Singles reviewed by Xavier Russell

LE GRIFFE: ‘Fast Bikes’ (Distribution through Neon/Bullet Records)

Not bad for a bunch of Frogs. Fast boogie similar to blighty’s own Spider, the only difference being Le Grille don’t rip-off Status Quid quite as much. ‘Fast Bikes’ rocks along at a nice pace, and at least LeGriffe have the decency to sing in English. In fact they bring it off quite well, unlike Trust, who just croak.






Music For Nations Magazine 1984


BERNIE MARSDEN’s first serious musical venture was with a band called Skinny Cat based in the Oxford/Bucks area way back in 1970.

In 1973, having turned pro, BERNIE MARSDEN joined Phil Mogg in UFO (a well kept secret for years) moving onto join ex-Jethro Tull bassist Glen Cornick in Wild Turkey continually touring the UK and Europe where he met Cozy Powell who was then with Bedlam. With the two bands touring, a close relationship formed between Cozy and Bernie, which led them to both joining the legendary Hammer with a line that was then unacolainied: Don Airey, dive Chapman (from Jeff Beck and Cozy Powell’s band) Bernie Marsden on guitar, Franic Aiello vocals Neil Murray then replaced Clive Chapman and the line up remained the same until the band split in 1975, unfortunately without recording an album,

After the disappointment of Hammer’s demise, Bernie joined Babe Ruth and recorded two albums for Capitol Records ‘Stealin’ Home’ and ‘Kid’s Stuff in 1975 and ‘77. ‘Kid’s Stuff saw the appearance of names like Don Airey Nell Murray and Cozy Powell on the album. It has been described as the first Bernie Marsden solo album masquerading as Babe Ruth.

After Babe Ruth, Bernie started his long working relationship with the Deep Purple camp, joining PAL – Paice, Ashton, Lord in ‘76. The band produced one album ‘Malice In Wonderland, on Polydor.

Whilst working in Munich on the second unreleased PAL album, Bernie Marsden met David Coverdale and a new team was created. Upon David’s return to the UK, the song writing of Coverdale, Marsden, Moody was formed and the birth of White snake evolved in the Punk boom year late ‘77.

With record companies only willing to sign, an EP ‘Snakebite’ was released on white vinyl, now a collectors item at £20 a copy.

EMI signed the band and songs like Come On’, ‘Love Hunter’ and classic rock hit ‘Fool For Your Loving’ followed.

In 1979 Japan offered Bernie a solo album, he recorded “And About Time Too’ with Cozy Powell, Jon Lord, Simon Philips, Ian Paice, Neil Murray, Don Airey and the legendary Jack Bruce on bass guitar. “A dream come true, Jack Bruce playing on my solo album, I kept pinching myself’, said Bernie.

After a heavy Whitesnake tour, an incredible 7 albums in five years and a second solo LP ‘Look At Me Now’ the seeds of a split were sown, quote from Bernie “1 just wanted to do something new, Whitesnake was a great band to be in, but after five years of heavy touring the edges were beginning to fray We departed all close friends, if I had stayed longer l don’t think that would have happened”. The split occurred in May1982.

Out of the limelight Bernie took time off to write new material, BERNIE MARSDEN’s ALASKA emerged with a line-up as follows:- BERNIE MARSDEN guitar (ex-Hammer, Babe Ruth, Whitesnake), RICHARD BAILEY keyboards (ex-Magnum, Trapeze), ROBERT HAWTHORN vocals, JOHN MARTER drums (ex-Voyager, Marillion), BRIAN BADHAMS bass (ex-Rainmaker).

The end product of this collaboration is ‘Heart Of The Storm’ (MFN 23) released on Music For Nations on May 11th. A single ‘Susie Blue’ was also taken from the album and received extensive National airplay. Since then Richard Bailey has left the band to play keyboards with Whitesnake. During October’84 Alaska toured Europe as special guest to Manowar.

A new album from the now four piece Alaska is due early ‘85.



“WE WERE looking at the Reading Festival advert and saw this name… The Angels. So we phoned up to ask who they were and were told:
‘Oh, they’re from Norwich Then we knew! ‘Hey! It’s us!’ It was just like that – we really couldn’t believe it.”

So says Jamie Durrant their bass player. The rest – Richard Hill (vocals), Ian Gosling (guitar) and Gordon Pratt (drums) – grin and nod in agreement. In explanation it should be said that the Angels had previously supported Iron Maiden at dates in East Anglia and London so got the job again for Maiden’s Reading warm-ups at Chippenham and Poole… the festival gig was Steve Harris’ way of saying ‘thank you’.

What was it like then? “Well we usually only play in pubs and clubs. Chippenham and Poole put us in front of about 3,000, but there were nearly 20,000 in that field! It was a bit nerve-wracking! We were on the main ‘A’ stage too which is 48 x 38 feet… really weird!”

The band played second on the Friday afternoon so not everyone will have seen them but Richard was pleased with the reception, especially as the gig fell only a little over a month after they’d lost their second guitarist. That prompted a reshuffle of material and a slight change in emphasis.

But having seen The Angels a couple of times since then I can testify that the set remains full-blooded HM. In fact, there’s a certain Maiden-type feel about much of the material though they disclaim any conscious influence and by way of contrast ‘Power Music’ and ‘City Of Hate’ lean more towards the Van Halen sound.

They gig regularly in and around Norwich’s area so look out for them there. Those further afield may soon be able to sample them via a new demo they’re hoping to record.

