Byford, Biff & Tucker, John
Never Surrender (Or Nearly Good Looking) Saxon: An Autobiography (Book Review)
Released: 2007, Iron Pages Books
Next month (Jan, 2011) I’m going to see Saxon for the first time, so I’m on a bit of a Saxon kick lately. Accordingly this month I have decided to review NEVER SURRENDER, Biff Byfords autobiography and HEAVY METAL THUNDER, the Saxon movie. Please feel free check to read the movie review in this months reviews as well.
Biff, like Lemmy, Gene, Ozzy and a handful of others are these legendary and iconic characters who have helped define and shape metal as we know it. Biff is one of the last people to have finally released an overdue biography. For his life-story he partnered with John Tucker known for his excellent work on the NWOBHM. Iron Pages handled the publishing duty and have presented a serviceable product. This paperback clocks in at 270+ pages spread across 23 chapters and 50 or so colour photos. The book might be a bit thin in parts, there is no intro, forward, preface, appendix and so on. There is a 2-page discography but it seems incomplete without release dates, catalogue numbers, track-listings, or even record label info.
Biff has a likable style pulls no punches style in his storytelling. He speaks of his humble early days in post-war England, being shy, his early interest in trains, rugby and so on. It is very interesting, the early days as his career as a musician. He generally shys away from telling random tales of debauchery and talks more about the music, the bands, the friendships, the challenges and successes. You really get the feeling that they worked very hard for what they achieved. Chapter 14 he does get a bit into the 1980’s road tales of women, wine and song, which were in part aided, not surprisingly by Motley Crue. Some things never change. He also speaks openly and freely about the pitfalls and trials of the music industry, mangers, lawyers, ex-band-members, lawsuits, trademarks, copyrights and so on. He doesn’t seem angry and doesn’t use the book as a platform to slag people but he does explain some of the problems, giving unique insight to the not-always-smooth operation of a recording/touring act.
One of the features I really enjoyed about this book is that Biff talks with enthusiasm and love for music. Some of the big rock bio’s like Ozzy’s for example, barely mention music at all. Biff clearly has a passion for what he does and speaks at length about the various members of Saxon, talks about albums, tours, songs, producers, managers, and does not just dwell on ‘the good ol’ days’. He speaks with equal enthusiasm about the first album as he does for the 20th album. I’m personally quite glad to see this because many, many rock bios tend to skim over the recent decade of a band or persons life, and over-emphasizing the past eras or so-called classic albums. To Biff the album METALHEAD (1999) holds as much weight as does CRUSADER (1984) so it was refreshing to read a story of someone who is not stuck in the past.
Candid, open, honest and refreshing, this is one of the better rock bio’s I’ve read. NEVER SURRENDER is highly recommended to all Saxon fans and Metal fans in general.