Released in November 1979, Saxon’s self titled debut LP was not the commercial success everyone had hoped for. Perhaps part of the blame could be levelled at Carrere Records – primarily a French disco label – not having the greatest experience of promoting a rock band. Maybe the problem lay with the album itself: while a hugely entertaining listen – especially from an historical viewpoint – it’s somewhat mixed in style. Tracks like ‘Stallions of the Highway’ and ‘Backs To The Wall’ point the way towards the brand of no nonsense metal Saxon would make their trademark, but others like ‘Frozen Rainbow’ have a footing much closer to a1970s almost past, a place where atmosphere and pomp outweighed sheer bluster.
In those days, of course, bands weren’t dumped on the scrap heap by their record labels after a flop, and in Saxon’s case – and ultimately Carrere’s too, since the likes of Ottawan weren’t going to be around forever – it’s a good job. Decamping to Wales, the band set about writing their second album; the record that would change their fortunes and the face of 80s metal forever… ‘Wheels of Steel’.
Saxon are no strangers to the Wacken Open Air Festival. The metal titans have played Germany’s biggest metal festival several times – now into double figures – and have been an almost permanent fixture since 2001.
2016 saw the band returning yet again, this time in support of their twenty first studio album ‘Battering Ram’, released in October 2015.
At an unspecific point in 1979, my dad arrived home from work carrying a long playing record. It turned out to be the new Police album. At this point, ‘Message In a Bottle’ had been all over the radio and I knew I liked this new music. My mum, on the other hand did not have quite the same enthusiasm; she’s a bit put out that this does not have ‘Roxanne’ on it. Presumably, the album – like others – had been purchased at Barnaby’s, a record shop (no longer there) very near my dad’s then place of employment; a giant tin shed in which he worked with dangerous acidic chemicals and little regard for health and safety. That Police album (‘Reggatta De Blanc’) got played a lot. If I think hard, I can still see Dad sitting by his Fidelity stereo system lifting the needle onto the record and playing the title track over and over and I remember thinking how fitting it was that the word emblazoned on the front looked a bit like the word fiddle. That piece of music must have spoken to him: decades later, he would still attract my attention by calling my name to the tune of that track.
The sight of my dad coming home with new music in this way was not entirely uncommon.
For those who grew up in Kent, Maidstone’s Mote Park is likely to hold childhood memories of family picnics and feeding ducks. It seems almost inconceivable that very same park in the middle of an incredibly residential area, albeit many years later, would play host to a variety of superb rock bands. On the evening of Saturday 25th July, classic rock legends Scorpions are the headliners at the very first Ramblin’ Man Fair, but they’ve also got sterling support from NWOBHM legends Saxon, among others.
A few years ago, a couple of pensioners from Bournemouth – home of the mighty prog band Big Big Train – embarked on an unusual hobby. They began to write to musicians, questioning their song lyrics. It all began in 2008, when Wilf Turnbull and Derek Philpott decided to write to Simon Le Bon, stating that other animals besides wolves experienced hunger and it was perhaps wrong for Duran Duran to single out our lupine chums.
The whole thing snowballed. Soon, their project became a fully functioning website, with replies from Gary Numan, Toyah Willcox, Steve Dawson (ex-Saxon), Billy Bragg and many, many others.