SAMSON: Marquee, London 1982
HAVING BEEN none too complimentary about Samson after seeing their show on the Blackfoot tour, I was prepared for death when Paul Samson strolled into the chaotic Kerrang! office shortly afterwards. Perspiring profusely, I uttered a hoarse ‘hello’ upon being introduced and closed my eyes to await the fatal knee in the groin. But lo, Mr. Samson, friendly guy that he is, merely agreed with what I’d said and extended an invitation to give the band another chance at a future gig. Hence the Marquee.
The various musos at the gig praised Samson to high heaven as not just another Heavy Metal band while the group themselves felt they played well. I’m still not as totally OTT about them by any means. There are a number of flaws within the make-up of the band but only one is of major significance. Basically, Samson are still in need of more accessible material. Not necessarily more commercial stuff, just songs that stick in the brain, rather than drift by in an aimless fashion.
The new single, ‘Losing My Grip’, showed some signs of a stronger identity, however, as did the instant new song, ‘Driving With ZZ’, a paen to the bearded boogie boys themselves. Opener ‘Take It Like A Man’ was also reasonably effective and of course my favourite number ‘Vice Versa’ was its usual impressive self.
The remaining numbers in the set, on the other hand, suffered from the all-too-familiar thrash it out with little purpose or direction’ syndrome. No doubt these were the older songs, so give ’em six months and they may be a good band. Best of luck!
SAMSON: ‘Losing My Grip’ (Polydor).
Polydor are certainty helping Samson set their past contractual and personal problems behind them. Their first release for the new label comes in three different versions 12in 4-track 20 minute EP, 7in picture disc and ordinary 7in, both of which contain only two numbers.
‘Losing My Grip’ is the featured song, and a rocking little piece it is too! Certainly not instantly memorable, but Paul Samson contributes some healthy guitar and Nicky Moore gives a stirring vocal performance. Pyramid To The Stars Is slightly more restrained and shows an interesting new Samson direction.
Two live tracks are featured on the 12in,’Mr Rock And Roll’ and ‘Tomorrow Or Yesterday’ which would seem to be a ‘fans only’ kind of gesture. As no Samson stalwart I’ll pass, but good value for money.
PAUL SAMSON is fighting back. After being heavy metal darlings just a couple of years ago, the band slipped from public view and was riven by splits, bust ups and rows.
But now all is positive action, with a new record company, fresh members and a more rational view of the music. Gone are the cages and Cambridge rapist masks of yesteryear.
In comes a powerful new drummer and a singer who can more than fill the shoes of the departed Bruce Bruce – or Bruce Dickinson as he is best known to Iron Maiden fans.
Nicky Moore is a big built man and doesn’t mind people calling him huge.
“It’s something I’ve got to live with — my size,’ he says philosophically. He need have no regrets on that score. His vast girth and dimensions can only complement his powerful vocal style. And his mate Paul Samson, who has struggled on through thick and thin is obviously very proud of his new compatriot.
The pair were ensconced in a London studio the other day listening to play backs of their first album for Polydor called ‘Before The Storm’ due out soon, and to their exciting new single ‘Life On The Run.’The music is fast, powerful and sparked by Moore’s deep throated vocals that boom and roar with impressive power. Said Nicky: ‘Not heavy enough is it?’
Together with drummer Pete Jupp and original founder bassist Chris Aylmer, Samson have more than made up for the departure of Thunderstick. the caged drummer and Bruce the renegade singer. Nicky, who has been with bands like Tiger and Hackensack, is a veteran campaigner and will help Samson broaden their music as they look beyond the first flush of HM madness.
“We are pulling better crowds now than Samson has ever pulled in the past,” says a defiant Paul, who incidentally, shares with his mate Graham Oliver of Saxon, a high regard for Jimi Hendrix.
“The difference is now, it looks like we are having a good time on stage. And that’s coming across to audiences. We were getting too gimmicky but I couldn’t change the band for a long time.
“We had injunctions slapped on us by our ex-management and we couldn’t do anything for a year. Before that we headlined at concerts well before we were ready to headline and we were afraid of blowing the impression created by our first album “Head On.”
Did Paul admit they probably had too much publicity in their early days, before they had done enough to warrant it.
“Oh yes. We had it with the heavy metal thing when all the groups got roped in together. In fact our music NOW is more heavy metal than we ever were in the past. But there is a lot more real music in it, and it’s more accessible. For me, it’s more enjoyable and I’m playing what I want to play.
“With the old Samson I was playing the stuff I wasn’t really into, and not being all that successful with it! Not as successful as Iron Maiden and Saxon who were playing what they wanted. Circumstances allowed me to make the changes I wanted to make anyway and it seems to be paying off.”