Kerrang! Issue 284 April 1990


…But don’t go hiding from the collection plate, because the only ‘war cry’ Australian raunch ‘n’ rollers the ANGELS are selling’ is their brand new ‘Beyond Salvation’ album. Long time devotee of DOC NEESON-style ‘dirtiest, meanest, amps-turned-to-11 boogie’

HOWARD JOHNSON urges you to see the light and put your hands in your pocket.

A SIMPLE TWIST of fate’, as Bob Dylan put it, probably has more to do with the success or otherwise of rock ‘n’ roll acts than any other factor. Ask the Angels (let’s drop the ‘From Angel City’ suffix right now!). Formed in Australia in 1975, these hard rockers have been releasing hi-quality, hi-class albums ever since even though most of you never heard of them! But the Angels have been responsible for some of the finest, dirtiest, meanest, amps-turned-to-11 boogie ever! They stand right next to AC/DC as top hole purveyors of raunch ‘n’ roll!

Yet only now – with the release of their ‘Beyond Salvation’ LP – is anyone sticking their thumbs up in the direction of the Angels.

When I tell the enigmatic lead vocalist, Doc Neeson, that the reaction to the new album in our office has been nothing short of ecstatic, he’s more than happy but not altogether surprised.

“It’s kind of pleasing, but we seem to be experiencing the same thing across the board with this album. It just seems to have captured the imagination.”

Which to a diehard Angels fan like myself is definitely a shocker. After all, ‘Beyond Salvation’ is a weird concoction featuring only four brand new Angels tunes plus five re-recordings of old Angels classics such as ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again’, the heavily AC/DC-ish ‘Can’t Shake It’ and the marvellously atmospheric ‘City Out Of Control’.

DOC FINDS it a touch bizarre too, but ultimately satisfying. “It wasn’t a question of not having enough material to play around with, let me assure you,” he says. “But we’ve got a new record company now (Chrysalis) and it’s a long time since we had a proper release. So the idea was to re-introduce the band with tracks people might be at least familiar with .

“I love the way the record turned out. It’s really full-on – a real guitar album. Terry was real concerned about that and he would just send for the guitarists…” (Rick Brewster and Bob Spencer) “…to f*** around with their sound for hours at a time. He wanted more guitars, better guitars, intense guitars, and I think it really worked.”

The Terry in question is Terry Manning….

When we were scouting around for a producer, recalls Doc, “his name came up and we were told that he’d worked with ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, George Thorogood and Joe Cocker. So we thought, ‘Shit! He’s sure as hell good enough for us then!’”

THE BAND’S instincts proved spot on. Get a handle on ‘Dogs Are Talking’ (the first single), ‘Junk City’ or the new US single ‘Let The

Night Roll On’, and you’ll understand why it’s not only me getting’ hot under the collar.

You know all this hot LA shit that everyone’s lapping up right now? Guess who influenced all those guys in the first place? That’s right buster!

“It was great when we last played at the Whiskey in LA back in ‘88, we had AxI come down and jam with us on ‘Marseilles’ and had a ball – he knew all the words! He freely admits we were a big influence on him.”

Great White too, can hardly deny it. After all they had their biggest US hit to date with a cover of the Angels’ ‘Face The Day’.

“That was a big and pleasant surprise,” chuckles Doc, “but there was also a tinge of regret attached to it as well, like ‘why didn’t they like our version?’

But at least you made a pretty penny out of the tune….

“I’ll tell you, the last cheque I saw for ‘Face The Day’ was for was for $3:36 and I know that it’s now sold towards the million mark in the States. When we first started we signed some pretty atrocious publishing deals, but it was the only way that we were going to get a record deal. I would certainly be better paid if I were a carpenter,” reckons Doc, “but money wasn’t the reason why I got a band together in the first place. I was into song writing and singing new songs. I was in a jug band with a couple of guys even before the Angels. We were doing kind of skiffle stuff with blues and 1920s jazz influences!”

I GUESS IT’S this kind of background which make the Angels sound different within what is a very conventional modus operandi. Who else in rock could claim to have been a member of the Moonshine Jug And String Band?

Just take a look at Doc, Brewster, Spencer, drummer Brent Eccles and new bassist, Englishman James Marley, and you’ll immediately realise how different they are. No long hair or spandex in sight. No designer tattoos either.

“We’re not a particularly glamorous looking band, but nor are we that ‘serious musician’ crap either. We’re not into that bullshit, we’re much more down to earth, and we’ve been doing our thing long enough now not to worry about it.”

So why have you had so much trouble securing a foothold?

“I think we’ve just been plain unlucky in out dealings with record companies.”

Was there ever a time when you were tempted just to say, ‘F*** it!’, and jack the whole thing in?

“Yes” is the frank reply.

We were touring in the States in ‘83 and half the staff from the record company were fired. We were left stranded on a bus in the middle of nowhere with no tour support. Now, I’m a big guy, six foot two, so I could neither stand up nor lie down in this bus – and it was driving me insane. I really do think that I went crazy at that time…”

But now the Angels are ready. They finally seem to have settled on a record company that is both understanding and enthusiastic.

“Now is a really good time for a band like us. The move is back towards live, energetic records that don’t sound over-produced. That’s

the Angels to a tee. I think all of this business boils down to a question of timing. And our time is now.”
I hate to say ‘I told you so’, but, well… I told you so!



CLEVELAND’S premiere HM band Snake Rock were formed around five years ago by singer guitarist (you guessed it) Snake Rock. After countless changes a consistent line-up has been reached, incorporating the brothers Wray, Dave on drums, Jeff on bass and cousin Spike the bands second lead guitarist.

