Saxon are an English heavy metal band, formed in 1976 in Barnsley, Yorkshire. As front-runners of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they had 8 UK Top 40 albums in the 1980s including 4 UK Top 10 albums. Saxon also had numerous singles in the Top 20 singles chart. Between 1980 and 1987 Saxon established themselves as one of Europe's biggest metal acts, they also had success in Japan and in the USA. In Japan, the single "Motorcycle Man" stayed in the charts for over 5 months. They still tour regularly and have sold more than 13 million albums worldwide.
Saxon began with a lineup formed by Peter "Biff" Byford on vocals, Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver on guitars, Steve "Dobby" Dawson on bass and drummer Pete "Frank" Gill. Early in their career, the band changed their name from Son of a Bitch to Saxon, and gained support slots on tour with more established bands such as Motörhead.
In 1979, the band signed to the French record label Carrere and released their eponymous debut album. In 1980, the follow-up album Wheels of Steel (UK no 5) spawned two hit singles: the title track, and the crowd favourite "747 (Strangers in the Night)". Strong Arm of the Law (UK no 11), considered by fans to be one of their best recordings, was released later that same year, and chart success continued with singles from their next release, Denim and Leather (1981 UK no 9). The title track to that album is seen as an anthem of the early 1980s metal movement. Later legal issues with Carrere negated most if not all of the financial gains seen during their early success.
A relentless series of headlining tours around the UK capitalised on this success and a sold out tour of Europe with Ozzy Osbourne as support act highlighted Saxon's immense ability on the road and was set in stone with the live release The Eagle Has Landed (1982 UK no 5).
As the NWOBHM movement began to fade, 1983 Power & the Glory, their highest selling album to date, saw Saxon establish themselves as one of the major European metal acts together with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The "Power and Glory Tour" of 1983 was an arena tour that began in Europe and was a huge success. The US leg of the tour with support act Accept proved successful and Saxon found themselves on the verge of becoming a major act in the US as the album, in its first week of release, sold more than 15,000 copies in Los Angeles alone. The emerging glam metal scene in America would however put a dent in the band's conquest of the American market.
Crusader, released in 1984 (UK no 12) sold over 2 million copies and the 1984 world tour "The World Crusade" was again a success both in Europe and America. In the US they had Mötley Crüe and Krokus as support for parts of the tour as the band spent one year on the road. Though still heavy, critics detected a more americanized sound on Crusader and fans began to wonder what direction the band was taking.
They signed with EMI Records in 1985 and took a more commercial direction with their new record company. Innocence Is No Excuse released in 1985, was a question mark to many fans as the raw, heavy Saxon-sound had been polished to gain US attraction. The album has however gained more critical acclaim with the years. A huge world tour followed, but in early 1986 bassist Steve Dawson left the band and Saxon was back in the studio recording their 8th studio album Rock the Nations without a bass player. With Elton John guest playing on piano on 2 tracks, Byford laid down the bass parts, but soon the band hired Paul Johnson to fill the spot and a European arena tour followed.
In 1986 they headlined the Reading Festival and toured the U.S.
With American success hard to find, the release of the disappointing Destiny (1988) did not help and Saxon were later dropped by EMI. They found new life in 1990, signed to Virgin Records and released five studio albums in the 90s before becoming increasingly popular in the new millennium with a string of strong album releases.
Headlining Wacken Open Air, Bloodstock and Monsters of Rock continued their momentum and cemented the band's 25 year long reputation as one of metal's great live acts.
Near the end of the 90s the band was seen going into increasingly heavier metal areas, culminating in 1999 with Metalhead, which had a bit of a power metal sound to it.
Saxon's The Inner Sanctum album, released in Europe on 5 March 2007, and North America on 3 April, was seen by many critics as their best work in years. In 2007, they started a world tour in support of The Inner Sanctum which saw them have only 15 nights off from 60 dates.
Saxon released a new studio album entitled "Into the Labyrinth" on 12 January 2009. In February, it was announced that the band were cancelling the Spanish leg of their European tour with Iced Earth, due to scheduling issues.
At the start of 2009 they toured the UK with Doro, and again at the end of the year they did a UK tour. In August of that year, they played on the Sunday at Sonisphere.
Saxon performed at the 2010 Download Festival, which took place at Donington Park between 11 and 13 June.
Saxon released their nineteenth studio album, Call to Arms, on 3 June 2011. The band has since started work on writing songs for their twentieth album, tentively expected to be released in early 2013.
Saxon are billed as special guests supporting Judas Priest at Hammersmith Apollo on May 26 2012.
Collaboration with Harvey Goldsmith:
In 2007, Saxon were the subject of an episode of Harvey Goldsmith's Get Your Act Together.
As part of his programme, Goldsmith wanted to try and restore their popularity and cement their reputation as a great band once again. He drafted in two new producers to oversee the production of the new single If I Was You (a song about gun culture), which went straight to number one of the Rock Charts in over 10 countries (becoming their most successful single for over 12 years).
At the end of the programme, Saxon played at the sold out Sheffield City Hall. Saxon also performed at the 2008 Download Festival.
Throughout the band's history line-up changes have been common, but with Byford and Quinn remaining as constants. Gill left in 1981 after injuring his hand, to be replaced by Nigel Glockler, formerly of Toyah Willcox's band, who was himself replaced twice, briefly between 1987 and 1988 (by Nigel Durham), and, more permanently, following an injury of his own in 1998. Glockler rejoined the band in 2005 after his neck and shoulder injury had healed.
Gill later went on to play for Motörhead. Dawson departed in 1986 and his replacement, Paul Johnson, lasted two years before leaving. Nibbs Carter has filled the position ever since.
When Graham Oliver left in 1995 (replaced by Doug Scarratt), the band split into two different Saxon groups -- one dominated by vocalist Byford and his cohort Quinn and the other consisting of original Saxon members Oliver and Dawson. A period of legal actions ensued, resulting in both groups having the right to use Saxon in their name (although former member one must be indicated as "Oliver/Dawson Saxon"). The line-up of Byford's Saxon has been fairly stable apart from the departure of a few drummers. Following Glockler's departure, German Fritz Randow took up the position until 2004. His replacement was former Stratovarius man Jörg Michael.
The line-up that played on the album Lionheart consisted of Byford on vocals, guitarists Quinn and Scarrat, Carter on bass and Michael on drums. The German originally agreed to perform on the album as a session musician, but following his firing from Stratovarius was hired as a full-time member. Following the rapid reunion of Stratovarius, Michael departed after only a year in the job, opening the door for Glockler to return to Saxon. Saxon recorded The Inner Sanctum after the release of the live album The Eagle Has Landed - part 3, which features Glockler and Micheal on drums, as well as former drummer Fritz Randow.
Graham Oliver and Paul Johnson have now formed a band called 'Screaming Eagles'.
Biff Byford - vocals (1976-present),
Doug Scarratt - rhythm guitar (1996-present),
Paul Quinn - lead guitar, (1976-present),
Nigel Glockler - drums (1981-1987, 1988-1999, 2005-present),
Nibbs Carter - bass (1988-present),
Graham Oliver - rhythm guitar (1976-1996),
Steve Dawson - bass (1976-1986),
David Ward - drums (1976-1978),
Pete Gill - drums (1978-1981),
Paul Johnson - bass (1986-1988),
Trevor Thorton - drums (1998-1999),
Fritz Randow - drums (1999-2004),
Jorg Michael - drums (2004-2005)