Book Review – Harvey Lee – Backstage Pass – by John Wenlock-Smith

Appearances can be deceptive I often find, people who, on first meeting, come across well and then turn out to be horrible, albums that look great but turn out to be difficult and unsatisfactory on further investigation, I guess such is the nature of life? So, when the offer of reviewing this book came about I was not really that bothered, however, as one of my favourite books of all time is ‘Diary Of A Rock And Roll Star’ by Ian Hunter, I was definitely interested to at least read the book. In my mind I had a big brash American cigar smoking ego mountain tells tales of his own greatness. I actually got it all wrong, so very wrong and let me explain why.

Harvey Lee is British and was born in Newcastle, he moved to Manchester as a youngster, not California, as I originally thought. He left school with few formal qualifications, what he did possess though was a work ethic and a willingness to learn, adapt to situations and to try to make the best of whatever scenario he found himself in. This short book hails itself as not only a memoir of some definitely off the wall and unreal adventures, but also some genuinely useful and helpful information for you to apply to your own individual situation.

Harvey has led a most interesting and colourful life, the overwhelming majority of which has seen a love of AC/DC and especially their ‘Back In Black’ album of 1980. This album had a monumental impact on young Harvey, an impact that still resonates today, some 44 years on. This excellent book tells that story of how a young uneducated lad from Manchester toured the USA with the likes of Herman’s Hermits and honed his marketing skills in that arena, he even ended up being their bass player for a few shows, as well as sound engineer and front of house man.

Throughout the book you will read of how Harvey overcame obstacles and found new ways to address difficult and challenging situations. Later on, Harvey was able to transfer those skills into the gaming world where his innovative approach to issues paid handsome results for the likes of Virgin and Microsoft and their Xbox console.

In amongst this you will read about Smalltown Heroes, a band from Sunderland who should have been massive and, despite several years of actively trying to break through, managed to fall through the gaps. You’ll also read of exploits in the gaming world and corporate screw ups, it’s a cautionary tale at times but all the more rewarding as it is all true. Harvey gives the outline but doesn’t reveal any truly sordid details, It may have happened but a gentleman never tells! Harvey has a quiet dignity and professional manner that seldom slips. Along the way you will hear about the time that Harvey played an important role in the AC/DC ‘Bonfire’ box set and how the band repaid that kindness.

The Book is generally positive and honest recollection of an most interesting period of one man’s unusual life story. Also each chapter of the book represents a song title so you can make your own compilation CD to go with the book, or play it on a suitable streaming service of your choice. I found this book to be delightful and so much so that I’ve tracked down a copy of the Smalltown Heroes CD to enjoy at my leisure, I recommend this to anyone who will find its mix of music, gaming and business acumen interesting.

Harvey comes across as a very genial, yet fiercely impressive, force of nature but one who has the best interests of all in place, he appears to be a great honest and humble man. Read about his exploits in bringing the Xbox to the World, adventures in Europe, travelling the USA as a part of Herman’s Hermits and far more, oh and the incident with trapped wind at a most inappropriate time!

I did expressly appreciate his hard earned and well considered business advice, and his life hints as well, there is much wisdom there. Well worth a read in my humble opinion.

Published 14th February, 2024.

Order here:

Harvey Lee’s Backstage Pass. 50% Rock and Roll | 50% Business | 100% True (