On April 3, 1980, "Saxon" released their second studio album, "Wheels of Steel". This is without a doubt one of the classic Metal albums of all time and is also one of the band's greatest albums.
The beginning was not so simple for "Saxon." The band, formed in 1977 as "Son of a Bitch", soon changed its name to "Saxon" and managed to serve as the warm-up band of "Motorhead", in 1979. This would earn them a recording contract with the British branch of the French record company "Carrere", however, their debut album failed to sell well.
In 1980 the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) gained serious momentum with bands such as "Iron Maiden", "Def Leppard", "Angel Witch" and "Diamond Head", all of whom released their debut albums. The NWOBHM scene, has also managed to push the careers of older bands like "Judas Priest" and "Black Sabbath", who released their classic albums that year.
Following the failure of their 1979 debut, "Saxon" had to find new management. They also replaced their producer and entered one of the competitive years in heavy metal with a slight advantage over their new friends from the NWOBHM scene, who released their debut albums that year.
"Saxon" took advantage of this relative advantage well and began working on their second album as a well-oiled, cohesive unit. The musical line was more focused this time. The remnants of the Prog and Glam were left out and the sound became rawer - a refined and pure Heavy Metal.
(Photo: George Bodnar Archive/IconicPix)
This album produced several memorable Metal anthems.
The fast and edgy opening song "Motorcycle Man" sets the tone and rhythm for the rest of the album. It's a classic "motorcycle" song whose riff was written by guitarist Paul Quinn.
Interestingly enough, the theme song "Wheels of Steel" could easily have entered the soundtrack of the cult film "Easy Rider" alongside "Born To Be Wild". Singer Biff Byford admitted that the sound of this song was influenced by "AC/DC". He noted his obsession with speeding and the fact that he wanted to participate in motorcycle competition, but was refused by the band management who cared about his safety.
"747 (Strangers In The Night)" song title corresponds with the classic album "Strangers in the Night" that "UFO" released a year earlier. It's one of the band's most recognizable songs and certainly one of their best. Singer Biff Byford said that this song deals with two main topics: on the one hand people, strangers, meetings at airports, and on the other hand the great power outage in New York, in November 1965 during which the landing of Scandinavian "Airlines" flight 911 was delayed due to heavy darkness.
But this album is far beyond these three anthems. There's "Freeway Mad" that continues with the album's hidden line, corresponding with themes of "engines" and "speed". There is also the excellent ending song "Machine Gun" and "Suzie Hold On" which is written about a childhood friend of singer Biff Byford, Who passed away as a result of a brain tumor, and more.