Saxon Newcastle City Hall 1980, 1981 and 1982
I saw Saxon on three more occasions at Newcastle City Hall. The first was on 1th December 1980 on the “Strong Arm of the Law” tour. From the programme: “Hi there , this is Biff writing a few lines to tell you what’s happened since we last saw you. As you may know “Wheels of Steel” went silver and I was very proud to receive my silver disc. We are now becoming successful in other countries round the world and we owe all this to you, our British fans. I hope you like the new album and tour..Have a listen to “Heavy Metal Thunder” – it’s dedicated to YOU!”. I’ve just done as Biff suggested and watched a clip of Saxon playing “Heavy Metal Thunder” live at the time. Biff plays the rock star part to a T, long locks flailing about, and great silver spandex trousers. A solid slab of heavy metal rock. “Strong Arm of The Law” was Saxon’s third studio and was released only four months after “Wheels of Steel” charted at No. 11; these guys were on a roll. The song I remember most from the new album, and which I enjoyed seeing them play live was “Dallas 1 PM”, which was written about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Support on the tour was Limelight, a rock band from Mansfield. Limelight had a strong following in the North East clubs at the time. The next time I saw Saxon was on 21st October 1981. This was the “Denim and Leather tour”. Denim and Leather was their fourth studio album, released in 1981 and was the last album with the classic line, as drummer Pete Gill left the band due to a hand injury. It is also seen as the last of their three classic albums (along with Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law). Following its release Saxon stopped making albums for over a year, and concentrated on looking for success in the USA. Support came from American heavy rock band Riot. From the programme” “Denim and Leather. The two words were made from each. Like bread and butter. Salt and pepper. Gin and topic. Simmons and Stanley. They fit together as snug and neat as an expertly carpentered mortice and tenon joint. They roll over the tongue with ease, like the phrase “And incidentally music lovers” from Fluff Freeman’s lips. And they’re destined to become as much a part of heavy metal’s frenzied folklore as the expressions “mayhem merchant”, “titanic powerchord” and “flashbomb fever”. [Yeah, terms I use every day 🙂 ]. Denim and leather are old friends. And the older, more frayed, scraped, battered and tattered the better. Combined, the two materials make up a uniform to be reckoned with, a Kerrang! kostume more meaningful then the DM’s and Sta-Prest of the cropped-tops; more relevant that the tablecloths and Jolly Rogers….of the ephemeral futurists. Look at the Hammersmith hordes. The multitudinous Mancunians. Cower before the Bristil Battalion. The Glasgow garrison. There’s an army out there and the battledress is the same. Leather jacket, studded, patched with motorcycle brand names, once dark and supple, now cracked and turning brown. Or denim jacket, embroidered, faded, grubby, stiff and stained with the sweat of 100 hothouse holocausts. And the jeans, greasy with engine oil, wearing through all the knees, ill-fitting and overlong…..Heavy Metal, after all, is a mass experience, an enjoyment to be shared, not selfishly guarded, not confined to bleak bedsit seclusion…Some people will never understand but we relish being..An army of thousands surrounded by lights. And we have the power to proclaim that…Nobody stands in our way!” Apologies for reproducing so much from the programme here, but I feel that it sums up the mood of the time, and is very much “of the period”. Saxon were back at the City Hall on 17th September 1982. There was no new studio album to promote, but they had just released a live album “The Eagle has Landed” which was also the title of the tour. The cover of the tour programme shows Biff standing victorious on the Donington stage, facing a massive crowd of denim and leather, the famous tyre in the background. Support for the 1982 tour were Cheetah, a rock band fronted by two girl vocalists. The live albums contains the following tracks, which give a feel for Saxon concert sets at the time: Motorcycle Man; 747 (Strangers in the Night); Princess of the Night; Strong Arm of the Law; Heavy Metal Thunder; 20,000 Ft.; Wheels of Steel; Never Surrender; Fire in the Sky; Machine Gun; And the Bands Played On; See the Light Shining; Frozen Rainbow; Midnight Rider; Dallas 1PM; Hungry Years.
Part of the attraction of Saxon was the working class, Northern, nature and work ethic of these guys. They were living the dream, living their life through rock, and using as an escape from the pits and the factories which may otherwise have been their future. This was, I am sure, part of the reason they were so successful in the North East. The audience identified with them, it was as if they were looking at themselves on stage, and living out their fantasies and dreams through Biff and the guys.
I saw Saxon once or twice more at Monsters of Rock festival, but haven’t seem them again since those days. They continue to gig and have recently returned to the public eye, in part due to a TV programme in which Harvey Goldsmith helped them relaunch their career.
Another one for my ever-growing list of bands to see again, at least once more.
PS Just noticed that I was pretty close down front for all these gigs. That explains why my hearing is starting to fail these days….Has anyone ever taken a case against a group of bands for hearing loss ? 🙂
PPS Another memory entered my head today. I recall seeing Saxon play at West Cornforth (Doggy) club one night, it must have been in 1979. I think they were still billed as Son of a Bitch, but had changed their name to Saxon by the time they played the gig. They were awesome (and LOUD) in a small workingmens’ club. I still don’t know why they call West Cornforth “Doggy” 🙂
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Saxon Newcastle City Hall 1980, 1981 and 1982