Harvey Andrews

Hey SandyWriter Of Songs
SoldierWriter Of Songs
Friends Of MineFriends Of Mine
TargetsFantasies From A Corner Seat
Lot 204Margarita
We-In Berning'm / UnaccompaniedBrand New Day
The Vicar Said "Well Done"Old Mother Earth
Songs That Harry WrotePG


Harvey Andrews playlist



Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

Harvey Andrews was born in Birmingham in May 1943 and qualified as a teacher in 1964 which supported his music career aspirations before turning professional in 1966. His graduation is immortalised in the song Gang of ’64 on the album Someday. The same period inspired the song Soap Opera on Writer Of Songs from, I believe, an amalgam of incidents that were not necessarily connected.

I first saw Harvey Andrews perform live in 1975 and now cannot remember who he opened for. Two years later he was booked to play at the Young Vic on a warm June evening. The two friends I was due to go with had chosen to spend the impending Summer Solstice at Stonehenge so I went on my own. Six people turned up and it became ‘a conversation with Harvey Andrews’ in which we all sat in a circle, including Harvey, chatting, and he sang an evening of requests interspersed with new songs that he wanted to ‘road test’. It was quite magical.

Harvey Andrews has always written songs that have something to say. He has written about his heroes; Buddy Holly in Please Don’t Get On The Plane, Phil Ochs (see Toppermost #150) Song For Phil Ochs, June Allyson in Dear Miss Allyson and Tony Hancock, Mr Homburg Hat, amongst others. He has written about his childhood, experiences throughout his life and injustices.

My selections come from eight of Harvey Andrews’ seventeen albums and cover the period 1972 to 1988. I have chosen to arrange them in chronological order.

The Sandy in Hey Sandy that opens Writer Of Songs is Sandy Scheuer who was killed by Ohio National Guardsmen in the Kent State shootings on 4th May 1970. The incident is also immortalised by Neil Young in the song Ohio and Pete Atkin in Driving Through Mythical America. The story in Soldier is fictional but, nonetheless, using the backdrop of an urban situation to describe an event during a civil war that was current when the song was written is a powerful tool. A modern day take on Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. Also on the album, Gift Of A Brand New Day celebrates the birth of Andrews’ son (who is the writer Scott K Andrews).

I had difficulty narrowing down my choice to represent Friends Of Mine and in the end went for the title track which is, if it’s not a contradiction in terms, an upbeat song about homesickness. Harvey Andrews was booked to open for Focus, an event celebrated in Focus’ Hocus Pocus and his fellow singer songwriters are joyously namechecked in Troubadours on the same album.

Fantasies From A Corner Seat (1975) was recorded with Graham Cooper and has a beautiful love song in Lady Of The Light and the light frolic of A Little Moon ‘n’ Juning with the assistance of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. I’m Resigning From Today has an element of autobiography to it. Targets opens with the lines: ‘You’ll read it now, they’ll tell you how / The lady is a leader’ – a powerful song that still resonates today. Richard Thompson plays lead guitar and provides backing vocals with then wife Linda.

The cover of Someday (1976) was, for a 16 year old boy, almost erotic and I never knew the significance of the girl on the cover sitting in a window looking out on a summer’s day. The title track is an ode to a loving marriage and closed side one of the original vinyl LP. This is where you will also find the Song For Phil Ochs and Mr Homburg Hat, the elegy for Tony Hancock.

Margarita, the title track of the next album, is based on Harvey Andrews’ great aunt. She was blind and the frame that should have contained the picture of her beau lost in the First World War was empty. It was released as a single in 1980 and received airplay on Radio 2 at the time. I have never been able to verify if the story behind Lot 204 (or the song of the singing knife-grinder) is based on fact but it might have happened. The story lends itself to be turned into a novel; particularly what happens between that night in the Music Hall and the day of the auction. Other notable songs on the album are Able Baker which tells the story of an airman in his older years and Pinball (not the Brian Protheroe song) which is another telling of the fickle hand of fate for an entertainer.

Harvey Andrews has always been an accomplished live performer and in 1980 Polydor released a live album that took its name from (Gift of a) Brand New Day. The set opens with Friends Of Mine and the next three tracks run as a single piece. We-In Berning’m Part I is Andrews giving his take on the redevelopment of Birmingham in the 1950s and leads into Unaccompanied that was recorded on the album Writer Of Songs and tells of life in a post slums tower block, the set ends with We-In Berning’m Part II which is just as cutting but in a more light-hearted way and introduces the title track.

