Posts Tagged ‘Saxon’
Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal – Neil Daniels (Independent Music Press)
This is the second tome I have reviewed from rock scribe Neil Daniels, the first was a bite sized look at Judas Priest’s British Steel album, a band I admitted I knew little about (although a little wiser now of course). Next up however is Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal, a far meatier affair and a subject I am better acquainted with.
Whilst no expert, I have been a fan of Metallica for nearly 20 years now and have been paying attention for at least some of this time, so approach the book with a certain amount of knowledge under my belt.
Charting Metallica’s evolution from Hetfield’s pre-‘Tallica Leather Charm, right up to the controversial (amongst Metallica fans at least) … And Justice For All album, this is a concentrated look at their pre-Black album releases and importance in metal folklore. Whilst a Metallica book is hardly a new concept, there is surprisingly little print on the early days so there is definitely a space on the Metal bookshelf for such a collection.
Neil has a good way of remaining detached and unbiased when it comes to retelling the stories, especially with regards to the often vilified Dave Mustaine who gets treated with an even, if slight, hand throughout. It is also interesting to imagine a time when Hetfield was a shy, reluctant front man, ill at ease with the spot light, rather than the strutting rock God we are more accustomed to these days.
There is plenty of input from a range of shady characters who were there/part of the Metallica bandwagon. Be it key players from the NWOBHM bands that influenced a young Ulrich like Saxon’s Biff Byford or Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler through to journalists from the day such as Metal Force’s Bernard Doe. These contributions all add colour and depth to the story and unearth plenty of anecdotes… none of which I am going to spoil; you’ll have to read the book.
It also serves as a timely reminder of just how hard Metallica worked for their success, it is easy to be snide about them these days but young bands could learn a lesson or two from Lars’ unparalleled dedication to music. Lest we forget he travelled half way around the world just to see the bands he loved live, most people I know won’t travel between Southampton and Portsmouth for a gig.
If I were to take issue with any part of the book, and let’s face it, you know I will, it has to be the discography section. Appealing to the barely contained geek in me, the discography section always gets my attention; however I beg to differ with the one provided.
Whilst it is only a cursory glance at the singles from the time, I would question why only the USA releases were given and I am pretty sure that Battery, Master Of Puppets and several others were never released as singles. Perhaps as some kind of college radio track but certainly never an official release, I could go into great details about the promo and commercial issues from these albums but fear I would bore more than normal, so just take my word for it.
Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal offers a fantastic overview of the period before the Black Album, it clearly defines Metallica’s importance in the scene they helped create and pay homage to those that made it possible. Some interesting contributions from a range of their peers adds some colour and the archive quotes from the band are insightful and show the progression the band made from wannabes to world beaters.
An overview of the American thrash scene at the end is a nice footnote and a reminder that Metallica may have been torchbearers, but they were not alone in shaping the sound of the genre.
Once again Neil Daniels has put together an entertaining and informative collection, full of facts but suitably breezy so as not to overwhelm. Whatever your interest is in Metallica, this is sure to make you think again… even about And Justice For All. Well, maybe I won’t go that far.
To find out more about Neil Daniels and his other works, click HERE.
You can order your copy of the Metallica book HERE.
Pete Makowski talks exclusively to Biff Byford
When not busy hob-knobbing with the rock ‘n’ roll elite or mooching around backstage somewhere, tucking into free food and drink, Peter Makowski occasionally does some work. Thankfully for us, not all of that work makes its way onto the hallowed pages of Classic Rock or Mojo, some of it gets buried, lost on a laptop hard drive gathering metaphorical dust.
During a recent spring clean Pete has unearthed one such lost gem, a previously unpublished interview with metal God Biff Byford. Biff Byford, Saxon’s enduring, uncompromising and down to earth frontman as he contemplates, amongst other things, the prospects of getting a real job, an alternative career in crime, surviving a near death experience and spandex.
You’ve been fronting Saxon for over thirty years, when are you going to get a proper job?
BB: Funnily enough every time I meet my half-sister, who’s twenty years older than me, she says ‘what are you going to do when all this stops?’ I say ‘probably die’. People are nuts with this ‘proper job’ thing. It’s probably still going on with young musicians with their fathers saying ‘you got to get a proper trade, son’”
What would have been the worst scenario for your family; gay, drug addict or rock’n’roll musician?
BB: It would have definitely been drug addict. My father bought me my first guitar, he was quite supportive. My parents didn’t understand it but they didn’t stop me doing it. As long as I had a job as well.
