Consider The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and which of their songs first springs to thoughts?
“I would relatively it was The Religion Healer than Delilah,” SAHB guitarist Zal Cleminson instructed Traditional Rock in 2007, clearly disturbed that many individuals would possibly as a substitute consider the novelty cowl of a Tom Jones-popularised music that gave the Scotsmen a UK Prime 10 hit in 1975.
A outstanding piece of rock theatre, The Religion Healer first appeared on the Subsequent… album launched two years earlier. At greater than seven minutes lengthy it was by no means destined to be a single, nevertheless it crystallized the band’s typically disturbingly darkish sense of drama into one thing really magical. It additionally helped carry SAHB a gold album on the second try.
“I will always remember that music’s beginning,” keyboard participant Hugh McKenna recalled. “Subsequent… was the one album that Alex [Harvey, frontman] and I locked ourselves right into a room to write down. Afterwards we wrote throughout the framework of the band, and with extra enter from Zal.”
A while earlier McKenna had casually knowledgeable Harvey a few e-book that he was studying referred to as Many Mansions. Its American creator, Gina Cerminara, was a famous authority on spirituality and reincarnation.
“A man will get hypnotized by his dentist and is returned to a earlier life as a Accomplice soldier,” McKenna defined. “It would not tie in fully with what The Religion Healer‘s about, however Alex stated he would not have written the music had I not instructed him in regards to the e-book.”
Harvey offered McKenna with a set of just about completed lyrics, and the pair started to set them to music. After the pulsing bass line that introduces the music – initially performed on piano – the half that “appeared like monks singing” was added.
“It was all about constructing an environment,” McKenna explains. The music’s framework was then offered to Cleminson, who got here up with the signature riff. “Till then it was nearly heading in a funk route,” the guitarist says.
Like the remainder of SAHB, Hugh McKenna instantly acknowledged that The Religion Healer was one thing particular: “In rehearsals our supervisor Invoice [Fehilly, who also represented Nazareth] instructed us it was unimaginable. It was simply so highly effective.”
Nevertheless, for all of the observe’s enduring qualities, Cleminson harbored reservations about the best way producer Phil Wainman – who had earned his fame producing The Candy, Mud and The Bay Metropolis Rollers – made it sound on Subsequent…
“It is grown a lot by the years. The unique manufacturing sounds unusual now,” he admitted. “Rhythmically it by no means fairly kicks off. It was solely on stage that Ted [McKenna, drums] appeared to make use of the entire of his package.”
The band’s long-time opening quantity in live performance, The Religion Healer was carried out stay for the primary time in entrance of 30,000 followers on the Studying competition on August 25, 1973. Eyewitnesses recommend it “slayed” an viewers that was largely there to see Standing Quo and Rod Stewart.
“Oh, completely,” McKenna enthused proudly. “That is nonetheless my favourite of all of the gigs I’ve performed. The solar was happening, Alex had accomplished his complete ‘Let me put my fingers on you’ routine and a few girls had been dancing topless. It was a magical, nearly preordained second.”
Harvey’s religious-themed interplay with the gang went on to change into a extremely common staple of the band’s stay exhibits.
“He would undertake a biblical stance, holding his arms out forward of him, wanting to place his fingers on the viewers,” Cleminson defined. “It was nearly like any person summoning their flock, providing to heal them, Jesus-like. And I feel Alex truly believed there have been children who wanted some form of steerage. That is what lots of his subsequent songs by him had been about.
“We have tried any variety of different songs to start the present,” the guitarist added, “however nothing does it like The Religion Healer.”
Certainly, a fan membership ballot confirmed it because the group’s hottest music. Which happy McKenna, so long as different gems within the SAHB catalog weren’t neglected.
“We have accomplished issues that run it shut,” he stated. “Give My Compliments To The Chef [from 1975’s Tomorrow Belongs To Me] and Dolphins [from 78’s Rock Drill], as an illustration. It is change into our Stairway To Heaven. However each band of observe has an anthem that turns into a focus.”
Though SAHB had break up up 4 years earlier, Alex Harvey’s demise in 1982 [one day before his 47th birthday] Following a coronary heart assault appeared sure to imply a everlasting finish to the group.
In opposition to all the percentages, nonetheless, they got here collectively once more, albeit with out their talismanic namesake. From 2004 to 2008 ex-Shamen sideman Max Maxwell fronted a model of the band that included the opposite 4 unique members: Cleminson and the 2 McKennas, plus bassist Chris Glen. They launched one stay album, 2006’s Zalvation – and it opened with The Religion Healer.
“Even with out Alex we nonetheless love taking part in The Religion Healer stay,” Hugh stated. “Max is a performer. He acts out the songs as a substitute of simply singing them. So it nonetheless appears like the true factor to me.”
The unique model of this characteristic appeared in Traditional Rock 106, printed in Might 2007. Hugh McKenna died in 2019.