There was a six year gap in recording and 1986 brought a light hearted album Old Mother Earth on which Harvey recorded his song for Jake Thackray, Me and Jake, and another for the children’s entertainer Mister Pastry. Despite being born in Aston, Harvey Andrews is a fan of Birmingham City Football Club and the back cover of the original album has a photo of a 10 year old Andrews in his club’s kit which inspired the song When I Was a Boy. The Vicar Said “Well Done” takes you to a village green cricket match with some of the local characters featured in the song.

My final selection comes from an album Andrews made with former Move guitarist Trevor Burton in 1988 and a very rock driven, Songs That Harry Wrote (inspired by Harry Chapin – see toppermost #123). The album, PG, also contains the aforementioned Please Don’t Get On The Plane and a song for middle age, Cheeky Young Lad.

There are more albums to be explored. Snaps from 1996, for example, has songs about growing up in the 1950s and a song about his uncle’s Jowett Javelin. The Journey, recorded in 2003 when Andrews was turning 60 has some introspective songs dealing with getting older. It does have two songs that merit a mention: Leaving Home (with its tongue in its cheek) tells of a couple taking the contents of the family home and leaving their young adult children and offering eventually to provide a P.O. Box address; The Centurion takes the listener through the 20th Century from the perspective of a man born in 1900.

I will return to Writer Of Songs which is the last track on that 1972 album. The song explores the other creative careers that Harvey Andrews could have had and leads to the final six lines.

So let others paint now their touch is lighter
Some other author can become the great fighter
I’ll be content just to be a writer of songs

And some will love them and others will hate them
And I’ll just hope that someone will rate them
And maybe someday investigate them seriously


Harvey Andrews website

Harvey Andrews biography (Apple Music)

TopperPost #186


  1. Mike Barker
    Feb 3, 2014

    I’ve a feeling the artists that the author couldn’t remember from 1975 were The Macalmans …

  2. Jim
    Feb 4, 2014

    I’ve got a couple of Harvey’s albums. My favourite one being “Friends of Mine” what a fantastic album, not a bad track on it.

  3. Ian Ashleigh
    Feb 8, 2014

    I’ve remembered, when I saw Harvey Andrews perform in 1975 he was touring with the late John Dunkerley on piano who was very ill then and for whom Andrews subsequently wrote Hey Old Friend.

    Jim, I totally agree, Friends of Mine does not have a poor song on it.

  4. Stefan
    Feb 15, 2014

    I know Harvey since 1984 and he is my favourite musican since 1988, since “Song´s that Harry wrote” (in England called “P.G.”). His music is only wonderful! I met him five times live and would never have missed any these encounters!

  5. Calvin Rydbom
    Mar 1, 2014

    I lived about 20 minutes from Kent State from 1964-1992, my parents still live there, and I obtained my 2cd Masters from there. My neighbor at the time was a national guardsman – a 20 year old kid who was there – and the day still largely colors the region. It’s a front page news story every year. The song Sandy therefore is much less abstract for me than it is for everyone else, and it’s pretty damn powerful.

  6. Alan Baker
    Mar 2, 2014

    I love all of Harvey’s music and can only think of one CD that I find hard to listen to and that is Spring Again. All the songs are great but some of them have subject matter that is a bit hard to take. There are a few easier ones mixed in so that you don’t become suicidal. Best listened too on a sunny day when things are going well.
    (Alan writes on Folk Music and Folk Singers, including Harvey Andrews, at his blog … Ed.)

  7. Paddy Purcell
    Sep 19, 2014

    As an Irishman I have never been lucky enough to have ever seen Harvey live as he has never come here and being an invalid I have never been abroad. I first came across him when I used to manage a record shop with an a good friend in the early 70’s and have beeen loyal since. Writer of Songs blew me away and to be honest still does but Fantasies from a Corner Seat was and is the song that I must put forward as his best, maybe from my point of view – I knew a person in my old ucd days who used to come into the student bar every night for a pint, look around at the girls walking by and then leave.
    Paddy P.

  8. Ian F
    Sep 12, 2018

    In 1973 as a teenager I regularly visited the De Montfort Hall in Leicester with friends. We followed what I suppose was glam/heavy/prog rock in those days and had booked to see the Dutch band Focus who had had a couple of hits around this time with Sylvia and Hocus Pocus. Their guitarist Jan Akkerman was my “guitar hero” of the time. Imagine our surprise when a couple of folkies appeared on stage as the support act! That night Harvey Andrews and Graham Cooper blew us away!!! I bought the two albums “Friends of Mine” and “Writer of Songs” and played them to death. I recently dug out my boxes of vinyl and found them (some 45 years later). This is just to say thanks for the memories and I still remembered all the words!

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