Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed (Review)

Saxon - The Eagle Has Landed (1982)
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed (1982)

The “classic trilogy” of Saxon albums that culminated with Denim and Leather had been a commercial and critical success. The band was poised for the big-time and a live album was proposed as just the thing to launch them to the level of the stupidly successful. But in order to do a live album, you need a tour and with only two days to go before the opening show of their Denim and Leather trek of the UK and Europe (with no less than Ozzy’s Blizzard supporting), their drummer Pete Gill was out of the band due to a hand injury. It was a disaster on the eve of such a critical and massive tour.

Enter Nigel Glockler: a friend of the band’s manager David Poxon. Nigel was drumming for Toyah at that point but was a hard-hitter with prog chops and a love of metal. Remarkably, in less than two days he was able to learn and perform Saxon’s entire 19-song set and kept the show on the road until Gill recovered, even performing at a show he had originally bought a ticket to see!* By the time Gill was able to return, Saxon had decided to hold on to Glockler as their full-time tub-thumper. So, as if learning 19 songs in two days wasn’t enough, Nigel would be appearing on the band’s hotly-anticipated first live album. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

The Saxon live show - brought to you by Tea
(L to R) Graham Oliver, Steve Dawson, Biff Byford, Nigel Glockler and Paul Quinn

19,320 teabags later the Denim and Leather tour was over and The Eagle Has Landed live album hit the shelves in May 1982. It captures the sweaty, beery atmosphere of a NWOBHM-era gig. Saxon sound enthusiastic, tireless and tight. Each member is at the top of their game. Biff sings with charismatic energy and throws in some choice banter (“I wanna see people dying from exhaustion”) and the chemistry of the Oliver/Quinn guitar duo is palpable with the choppy, jousting guitars panned to each side. The rhythm section steals the show though: Glockler’s expressive, precision drumming charges the music with a fresh dynamism and, with his forceful, driving bass playing, Steve Dawson proves to be the pumping heart and soul of the band, especially on the faster numbers like Heavy Metal Thunder.

Saxon’s surfeit of brilliant material easily justified a lavish double-LP set but, unfortunately, Saxon’s label Carrere skimped and whittled it down to a miserly single album. Classic songs like And the Bands Played On, Denim and Leather, Frozen Rainbow and Dallas 1pm are inexplicably missing.** It’s a missed opportunity but the tracks we do get are hardly filler. The first side is absolutely top-drawer, opening with three of Saxon’s transport tunes: Motorcycle Man, 747(Strangers in the Night) and the definitive version of Princess of the Night. Side 2 falters slightly with some weaker song choices in 20,000ft and Never Surrender but Wheels of Steel is a victorious joy with a chummy singalong led by the charming Byford and the album closes explosively as Fire In the Sky and Machine Gun fly by in a furious blur culminating in wild guitar pyro and double-bass drumming.

The Eagle Has Landed manages to be essential and frustrating all at once. The performances are stellar, many of them definitive and it’s a great introduction to the band (I can personally vouch for that). It continued Saxon’s commendable run of hits in Europe but the omission of vital tracks stopped it being the career-boosting milestone or the all-time classic it should have been. But, nevertheless, it’s a street-level, no-holds barred barrage of an album that atmospherically and honestly captures a gritty and exciting time in metal history. And that’s worth the price of entry alone. It also marks the end of an era for Saxon: by the time The Eagle Has Landed hit the shelves a fellow British metal band had stolen their thunder, taking the NWOBHM to a massively successful and chart-topping conclusion. Saxon were no longer the scene leaders: their number was up. The number was six hundred and sixty six.

*Nigel has never received a refund for his ticket.

**This wasted opportunity has been satisfyingly rectified with the 2006 CD Reissue which adds six recordings from the era as bonus tracks. Still no Denim and Leather though.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[Saxon – Princess of the Night Live]

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44 thoughts on “Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed (Review)”

  1. As you know I am learning as we go here, so I can’t comment too much on the actual music — except to say this looks and sounds like a great live album. The kind I like.

    I will say that I really enjoyed the actual review. I always have a hard time keeping thing fresh myself. Adding new words to my lexicon so I’m not using all the same adjectives all the time! Anyway you gave me a word here that I’ll remember to use some time, “surfeit”. But I also just enjoy your writing, so well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely love this album and nice review, I didn’t know about the ticket thing lol

    Personal taste here, but “20,000ft” for me is absolutely hands down unmissable, one of their best.