Snake Rock play hard-hitting, head-splitting HM that features plenty of original AC/DC, Judas Priest style riffs. The band’s recording career began with an EP released some years ago but more recently they’ve had a cut entitled ‘Your Hot Love’ on, of all things, a record put out by Playboy magazine. The album ‘Playboy Streetrock’ available on Night Flight records is a compilation of unsigned US acts. They gained this opportunity when they won their regional contest held to determine which bands should be included.

Live, the band perform a collection of Metal monsters including ‘Love Me, Shove Me’, ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘Brats in the Schoolyard’, during which number Snake takes off across the club floor still playing his transmitter guitar. After several mini solo’s on chairs and tables, he has been known to down a jug of beer offered by an excited punter before returning to the stage.

At some gigs shades of Alice Cooper are evident when he brings out a Boa Constrictor during ‘She’s Killing Me’.

Snake Rock will be releasing a new single the hot rocking ‘Down and Dirty’ (the first song they ever wrote) with a fresh B-side ‘I Don’t Care’, on an independent label soon.



LIFE is always a bunch of ups and downs, but for it seems that the downs are infinitely more forthcoming than the ups.A deal looked to be secured with Jet Records, but as luck would have it, the E.L.O. magnate backed out at the last minute-apparently both David Arden and his sister Sharon approached the old man, Don Arden, with new bands simultaneously and rather than turn one down, he turned both out of the door!

I first ran in to the dubious pleasures of 720, the speed of sound, late last year when the band was hosting a residency at The Marquee. The gigs were at first sparsely attended, but a definite hard core following began to build up over the weeks. For some reason the Marquee booker refused to re-book 720 and they were forced to concentrate on gigs out of town.

The ensuing Jet deal temporarily abated the downward path, and the Marquee relented allowing the band one more headliner. This time there were a lot more people in attendance, though of course many were scrawled on the lifesaving device for skinted hacks like myself: the glorious guest-list, but drummer Paul Edwards has his own theories about that one:
“The Marquee is not really a money making gig for almost anyone, it is however a chance for the people’ to get along and seethe band. There are certain people that are important to the band, A&R men, agencies and the such like, and also friends of the band like yourself and Brian Harrigan who has been campaigning for us over 9 long period. How can you charge your friends to see you? Do you charge admission to your own house?”

The magnanimity of 720 is only too readily apparent – earlier this year the band invited me to a gig far up North (the legendary Redcar actually) no strings attached, party after the show with pile of my favourite things running about later-even a hotel booked with the best bloody breakfast I’ve had for ages. What I really wanted to know was where the dough came from, or in other words, what is the set up for a band that never seem to suffer despite doing even less for a living than I do?

“We’re rather lucky in that we have a manager who although not knowing much about the music business believes enough in us to plough money in. He leaves the day to day running of the band to us. in fact we’re currently working with Terry McLelland who manages, among others, Samson.

“We’re not entirely certain what the outcome of this alli4e will be, but for the time being, we’re seeing what he can do for us.”
720 have recently been recording new material in Luton (where else huh?), and reactions have been somewhat ecstatic. Vocalist and bassist Dave Birch saves my breath: “We’d just been playing the tapes ourselves, and we all considered that the outcome of the sessions was pretty good- plenty of commercial feel but still a powerful edge. We wanted to get a few outside opinions and reactions so we took the tape up to a music paper, and as luck would have it, the head of Phonogram’s A&R department happened to be around the office. He came storming into the room where we were playing the tape and screamed that it was the best thing he’d heard in years. Obviously we agreed with him, but I must admit that we were a little startled.”

Of course this kind of reaction is just what a band dreams of, instead of hawking your wares around town-spending a fortune in every watering hole you pass the pop music moguls actually begin to queue up in search of YOUR favours … Mmmm if only.
But many may have noticed that the name 720 has been notably lacking in the live scene recently why then have the bend opted to hide away for such a long time? Andy Marshall, guitarist extraordinaire explains with relish: “Basically we’ve spent a lot of time writing songs, and I’ve also had a number of session commitments, both playing on Roger Daltry’s solo album, and even touring with the Q.Tips whilst their regular guitarist was incapacitated.

“But we’re really serious about getting a few more gigs under our belts, none of the band could wait to get out and play the new songs. The reaction at the recent Marquee gig decided for us that a major string of gigs is now essential.

Marquee, London NICK KEMP
THE FIRST I heard of 720 was one night last year when, penniless and thirsty, I crawled into the London Marquee to blag a pint out of someone. I came out with the knowledge that one day 720, who were headlining the first date of a month’s residency, would be lurking around somewhere near the top of the rock tree. Three gigs later at the same venue the Marquee booker decided that the band didn’t draw enough people to warrant re-engaging. Things have changed since then, however.

A recording deal with Jet (and this band ain’t gonna be another ELO tax write off!) and a major tour as support to Sabbath (free an’ all) meant that the Marquee were forced to swallow their pride and invite 720 back. The packed house completed the `egg on face’ syndrome and it became apparent to all and sundry that this band are going places.

The one factor that sets 720 apart from the rest of the heads down bands is that they’re not a heads down band. Which isn’t to say they don’t warrant the attention of Kerrang! readers, far from it. It’s refreshing to see a band that can play, one that doesn’t just rely on the bland powerchords that are so often a disguise for incompetence. The band don’t even have long hair in the greasy sense of the phrase. They’re simply the first hard rock dance band.

Of course image is (unfortunately) another important factor and 720 are lucky in that none of them are that obscene to look at (only joking lads!), lead vocalist and bassist Dave Birch is getting used to mucho stick about his resemblance to Sting, but there’s no posing or high pitched throat strain in this case. Dave sings in a surprisingly tuneful throaty growl, hitting the notes perfectly but adding the necessary raunchiness, while Andy Marshall, on twin lead with pretty blonde Dave Colwell, supplies the statutory HM hero posing and gets away with it.

