10 sensational facts about Alex Harvey/Michael Schenker bass player Chris Glen
As a new book tells the life story of bassist Chris Glen, we scour its pages for unlikely facts and lively anecdotes
Scotsman Chris Glen rose to fame when his heavy rock band Tear Gas joined forces with frontman Alex Harvey to become the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Later he became the driving force of the Michael Schenker Group, toured with Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, and worked with John Martyn and many others.
His memoir, Chris Glen: The Bass Business, is a collection of anecdotes in his own words, spanning his earliest days and including incidents featuring Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Kiss, AC/DC, Cheap Trick and many others. The foreword is written by Eric Singer of Kiss.
Chris describes the book as an instruction manual on “How to be knocked out, burnt down, drugged up, locked in, ripped off, frozen out… and keep laughing.” Co-written by former Classic Rock contributor Martin Kielty, It’s published on April 14 and available for pre-order now.
1. His first professional band used to steal PA gear from other bands
“If they had the same cabinets as us, our roadie Rab would go in and swap the speakers inside the cabinets for ours. So we always had good speakers, and fuck knows how many English bands didn’t! Once I said to Rab, ‘Are you going to do a speaker swap with The Greatest Show On Earth?’ and Rab said, ‘I was going to – but I opened their cabinets and it’s our old speakers inside!’”
2. Frank Zappa taught him how to produce records
“I was asking Frank, ‘Why do you have so many different instruments on your albums?’ He said, ‘It’s like an orchestra. When I mix something, everything has its own space and its own tone, and I get all the layers at the same level.’ I went, ‘God, I must have really fucking bored him.’ But three months later a box the size of ten old phone books arrived with about fifty-eight Zappa albums in them.”
3. He got arrested with Keith Moon
“The first time we really got on was in the Albany Hotel in Glasgow. I was in Keith’s room and he’d stolen promoter Harvey Goldsmith’s megaphone. We went up onto the hotel roof at 2am, and Keith took the megaphone and shouted, ‘This is not a drill! This is a bomb scare! Everybody down to the lobby!’ An hour later, everyone’s down in the hotel lobby and two big policemen come up to us. ‘Where’s the megaphone, Mr Moon?’”
4. He named Cozy Powell’s solo album
“Cozy's solo album was called Tilt. ‘Tilt’ was the buzz word we had when Cozy got too drunk and had to go to bed. We’d be at a bar somewhere and the tour manager would say, ‘Do something about Cozy or he’s going to get into a fight.’ I’d go over and whisper in his ear, ‘Tilt.’ He’d follow me back to his hotel room and say, ‘Okay, what did I do this time?’”
5. He talked himself out of joining Whitesnake
“Cozy wanted to leave MSG and join Whitesnake. He took me along to meet David Coverdale with the idea of me maybe joining too. I didn’t make it easy for myself – I met Coverdale in a club with this gorgeous girl, then I met him a week later and asked him, ‘Who was that girl you were with?’ He looked at me, looked at another women and said, ‘Can I introduce you to my wife?’ I went, ‘Aw fuck!’”
6. He took over the Michael Schenker Group show when Graham Bonnet walked off during his first appearance
“Graham went on and fucked up. We did Sleeping Dogs Lie, which is verse then riff, but he kept singing verse over the riff. He said, ‘Fuck it, I can’t do this,’ and walked off. It’s been said that he pulled his dick out but it must have been really small because I never saw it… I went up to the microphone and told the audience, ‘As you can see, we no longer have a singer. You’ve got a choice – you can get your money back or we can do the set instrumentally.’ So we played instrumentally.”
7. Dio bassist Jimmy Bain kept stealing his bass rig
“Jimmy was a lovely guy but a fly wee bastard. He’d always buy the drinks, but if there was a fight he’d sneak out. Jimmy used to borrow my equipment, whether I wanted him to or not. I’d ask him, ‘What do you want it for?’ and he’d go, ‘So I can get the bass sound you get.’ I went, ‘But you don’t play the same way I do.’ He said, ‘Doesn’t matter. I’m using your fucking equipment.’ He’d ask what I drank before I went on so he could drink the same. I said, ‘You’d be pished if you drank what I drink before you went on!’ He said, ‘I’ll not drink as much of it, and I’ll take artificial stimulants to control it a bit.’”
8. Motorhead drummer ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor was his daughter Roxy’s godfather
“One time Roxy’s teacher asked the kids to bring in postcards. Roxy took in all these postcards Philthy had sent her from Motorhead tours, and that got my old lady and me called to the school. The teacher said, ‘Do you know your daughter is getting postcards from a pervert called Uncle Philthy?’ We had to explain.
9. He headlined Glastonbury – but hardly remembers
“The thing about John [Martyn] was, I had to concentrate like fuck instead of enjoying the moment – his tuning was like fucking Martian. But as soon as you hear John’s voice it’s all over. A few years after John died the Sunday Times had an interview with Micheal Eavis, the boss of Glastonbury, and they were asking, ‘What’s the best band you ever say at Glastonbury?’ He said, without question, when John Martyn headlined the Pyramid Stage with a three-piece in 1979, that was it. His quote was that the show ‘brought tears to my eyes.’ That was me, Timmy Donald and John. That was brilliant. I just wish I could have enjoyed it more at the time!”
10. Ian Gillan taught him to appreciate caviar
“On Ian’s Naked Thunder tour of Russia and Europe, every morning we had a kilogram of beluga caviar, which I didn’t like at first but I got used to very quickly. I brought a tin of it back and sold it to Richard Branson’s wife for about £1500. I can tell the difference now – give me cheap caviar and I’ll be like, ‘Get that to fuck!’ But the moment that tops it all was playing at the Temple of Zeus in Athens in 1991. Never mind Knebworth and all that – the Temple of fucking Zeus! It was fucking brilliant. And I bought a natural Greek sponge.”