Incredibly, despite the close connections between them, Maggie Bell and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band have never played together. But, as Ellie Buchanan reports, these Scottish blues legends are about to be united at last.
Stone the crows! Maggie Bell's back in town. and she's bringing The Sensational Alex Harvey Band with her for some serious. no-holds-barred R&B.
‘lt's something we've been talking about for the past six years.‘ she says. [SAHB drummer] Ted McKenna's been calling rue up all that time on and off. but there‘s always been something in the way of it coming together.‘
‘lt' is a family reunion on a grand scale between the Queen of Scots Blues. once the diva of Glasgow's dancehalls. who was discovered by the sensational Alex Harvey and sang with his group way back when. and Harvey's subsequent. better-known band. the SAHB. who accompanied him to the modicum of rock stardom he enjoyed before his untimely death in the early l980s. The band resurfaced a few years ago and have recently been gigging on their own and with Fish. but despite their friendship and close connections with Maggie Bell. it will be the first time they have played together.
We are on the telephone. talking nineteen to the dozen (or metric equivalent) at dead of dawn. early even an hour later in Holland. where Maggie lives. ‘Nobody would believe we could have an intelligent conversation at this time in the morning.‘ she giggles fruitily. ‘lf you printed that we did. they’ll never believe you.‘
Intelligent the conversation is.
.7 x V‘ ‘- '-
neveitheless. as she tells me about the project she‘s been working on — a conceptual album with the multi- faceted French composer Hector Zazou in Paris. 'It's not got any words to it.‘ she elucidates. ‘I'm kinda using my voice as an instrument. It‘s totally unlike anything I've ever done before.‘
Is it working with vocal harmonics? I ask. thinking of Mouth Music. Partly. agrees Maggie. adding that Zazou's recently been working with Suzanne Vega and ‘that Bjork‘.
As she quizzes rue about what new Scots music to listen out for. and I recommend Gary Clark's King L. I wonder how I'm going to broach That Question. The one hanging somewhere. over the North Sea. about what it must be like to come back to this very particular branch of rock ‘n' roll (having last played Glasgow with the rather smoother Chris Farlowe two years ago) after What Happened.
If you‘vejust tuned in. Maggie Bell was the singer with Glasgow R&B group Stone The Crows. and girlfriend of the band's guitarist Les Harvey — brother of Alex — who died in an electrical accident on stage. Later successes. like her hit duet with BA. Robertson. ‘Hold Me'. the haunting ‘No Mean City' title song to ’liiggari and a marvellous character role opposite Billy Connolly in last year‘s TV movie Down Among The Big Boys. have tended to shift that tragedy far from the main agenda. but a tour such as this one brings the echoes of the distant past screaming into focus.
I opt for the easier query about what
Maggie Bell: no victim songs to expect. She tells me they‘ve 40 to choose from and they'll decide each night which.
‘I‘m gonna do one of Alex‘s songs with the guys. called "Midnight Moses". it's one of the best R&B songs that's ever been written. The guys sent me a tape of SAHB stuff and that song was on it. and I remember when l was with Leslie — we stayed with Alex and his wife Trudi — and we were helping Alex with this song. It's really strange. I put the cassette on and I thought. “Shit. there's that song." It sent a chill up my spine. it's funny. isn't it? What goes around always comes around in the end.‘
The conversation veers off to talk of victims and non-victims. and Maggie regales the with a tale of how. as a young window-dresser. she foiled a would-be bag—snatcher in the doorway of a Maryhill bank.
‘It ruade the front page of the Evening Citizen. or the Evening Times. I remember the guy was terrified when I started fighting back. And I wasn't going to give him the money — there was £70 in there. and all I could think of was that ifl let him take it they‘d think i was involved. So I clung on to it and started to beat him up. Just before he ran away. he looked at me and said. “You’re a fucking loony." '
Nobody messes with Maggie Bell — and. believe me. her blues will be as raw and dangerous as ever.
Maggie Bell and The Sensatimral Alex Harvey Band play the Queen '3 Hall. Edinburgh on Tue [0 and the King '3 Theatre. Glasgow (in Sun [5.
mi:— Family affair
Eusebe’s (pronounced you-say-bee) first single was ‘ilap Made Me Do it’. In reality, it was music mogul Jonathan King who first made it happen. lie touted their first single a couple of years ago, and that heralded a record company scramble for their signatures. Two years on, Eusebe have just scored their first hit with the Marvin Gaye-tinged ‘Summertime Feeling’. Main man, the incredibly enthusiastic Saybe Eusebe, is naturally thankful for King’s involvement, but believes success comes from the group being a family affair. Along with Saybe are his sister Fatcat and cousin Noddy. Together, they created a truly homegrown label and an album called Mama’s Yard.
We all went down to my mum’s, took
Eusebe: Mama’s boys (and girl)
up her front room, kicked her out and spread our equipment everywhere,’ waxes Saybe. ‘Our mum was great, because when we got into the studio she came down with pots of food for eight months.’
There’s also a healthy, humorous flavour to what Eusebe do. They call it pop, but not in a way that’s derogatory. They don’t rap about what
they see Stateside, but what they see around them in ilarlesden, London.
‘Our next single, “Masser Says”, is about consumerism, commercialism and all the other isms that are thrown into communities like ours. It’s all buy, buy, because Masser says he wants you to rush out and buy the latest thing from Sony. Masser says mobile phones are cool, but nobody in our area seems to have a job. There are also leads of chicken shops all over Harlesden but not one bookshop. That’s a black thing, though, because black people love chicken. Have chicken at a black party and you’ll cause a road block.’
Saybe Eusebe also wishes it to be known that even if he makes lots of money he has no intention of buying a mobile phone, a Sony Playstation or 3 Km franchise. (Philip Durward) Eusebe play The Venue, Edinburgh on Mon 9 and The Sub Club, Glasgow on Tue 10.
The Venue. Edinburgh. 2 ()(‘I.
An hour before showtime and already the place is jumping like a convention of spaeehoppcr enthusiasts. The DJ is spinning some mean dubbed-up reggae tracks. setting the mood for a groovable movable feast of serious good-time dance sounds. A heavy sweet smell teases the nostrils and the monster rhythms pounding from the PA invite you most cordially to approach the dancefloor. RSVl’s unnecessary.
So when African Headcharge do appear. all eight of them. the sense of anticipation is something approaching the fever of a Cup Final. And Headcharge honcho Bonjo l is not a man to disappoint. The charismatic percussionist started the band in l981 as a studio-based collective. recording for the ()n-U Sound label (home of Tackhead. among others). Their seventh LP. Aqua/m. has just been released. but if you never buy even one of their records be sure to see them live. Like The
Walker Brothers. you‘n have no regrets.
They begin with a funky little instrumental. the band minus Banjo. who then makes a star's entrance. arms triumphantly aloft and a smile broader than Broadway.
African Headcharge are. in the words of their creator. 'a spiritual physical cultural party‘. What a party. ‘Rastaman Not Fear' begins mid tempo. moves into ska and ends up as a calypso celebration. ‘Animal Law‘ is an epic tribal dub workout. while ‘Cheer Up‘ and ‘Far I' are closer to pure reggae. like Aswad before they went mushy MOR pop. And when not skelping the drums. Bonjo dances like the Green Goddess on E. exclaims ‘YE MAN!‘ (good for the circulation. apparently) and leads his band with the mysterious semaphore skills of an orchestra conductor.
Hit me with that rhythm
stick again. (Rodger Evans)
The List 6- 19 Oct I995 33