Denim And Leather
If it wasn’t for the British heavy metal band Saxon my lifelong dream would never have come true. I would never have played in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I would never have learned the ways of a rock ‘n’ roller. And I certainly never would have gone on to tour the world as a roadie for rock ‘n’ roll bands like KISS, Alice Cooper, and Megadeth.
Saxon impacted my life in two hugely significant ways; first, they were one of the first bands to open my eyes to the wider world of music outside of the mainstream FM rock stations I had been listening to. Like most kids in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I grew up listening to FM rock radio and watching MTV. And while I knew I liked the harder rock I was hearing, like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, I longed for something even harder, even faster, even louder and heavier. I just didn’t know what that was at the time, or where to find it. Then came Saxon.
Saxon is widely accepted as one of the progenitors of the heavy metal genre and a full-fledged member of the legendary NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal), an elite group of seminal and wildly influential metal bands that pretty much single-handedly saved rock music and inspired the rise of hard rock and Heavy Metal in America in the 80’s. Which, depending on your point of view is either a good thing or completely unforgivable. I loved Saxon from the moment I heard their classic song “Denim And Leather”, a timeless anthem paying tribute to the default fashion choice of heavy rockers everywhere. Their hard and heavy sound and songs about motorcycles, girls and the rock ‘n’ roll life captured my imagination and led me to other British bands like Motorhead, Venom, Raven, and Iron Maiden.
Yeah, Saxon looked a little goofy. Bassist Steve “Dobby” Dawson looked for all the world like a balding, yet elaborately mustachioed science teacher. In a leather jacket. Speaking of mustaches, guitarist Graham Oliver had a beauty that made him look a bit like the Cowardly Lion if the Cowardly Lion had a bad perm. And guitarist Paul Quinn was definitely hiding some male pattern baldness under the baseball cap that was seemingly glued to his head in every photo. But none of that mattered because Saxon delivered heavy metal music from the heart, for their fans.
After having my mind completely blown by Saxon I became obsessed by the emerging metal scene coming from Europe, including bands like Germany’s Accept, Denmark’s Mercyful Fate, and Sweden’s Heavy Load. These trailblazing European metal bands were making heavy metal history with a completely new style of rock and roll, and I was hooked. For me, Saxon always represented the very best of the NWOBHM scene and always served as the standard bearer for British heavy metal. Their twin guitar attack, thundering double bass drums, and Biff Byford’s powerful vocals laid down the blueprint followed by countless young bands seeking heavy metal immortality.
Second, Saxon was the band that jump-started my own budding rock n roll career back in high school. I had been searching fruitlessly for like-minded rockers to start a band with. My hometown was not exactly a hotbed of heavy metal, so I spent most of my days trudging through the halls of my high school hoping to stumble upon the next David Lee Roth waiting in the cafeteria line for Sloppy Joes. Finally, the universe spoke.
One fateful day, the long-haired kid with the locker next to mine came to school wearing… a Saxon tee shirt! That Saxon shirt was like a traffic light changing from red to green, and I knew it was finally time to make my dreams of rock ‘n’ roll come true! I had finally found a fellow heavy metal mutant. It was such a relief to discover I wasn’t the only one who was into British heavy metal bands who sang about denim and leather. That kid in the Saxon shirt (whose older brother played bass guitar just like Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, can I get an amen and a hallelujah?) went on to become the lead singer in my very first heavy metal band. The rest, as they say, is history.
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