Reviewed: June, 2020
Published: 2020, PowerChord Press
This book is long, long overdue. The band has been going 40 years now and finally someone took it upon themselves to write a book about them, and it is not much surprise that it is Canadian Metal, not-so-madman, Martin Popoff.
DENIM AND LEATHER is your standard PowerChord press publication, meaning a nice appointed paperback of high quality. The word formula can be used as a negative but not in this case as Popoff’s signature style of deep and intellectual analysis, album-by-album, gets applied to the NWOBHM titans. As always for a bit of flair there are a few dozens colour pictures on glossy plates, a bibliography and a warm and heartfelt introduction about growing up in rural BC cranking the Saxon and seeing them on tour at arguably the height of their (first wave) of power.
Popoff is a true fan, he writes as Neil Peart once said, ‘with passion and precision’ about the early days of the venerable Metal institution. After an extended segment about the early days we go into the very familiar album-per-chapter style. This is not a criticism, how else are you going to tell the story, if not chronologically? As with most of his books the value lies in his source material, having interviewed most of the boys over the years. Bolstered by a handful of other interviews, including a couple conducted by our very own Metal-Rules writer, Marco, Popoff provides the definitive look at the first decade of the band. I’m glad he finally write this book and in his introduction he says it is one of his most requested bands to cover and now the deed is done, even talking about ROCK THE NATIONS and DESTINY!
The book concludes with an epilogue that Popoff implies is generous, and it sort of is, but how do you cover 30 years in just a few pages? Some of the later albums get one sentence of lip-service but at very least they are acknowledged.
This is a bit of a two-part review. This next section is an extended op/ed commentary about the elephant in the room; namely will Popoff write a sequel (or two or three) to this fine book. If you don’t care, skip this next long, wordy and opinionated (and nerdy) section. Save your time and go buy DENIM AND LEATHER! If you are curious if he will continue the saga, read on!
The problem with Saxon catalogue post 1990, though no fault of the band, is that is does not lend itself to an easy organization into a book or series of books. The DENIM & LEATHER book is perfect. Ten albums (9 studio + 1 live), ten years, (1979-1989) and ten chapters, well, ten plus intro and epilogue. It is a perfect size at just under 250 pages, a tight little bundle.
The other problem is that Saxon slowed down in productivity from an album-per-year pace to one every two years. Spread over 30 years (1990-2020) we have fifteen studio albums including the soon forthcoming 25th album, later this year.
If Popoff writes a second book, to cover fifteen albums would be a huge book, almost unwieldy. If he includes/covers just a few of the dozen live albums that came out in the last 30 years, say, for example THE EAGLE HAS LANDED Parts 2, 3 & 4, we would still be looking at, with intro and epilogue, a 20-chapter book. (15 studio+3 live +2 intro and epilogue) A huge 400+page book might not work and Popoff might not have it in him to tackle such a huge book.
The other alternative is that, fortunately, each decade (post 1990) Saxon has released five studio albums plus one installment of the EAGLE HAS LANDED series. So organized by decade, that would be a short, eight-chapter book; albums, live album, intro and epilogue. (5+1+2) The numbers work nicely but will Popoff write three more really short Saxon books? Would many people buy all of them? Unlikely. Sad but true. I would in a heartbeat, but I’m in a minority.
Do we explore other options such as, two more books broken into 15 year chunks of 1990-2005 and then 2005-2020? That just seems weird.
So what is the solution? There is no easy answer. Popoff is on record on several occasions saying that while he enjoys post 1990-Saxon, he is just not emotionally committed to those albums and they all kind of blur together. I don’t blame him. It is a lot of material to digest and laborious to detail the subtleties of each album that he might not be all that into.
The funny thing is Popoff really does like all those later-era albums. Looking back at his Collectors Guide review books, he reviews them all and gives virtually all of them high grades, seven or eight out of ten, across the board.
Where does that leave us, ‘Us’ being a few dozen nerdy Popoff/Saxon fan boys who will loose sleep if the past 30 years worth of exemplary Saxon material doesn’t get covered and published.
At the end of the introduction to DENIM & LEATHER, Popoff basically says he is not going to do a follow up book that covers the last 30 years unless this book becomes a huge hit. Therefore, the only solution is to make this a hit.
Please buy this book, enjoy it, review it, tell other Saxon crusaders out there to write in and support a follow up. Talk it up on social media and make it happen. Buy two, one for a friend. Let’s get this translated into Deutsch so the crazy, loyal fans in the bands stronghold of Germany demand a follow-up. It would be great to complete the saga and give the band, and those albums, the credit and attention they deserve.
My wife says I probably could have written my own book about Saxon using the time I spent (well, I think she actually said ‘wasted, not spent’) writing this review and over-analyzing everything!
Until then get your copy of DENIM & LEATHER today!