Completing the tight unit is drummer Paul Edwards who knows a thing or two about dancing, having hit the skins for Blondie soundalikes The Expressos before realising that raunchy rock’n’roll is the only answer to ‘dem ole’ blues’. There are strong rumours that 720 will be opening for a major Arian rock hand in the near future, I can t let on who, but 1 will confirm that it ain’t gonna be Kraftwerk!

Live Marquee
FOLLOWING a lengthy absence from the live circuit – they did play at Dingwalls but 1 don’t count that s a bona fide ‘gig’ – 720 return to the Marquee to play one of their better concerts. With a new demo tape that has a number of record company executives foaming at the mouth (and some of ’em like the tape as well) and with a fresher attitude to the joys of live concertdom the band now look as if the promise they showed last year can finally be turned to commercial SUCCESS.

720 play the kind of music that’s been missing on the rock scene for some time, driving rock’n’roll, but with a light edge. In other words they a kick ass but without drowning the melody in noise. The closing trio of “Casualty ‘, “Angles Of Madness”, and “All By Yourself” all have hit single potential, and the rest of the set is certainly of a quality not to be deemed fillers, In fact every bloody song is good enough for recording.

The band, who after a pretty long layoff could be forgiven far being a little too loose, that is with the exception of Andy Marshall who has filled in on a couple of tours, and has recently helped out on Roger Daltrey’s solo album, but even after what can only have been a couple of rehearsals, 720 sound as tight as if they’d been on the road for the last ten years.



EH OOP lads, what does Biff Byford drink for Christmas – real ale or Yorkshire bitter?

“Nay lad, two gallons of batter pudding mixture,” says his side kick Graham Oliver.

Biff winces. It may be the festive season but he doesn’t want to overdo the Yorkshire image. “I wouldn’t mind if they blew up every brewery in the country,” he booms, as I prepare to smother Saxon in buckets of yuletide snow.

It seems a strange way to make a living, I muse, as I lean over the group from my position atop a twenty foot ladder. The boys are clad in what looks like the costumes from Leeds Empire’s production of Aladdin, all silk and gold lame, while Paul Quinn has gone mad and blacked up his face, the more to resemble an authentic Wise Man.

There were, according to my reading of religious history, only Three Wise Men, but as the whole of Saxon have turned up for the picture session, save the wisest of the lot, drummer Nigel Glockner, they all join in the posing for lensman, Fin Costello.
It was Fin who furnished costumes, snow and smoke in the basement of his lslington studio, and Saxon who provided the goodwill and seasonal greetings. They were richly rewarded with several hundredweight of plastic flakes dumped on them from a great height, which I heaved to cries of:
“More snow-keep it coming!” It covered their hair, clothes and boots until they began to look like victims of some industrial pollution accident.

They needed to make the most of their pre-Christmas fun however, because Saxon, hard workers all, spend most of their time on the road, bashing out Heavy Metal and keeping up the pressure in a fiercely competitive world.

This year they’ve been blasting non-stop – endless tours of America, rock festivals in Britain and recording and mixing sessions. Although they seem a bit shell-shocked by the need to keep on the battlefront, they’re still the same blunt, honest and cheerful bunch of mates who richly deserve greater glory in the Metal history of the world.

Just as I was about to talk to Steve, Paul and Graham about the future of the band, there came a great crashing at the door.
“That’s Biff,” said Graham. “Aye he’s got a loud knock. We always think its police when he comes to our house. He’s just a naturally loud person in everything he does.”

While we were waiting for Biff to cease demolishing the front door, Graham told how they’d been to America no less than six times during 1982. Why were they spending so much time abroad – was it simply the work and money, or were they trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records?

“We’re still trying to break there really,” said Graham. “This trip is just for recording and we’ll spend a month in the studios. Jeff Glixman is going to be our producer. He did Gary Moore’s last album and he’s a bit of an Anglophile. He’s been to see us in concert.”

Said Steve: “He’s liked us for a long time, and he’s into English bands, especially the guitarists. We were just one of the bands he’s always wanted to work with. We’ve always produced ourselves in the past, but decided to bring in someone else this time. We decided on Jeff and he’s great. We’re not aiming for anything drastically different – just an improvement. In one week we flew the Atlantic three times, hence the bags under the eyes.”

Saxon certainly need a break and are adamant they’ll spend their Christmas at home. Said Steve: “I think we’ll be four weeks in the studio and then have to mix the tracks afterwards. It depends really. When we did ‘Wheels Of Steel’, it only took two weeks to record and another week to mix. That were it.

“So we want to do the next one quickly. You get stale if you keep going over things. We like to get things down first or second take, but sometimes that’s impossible. On our first album there’s a track called ‘Judgment Day’. We had 33 attempts at that one.
“We just kept making mistakes,” said Graham, “and began to get paranoid. On the next album we’ve all contributed to each track, whether it’s a lyric or guitar part. Same as always. We’ve got 14 songs ready and we’ll probably choose ten.”

Will it be as heavy as previous albums?

“Hopefully. It’s gonna be called ‘The Power And The Glory’, and that track is typical Saxon,” said Buff. “This is our sixth album in three years. The reason we’ve done that is so that when you go into a record shop you find a Saxon file. We were sick of going in and seeing everyone else with their own bin. We used to be filed under ’S’.

“I’ve just got a recording of Radio Clyde who recorded us up in Glasgow. Excellent. Brilliant. So if we can get hold of that… well there’s another source for us.”

