Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saxon - "Princess of the Night" (forgotten song)

An early 1980s metal band, a song titled "Princess of the Night", and ... it's about a train.  Because who hasn't asked themselves "why aren't there more love songs about trains?"

Saxon was a central figure in the NWOBHM movement of the late 70s and early 80s, however they are all but forgotten today.  I have a handful of their LPs on vinyl stashed away somewhere, but aruably the best was their 1981 LP "Denim and Leather", from which "Princess of the Night" was a single.  I remember being enthralled by their video (and the NWOBHM sound) in the early days of MTV, but only now (nearly 30 years later) do I realize the visual similarities between this video and Spinal Tap (yikes!).

And while the 8-year old in me still likes steam trains (who doesn't?), I've transposed the song to a more personally applicable setting: every time I walk through a computer machine room, the second verse comes to me:
She used to be an iron horse
Twenty years ago
Used to bring the mail to me
Through the ice and snow
I've sat alone and watched her
Steaming through the night
Ninety tons of thunder
Lighting up the sky

Speeding smokestack lightning
Engine working hard
Furnace and the footplate
Shining in the night
Iron striking metal
The sound of racing steel
It's all I ever want to hear
It's music to my ears

Ninety tons of thunder
Lighting up the sky                                       
Steaming red hot pistons
See the wheels flash by                                    
Hear the whistle blowing                              
Streaking down the track                     
If I ever have my way
I'll bring the princess back one day    
Well, realize that connection was made for me in the late 80s when first working at NASA and walking through the machine room complete with a Cray-2 and Cray-YMP.  In 1989, I saw the Crays as beautiful, purposeful, behemoth "engines working hard".  Now they, especially the Cray-2, are revered but obsolete museum pieces like steam engines.

Until there is a NWOBHM song about machine rooms, this love song about a train will have to do...

Princess of the Night: official video, regular video

Bonus link: Does the pre-solo break in the song sound familiar?  Metallica, who were heavily influenced by the NWOBHM, would borrow it for "Seek and Destroy" two years later: listen to this comparison.

Bonus images:

Chesapeake & Ohio RR #2756 located in Huntington Park, Newport News.  An obvious landmark for those growing up in the area. 

The NASA LaRC Cray-2, "Voyager".  Named after the Rutan/Yeager Voyager, not that Voyager

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