Next - Sensational Alex Harvey Band
One of my many omissions from the the Scottish rock sequence not so long ago were the Bay City Rollers! Joking aside (or should I say "jocking"), a more serious omission was the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) who, besides being terrific performers in the true Weil/Brechtian sense of the word, regularly transformed the pubs of 1970's Glasgow to a rock version of mid twenties Berlin cabaret.
Alex Harvey was a rock veteran, finally making it big for a brief moment in the early seventies as lead singer of SAHB (yes the acronym was their own) at the unusual age of 38 before succumbing to a heart attack in 1982.
Even back in those days, their combination of anarchic mayhem and theatrical rock was radical and unsettling, and when you went to see them you always had the sense that you were going to a performance.
So they were perfect vehicles for Jaques Brel's rail against the army, rendering the experience of conscription as a hideous nightmare that systematically robs young men of their innocence:
"Naked as sin, an army towel, covering my belly, some of us weep, some of us howl, knees turn to jelly, but next, next, I was just a child, a hundred like me, I followed a naked body, a naked body followed me, next, next,
I was just a child when my innocence was lost in a mobile army whorehouse a gift of the army, free of cost. next, next, next,
me, I really would have liked a little bit of tenderness maybe a word, maybe a smile, maybe some happiness, but next, next, oh, it was not so tragic and heaven did not fall But how much at that time I hated being there at all, next, next......"
The inevitability of the tango rhythm not only encapsulates the march of the training ground, but also the systematic crushing of individualism by the right in society that Alex Harvey's heroes were so against. Checking out other SAHB tracks on line, it occurs to me that the digital world we live in is very American - in that satire, such as the satire offered by Alex and co, is easy to miss, with chilling results.
So their cover of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from the musical Cabaret, which is specifically anti Nazi, on Youtube is worryingly garnering comments from people who have missed the irony of the song either accidentally or wilfully, turning it into a pean to the values of the third reich. Which is just the kind of corrupting appropriation that would find its way into Brel's songs .