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by Keavin Wiggins

With the release of Iron Maiden’s new live CD, “Rock in Rio” and the reissue of their album catalog by Sanctuary / Metal-Is Records it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a look at the career of this “legendary” metal band. 

At this point I will ask the reader to please indulge me as I get a little personal because there is no way I could write this story without mentioning the impact that Iron Maiden had on me as a young metal-head in the making.  

I’m sure that many Iron Maiden fans will agree that their first discovery of the group is so much more than hearing a cool band for the first time, it really is an event. For me, Iron Maiden really opened the  floodgates of heavy metal to my young ears. At that point I was a ten or eleven year-old just beginning to get heavily into music. KISS, Quiet Riot and Def Leppard were the heaviest bands I was into, so needless to say there was a whole other world of metal to discover. That discovery came one day as I was at my buddy Rob’s house and he played “Piece of Mind” on his little portable turntable. It was an eye and ear-opening experience, the sure power of the music was mesmerizing and forget about the hard rock based on blues that I had heard up to that point, Iron Maiden’s complex music was years ahead of everyone else. It was like taking the dynamics of a full symphony orchestra and applying it to metal!  Music would never be the same for me after that day. After hearing “Piece of Mind” I rushed home got the money I had been saving from my paper route and went down to the record store and bought every Iron Maiden album they had. 

A few months later my cousin, who had taken me under his wing to expose my young mind to music, took me to my first Iron Maiden concert and it was an experience I’ll never forget. Why my 16 year-old cousin would take an eleven-year-old to a metal concert is beyond me but I am grateful to him for it to this day! The live Iron Maiden experience is beyond words. How do you describe the intensity of this metal powerhouse’s live performance? It’s like taking the albums to a whole new plane of existence, and the theatrics and giant stage productions that included a towering recreation of the band’s mascot Eddie. They made KISS concerts seem like a sideshow. Well, that’s how I remember it! 

In the nineteen years since then Iron Maiden has been a big part of my life. If you were to make a soundtrack of my life experiences, it would have more than it’s fair share of Iron Maiden tracks on it. I’m sure many Iron Maiden fans can identify with that sentiment because Iron Maiden is so much more than just another British metal band, they hit a core with their listeners and elevated that genre of music to an entirely new level. 

The Birth of the Beast

Punk rock had just taken over the British music scene with a force not witnessed since Beatlemania. Gone were the heady days of virtuoso guitarists, pouty and frilly blues minded frontmen, with the new punk scene it was considered “un-cool” to know your way around your instrument. Real musicians were considered dinosaurs and puppets of the greedy bastards who ran the music industry. That was the backdrop in which Iron Maiden was founded in London by bassist Steve Harris, guitarist Dave Murray, rhythm guitarist Tony Parsons, drummer Doug Sampson and vocalist Paul Di’anno in 1976. 

The band spent the next three years honing their skills and developing their art on the London music scene. Try as they might, the record companies weren’t paying attention so in 1979 the band decided to take matters into their own hand and recorded their own album. The resulting studio EP, “Soundhouse Tapes” were just what they needed to catch the attention of EMI records, who took a chance on the group and gave them a deal. 

Iron Maiden that then included drummer Clive Burr and guitarist Dennis Stratton released their self-titled debut album in early 1980, which featured the first painting of “Eddie” the band’s mascot who would appear on every subsequent album cover. While the album was far from a mega-seller, it really hit a spark with the underground metal crowd and spawned a radio hit with "Running Free". The music was far more complex than the arena rock anthems of the other heavy bands of the day and offered the listener something new and different. Steve Harris was the keystone of the band, he wrote most of the music and his elaborate bass lines helped give the music an unmistakably unique sound. The subject matter of the lyrics also helped set Iron Maiden aside from other metal bands. In many ways Iron Maiden was Heavy Metal’s answer to Pink Floyd. The music had the same level of complexity and experimentation and the lyrics dealt with far more headier subjects than love and partying. Iron Maiden gave metal an intellectual face with songs that explored classic pieces of literature, Biblical prophesy and mythology, which put many of the songs on the level of modern music’s version of the Epic poems of ancient Greece. The songs not only caused fans to bang their heads, it fueled their imagination as well. 

After the release of their debut album the band experienced the first of many personnel changes, guitarist Dennis Stratton was out and Adrian Smith was in. They headed back into the studio in early 1981 to record their sophomore album “Killers”. The Japanese stop on the supporting tour was captured for posterity  with the live album “Maiden Japan”.  Sadly, at the end of the “Killers” tour vocalist Paul Di’anno left the group due to his struggles with alcoholism. Fortunately, Iron Maiden found a more than able replacement in the form of 23-year-old vocalist Bruce Dickinson. 

