The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were a glam 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 and drummer Ted McKenna, their music veered from glam rock to experimental jazz, around a core of experimental and avant-garde rock, dealing with themes from environmentalism to chinese take away food. While they achieved a critically acclaimed status in the UK & Scotland,[2] they struggled to make a huge impact in the United States.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Also known asSAHB
OriginGlasgow, Scotland
GenresGlam rock
Years active1972 (1972)–1978 (1978)
LabelsVertigo, Universal International
Associated actsAlex Harvey and His Soul Band, Tear Gas, SAHB (without Alex)
Past membersAlex Harvey
Zal Cleminson
Chris Glen
Hugh McKenna
Ted McKenna
Tommy Eyre

Band history

In August 1972, Alex Harvey formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (often shortened to SAHB) with guitarist Zal Cleminson, bassist Chris Glen, and cousins Hugh and Ted McKenna on keyboards and drums respectively, all previous members of progressive rock act Tear Gas.[3]

After some time, they adopted iconic stage costumes. More specifically, Alex Harvey started to wear vaudeville-like clothes and his trademark striped shirt, while Zal Cleminson assumed the identity of a "mime" in full make-up and green-yellow jumpsuit, and Chris Glen wore a dark blue jumpsuit reminiscent of a superhero costume incorporating lighter blue trunks.

SAHB produced a succession of highly regarded albums and tours throughout the 1970s. The band never achieved acclaim in the United States the way it did in Great Britain, but it had a cult following in certain US cities, especially Cleveland, where the group first played at the Agora Ballroom in December 1974. Thanks to airplay from WMMS, songs like "Next" and "The Faith Healer" became very popular. Cleveland remained a city where The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had a devoted following.[4] However, they were unable to replicate that popularity in most other US cities.[5]

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had Top 40 hits in Britain with the single "Delilah", a cover version of the Tom Jones hit, which reached number seven in 1975, and also with "The Boston Tea Party" in June 1976.[3]

Final albums together and split

After Harvey left the group later that year, in 1976 the other members continued with the moniker SAHB (without Alex). They launched a new album titled Fourplay in February 1977,[3] today regarded as the seventh official SAHB record. 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. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band then recorded 1978's Rock Drill, with Tommy Eyre replacing Hugh McKenna. They disbanded shortly afterwards.[3]

Harvey died of heart failure on 4 February 1982 in Belgium.[3]


In 1992, Chris Glen, Zal Cleminson and Ted McKenna banded together to form "The Party Boys" which featured guest vocalists such as FISH, Dan McCafferty, and Stevie Doherty with Stone The Crows keyboardist Ronnie Leahy.[3] This band lasted about one year before they decided to recruit keyboard player Hugh McKenna and finally reform as SAHB. They also released a live album Live in Glasgow 1993 featuring Stevie Doherty on vocals.[3] 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 ex-Nazareth guitarist Billy Rankin on vocals. After a year "Mad" Max Maxwell replaced Rankin on vocals.

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

The Lost album

In January 1974, the band went into Advision studios in London with US producer Shel Talmy to record their 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 then returned to Los Angeles with his tapes.

Most of the song titles eventually showed up on the official album The Impossible Dream later that year with a different producer on board, though the songs were dramatically changed. The album, re-titled Hot City, was finally remastered and released for the first time in 2009 by Major League Productions.


Studio albums

As SAHB (without Alex)

Live albums

  • Live (1975)
  • Alex Harvey Presents: The Loch Ness Monster (1977)
  • BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (1991)
  • Live on the Test (1995)
  • The Gospel According to Alex Harvey (1998)
  • British Tour '76 (2004)
  • Live at the BBC (Spectrum/Universal 2009)

Reunion albums

  • 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

  • Hot City (early version of The Impossible Dream, remastered and released in 2009)[6]
  • 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 (UK chart peak: No. 148)[7]
  • 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)


  1. "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. "SAHB Stories: Everything you need to know about The Sensational Alex Harvey Band". 11 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  3. Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1070. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. Jane Scott. "Alex Harvey Dies on Boat." Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 12, 1982, p. T-23.
  5. Anastasia Pantsios. "Rock Beat." Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 25, 1980, p. T-34.
  6. "Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album – Alex Harvey". Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  7. "CHART LOG UK: NEW ENTRIES UPDATE : Chart Date: 06.08.2011". Retrieved 6 August 2014.
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