January 30, 2024

Anyone who’s ever been ‘anyone’ in the music business – and even those who have aspired to be someone in the music business but didn’t make it – has their own version of a story to tell, no matter how exaggerated or far from the truth the story might be. Harvey Lee is no exception, but his story is certainly a few more degrees nearer to the truth than many others. Lee’s story is told in a very relatable and readable manner, and with everything he’s experienced along the way, whatever else this book might be, it sure ain’t dull, with each chapter concluding with a few pearls of wisdom he’s gleaned from his successes and his overcoming obstacles in both music and corporate life, and while some of them come under the heading of ‘stating the bleedin’ obvious’, nonetheless when seen in the context set, they all make sense.

Harvey Lee’s story is one of a young lad setting a dream and pursuing it with relentless vigour, with a few interesting deviations along the way. People who pursue dreams to the exclusion of everything else often end up driving very fast downhill with unreliable brake pads, which usually produces the inevitable outcome, but it’s the strength of those dreams which is what makes the desire to go downhill worth the risk.

The author with AC/DC

Harvey Lee was born in 1968, drifted through school, and left not exactly overburdened under the weight of academic achievement at precisely the worst time ever to leave school, with very high youth unemployment. But what he did have was a prescient Headmaster who stated ‘he gets on well with those who have a real interest in rock music’.  He also had in abundance a desire to be ‘someone’ and he had dreams which were kindled by seeing AC/DC in 1982 on their Back In Black tour, which this reviewer also saw. This leads him on to becoming a bass player in a fledgling ‘hair metal’ band and then, after stints in M&S ( the ‘turkey run’ story is hilarious) and a butchers, an invite to do some ‘roadie’ work for a ’60s band on the revival circuit, which turns out to be Herman’s Hermits – though minus Herman, Peter Noone, who was now an act in his own right. His first gig with them, which also featured The Searchers, involves a 550 mile round trip to the Margate Winter Gardens (a venue I know well as I’m from the area). This eventually leads to more road work with the band in the UK, on the continent and, eventually, in the US, where he has some very amusing adventures … the wrong airport in Chicago, playing bass for the Hermits when one of them has to fly home for a funeral … and it’s in the US where he discovers his inner  entrepreneurial flair when he takes the ‘merch stand’ into the crowd and sells T-shirts, a flair which will go on to stand him in good stead in later years.

His ability to get things done and help keep the show on the road for the Hermits and all those other acts he goes on to work for or manage – AC/DC have cause to be grateful to him – earns him a good rep and, with his unwavering passion for the music business aligned with his undeniable business acumen, my contention is this: had he stayed in the music business rather than morph into the corporate ‘suit’ with Microsoft and Virgin he eventually goes on to become, being involved with the launch of the Xbox and other things, he might well have gone on to establish himself as a major ‘name’ as a manager. Certainly, if I were playing in a band, I’d be happy having Harvey Lee going in to bat for me.

Harvey Lee’s story is not just a book about the music business; though it’s full of captivating stories about dreams won and lost in the business, it’s more than this. Ultimately, it’s a story about lessons learned in the pursuit of a dream, often learnt painfully, and how he came back from some very dispiriting setbacks and what they cost him, which produce his lessons for life at the end of each chapter, and it’s all told in an entertaining style. So, while I couldn’t care a whole lot less about Microsoft and Virgin as corporations, it’s his ability to identify what might be called ‘the main chance’ which is the key to his achievements inside the belly of the beast. As this very likeable tome suggests, it’s not always a question of ‘right time, right place’, it’s a question of making the right time and place. Harvey Lee did both.

(Incidentally, Harvey, the Searchers line up you didn’t know in Margate was John McNally and Mike Pender (gtrs), Frank Allen (bass) and Billy Adamson (drums), the longest lived Searchers line up).