You came from quite a tough background where there were limited options what would have been an alternative career choice for you?
BB: I would have probably been a criminal. I think my experiences in the early days of blagging gigs and guitars weren’t that much different to smashing car windows and nicking stuff. So I would probably got married, had kids and become a petty criminal.
In your autobiography (Never Surrender or Nearly Good Looking) you talk about being an incredibly shy when you were young. Why do you think introverted people gravitate towards show business?
BB; It’s weird that. I meet a lot of singers who are shy. I think by going on stage the fear dissipates. My children are the same, they’re quite shy and timid with new people or in a strange environment. I think being shy, going red, is a gene thing.
Are you still shy?
BB: In some respects, yeah. Funnily enough I don’t like crowded rooms. If I don’t know anybody I tend to stand in the corner. I’m not the vivacious host.
When I first went on stage I was incredibly frightened but the need to be on there was obviously greater than my shyness, so I coped with it. I’m glad that I got into it slowly; I started of by playing bass. In fact I never originally had any aspirations to become a singer, I wanted to be a guitarist.
BB: Not having a great manager in the early days. We never had someone with a vision. With all great bands, it’s all about the team. I think when we needed help we were used as a fucking bank, making money for other people. So I regret that we didn’t have a Rod Smallwood, someone that worked with band.
What can you do that no one else can?
BB: Well I can sing like me for a start. Which might sound like a stupid thing to say but if you are blessed with a unique voice then that’s a good thing. People come up to me and they know its Saxon when they hear me singing.
You’ve written a tribute to denim and leather but not spandex. Explain.
BB: Oh we can’t go back to spandex! Our arses might still be OK but you’ve got to draw the line. To go back to spandex is not good for senior rock’n’rollers. We’ll see what Darkness wears on their first reunion show.
What ‘s the most rock’n’roll thing you’ve done?
BB: It’s got to be the sexual antics really
When it comes to the looks dept you boys aren’t exactly eye candy but according to your book you had quite a prolific sex life. Do you have any tips for up and coming socially inadequate metal bands?
BB: I think it doesn’t matter if you look like a piece of shit. If you’ve got it on stage that what’s really counts. I think the pulling power for rock’n’roll is big. Even guys like Russell Brand are rock’n’roll. It’s a certain look tight pants has a lot to do with it. Age has nothing to do with it. Just fucking go for it.
BB: Definitely, it makes you think of mortality in a big way. I think that’s why my wife didn’t want to live in France anymore; she wasn’t the same after the fire. She didn’t want to be buried in a French graveyard. You think about things like that. We really enjoyed living there up to that point. It affected me but I’m used to shutting down that kind of stuff. It affected the kids, they still talk about it.
When you say you ‘shut down that kind of stuff’ what do you mean?
BB: Well I put it in a box and put it somewhere else.
Is this something you’ve done all your life?
BB; Yeah I have actually. With kids and other families and other lives that I’ve had. It comes up now and again like the fire. I’ll sometimes wake up and smell smoke; it’s a bit weird.
Following on from that, what would you say was the lowest point of your life?
BB: When my mother died, I was about twelve. That was a big blow to me. She was a musician, she played piano and organ so there was a lot of music in my life up to that point and then it stopped, My dad was none musical.
Tell me about the high points in your life.
BB: A musical one was playing Donnington. On a personal level my first child with my wife. I think having my daughter, who’s sixteen, now, changed me, although I did have children from a previous marriage but I was really young. That’s sad but it was another fucking life, yeah?
What the secret to happiness?
BB: I think in my world you have to have two lives. A private life and the rock’n’’roll side; and the two have to merge. I think you have to have a really special family to be able to pull it off. There has to be a massive amount of trust both ways but especially from the wife because she knows what I used to do.
Are you religious?
BB: I’m quite religious. I’m quite into the something between Heaven and Hell concept. I’m not religious in a church sense, I think they ought to make their fucking mind up and sort out one religion.
In 2010 you launched a campaign to have heavy metal declared as a religion. Who would you nominate as Pope?
BB: It would have to be somebody like Ozzy Osbourne. Somebody brought this up the other day and asked me ‘who would be Jesus’ and I said it would have to be somebody that was dead and came up with Phil Lynott or Ronnie James Dio. I knew both of them quite well and they would have thought that was extremely funny.
As told to Peter Makowski