Harvey vs. the record industry

Scott Soriano’s Crud Crud today takes a look back at an early-’80s San Francisco band called Harvey:

Harvey were a San Francisco band made up of the three Harvey brothers – Doni, Regi, and Chris. They were responsible for on 45 and one 12″ ep. Both are solid records – Blue Oyster Cult/Thin Lizzy-influenced hard rock, with punk energy and compactness. Listen to this song and guess why no major label took a chance on them: Three brothers with a great hard rock sound. Now consider this: The Harvey brothers are Black and being a Black rock & roll band in the 1980s was considered marketable. Was this an example of racism in the music industry? Perhaps a bit, but remember, Arista took a chance on the Bus Boys and, despite heavy marketing and a lot of media, they never really took off. The industry figured, they tried and people weren’t ready. And, to be fair, they were probably right. Black rock & roll bands were so uncommon – in the mainstream – that they weren’t a novelty; they were a rarity. And outside of a few major cities, it was rare to see African Americans at rock concert, as fans.

Read on for more history and a free mp3.

14 Responses to “Harvey vs. the record industry”

  1. “Was this an example of racism in the music industry?”

    Please name a currently active, primarily African-American rock ‘n’ roll band before you accuse the ’80s of racism. I’m not saying there isn’t one — I would just like to know of a counter-example; there isn’t one here.

    The 80s had Bad Brains and Primary Colors, too. What have we got?

    • SFitall says:

      Don’t forget Living Color they kind of broke big in the later 80′s but ’88 is still the 80s also Fishbone, not exactly straight ahead rock but neither were the Chili Peppers. I had some friends in 90′s Seattle that were an all Black heavier rock band fronted by a female no less, and they had lots of label attention. Then again in the early 90′s the labels were in a feeding frenzy over the Seattle scene. Major labels are weird, trust me, I have stories.

    • Allan Hough says:

      Does it count if just the frontperson is black? The Dirtbombs were my favorite band like 10 years ago, and Secret Twins are my favorite band now.

      • “Does it count if just the frontperson is black?”

        Not really. Well, OK, some.

        BTW, my apologies to Vernon for misremembering the name of Living Color*. He has had a pretty incredible career, and went on to produce one of my favorite albums for James “Blood” Ulmer, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, which any lover of “the blues” should try.

        Bad Brains were fucking awesome. You want to hear some black fucking rock, you should get their shit.

        *Whaddaya want?! I’m OLD. I got atherosclerosis of the brain!

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      TV On the Radio

  2. chalkman says:

    The Specials and The Untouchables, but then ska was always more inclusive….

  3. Body Count duh, The Knux aren’t terrible:


    All rap is actually evolved from funk which evolved from rock, so it’s not totally separate.

    You guys want to talk about some left wing racism, go to a Metallica show. A lot of rock n’ roll bands are more racist then you would imagine, it’s just all in the margins so nobody notices.

    I saw TV on The Radio in 2004 because my friends band was opening for them and this other band Apollo Heights. Apollo Heights smoked me out in their van and told me how they loved Godspeed You Black Emperor. Go figure.

  4. I don’t know if Bloc Party counts as rock, but at least it’s thematically congruent.

  5. scum says:

    The metal band Hirax has been fronted by a black dude from 1984 to the present. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_VfDAFS5n4