", "Gang Bang", "Next", "Midnight Moses", everything. I wore jeans and a tight cropped t-shirt and our guitarist wore clown make-up like Zal... Our first gig was a Battle of the Bands thing in a country town and we played "Framed" and came second. It's been downhill ever since."[8]

Earlier, while the Sensational Alex Harvey Band was still active, Bob Seger included "Gang Bang" in his set, as documented on his July 8, 1974 show at Ebbets Field in Denver. Seger jokingly introduces it as a love song "ballad."

Robert Smith of the Cure said, "People talk about Iggy Pop as the original punk, but certainly in Britain the forerunner of the punk movement was Alex Harvey. His whole stage show with the graffiti-covered brick walls – it was like very aggressive Glaswegian street theatre."[9]


Studio albums[edit]

Release date Album details Peak chart position Certifications
(sales thresholds)
December 1972 Framed
November 16, 1973 Next... 37
October 4, 1974 The Impossible Dream 16 78
April 1975 Tomorrow Belongs to Me 9
March 1976 The Penthouse Tapes 14 35
July 1976 SAHB Stories 11 98 33
February 1977 Fourplay
March 1978 Rock Drill

Live albums[edit]

Release date Album details Peak chart position Certifications
(sales thresholds)
September 1975 Live 14 100
1977 Alex Harvey Presents: The Loch Ness Monster
1991 BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert
1995 Live on the Test
1998 The Gospel According to Alex Harvey
2004 British Tour '76
2006 US Tour '74
2009 Live at the BBC (Spectrum/Universal 2009)

Reunion albums[edit]

  • Live in Glasgow 1993 (1994) (with Stevie Doherty on vocals)
  • Zalvation a.k.a. Zalvation: Live in the 21st Century (2006) (with "Mad" Max Maxwell on vocals)

Compilations/other releases[edit]

  • Hot City (early version of The Impossible Dream, remastered and released in 2009)[15]
  • Vambo Rools: 'Big Hits and Close Shaves' (Vertigo 1977)
  • The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Collection (Castle Communications 1986)
  • All Sensations (Vertigo 1992)
  • Faith Healer – An Introduction to (Mercury Records 2001)
  • ...Delilah (Spectrum 1998)
  • Considering the Situation (Universal 2003)
  • The Best of the Sensational Alex Harvey - #148 UK [16]
  • Last of the Teenage Idols (2016) – a 14-CD/217-track box set including 21 previously unreleased songs, 59 songs on CD for the first time and a number of rare recordings plus a hardback book of photographs.
  • Shout: The Essential Alex Harvey (Spectrum Audio 2018)


Year Title UK
1972 There's No Lights on the Christmas Tree... - - -
1973 Jungle Jenny - - -
1973 Next... - - -
1974 Anthem - 47 -
1974 Sergeant Fury - -
1975 Delilah 7 - 49
1975 Gamblin' Bar Room Blues 38 - -
1976 The Boston Tea Party 13 - -
1976 Amos Moses - - -
1977 Mrs. Blackhouse - - -


  1. ^ "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. ^ AllMusic. "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Biography". AllMusic. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ Donald A. Guarisco. "Next Review". AllMusic.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1070. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  5. ^ Anastasia Pantsios, "Rock Beat", Cleveland Plain Dealer, 25 July 1980, p. T-34.
  6. ^ Jane Scott, "Alex Harvey Dies on Boat", Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12 February 1982, p. T-23.
  7. ^ Jim Barnes and Stephen Scanes, The Book: Top 40 Research – 5th Edition, Barscan, Berowra, 2000, p. 318
  8. ^ "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band are the uncrowned kings of 70's rock. Do you agree?". The Red Hand Files. February 2020.
  9. ^ "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band".
  10. ^ a b "SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  11. ^ a b "Australian Chart Books". www.australianchartbooks.com.au. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  12. ^ "Alex Harvey – Framed". Swedish Charts. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  13. ^ a b c d e f BPI Certified Awards Search
  14. ^ Atlantic Album Discography, Part 7: SD-18100 Series (1974–1977). Both Sides Now Publications.
  15. ^ "Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album – Alex Harvey". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  16. ^ "CHART LOG UK: NEW ENTRIES UPDATE : Chart Date: 6 August 2011". Zobbel. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  17. ^ "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Songs ••• Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  18. ^ "charts.org.nz – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Delilah". Charts.nz. Retrieved 9 October 2020.

External links[edit]