But has Samson’s audience been eroded by all this messing about?
“No, If anything it has grown. We’ve been pulling more on the tours and in about 45 gigs we’ve only had one shout for Thunderstick.”
Said Nicky: “The very first gig I did with the band back in December 1981, before I had even sung a note, somebody shouted’ Bring back Bruce.” Before I even went on. That was my first gig. Did I feel good?”
Nicky told the story with slow deliberation and then burst into roars of laughter. He’s a great racontour and loves to tell the story of Samson playing for the Hells’ Angels.
“We played for hours and nothing – they didn’t clap. Then as we came off, the organiser said, ‘Er, can you go back on. They liked you. They want an encore.’ If you get out alive it means you’ve gone down well!”
“I think Iron Maiden got more flak than we did about the vocal change,” says Paul. “They talk about Bruce’s defection to Maiden, which I suppose it was, but it has given us a little bit of credibility, the fact that key guys have walked out on us! But we’ve come back within a year with a better band and maybe people think ‘Oh — they’re not such ***** after all.’’’
PAUL has a succinct way with words, and its impossible not to be impressed by his charm and honesty. And there’s no doubt he intends that Samson will be back on top and hopefully as high as his old rivals within a year or so.
“I think our management severely blew it for us. We were caught up in the thick of the heavy metal revival in 1979 And we were headlining and getting big deals. But that s what it’s all about. You need that kind of promotion. We had all the front page interviews and stuff in the heavy metal charts, and then whoosh, all the other groups took off and we sorta stayed put.
“I am sure if the band had been as successful as Maiden, I don’t think Bruce would have wanted to leave. I don’t believe it when he says the music was changing. He was 25 percent of that change.
But what about the departure of the eccentric Thunderstick?
‘That was quite mutual. We all felt we wanted a solid drummer. He wanted us to be more bizarre. So we said ‘No — we’re gonna be a hard rock, heavy band.’ He likes stuff like The Residents. Great if you are into it, but not for me thanks. He squashed a little bit of my personality really. With our new producer, Tony Platt, he enhances our direction naturally. It’s more important to be unique than freaky.”
The band’s last producer, Tony Platt helped them with their ‘Losing My Grip’ single which has been bobbing about in the HM chart. Now they are hoping for even better results from their next release, a double single in a presentation pack.
Also in the package is a free ‘live’ single recorded in concert at Mildenhall and featuring ‘Walking Out Over You’ and ‘Bright Lights.’ which will be out in the first week in October. The album is due out in November.
So what does the future hold the band that has come back from the brink of disaster. Says Nicky with a smile: ‘We want to be rawer and heavier, and very attacking. But we also want to have. . . a bit of class.
“But the best thing of all,” says Paul eagerly, “is that we are going to produce the Samson sound live.”
SAMSON – MARQUEE, LONDON
Although Samson line-ups in the past have produced some classy material on their albums – the best, for my money, being the period with the excellent Nicky Moore on vocals, it was always difficult to imagine them making it to the major league. Nicky Moore may have been a truly great rock singer, but the bulky frontman was never going to encourage the ‘teen appeal’ that has helped whisk the likes of Bon Jovi and Europe from the Metal mags to the masses.
But I do love surprises: I didn’t catch the names of the component parts of this newest Samson, nor did I manage more than a guess at several song titles
What matters most, however, is that with this line-up Paul Samson has brought together a hardworking band of good musicians who put the playing before the posing, a stylish vocalist who is pretty adept at both, and completed the repackaging with a supply of good (a couple being very good) songs. The new vocalist has most of the prerequisites for the job – the Sammy Hagar haircut, the Lee Roth designer spandex and also a few of the latter’s moves. But perhaps more importantly, he’s also got a pretty good, strong voice.
Significantly, it was the new songs that came over as being the strongest, with the potential single, ‘Silver Screen’, featuring an impressive yet suitably restrained use of keyboards, indicating that the new band is not going to be a case of simply applying a cosmetic facelift to a set consisting of ageing material.
It has to be said that they didn’t go down very well, the ripple of applause at the end of the set certainly not warranting an encore, although in the best traditions of club rock they came back and did one regardless. But such poor audience response was very surprising considering the performance. This band certainly deserve a crack at something bigger than the Marquee
The musicianship is there and the song potential looks strong. And what is particularly interesting, not to mention encouraging, is that all of a sudden Samson look and sound like an ‘80s rock band – and a good one at that. Given a reasonable chance, Samson could end up bouncing back in a big way.