Saxon is a British heavy metal band from Barnsley (near Sheffield) in Yorkshire, England.
Starting in the mid-1970s, at the same time as bands like Iron Maiden or Def Leppard. The band was formed in 1976 in Barnsley, England, by singer Peter Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn, both from the band Coast. They are quickly joined by the bassist Steve Dawson (ex-Sob), the guitarist Graham Oliver (ex-Sob) and the drummer Peter Gill. This formation is not yet called Saxon but Son of a Bitch. The band started to tour in bars and clubs in northern England and gradually gained local fame. This was their rhythm of life: concerts and parties, alcohol. They used an old English bus to go to the pubs (probably the one that appears inside the “Strong Arm of the Law” vinyl record).
In 1978, Son of a Bitch became Saxon under the impulse of the guitarist Graham Olivier, although he was the author of Son of a Bitch. A close friend of Biff and Paul gave them the idea of Saxon, which they accepted valiantly. After supporting Ian Gillan on his UK tour, the band signed with a French label, Carrere Records. The following year, the British band released its first album in 1979, Saxon, which will pass almost completely unnoticed worldwide. Saxon’s reputation was local at first (Yorkshire, England).
First success and consecration (1980-1983)
In 1980, the punk movement ran out of steam and heavy metal is born again with the New wave of British heavy metal represented by bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Def Leppard and Saxon. After a successful opening tour with Motörhead during the Bomber tour, the band released their second album, “Wheels of Steel”, followed closely by a third one: Strong Arm of the Law. These two albums (as well as the following Denim And Leather, all written in 18 months in the Welsh cold) meet an important success in particular thanks to the songs Wheels of Steel (classified as of its release in the Top 20), Heavy Metal Thunder or still Dallas 1 PM and Strong Arm of the Law. The style found on these two albums is characteristic of the group; it allows one to recognize Saxon at first listening, notably the famous red noise coming from the guitars.
The tours follow one another, and Saxon increasingly asserts itself as one of the spearheads of the heavy metal. The band even participated on August 16, 1980, in the first edition of Monsters of Rock alongside Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Riot, April Wine and Touch. In 1981, the band released its fourth album, “Denim And Leather”, which was still successful, especially in France. It is the mark of the invasive popularity of the Saxon group, which increases its number of fans now outside the British Isles. At the end of 1981, Peter Gill, the drummer, was replaced by Nigel Glockler.
The following year, Saxon released The Eagle Has Landed (British live/Heavy Metal Ballad live 1982), an excellent live album that shows the power and efficiency of the band on stage, both in terms of technicality, speed, and all other characteristics typically dedicated to the New wave genre of British heavy metal. It precedes by one year the release of another album, Power And The Glory (1983). Some consider this fifth Saxon album a masterpiece and the peak of what the band could do, although it was released more than 30 years ago, and there are evolutions in the expansion of the metal genre.
Success and decline (1984-1990)
Tired of the Carrere label, the band signed with EMI at the end of 1983. Motivated by their new label, Peter ‘Biff’ Byford, Paul “Blute / Quinnine” Quinn and the rest of the band decided to return to the studio to produce a new album and try to break through in the United States, a country where they were still unknown. Crusader was released in 1984 after many months of work that will not be really rewarded: the critics shot down the album, finding it too commercial. EMI is too focused on sales rather than on quality, at least at this time, and wants absolutely to attract the American public.
The following album, however very good, entitled “Innocence Is No Excuse” (1985), will not make better. The label forces the band and only aims to cross the American border. At the time, metal in the United States was not recognized, and Crusader was too heavy. In this sense, some bands prefer fame rather than staying entirely faithful to the originality of the Heavy Metal genre and then begin to distinguish different new genres within Metal.