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Baker's Dozen

(13 On The) Wheels Of Steel: Biff Byford Of Saxon's Favourite LPs
Michael Hann , February 13th, 2020 10:48

Biff Byford guides Michael Hann through the 13 records of riff-heavy magic that shaped Saxon

It’s not common for artists to wait until they are 69 to release their first solo album. And when they do wait that long, one might normally expect said solo album to be a radical departure, but not Biff Byford. Byford has been singing with Saxon so long (more than 40 years) that there were probably still some actual Saxons in their original audience, and School of Hard Knocks, despite its LS Lowryesque cover, wouldn’t sound out of place to them. There is, of course, plenty of metal, but Byford also follows his love of prog (Opeth’s Fredrik Åkesson plays guitar on the album and has arranged a version of ‘Scarborough Fair’), with ballads and the occasional telling cover, as well. It’s recognisably the work of one of the founding fathers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, even if it pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional metal.

Byford’s choice of his Baker’s Dozen is unlikely to shock anyone – most of it comes from the range of styles that fed into early Saxon – but it’s a reminder that NWOBHM wasn’t as stylistically limited as its detractors at the time sometimes claimed, that hard rock and heavy metal were broad churches before the notion of metal became codified. It’s a reminder, too, of how Byford – fronting Son Of A Bitch around the clubs before they were signed and became Saxon – had to learn how to be a frontman, pitching theatrics from Alex Harvey and aggression from the Sex Pistols.

Biff Byford's School Of Hard Knocks is released on 21st February. He brings his first ever solo tour to the UK for 10 dates from 17th April. The show will Be split into two halves – first features Biff chatting with American comedian Don Jamieson about his life; the second half will be a live performance. Tickets are available here. Click the pic of Biff below to begin reading his Baker's Dozen selections