    My copy has “Denim & Leather” sneakily added on at the end, it was a bonus track on my Crusader or TP&TG and I just shifted it over to the live album, feeling the exact same as you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sneaky! I might do that myself. Actually, I was thinking of looking up an 81\82 set list and seeing if I could put it together. I reckon I’ve got enough recordings from then to do it!

      I do love this album but there’s just something missing. It’s been interesting listening to them all in order. It’s not as much of an improvement on the studio albums as I remembered it being. I think it’s a weird combination of over and under rated!

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  3. The Eagle was my first introduction to Saxon and for personal Preference it’s still my fav! Wheels Of Steel on here is just classic love Biffs snappy one liners with the crowd!
    Still amazes me that a few years later they got Elton John to pound the keys on there Party Ti Ya Puke tune…hahaha….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cant believe his ticket was never refunded – time to seek justice for the Barnsley 1, i say.

    My uncle saw them on this tour and said it remains one of the best gigs he ever went to.

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  5. Love the Saxon reviews! I have some of their tunes on my running playlist even! There is a primitiveness about them that is really cool. From the music I know they never went progressive or synth or ballady. Sometimes I want more development in the composition but it is what is. Keep the Saxon reviews coming!!!

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      1. I was sort of going by format. The iTunes is easiest, ‘cos it’s right here on the Mac and all of my CDs are already ripped into it. I have LPs and tapes downstairs, so when I get to the end of the CDs, I’ll get a set-up I like and get into it. I do all the notes/writing by hand anyway, so it’s basically changing one room for another.

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      2. I have a 2-cassette component in my main stereo. And I’m hoping that somewhere in the bins of crap from my past I’ll find my walkman. No guarantees on that one, though.

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  6. This looks like one to buy for me. I saw Saxon twice on back-to-back nights in Brazil during the Killing Ground tour in 2002. Only Biff and Paul Quinn remained from the time frame you’ve been reviewing so far, but the shows were really, really excellent and they played an extensive set of the songs from the “classic trilogy” that also appear on this one (along with a bunch great songs from after this period too). Great stuff and I look forward to following you along the rest of the Saxon path!

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    1. It’s definitely a great one to buy. Have you got many other albums of theirs? I saw them recently doing a similar type of show, it was fantastic.The set was meant to be culled from the classic trilogy but they threw in loads of other stuff, which suited me as there are tons of songs from later on that I love. It was a great set and Biff is an outstanding frontman still. Glad you’re enjoying the posts!

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      1. Agree re Biff’s prowess as frontman. I currently only own the “Classic 3” and then a few one-off songs digitally from subsequent years. Have always planned to get more but I guess felt overwhelmed by the numbers; Killing Ground and Metalhead have tempted me most based on their being from the time frame in which I saw them live, but I’m happy to ride out your trip and before deciding where to bed down.

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      2. Well hopefully I might tempt you into getting more then! Their recent albums have all been great. They’ve been on a brilliant run for years now! But stay tuned. I’m going to be getting to them all eventually.

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    1. Fair enough Nick. I’m going to review a few other bands before getting in to the Saxon again. Just to give everyone a break (including myself!)

      Cheers for the link. I don’t scan the backs. If I can’t take a decent photo without taking the case apart I’ll just usually get one from Discogs.

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  7. Wasn’t Alan White also thrown in at the deep end before a Yes tour (but not live album) after Bruford had left, learning Close to the Edge in three days or whatever? Which drummer had the more difficult task? Before, White had been with the Plastic Ono Band and Joe Cocker.

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    1. Without belittling Nigel’s efforts, I’d say Alan had the bigger challenge there! Funnily enough I just watched a Yes doc last week where they talked about that. Apparently his first show went without a hitch but then he was all over the place for the next few shows. Strange!

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  8. As a testament to the accuracy of your observation regarding Saxon having the NWOBHM rug swept out from under them, I must shamefacedly admit that before today I had never listened to Saxon despite thoroughly enjoying their usurpers.

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      1. I’ve had a few people recommend the early Saxon to me, especially after I became a Maiden fan (despite Eddie, “Maidenhead” doesn’t quite cut it (pun, as always, intended)). I saw them live recently and was not impressed, though that doesn’t rule out old stuff being good. However, Maiden is what is good about metal: non-stupid lyrics, clean vocals, precise arrangements, good guitar sound. Motörhead is more or less the opposite.

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