No Harv measures as ‘Shekel’ made his first moves in the music world

Mike Cohen
8 min readFeb 12, 2024


Jewish Telegraph, February 2024

ROCK ON: Harvey with AC/DC — minus lead singer Brian Johnson, who had gone to bed early

NEVER meet your heroes, they say. Yet when Harvey Lee found himself in the same German hotel bar as legendary hard rock band AC/DC, it turned out they had reasons to thank him.
AC/DC feature heavily in Manchester-born Harvey’s forthcoming book Backstage Pass (Definition Books).
His love for the band started in his teens — and their For Those About to Rock . . . We Salute You show at the Manchester Apollo in October 1982 was 14-year-old Harvey’s first concert.
But when he plucked up the courage to speak to them when they walked into the bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Hamburg in 2001, he was able to tell them the role he played in their five-CD Bonfire boxset, released in 1997.
Harvey’s then-girlfriend Sue, who worked for the band, told him they needed a copy of the rare promo-only album Live From The Atlantic Studios as the original analogue master tape was damaged.
Unsurprisingly, Harvey had two copies of the release, which was valued at between £200-£300. He subsequently lent them a copy, enabling them to finish the boxset.
The liner notes of Bonfire mention the incident — but don’t include Harvey’s name.
As a thank you, the group’s guitarist Malcolm Young sent Harvey a signed copy.
Backstage Pass is full of marketing maestro Harvey’s anecdotes from the music world, as well as his role in launching the first Xbox console.
He decided to write the book when he realised he had a knack for storytelling.
“There was no epiphany where I woke up one morning and thought I’m going to be an author,” former North Cheshire Jewish Primary School pupil Harvey told me. “It was a gradual thing over time.
“I used to tell some of these stories around the water cooler, in the coffee shop and over lunch to my colleagues, and the reaction would always be the same.
“They’d all lean in and go, ‘You did what?’, ‘You worked with who?’ — people would be stunned.
“I always took my career for granted. I just thought it was normal. And it was certainly normal for me, but it’s far from normal. I mean, I’m at home sitting in a recording studio, that’s not normal.
“People would be like, ‘Oh, I wish I’d done that’ or ‘I wish I’d had that experience’. “So people would have a good old laugh about the stories and I would be quite the animated storyteller around the table.
“The older I got, the more my senior colleagues used to say I should really write some of these stories down, ‘You’re getting on a bit, Harvey, who’s going to tell these stories when you’re gone?’.
“That’s a bit morbid, but they had a point. My wife Natalie was encouraging me too.”
Harvey added: “I started thinking about putting it together. I had already started writing about marketing formally. I was writing columns and stuff like that for publications and websites.
“And I just thought I’ve got a knack for writing and storytelling, whether it’s verbally, because I do the speaking tours, or in writing.
“So I just started writing the book, and put a team together. The challenge, as it is for any first time writer, is that the writing is the easy part. Once you know what you’re going to write, and how to write it, that’s easy.
“But writing a book is only 10 per cent of putting a book out. Ninety per cent is learning what to do, how to do it, putting your team together and learning how to launch it and market it, learning the publishing business and the distribution.
“And that’s why 90 per cent of new authors fail because there are plenty of people who can write a book, but there’s not plenty of people who can launch one.”
The signs are already looking good for Harvey, who is a product marketing consultant, as initial figures for the book’s sale are high — despite it not being published until Wednesday.
“The reaction to the book has been phenomenal,” he said. “The sales figures came in this morning and it was the upper end of what I was half expecting. It’s blown me away. And what’s really exciting is we’re only just getting started,”
In the first chapter, Harvey explains that one of the reasons he didn’t finish secondary school was because of the “violent antisemitism” there.
He doesn’t mention his Judaism again until the notes at the end of Backstage Pass.
“I was very conflicted about it and, of course, this is all pre-October 7,” he told me. “So in a way, the more things change, the more things stay the same, because nothing’s really changed in that regard.
“In the original draft, which went out for proofreading and feedback within my little closed group, the first story about antisemitism was in there. And that was all.
“I didn’t talk about it again. Because I just wanted to use the story of antisemitism as one of the reasons why I crashed out of school at 15.
“And some of the feedback that came back from the advanced readers — Indian minorities and Latin American minorities — was they all suffer the same thing when it comes to discrimination.
“So the reason I talk about it a bit more at the back of the book is because it resonated with people of any minority who had suffered any kind of discrimination. It was just that simple.”
