Saxon started life in 1976 in South Yorkshire, UK as a combination of two bands: Sob and Coast. They called themselves, at the time, Son of a Bitch. Its members were Graham Oliver, Steve Dawson, Paul Quinn, Pete Gill and Peter Byford. Wanting to get a record deal, however, they realised that their name would put off potential labels, so they renamed themselves Saxon.
Life for the band started off with the routine of playing clubs, but they also supported bands like Gillan and Heavy Metal Kids. After a few years they had demo tapes recorded at Tapestry Studios, which were promptly ignored by record companies. The 'New Wave Of British Heavy Metal' (NWOBHM) was at its peak at this time, and a new band wasn't needed to make the record companies money.
Soon, however, they got a deal with a new British label, Carrere Records, after being recommended by someone at EMI (he was a friend of that label's founder). From May 1979 to January 1980, an album and two singles were released. The first single, 'Stallions of the Highway', hit number one in the Powerhouse charts.
Quickly, Saxon had become a big name, releasing more albums and singles, and doing more touring. They did Top Of The Pops1 in 1980. Their touring was hectic, and they had been to every corner in the world. In Japan, the single 'Motorcycle Man' stayed in the charts for five months.
An interesting event occurred two days before a UK/European tour for their album Denim & Leather. Drummer Pete Gill damaged a hand, and Nigel Glockler, a friend, was brought in to replace him. He had to learn the band's entire set in a day and a half. He did, and has stayed with the band ever since.
In 1981 they played at the fabled Monsters of Rock at Castle Donnington, and the following year released a live album from that concert. After that they went to Germany for the German Monsters of Rock festival, making Saxon the first band to play the festival twice.
In 1983, Saxon left Carrere, as there had been disagreements as to the actual sales of Saxon's records. They were signed up by EMI. Crusader, in 1984, was the last album that was released on Carrere Records. The band toured America with Motley Crue, and were invited as guests by Iron Maiden on their own tour.
In 1986 bassist Steve Dawson left, due to problems with his wife. He was replaced with Paul Johnson. 1987 and 1988 saw more lineup changes. Nigel Glocker left to join GTR, and was replaced with Nigel Durham. GTR floundered, and Glocker came back to Saxon immediately. The next year Johnson left and was replaced with youngster Tim Carter (at 22). In 1987, Saxon released their last album on EMI - Destiny. EMI didn't want any more albums from them, so of course, they left.
The 1990s started off well for Saxon. They were signed up by Virgin and did a European tour called '10 Years of Denim & Leather'. The tour didn't stop at Europe, however, and the band went on to America, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay and Uruguay.
More albums followed, and in 1994 guitarist Graham Oliver left, after 18 years with the band. He was replaced with Doug Scarrat. Oliver went on to reform Son of a Bitch.
1998 saw Glocker stop playing drums, but he remains with Saxon as a songwriter. On the Iron Maiden tribute album, 666 The Number One Beast, all the guitar parts were played by Paul Quinn.
Saxon are a band who has had, like all bands, their ups and downs, yet still managed to keep going to over two decades. Despite not being as famous as some of their NWOBHM counterparts, the band are still going strong.
- Saxon (May 1979)
- Wheels Of Steel (May 1980)
- Strong Arm of The Law (Nov 1980)
- Denim & Leather (Oct 1981
- The Eagle Has Landed (May 1982) (album named by fans)
- Crusader (1984)
- Innocence Is No Excuse (Sept 1985)
- Rock The Nations (1986)
- Destiny (1987)
- Rock and Roll Gypsies (1989)
- Solid Ball of Rock (Feb 1991)
- Forever Free (1992)
- Dogs of War (1995)
- Wheels of Steel/Strong Arm of The Law (1997) (2CD + bonus tracks) (2000)
- Metalhead (2000)