I surmised that Biff was hatching plans to use it for Volume II of the Saxon live album sage.

“The audience was star of tape. We’re thinking of bringing out an album next year that’s half live and half studio. There’ll be some songs over from ‘Power’ and we’ve got all this live material
. And the Radio Clyde stuff really is good – on a par with our own recordings. The drums and bass are superb.”

Said Steve: “There are actually three Saxon bootleg albums out at the moment one from England and two from Japan.”
How did the band feel about such pirating of their music – was it an accolade or an outrage?

“I’m totally…. not bothered said Graham somewhat glumly.

“People complain because of the quality.” said Biff. “and that bothers us. We’ve heard lots of bootleg tapes where the audience is louder than the band. But there was such a demand for bootlegs of the band “live” we had to put our own album out.
“Were committed to live work anyway, and it’s no good people telling us: ‘If you do a commercial song it’ll get played on the radio, and then you’ll have a platinum album’. That’s bullshit as far as we’re concerned We’re committed to playing live in America, like we do here and everywhere else. The albums should sell because we are good.”

Have Saxon albums charted there yet?

“Oh ay, in the bottom end of the Top 200.’ But you’ve got to remember that album sales in America are huge and with a number one you’re talking about millions. We’ve suffered a lot from imports to America as well.”

Saxon are well liked on the American Heavy Metal underground circuit and as soon as their albums are released here they get exported to Stateside specialist shops where all the potential Saxon fans get them.

Said Graham: “They even import copies of Kerrang! which sell for like three dollars in all the record shops. ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ hasn’t been released in America yet but just about everybody has got it. So that’s why our next LP will be a world-wide release on one day.”

But enough of such commercial trifles, what about Christmas? How will the Saxon hordes be celebrating “Oh we’re planning on going home,” said Biff dryly, looking under whelmed with enthusiasm.

Said Steve: “They’re trying to get us to do a gig in Greenland on Christmas day. Something to do with a sled and reindeer. But I think somebody else has got that gig. We always try to get home for Christmas. The only time we ever worked at Christmas was when we played the working men’s clubs, years ago, and that was because we could get double money.”

Biff looked more interested: “Christmas is like sacred to us. It’s the only period when we can get time to ourselves.”

I’d envisaged wild booze ups in the dales and moors, but they didn’t seem all that keen about the prospect. ‘Oh there’ll probably be some drinking,’ said Graham. ‘Biff drinks his Yorkshire pudding batter. But basically we’ll be relaxing, and eating mince pies.’
Biff said he had found a new home and will spend his time moving furniture and fittings.

“It took him ages to find a big ‘un with an outside bog,’ said Graham, who was sounding more and more like Les Dawson.

“I’ve got an inside bog and an outside house,” laughed Biff. “Now I’ve got three bogs. I’ve converted bedrooms into bogs.”

I was still convinced that Biff must be a reet Yorkshire boozer and tried to tackle him on the subject of real ale, feeling sure he would leap into a long dissertation on the wonders of Tatlock’s Brassic Ales.

Instead, grumbled Biff: “I don’t drink it. There are pubs that only sell real ale. But I’m not particularly into ale – period, it wouldn’t make any difference to me if every brewery blew up tomorrow. I know people like a pint, and I used to drink beer, but I never liked it. I only drank to be one of the lads.”

So it will be a generally quiet but very WISE Christmas with Saxon. What then are their plans for the New Year?

“There is talk of doing a gig which we will film for a commercial video,” revealed Biff. “And we are talking about doing a gig in Wales as well, which we missed out on our last tour, when the gig collapsed. The video is one of out top priorities. We want it to be a good one with live footage, backstage stuff and bits of promotional videos,”

Wasn’t there a danger of revealing their stage act to everybody at once with a video on general sale?

“Well our stage act changes every tour anyway. We’d do a special production for the video. You mean like ‘Video Kills The Rock Band? It would be pointless to give away all our ideas on one video.

“And you’ve got to remember in some countries they haven’t seen us anyway so we want to give ‘em a taste of Saxon. And I don’t think they’d get bored with watching somebody set fire to a guitar. The visual will go down well and of course the songs”.


APRIL 1990

After a three year absence, ageing rockers SAXON are back and gigging determinedly. It’s their 10th anniversary, and they’re claiming there’s a ‘new positiveness’ in the camp.

PAUL MILLER questions vocalist BIFF BYFORD, the man who braved ‘Top Of The Pops’ wearing skin-tight silver strides, about Saxon’s relevancy in the light of a new decade

WE’RE PLAYING big gigs, small gigs, fat gigs, thin gigs, we don’t give a fook! We’ll play anywhere!”

The years may be beginning to take their toll on voice and features alike, but Biff Byford, voice of tireless tramps Saxon and unforgettable as the only man rash enough to do ‘Top Of The Pops’ in skintight silver strides, is determined not to let the 700-odd souls gathered in the Leeds Irish Centre believe that Saxon are a lost cause.

Three years after most sane people had figured that weak-kneed albums like ‘Destiny’ and ‘Rock The Nations’ had forced Saxon into ignoble retirement, the quintet are back and are halfway through their most extensive UK tour since the ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ jaunt, way back before most of your bedtimes.

Back is Graham Oliver, the man whose wiry mane seems in constant battle with his onstage facial grimaces. Back too comes Paul Quinn, whose art of conversation is every bit as deadly as Steve Davis’. Even the ever-youthful Nigel Glockner, with hair the colour of the grey Yorkshire sky, is back.

