Samson were right there at the genesis of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, having been part of the three-band bill (the other acts being Iron Maiden and Angel Witch) that kick-started the whole shebang at London’s Music Machine in May 1979. Yet one always believed that guitarist Paul Samson felt somewhat railroaded by the NWOBHM and would have been much happier noodling away in a smoky room, leading a straightforward blues troupe.
Debut album Survivors (4⁄10) features future Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson (then known as Bruce Bruce) on the sleeve but was actually recorded before he joined. It’s a dated, unfocused offering dominated by Paul Samson’s rambling six string and dodgy vocals, and tracks such as I Wish I Was The Saddle Of A Schoolgirl’s Bike should really have been left on a shelf next to VHS recordings of The Benny Hill Show. Still, this reissue shows glimpses of future potential, featuring bonus tracks of early Dickinson demos.
Second full-length Head Games is strangely omitted from this batch of reissues, but third album Shock Tactics (7⁄10) is a mighty fine effort. Dickinson flexes his muscles at Paul Samson’s expense and storming, anthemic tracks such as Riding With The Angels are up there with the very best of the NWOBHM.
Live At Reading 1981 (7⁄10) is a similarly muscular offering, Samson having learned from the critical brickbats they received for their performance the previous year when drummer and ‘danger to the public’ Thunderstick performed inside a cage made of balsa wood that wobbled at the merest tickle of his hi-hat.
To end on a low note, it’s depressing to think that both Paul Samson and original bassist Chris Aylmer are now dead. Survivors they were not.