Alex Harvey Band - (Big Tree) Small Axe 7" (1980)

If one would ask me (but of course nobody will), which Alex Harvey songs (with or without SAHB) are my faves, I'd answer (naturally) "No Complaints Department" but also "Give My Compliments To The Chef" and "The Whalers (Thar She Blows)" featuring on The Mafia Stole My Guitar, a dramatically underrated album. This song was added as a B-side of a single with a non-album A-side, the rather Spectoresque "(Big Tree) Small Axe", that can be heard now in a correctly digitalized version and not an artisanal vinyl-ripped one like in the previous post (thanx to the recent box set). No more comments, just listen to the 7 min of this gem and tell me if it's not a masterpiece. Note that the music is co-credited to the Alex Harvey Band then guitarist, the young Matthew Cang, and this raises regrets that they didn't go on longer together. But Alex was not in very good mental dispositions in this difficult post SAHB period. Anyway, catch this one here

Alex Harvey is with Alain Kan the main reason I created this blog. Some of their songs seemed irreparably lost and nobody seemed to care. If most know Alex had a career before the 4 years that lasted the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, few were and still are interested by his musical life during the 5 years between the SAHB end and the tragic and irreparable Alex's death on 4 february 1982, one day before his 47th birthday. Sad since he released a great album with his new band (The Mafia Stole My Guitar, on which the wonderfull "The Whalers" was chosen as B-side for this single) and 2 singles, the one here being the last one he saw released when still alive. Released in May 1980, it means that Alex had no record out for almost 2 years before he died. It's quite incredible when one knows how he never gave up and wanted to play and record again and again. But so where these times, sometimes cruel for artists such as Kevin Coyne and Alex Harvey who had contributed more than anybody to the punk movement and who were cited by punks (at least John Lydon) as true influences. The A-side was an attempt to recreate a Bob Marley song, surely because it seemed a good idea for the charts. It was not and we must admit that the cover is not convincing. Of course, it's not bad, but honestly it's far from the greatest achievements of the past. The B-side is so fantastic that it makes this single a great one. Once again, it is a self-made cover since there was originally none. The picture of Alex is of course a reference to the text of "The Whalers". I'm quite happy with my choice on both sides and, maybe I'm wrong, but I think that he would have liked it. In a few days, I'll post another post-SAHB single, never included on various compilations, and published the year before this one.

I think it is pleasant to listen with the text on the screen, so I put the "Small Axe" one (from Bob Marley) but also the deeply moving one of "The Whalers"
(Big Tree) Small Axe. Why boasteth thyself. Oh, evil men playing smart and not being clever? I said, you're working iniquity to achieve vanity (if a-so a-so). But the goodness of jah, jah. I-dureth for-i-ver. So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down. These are the words of my master, keep on tellin me no weak heartshall prosper, and whosoever diggeth a pit shall fall in it, fall in it. And whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it (... fall in it). If you are the big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe, sharp and ready, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down(to cut you down)(to cut you down). These are the words of my master, tellin me that no weak heart shall prosper. And whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it, uh, bury in it. And whosoever diggeth a pit shall bury in it, uh (... bury in it). If you are the big, big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down. If you are the big, big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe, ready to cut you down (well sharp), to cut you down, sharpened ....

The Whalers (Thar She Blows). Gimme the spear. Gimme it quick. And I'll kill the son, of Moby Dick. I'll throw the carcass on the boil. Sell my soul for bloody oil. Murder in the silver foam. Grab the gold and sail back home. Slaughter cubs and mummy too. Here's a perfume just for you. Thar she blows, thar she blows. There she blows. See the spout. Money is what it's all about. In leopard skins and tiger shoes. We all sing the dog food blues. Sling it on the rusty deck. Rip the sinew from its neck. You can't complain, it's fair enough. We kill it and you buy the stuff. Thar she blows. Thar she blows. I'm a whaler man, a buccaneer, the butcher boy. Born a hero dyin' slow. You're only blubber what did I say here today. Will you be here tomorrow? Will you be here tomorrow?


dabode said...

An excellent choice for a blog Alex Harvey...This is great you have 1 big Canadian fan here and I'm sure many will discover your blog. Alex lives on. If by chance you know of anything he did with the HairBand e.g.: Band on the Wagon would be great, I've searched forever...it probably never hit the Canadian market...Great blog and idea thanks for the post.

Rough Mix said...

It's good to ear this voice again..

dk said...

@dabode. Nice comment, thanx. Hope I'll post some other things you like. The songs with the Hair Band are quite difficult to find and unfortunately I only have those on various compilations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these Alex Harvey tracks. I've only lately discovered the man's genius.

plastikpakora said...

thanks for that - great idea!

Big tree only seems to be on a double vinyl compilation that I have on tape.

Saw SAHB twice in the 70's - never to be forgotten events!