Indeed, the only new Saxon blood is that of 22 year old bassist Nibs Carter, a fiery, shit-hot bassist who looks like Jason Newsted, plays like Billy Sheehan and charges around the Leeds stage like a man in desperate need of the toilet. During an in-state signing in Peterborough days-earlier he took his underpants off to sign for a female fan. That boy’s gonna be a star! Biff roars proudly.

Biff claims that the 25 UK dates (dubbed 10 years of Denim and Leather – a little opportunist considering that debut album ‘Saxon’ was issued 11 years ago) Saxon are doing a back-to-roots thing that the band really wanted to do.

Of course, most will realise that playing to 700 people a night in venues like Leeds Irish Centre and Peterborough Cresset is a sure sign of desperation.

Yet Saxon have very little choice. Currently label-less after the expiration of their EMI contract (although Biff stresses that they are promoting the rather fine ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsy’ album out on Roadrunner), manager-less and with all the public credibility of the Poll Tax, this really is the only route open to the band.

“We’ve been away from some of these places for a fookin’ long time,” Biff emphasises. “In the last few years we’ve just done seven or eight shows in England and then gone on somewhere else. We thought, it’s our tenth anniversary, let’s just do a whole lot of dates.”

The tour finishes on April 12 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, then the band go on to Germany (with Metal Church and Toranaga in tow), Austria, Yugoslavia and finish in Budapest on May 8. After a few days rest they then start in the UK again, this time taking on bigger shows and cities that this leg of this jaunt has missed out.

THE RELEVANCY of a band who made their mark in the first half of the last decade must surely be questioned in 1990.

“Ten years isn’t that long,” offers Buff somewhat unconvincingly. “I don’t think fook all has happened. From 1980 until now, what British bands have broken There’s nobody who’s come along and replaced us, there’s no-one who’s replaced Iron Maiden.

“It means a lot to us to be understood in our own country and this tour means more to me than playing some fookin’ 12,000 seater in Texas.”

Saxon very much see 1984’s ‘Crusader’ as their crunch album. It was the start of the decline in Saxon’s record sales, signalled the last of the radio airplay and the start of some vicious press. The sanitised single, ‘Sailing To America’, did them few favours either.

Although Biff feels that the single was misunderstand, but it was much the red rag to a UK audience sensitive to bands appearing to desert their own country for the lure of the Yankee dollar.

“It’s a shame how we’ve been let go by England,” chips in Graham Oliver, shaking his head.

Many people would take the view that it wasn’t England that let Saxon go, but rather that Saxon fked off and let England go. Saxon, slowly but surely, became yesterday’s band.

“Of the three bands that started together (Saxon, Maiden and Def Leppard), I bet we’ve toured England more,” defends Oliver. “We’ve been accused of selling out and going to America but we’re the only one of the three that have done Jack Shit there. Do you know that we’ve never spent more than six weeks in America at one time”

AS CHRIS Watts noted in his live review of the sold out Bristol show (ish 282), Saxon are a band resentful at the way they feel they’ve been treated, and find that bitterness hard to keep down. They are angry at the UK press’ ridicule and angry at themselves for allowing a succession of US producers (Kevin Beamish and Steffan Gelfas being two of the culprits) water down their music.

“The next album will be our album,” Biff asserts with defiant eyes. “It will definitely be a Saxon album. I don’t give a fook what anyone else says”

Biff, however, is at pains to point out the new positiveness that exists in the Saxon camp. And, despite Chris Watts’ live review, it should be pointed out that, as unhip as they may be, Saxon are playing as well as ever these days, indeed far better and more hungrier than they’ve been for years.

“There’s nobody behind us being negative,” Buff enthuses.

“I think we can start putting our stuff together. Doing these gigs is gonna be good for us. We’re surrounding ourselves with people who believe in the band.

“There’s always an element in Saxon of aggressiveness and menace. On some songs we frighten people. And we need to get back to that. We need a few ‘Motorcycle Man’s, a few ‘Power And The Glory’s, a few ‘Princess of The Night’s and a few ‘Wheels Of Steel’s, and actually get it down on record how we hear it in our heads, and we’ll be back. We’ll have another single us the charts we’ll be able to laugh about doing Top of the Pops’ again.

“I’m not being arrogant, but to see us live is to see one of the best live rock bands in the last 10 years. I wouldn’t be doing this now if I didn’t believe that.”


Kerrang! 292 June 1990

MARSHALL LAW – Marquee London

SOMETIMES I really think it must be a scary world inside Marshall Law’s collective heads. After all, there is a thin line between commitment and insanity. There are times tonight when I’d really like to know what the band saw when they looked out across the mini-assembly of die-hard fans. I think they saw themselves at the top of the world,

Me? I saw dull space invaded by five shiny haircuts and a boisterous line in retro-Metal from the dark ages. Like the liberal use of handcuffs in their logo and stage-show, the leather strides and Roger Melly sticker on Roj Davis’ bass, Marshall Law trade weak and redundant body punches with straight ahead, red-neck rock ‘n’ roll.

And of course they have to live with the constant pressures of being heralded as the saviours of British Metal. Funny, that particular tag could be applied to Loud, New England, Atom Seed, the Almighty and everybody else, but never Marshall Law. The world needs a band who sacked their bass player for being “too short” at the request of a record company who still passed them up, like the world needs the Saxon comeback tour.

So ‘Poll Tax’ Was kinda fun. Yet they waste time trying to involve the crowd at the bar who don’t give a damn for ‘System X’ and ‘I can Feel It’. There are moments when it seems Andy Pyke doesn’t know who he wants to be: cheeky dick machine (‘We’re Hot’) or run-around comedian (Marquee, you can cheer louder than that!’).

