Salem was founded in late 1979 by two former members from the "Metal for Muthas" stars Ethel The Frog, namely Paul Tognola (vocals and guitar) and Paul Conyers (drums). Adrian Jenkinson was drafted as the bass player and the first band meeting with Paul Macnamara (lead guitar) was January 2nd 1980 in The Red Lion pub in Anlaby, Hull, Yorkshire. I asked lead guitarist Paul Macnamara in how far Salem was a direct follow-up to Ethel The Frog? "Ethel The Frog was directed musically (as far as I can make out) by lead singer/guitarist Doug Sheppard and bass guitarist/singer Terry Hopkinson. On that basis, only 'Fool's Gold' (written for Salem by Terry) really followed on from Ethel The Frog. The music on the first demo was composed by me and Paul Tognola (who'd been more the 'rhythm guitarist' in Ethel The Frog) so I would say that it represented a change of direction."
The aboved mentioned line-up - after a period of song writing and rehearsal - began gigging in Hull and district, and recorded the first demo on January 4th 1981 at Fairview Studios in Willerby, Hull.
Simon Saxby (vocals) joined Salem following Paul Tognola's departure for The Crack in March 1981 and the band continued to perform.
However, the Salem sound was founded on two guitars and twin-lead melodies so Mark Allison joined to add that depth. This line-up gigged regularly and released its own double A-side single "Cold As Steel/Reach To Eternity" in 1982, recorded on April 4th 1982 at Fairview Studios. Paul Macnamara was interviewed by Kerrang! - soon to become the world's biggest selling weekly rock magazine - in May 1982 (issue No. 15) and copies of the single were sold globally. Paul thinks that the Kerrang! article did the band a lot of good: "We were very fortunate to get that interview. I was at the University of Hull at the time (just to make things more complicated) and had become a friend of student colleague Steve (forgotten his surname - sorry) who helped to arrange an interview with a friend of his, Neil Jefferies, who had just started writing for Kerrang! The timing was very good as we were able to promote the 7" single - as a result we sold quite a few by post across the globe. Also, the number of people at the gigs increased. I remember that we played a gig, shortly after the Kerrang! article, in Darlington (quite a long way from 'home') and the turnout was awesome - a brilliant gig!"
How many copies of the mentioned single came with a sleeve? Paul: "This is interesting. We had 500 singles pressed and sold most. About this time, we had a number of posters printed with just the 'demonic' image and Salem logo so leaving the lower section blank for us to write - by hand - and advertise the upcoming gig(s). All the singles we issued had plain, white sleeves. However, I think that we must have sent out a few singles also wrapped in copies of the 'blank' posters." At least for me, the "Cold As Steel/Reach To Eternity" single was a lot heavier than most of Salem's N.W.O.B.H.M. contemporaries of the early '80's. Paul comments: "I had composed the music to 'Reach To Eternity' and 'Cold As Steel' before joining Salem, and so I would suggest that these pieces stem from earlier '70's rock (Purple/Rainbow, Sabbath, Lizzy, etc), rather than the N.W.O.B.H.M. period itself. My passion was (and still is) for POWERFUL MUSIC. I love strong melodies with harmony (Salem's were simple at first but developed well - the end section of 'Reach to Eternity' still works very well) and an interesting chord structure (what other 'Metal' bands would use minor 7ths - and certainly not major 7ths - listen to 'Keeper of the Keys (Parts I and III)' and 'Fighting for the Cause'). Whether this makes the music 'heavier musically', I'm not really sure."
Eventually, Paul Conyers had to leave due to other professional commitments and Paul "Animal" Mendham took up the drum stool. This final Salem line-up continued to gig prolifically in the North and North East of England with a hardcore of fans. They soon recorded another demo at Adda Studios in east Hull, for the first time capturing the fans' favourite "The Keeper of the Keys". This raw session caught the passion of the live performances. As a result of Salem winning a "battle of the bands" contest at Huddersfield Polytechnic, Salem recorded the last demo at September Sound, Huddersfield, in March 1983 which best demonstrated the maturing song writing of the band. Although a number of record companies gave the music the green light, the band imploded and played their last, sell-out gig in Hull on the 31st of May 1983.
When Salem was still around, was there ever a prospect of a further 7" single or maybe even an album? Paul Macnamara has the following to say: "The third demo (from March 23rd 1983) was a good representation of the direction I wanted to take Salem ['epic" melodies and powerful harmonies - see 'Other Side of Hel', 'Hangman's Noose' and 'The King, Trilogy III'"> - although it also showed the diverse influences on our music [Mark Allison was seriously into the US rock, and Ade Jenkinson was still heavily Led Zep influenced">. I did my best to hawk this final demo around the London record companies. However, there seemed to be little appetite for this music - heavy, but sort-of 'musical' and a bit different - so we got a number of polite comments along the the lines of 'it's good, but not quite what we're looking for, thank you.' After the 1983 demo, we had really high hopes - and when we didn't secure a record deal the enthusiasm waned. We were certainly the biggest rock band in the area and had great potential to progress - but that was because we were a band, not just a collection of musicians - when the different individual aspirations came to a head after the disappointment Salem collapsed."
However, the end of Salem was not the end of being part of the rock biz for most of the former members of Salem, as Paul explains: "We have all carried on playing and being involved in the music biz one way or another. After Salem, Ade and Simon formed Kashmir and then Mayfair. Paul Tognola owned and managed The Welly Club (a music venue in Hull) for many years. Paul Mendham has played in many bands (incl. supporting Michael Schenker and WASP) is now in Innersylum. I've played in a couple of 'party' bands" - and composed and recorded my own music over the years. I'm now looking for a gig again!" In 2009, High Roller Records decided to put out a limited vinyl edition of some of the best Salem demo material, as lead guitarist Paul Macnamara explains: "I have always played guitar and recently started some recording at home. At the suggestion of my brother Phil, I uploaded some of my music to MySpace - then also at his suggestion I also uploaded some of our Salem recordings. I was surprised that very soon people were listening to this music and subsequently I was contacted by a number of these, including High Roller Records. There seemed to be an opportunity to release the Salem recordings - and I was advised by a number of people (including Mario Corbella and Sascha of Hellion) that High Roller Records would seem to be a good fit - so I contacted Steffen, who seemed very interested."