When Les Harvey died on May 3, 1972, at 27 years and 233 days old, he became a member of an exclusive club. Leaving this earth at the age of 27 put him in the rarefied atmosphere of those musicians, artists and celebrities who died when they were only in their 27th year. But an even more exclusive club gained a member on that day, and it’s a strange one given the way these people spent their lives. Of the long list, numbering over a thousand, of rock and roll deaths on Wikipedia, only 3 were victims of electrocution. Of those, 2 were killed by poorly wired electric guitars. Only Harvey was shocked to death by the combination of a wet hand and an incorrectly grounded microphone, and while in public in front of an audience. He was one of a kind in the legendary group of sacrificed rock idols, and for Leslie Harvey, death was a cruel and almost mocking companion on that fateful day.
It is extremely ironic that he died onstage, doing what he loved – performing with an electric rock and roll band. The Scottish band Stone the Crows was out on the road, touring in support of their second album, and Harvey had contributed as a guitarist and background vocalist on both records. With his experience playing with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, he was a natural on stage and his presence helped to garner the band praise for their live shows. At the Swansea Top Rank Ballroom in Wales, the band was starting their set when Harvey, having just wet his hands by grasping a cold bottle of beer, took hold of an ungrounded microphone and received a shock sufficient to stop his heart, and he died instantly.
This happened in 1972, and there have been no similar deaths reported in all the years since then. Technology advances on, and hopefully enough progress has been made and experiences acknowledged that this could never happen again. Performers using electric instruments and handling microphones have been mildly shocked, especially when performing under adverse conditions of rain and generally stormy weather. But for Les Harvey, death gave him the ironic distinction of being the only rocker killed by a microphone.
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