Ultimately Marshall Law just ain’t Warrior Soul. There’s a big hollow grave where there should be songs. Marshall Law have all the shapes to throw, the cheek to attempt two encores and zero reason to exist.

And I’d still like to spend a day inside their heads.



Feature by Geoff Barton from Kerrang! Issue 2 – August 1981

“HEY MANNNN, how’re ya doin’? Def Lepperd singer Joe Elliott smiles widely, his teeth showing up Ultra Brite white against his golden tanned skin.

“Long time no see” he drawls, silver coke spoon dangling about his neck and glinting in the brilliant Santa Monica sun. Come on an’ sit by the pool. We got soooo much to talk about.”

We walk over to the kidney shaped creation, a sparkling, inviting oasis in the middle of a beautifully landscaped garden.

A ravishing Pam Ewing lookalike reclines on an airbed floating in the water. She looks up, adjusts her skimpy swimsuit and tosses a luxurious mane of hair out of her eyes.

‘Hey, Joe!” she calls “Are ye coming in for a dip? It’s just diviiiiiiine!”

‘Won’t be long honey”, replies Elliott, giving me a knowing wink. “I just gotta speak with this guy. Won’t take Ionger than about 10 minutes…..”

I cane believe it. So this is what they’ve come to. Def Leppard, the first New Wave of British Heavy Metal band, the group that inspired a whole new generation of sonic striplings, have become as sickening as their superstar superiors.

They’ve left their home, in Sheffield and have taken up permanent residence in the States. They’re hooked on the Yankie highlife and couldn’t care less about their homeland.

Goodbye and good riddance Great Britain, say hello America…..

WRONG! This, insects, is how it really is.

Switch scenes from a Los Angeles suburb to a grubby street In Willesden, London NW2. Whip off your shades and put up your umbrella. Notice that the only pools in the vicinity are the ones caused by rainwater further clogging the blocked-up drains.

Now peer through the murky window of a tenement house adjacent to Battery Studio – where Def Leppard are at last recording their second LP – and listen intently. You re about to hear something that’ll make you think again. Your assessment of the situation is suddenly going to seem incredibly ill conceived….

Joe Elliott is sitting on the edge of a bed in a plainly decorated room. He draws on a cigarette, his lips pursed tight and tense. A curly dark mop frames a scowling face. He’s picking his words slowly, carefully, deliberately.

‘I want to stress that Def Leppard have not ‘sold out to America’.” he says. ‘It’s ridiculous. Plain ridiculous. People seem to think that we spend all our time over there, but that’s simply not true. So far, in our entire career, we have only spent three months in the States. Three months! That’s all.’

Bass player Rick Savage is crouched in a corner, his legs tucked up tightly beneath him. He nods in agreement.

“It’s all very well being popular in America,” he reflects, “being great rock stars, earning a lost of money and everything that goes with it, but there’s no way you can put a price on being big in your own country.

“It’s just pride, which is something everyone reckons we haven’t got. People think we just don’t care about doing things for the English fan, the kid who got us started. And they couldn’t be more off the beam.”

TO PLACE these comments in contest, a short history lesson is in order methinks. Def Leppard first exploded on to the metal marketplace at the start of 1979. Taking the spiky-haired, bull-by-the-horns, New Wave initiative, they refused to stand idle and wait for that miraculous record contract to magically come their way.

Instead the five Steel City teenagers (Elliott and Savage along with guitarists Steve Clark and Pete Willis, plus drummer Rick Allen) issued a self financed EP called ‘Getcha Rocks Off’ and made things happen for themselves.

The record was superb and soon enough found itself firmly lodged in HM charts the length and breadth of the land. I promptly travelled up to SheffieId to watch the band play a small gig at Crookes Workingman’s Club.

A naively enthusiastic article appeared in Sounds dated Jun. 16. ‘High powered heavy rock played to a degree of tightness usually only achieved after a half dozen gruelling American tours,’ I drooled at the time.

It was the beginning of a frenzied fairytale. Eight months later the band had been snatched up by Phonogram, acquired hotshot American management, toured as support to the likes of Sammy Hagar, recorded a debut album ‘On Through The Night’, scooped not only the ‘Best New Band’ section but also (with ‘Rocks Off’) the ‘Best Single’ category in the 1980 Sounds readers’ poll….and it was time for another feature.

I saw a show at base camp again, only this time at the Sheffield Top Rank, arid th. group enjoyed front page prominence on the March 1 issue. However the cover line was something of a downer: ‘Has the Leppard changed it’s spots?’ we asked.

Inside on page 20, I expressed some severe doubts. Another quote: ‘Since signing a major deal, Def Leppard have begun to sink slowly into the rock industry quagmire….. They once had the power to penetrate but unfortunately their complete trust in the business has rendered them useless.’

POP! The bubble had burst and suddenly it was a case of (to use that well worn rock cliché) too much too soon.

BITTERLY, Elliott picks up the tale “Let’s take it from the end of ‘79, when we went into the studio to lay down ‘On Through The Night’. On January 5 1980 we finished the album, than we started on a tour of Marquee-sized clubs, 50-odd gigs, In March and April we played dates in bigger venues, we’d kind of graduated upwards and ridding the crest of a wave.

‘We went to America in mid-May and returned to Britain at the beginning of

August. Looking back. I guess It was during that period that the turnaround, whatever you want to call it, occurred.

We took two or three weeks off to rehearse and write some new songs, then we played the Reading Festival. We thought it’d be a highpoint in a great year for us…..but it didn’t work out that way. We came onstage after Slade – and nearly got canned off!”

