Former Saxon guitarist Graham Oliver stars in new musical film celebrating glam rock icon Marc Bolan
The former Saxon musician is part of the cast of a new musical film celebrating one of the biggest idols of the glam rock era.
The role wasn’t a great stretch for him — because he was playing a guitarist.
Graham is known best as the long-time guitarist of Saxon — who played their first gig together in Rotherham — and later Oliver/Dawson Saxon and has since formed his own new band, Graham Oliver’s Army, who performed at the Chantry Brewery tap earlier this month.
It could have all been so different for 70-year-old Graham, who lost part of his index finger while working in a factory.
“Three years later, I was on Top of the Pops,” he said.
“Ritchie Blackmore (of Deep Purple) and Tony Iommi (from Black Sabbath) persuaded me to give it another go.
“We (Saxon) formed from two bands — Coast from Barnsley and Son of a Bitch (SOB) from Mexborough and Swinton.
“We (SOB) had lost our singer and they had lost their drummer.
“We had a chance meeting at the motorway services in Woodall and decided to form the band.
“It was Steve Dawson’s idea to have Biff (Byford) as the singer, which he had never done before, and that all kicked it off.
“Our first gig was on a Saturday afternoon at the Dickens Inn in Rotherham in 1976.”
Saxon went on to have five top 20 albums and help inspire the classic parody This is Spinal Tap.
“We have just been presented with another gold disc,” said Graham, of Mexborough.
“I have two gold and five silver now — I used to have them up on the wall.”
It is Graham’s time with a T-Rex tribute band which saw him filming scenes just yards away from the site of the historic Cavern Club for new movie Bolan’s Shoes, which pays tribute to the music of Marc Bolan.
Graham said: “Although I was more of a Jimi Hendrix fan, I have always appreciated some of Mark Bolan’s music, including 20th Century Boy and Children of the Revolution, which is just like Voodoo Chile, and I know that Marc Bolan was a big Jimi Hendrix fan.
“I have been playing guitar with the tribute band Mickey Finn’s T Rex — we’ve played a lot of big festivals — and so they booked us to appear in the film.
“We filmed the scenes about 18 months ago in Liverpool — it took two days and we were only playing one song.
“It was done across the road from the Cavern Club — it was all concert footage and we had to play the music live over and over again, so we will be in the film for about two or three minutes.
“It is about a bunch of musicians playing together who love Bolan’s music so we are playing this song 20th Century Boy.”
Bolan’s Shoes, with a cast including Timothy Spall, Leanne Best and Matthew Horne, had its premiere in Liverpool on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Graham’s Oliver’s Army have touring plans for the summer, with two dates lined up in Tokyo.
“I played there with Saxon in 1982 and in 2019 and with Oliver/Dawson Saxon — this is the first time with my new band,” Graham said.
“They are a good bunch of lads.
“I tried to pick up people who are not miles away as I need to rehearse regularly for physio reasons.”
Over the years, Graham and his Saxon bandmates have picked up some celebrity fans.
“Denim and leather is one of Lady Gaga’s favourite songs — I wrote that in the bedroom of a council house in Mexborough,” he said.
“Metallica are big fans of me and Steve too — they invited us to their shows. Their second ever gig was supporting us in Los Angeles.
“We did a song called Power and the Glory — the video was directed by Ridley Scott.
“I once went to Jimi Hendrix dad’s house in Seattle.
“Jimi’s grandmother was there — she was 101 — and his dad said to me: ‘I used to play the spoons’. I said: ‘Do you still play them now?’ and he said: ‘No, I use them to eat soup.’
“I went to see Hendrix at Sheffield City Hall when I was 15 years old so it was great to stand on the same spot in 1981 when Saxon did two nights in a row there.
“I never thought I would be sat with Jimi Hendrix's dad in his own house.
“It shows you can do well even if you come from a working class background.
“You just have to work hard and take the knocks.”