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Saxon - Never Surrender (or Nearly Good Looking): An Autobiography Paperback – 20 Aug 2002
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`Never Surrender...', the story of the rise, fall and re-emergence of one of British metal's most august institutions, is undoubtedly long overdue. That it's in the form of an autobiography by frontman Biff Byford, however, is unfortunate. There's a real rock `n' roll tale to be told here, but instead of the plethora of accounts, viewpoints and reminiscences that could have been called upon, the story is based entirely on Byford's recollection of events. He's an engaging raconteur and many of his revelations are surprisingly fruity and near the knuckle, but the wider story of the band and their times remains untold. Beginning in boyhood, Biff charts his musical life with candour and in fascinating detail, and is surprisingly even handed when dealing with those ex-members who incurred his wrath. Speaking of former bassist Steve Dawson, Biff offers perhaps his best quote: "He started to go a bit nuts. He began wearing polka dot jackets and a red trilby with a green feather in it and playing a trumpet a lot."
Don't get me wrong, this is a good book, I read it in two days. There are huge fonts, the text is concise.
You have here the usual rock biography: sudden ascendance to the top, bad management decisions, the singer talking with pride about the hundred groupies he got, then the band falling from grace, changing some members, and making it to the top again.
Of course, Biff does not think that albums like DESTINY, ROCK THE NATION and INNOCENCE IS NO EXCUSE were near to absolute crap (they are!), but at least he admits that SAXON lacked consistency.
A lot of times SAXON is considered "the Iron Maiden that went wrong". However, in many aspects their actual albums are much more aggressive, well produced and adventurous than the formulaic and boring recent Maiden albums. SAXON don't write eight minutes songs just for the sake of them being long.
Anyway, Biff and SAXON are still going and this book will give you the reasons why.
Saxon were in the vanguard of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal; these were exciting times, but now he says there are only three such bands left: Saxon, Iron Maiden who are even bigger, and the at times overtly commercial Def Leppard. What about Praying Mantis?
Herein you will learn how Mr Byford earned or rather was gifted the name Biff, and that he had quite a hard early life. He would likely have been either a layabout or perhaps a coal miner but for music. He did actually work in a pit for a while. He also learned the flute, played with a few other bands, and had his first sexual experience at the age of fifteen - what would today be called child abuse, even though it doesn't really count when the female is the older party.
Needless to say, the book is full of anecdotes like this, and most of them have the ring of truth. It is especially useful for those of us who are fascinated by the genesis of songs. Although he has never been the most instantly likeable of characters, anyone who counts Wishbone Ash among his influences and has recorded with Elton John can't be all bad.
As a keen lifelong fan of the Mighty Saxon I thought this book was a gripping and most interesting read.
I look forward to the next chapter as Saxon and Biff Byford are resurrected and grow from strength to strength!
Keep it LOUD!!!!
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