Suddenly the once high-flying Leppards had crashlanded as gracelessly as a pigeon peppered with pistol pellets. They were forced to face a grim new reaIity.

After the Reading debacle, the band escaped to Europe and toured there throughout September. Returning to the UK in October to start recording their second album, they were dismayed to find the producer of their choice, Mutt Lange, still tied up with a Foreigner disc in New York. So the Def Ones, sat down and waited for Lange to finish the project. And waited. And waited.

Work on Foreigner’s LP was proceeding at a sloth like pace and by Christmas it was no nearer completion

“We were bored stiff,’ recalls Elliott, “so we set up a little low key tour by ourselves, just to keep our hands in.”

“Also to try and get back some ‘street credibility,” interjects Savage. “We thought people might warm to us again, if they saw us doing gigs at the Retford Portarhouse, or Chesterfield’s Aquarius, which is a real chicken-in-the-basket place.”

“But it didn’t work” says Elliott, ‘When we played the Nottingham Boat Club part of our small-hall tour at the beginning of the year, 400 people were turned away from the door, When we appeared there again in December, we attracted a grand total of 87 all told. We had to cancel Doncaster because they’d only done about three tickets in advance.

THE LEPS spent the first part of ‘81 licking their wounds and wondering what on earth to do next. Mutt Lange finally freed himself from Foreigners shackles in May and the band were at last able to begin laying down their follow-up long-player.

But the questions have to be asked:

Why did they wait so long for Lange? Couldn’t they have chosen another producer? Surely, the longer the delay, the lower their career slumped into the doldrums?

Elliott: “The point is, we just didn’t want to settle for second best. No bad reflection on Tom Allom (who sat at the boards for ‘On Through The Night) but we believe Mutt to be the best rock producer in the world. Admittedly, the longer we waited the worse it got for us, but at least we know that when our album comes out, it’s going to be a monster. We believe it will be.”

You reckon that maybe this self-enforced ‘retirement’ could have worked to your advantage?

Savage: “It could have. Mind you, it’s a bit of a bad situation when you get bands like, say, the Pink Floyd putting out records more frequently than Def Leppard! Basically, what it boils down to is what’s in the grooves of your disc. Stuff the politics, if it’s good enough people’lI buy it.”

Was the Foreigner LP delay due to what we printed in the first issue of Kerrang!? That is to say that band leader Mick Jones is only allowed to work from 9am to 5pm, under strict instructions from his trouble ‘n’ strife?

Savage: “I believe so, yes. We kept asking Mutt for the reasons why, and we got certain answers, but no-one except him and Foreigner knows for sure if Mick Jones was getting hassled by his wife.

Elliott: “The way I hear it, the Foreigner album went into pre-production, but the songs just weren’t coming together. Mick Jones had been listening too much to the other Mick Jones, the one who’s in the Clash. He’d written all Clash kind of songs. Apparently they were good tunes, but they were completely wrong for Foreigner. So they started again a couple of band members were sacked…..I don’t know. I doubt if we’ll ever learn the full story.”

TO WHAT do you attribute your abrupt downturn in popularity? One moment you were on top of the world, the next, in rock’n’roll terms, you were as down-and-out as a Soup Kitchen sponger..

Elliott: “The power of the pen. They say it’s mightier than the sword, and our case has proven that it can be.’

Bad reviews in the music press? Surely that can’t be the only reason?

Savage: “OK, what was written doesn’t account for all of it. Nonetheless, people believe what they read and if someone says in print that Del Leppard have abandoned Britain for America, the vast majority believe it and don’t bother to find out for themselves. That’s why we got the cans at Reading. It only needs one or two slag-offs in the music press and then everything just snowballs,”

Elliott: “It’s not our fault. I don’t think things were helped by the fact that, shortly after our album was released. Saxon brought out ‘Wheels Of Steel’, a pretty mammoth sort of heavy metal LP. I think that stole a lot of our thunder.”

Savage elaborates: “Before we signed ‘to a record company we were getting really over the top exposure. Us, Iron Maiden and Samson – we were all at the forefront of the so-called New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. The kids latched onto us because of all this, but I think many were disappointed when they came to hear our debut LP.

“Now we were really proud of it, we thought it was a killer album, but we’d be the first to admit that it wasn’t blatant heavy metal. It wasn’t one long strung-out version of ‘Getcha Rocks Off’….we didn’t want It to be.”

Elliott: “So people thought we’d produced it especially for the American market. They couldn’t have been more wrong. We basically did the album for ourselves – it was en accurate representation of what we were about at the time.”

Savage: “On Through The Night’ was really just an extension of our EP, which we had tried to make as varied as possible. You had three tracks: ‘Rocks Off’, straight metal, ‘Ride Into The Sun’, dead poppy, and ‘Overture’, a real epic Rush-style job.

“The new album is very much in the same sort of vein. The production’s heavier, but there’re still the subtleties that you wouldn’t be able to find on a Saxon or Motorhead LP. That’s just the way we are. We write songs with a bit more melody,”

AND THE platter – titled ‘High And Dry’ – is good, no kiddin’, While still far removed from mindless metal, Mutt Lange has nonetheless roughed up the Leps something rotten, and produced a redoubtable raucous-but-refined recipe.

Songs like ‘Let It Go’, ‘Lady Strange’, ‘No No No’ and ‘(Saturday Night) High And Dry’ are powerful enough to propel the band into the UFO-style HR big league, while ‘Bringing On The Heartbreak’ is a slow, strong ballad and a potential showstopper.

The band and myself have had our difference, in the past. But not even the most blinkered Philistine could deny that their second album REALLY brings the hammer down.