If there was ever a track to put a smile on my face it was this. It reminds me of happy times as a teenager, more memorably sitting on a surfing beach in Devon listening to the radio… in the days when playlists were a bit more eclectic than they are these days.
Of course, Saxon are not what you would necessarily classify as a ‘beach band’ but they were part of that ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ (NWOBHM) that somewhat revived the genre and, for me, provided a ‘light’ to the ‘dark’ of punk and post-punk. Arguably both came out of the desperate economic turmoil that the UK found itself in in the 1970s and 1980s (Saxon were, after all, from the coal mining area of Barnsley… devastated by the Thatcher governments). Yet the NWOBHM felt more escapist than situational, more determined to have a good time despite the desolation that surrounded them.
For me Saxon will always the the band of the NWOBHM movement, even thought other proponents were more successful. Saxon seemed to have that edge, the unapologetic heaviness that really singled them out for me. The album ‘Wheels of Steel’ was packed with high octane tracks which somehow felt so escapist on one hand, yet also steeped in the reality of their backgrounds. Tracks such as ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Machine Gun’ and the title track all bring back so many memories both in listening to that album… as well as ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ live album which, along with Motörhead’s ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’, are probably the two live albums I’ve played the most over the years.
For some reason, though, ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ has stuck with me the most. Perhaps it is because it is a little different from their other tracks.. still a total banger, but there is something that feels a bit more nuanced about this track. Whatever, that opening riff causes me to sit up and floods my mind with a thousand memories of being a teenager… of, for me, simpler times when my life was ahead of me and everything seemed possible… despite the fact it was about an narrowly averted airplane disaster it still conjures up for me a sense of escapism and hope… and a fantastic summer’s holiday
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