Of antisemitism, Harvey said: “It’s the oldest hatred in the world. It’ll never go away. It was there when I was at school in the early 1980s in south Manchester, and it was never dealt with.”
After starting a national diploma in popular music at Arden College, Northenden, Harvey began working as a roadie for “£5 and a bag of chips”.
This led to him working across the UK, Europe and eventually America with Manchester music legends Herman’s Hermits. He even stood in as bass player at three gigs.
Despite still being in his teens, Harvey showed his business know-how by selling out the group’s t-shirts at a concert in Germany, leading to him getting the nickname Shekel from the band’s guitarist Derek Leckenby (Lek), who died in 1994.
“His wife — who is a dear friend — is Jewish, so he was very aware of Jewish culture,” he explained.
“He was the one who gave me my nickname as I walked into the dressing room in Germany, and threw what was probably the equivalent of £1,000 on the table.
“They were flabbergasted because they didn’t have any stock left.
“I gave them all the right problems to have. And the other bands were licking their wounds, crying into their beer. And Lek just gave me my nickname on the spot.
“He was singing ‘We’re in the shekels’ and doing a merry jig in the dressing room.
“And then he looked at me and said, ‘From this moment onwards, you will be known as The Shekel’.
“And it stuck. I couldn’t get rid of it for about 25 years. People wouldn’t even remember my real name.”
Harvey then went on to manage a Sunderland band called The Troubleshooters, leading him to move to the north-east where he shared a dingy flat with an alcoholic pub manager.
When success failed to come for the band, Harvey headed back to Manchester.
But when they reinvented themselves as Smalltown Heroes in 1992, they again turned to Harvey.
He managed to land them a record deal which resulted in the album Human Soup. Their second album was never released.
“I recently found a copy of it in my loft on white label and copied it to my computer, just in case it corrupted at some point in the future,” Harvey said. “Probably half the album are absolute classics. And it’s just a shame that it never came out.”
The book also covers Harvey’s move in to the business world, working for Virgin Interactive and Microsoft, among others.
Harvey’s parents, Gerry Lee and the late Marilyn Lee, weren’t happy when he dropped out of school.
“They were pretty miffed,” he said. “But their public face was maybe one of resignation.
“My mum helped me when I was 17 get a voluntary job (with Manchester Jewish charity Outreach).”
He added: “I’ll give my parents credit. They allowed me to make my own way in the world.
“It’s always great with hindsight to go back. Well, it worked out, but for many, many years, it wasn’t certain that it was going to work out.
“Maybe even to the age of 30.
“It’s like a white knuckle ride. It wasn’t really until I got the job at the record label, which was when I was about 26.
“So it’s about 10 years out of school before it actually looked like things were firming up a bit.”
Backstage Pass is dedicated to his mother, who died in 2021.
“She knew I was writing a book,” Harvey said. “But she hadn’t seen any of it. It wasn’t finished when she died.
“I’d probably written about two-thirds of it before lockdown. And she died after lockdown.
“I didn’t work on it during lockdown. I was too busy with all the gifts that lockdown gave us all.”
He added: “It will be interesting to see what some members of my family make of the book because there’s a few surprises.”
Harvey returned to Manchester two years ago for a reunion of his childhood hair metal band T-Reg with Jeff Singer and Jason Hartley-Smith for a one-off charity gig after a 28-year hiatus.
Harvey points out that Backstage Pass is “a business book written as a memoir kind of thing.
“The whole story is oriented towards my career rather than my personal life. One or two people wanted to hear a bit more about the personal life.”
One anecdote he shared that isn’t in the book revolved around making a corporate video with Jewish comedian Ruby Wax.
“There was a scene where she had to chase me through the office into the men’s toilets, and then do a proper Ruby Wax-type routine where she’s going crazy,” he said.
“She’s on her hands and knees looking under the toilet door because I’m hiding from her.
“It was hilarious to be in a video with her when she was at the peak of her powers.”
Harvey is planning a side-book featuring stories that did not fit in with the tone of the book.
Of course, music was also responsible for Harvey finding love.
“I met Natalie in London. She’s a singer, writer and a producer as well,” he said. “She was in the East End and I was in north London.
“I was getting on a bit and didn’t get married until I was 39. We married at New West End Synagogue in Bayswater.
“We have two children, both in Jewish schools here in north London. one at secondary school, one primary. And they are thriving.”
He laughed: “This life didn’t look like this life 20 years ago.”



Mike Cohen

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email with your Jewish arts stories