» The strange case of Julien Temple's meeting with Samson
The strange case of Julien Temple's meeting with Samson
I have discussed aspects of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) on past blog entries. Here I would like to draw your attention to a quite obscure moment in the history of this genre. I have always been a fan of the late guitarist Paul Samson. A very underrated player indeed, it is his early work with his band Samson that I have affection for the most. Formed in 1977, it was not until the album Head on in 1980 that the music started to gain its power. They had been an extremely hard touring band, putting in hundreds of shows all around Europe. Bruce Dickinson (later Iron Maiden) joined the line up in 1979 and stayed through two great albums. ‘Head on’ and ‘Shock Tactics.’ That had great tracks on them, if the lyrics are slightly ‘of their time’. I hate to criticize as that era of Samson as they sounded a real tour de force. The 1990 released ‘Live at Reading 1981’ is raw and high energy. The BBC was recording; thank goodness, so the quality is superb. In fact, I have read that that is where Iron Maiden decided that they had heard their new singer. Bruce was then known as Bruce Bruce and he was poached from Samson. If you get any Samson album then that is my recommendation. They were in their element live, as most of the NWOBHM bands were.
Samson were not renown for their business sense. Paul made quite a few poor decisions, but what is worse, seems to be the poor luck that followed him. When Bruce left, the band were in dire straights financially. The record company had gone bankrupt and money was owed. Before all these issues, and when the band were being promoted, a record label named GEM decided to make a movie to promote Hazel O’Connor called ‘Breaking Glass’. This was during the punk era so was their ‘business’ idea to cash in on the movement. GEM were Samson’s label too and the company also owned GTO films who were involved in the making of that very same Hazel O’Connors movie. It is through this connection, and an over eagerness to spend money, that it was decided to make a film short involving Samson. This would appear as the ‘B’ movie to the main feature.
GTO commissioned Julien Temple to write and direct this fifteen-minute feature. It was one of his first commissions and what a quirky little film it is too. Julien made quite a few music videos after this for artists such as David Bowie, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Gary Newman and Bryan Adams. He is will known for films such as Absolute Beginners and The Sex Pistols ‘The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle’ So seeing this connection to a NWOBHM classic (if short) line up is entertaining. The film is below but the story, in usual Samson fashion, did not end in the best way possible. GTO and in turn GEM went bust meaning that the film was hardly seen and it happened halfway through the making of the album Shock Tactics. The resulting album was picked up by RCA who had no idea what to do with a heavy rock band and so, even though it was a top 40 album, it all but vanished. The band itself picked up a two hundred thousand pound demand. All they owned was a van and some instruments. Not a great situation but quite funny to think back at the ridiculous nature of spending money on mad commissions.
The film was called ‘Biceps of Steel’ and involved an insane idea of a twist of the name Samson. The roadie, who was the original ‘Thunderstick’, had his hair cut and in doing so lost that inherent power. He got his own back by pushing over Marshall amplifier stacks. Yes, it really is that is insane but worth a watch. The songs are just fantastic being Head on and Vice Versa, the story abstract.
Julien Temple Website
Paul Samson Website
Bruce Dickinson Website
Encyclopaedia Metallum - The Metal Archives Discography
Just as a side note, Julien Temple directed the well-known Glastonbury 30th anniversary documentary from 2006. When Metallica took the stage in 2014 under the controversy of the vocalist James Hetfield’s narration of a recent bear-hunting documentary (and well documented past hunting exploits) they commissioned Julien to make the film seen below. This was trying to turn the tables on the British countryside pursuit of fox hunting using a clever use of visuals and English classic tunes Mitch Miller’s ‘March from the River Kwai’ and the Sweet’s ‘Fox on the Run’ It was used to introduce the band by interrupting their usual intro of Sergio Leone’s film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack. Whether it was correct or not is open to debate. The BBC did not show it on their live feed and I am still uncertain that the film is correct in the context of hunting, especially when the pursuits depicted in the film are ‘supposed’ to be antiquated now. Surely meaning the message is meaningless? It is quite violent and is a dream that most anti hunting protestors would love to have but again the message is lost in the use of weapons to gain the upper hand. It is very mixed indeed and not really correct in the context of a ‘peace’ festival like Glastonbury. The majority of those festival goers will not be from farms and their views on animal slaughter would be unknown. Again, together with the Samson film, an interesting bookend.
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