Archive for the ‘The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’ Category

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Listen: Sergeant Fury / The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Thank you Duane for emailing me tonight with a reminder of how great this band was.

If ever you saw them live, you’ll know, they owned a stage during their ’74 – ’75 heyday. Ok, a year or so later the handful of UK hits came. But even as that happened, their landmark album, NEXT, based around the Jacques Brel song of the same name, from just before they really took off, re-entered the UK charts and England was Sensational Alex Harvey Band mad. That meant we US Anglophiles were in total step.

US Mercury, parent company to the Vertigo imprint, managed to get the band a slot on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, doing the whole Vambo routine, the main character from NEXT. Frustrating thing, and a possible label mistake: the two best tracks from that album were never released as singles and therefore got no radio airplay focus. I’m talking about ‘Giddy Up A Ding Dong’ and ‘Vambo Marble Eye’. This was indeed still the era of an album being a completely thought through project, so the full length benefitted. Pressed on vinyl meant the running time couldn’t exceed forty minutes or thereabouts. Not too long, not too short.

Once compact discs hit, there was suddenly seventy plus minutes to potentially fill. Problem became, most bands would proceed to do just that. Result: loads of weak albums, cluttered up by throwaway tracks. Plus, everyone had less time. As technology progressed there were so many more fun things to do than listen to your favorite band’s B level material when only a few short years prior, these crap songs were simply tossed onto the scrap heap.

Never mind, point being my favorite Sensational Alex Harvey Band single, ‘Sergeant Fury’, is not from NEXT, but instead their followup, THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Looking back, I recall my attraction it’s the English vaudeville dancehall element tremendously. The Kinks were swimming knee deep in the genre then too, as was Ian Dury with both Kilburn & The High Roads and a few years later, Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Mercury brought the band to Syracuse, staging a free concert at the Landmark Theatre in order to film their live show. Why the label chose this town, and not New York or Los Angeles, God only knows. And I mention God, because clearly there is one to drop such a euphoric high into my lap.

What a day that was. We scoured the place from like 11am. Easily meeting the fellows, shocking both Alex himself by talking about his previous soul outfits; and his group, when asking for details about Tear Gas, their previous band. As a result, we were eating, drinking and drugging with them until the early hours.

What self proclaimed Anglophile could make a soft landing after that!

Dream Police

Monday, October 19th, 2009

dreampoliceuka, Dream Police, Junior Campbell, The Marmalade, Decca, London

dreampolicehomeusa, Dream Police, Junior Campbell, The Marmalade, Decca, London

Listen: I’ll Be Home (In A Day Or So) / Dream Police DreamPoliceHome.mp3

Reportedly Scotland’s Dream Police began as a psychedelic/progressive band that included future members of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Average White Band. Signed to Decca in late ’69 on a tip from Junior Campbell, himself then on the label’s roster as a member of The Marmalade, their first (of three) singles for the label coincidentally included him as the band’s producer, arranger and conductor. Conductor?

The Marmalade had a sound, not unlike The Love Affair or Cupid’s Inspiration, and a whole bunch of lesser known ‘pop’ acts, all wonderfully over produced and clawing for a slot in the charts. Despite being considered manufactured fodder by the intelligent and/or hip music community, I found this stuff fascinating. Totally formula in it’s conveyor belt style, I still can’t get enough of it. Decca UK reigned king in the field. Always with a soft spot for inhouse producers or production deals, Junior Campbell, as with Jonathan King, Wayne Bickerton, Mike Hurst and others churned out endless pap to lap for the label. I’m still finding overdone stiffs from that period. One such example: Dream Police.

‘I’ll Be Home (In A Day Or So)’ could have indeed been a hit for The Marmalade (they recorded a version) had it been issued as a single. Junior Campbell’s production of the song for the Dream Police includes his obligatory rock lead guitar over the top of multi tracked vocals and string section bits galore. And quite frankly, the version deserved to be a hit.