Bruce would prove to be the magic ingredient the band needed to breakthrough to the masses. When “The Number of the Beast” was released in 1982 it spawned hit singles worldwide, topped the British music charts, made Iron Maiden an international sensation that really started what was known as “The New Wave of British Metal”. 

At it’s time “The Number of the Beast” was a groundbreaking album and is still considered to be among the best rock albums of all times by many  critics. With their newfound fame Iron Maiden took their music directly to fans the world over with the “Beast on the Road” tour. But more lineup changes were in the works as Clive Burr departed the band at this point and was replaced by Nicko McBrain. This change would solidify the Iron Maiden lineup for the next seven years. 

1983 would prove to be a banner year for Iron Maiden in the U.S., their follow-up album to “The Number of the Beast” became a best seller in the states, earning the band their very first U.S. Platinum album and 1983 marked their first American headlining tour. On their home front of England, Iron Maiden was a dominant force in music, in the 1983 readers poll for the British Metal magazine Kerrang! The English fans named “Piece of Mind” and “The Number of the Beast” the #1 and #2 heavy metal albums of all time! 

Never ones to rest on their laurels, the band headed back into the studio following the “World Piece Tour” and recorded “Powerslave”. When the album was  released in 1984 it was an instant hit, entering both the British and U.S. top 20. MTV put the video for the album’s first single “2 Minutes To Midnight” into rotation and that year you saw fans adorning Iron Maiden t-shirts at practically every metal concert. 

The supporting tour for “Powerslave” would also be a watershed tour for the band. The “World Slavery Tour” would break attendance records world-wide and the band would record their unprecedented four night stand at the Long Beach Arena for a live album. 

With momentum clearly behind them, Iron Maiden released “Live After Death” a two LP album of performances captured at Long Beach Arena and Hammersmith Odeon that shot straight into the American Top 20 upon release. MTV added more fuel to the fire when they aired the “Live After Death”  concert, which exposed the mainstream audience to Iron Maiden’s explosive live show. In the mid 80’s if you were a metal fan, Iron Maiden was at the top of your list! 

The band’s next studio album “Somewhere in Time” marked a bit of a departure for the band in style, but it paid off when the single “Wasted Years” became a big hit on charts worldwide and MTV couldn’t seem to play the video enough. Some fans worried that the band had become a little too commercial and melodic but following the sold out tour the band headed back into the studio to prove they hadn’t lost touch with their  roots. The resulting concept album “Seventh Son Of a Seventh Son” was released to critical reviews in 1988. Iron Maiden had returned to the style of music that made them famous and many fans and critics count that album among the group’s best. A grueling world tour followed which culminated in the band’s first headlining performance at Castle Donington's Monsters Of Rock Festival, where they played before 107,000 rabid fans. 

When the band entered the 90’s change was in the air. The decade would provide the band with both triumphs and loss.  The first major change came when Adrian Smith left the band to pursue a solo career. Iron Maiden recruited as his replacement guitarist Janick Gers, who had played on Bruce Dickinson’s solo album “Tattooed Millionaire”.  This line-up would produce two studio  albums (“No Prayer For the Dying” and “Fear of the Dark”) and two live albums (“A Real Live One” and “A Real Dead One”) but in May of 1993 the fans and band got a shock when Bruce Dickinson announced he was leaving the group to pursue his solo aspirations. 

Iron Maiden undertook a talent search to find a new frontman and found Birmingham native Blaze Bayley to fill the void left by Bruce’s departure. With Blaze out front the group released two albums, “The X Factor” in 1995 and “Virtual XI” in 1998. They ended the decade by releasing their career retrospective “The Best of the Beast". 

21st Century Beast

The turn of the century brought about major changes for the band. Fans the world over rejoiced when they learned that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith had rejoined the band. The reunited line-up that included three guitarist (Smith, Murry and Gers) setout on a sold-out reunion tour that allowed the fans to pick the songs the band would play each night.  After the tour Iron Maiden went back into the studio to record a new album. The resulting CD “Brave New World” was received with open arms from fans the world over and the much anticipated “3 Guitar Assault” of the new line-up proved to be just what Iron Maiden needed as they marched proudly into the new millennium.  American fans went nuts over the “Brave New World” tour that also featured fellow metal legend Rob Halford and his new band Halford as well as Queensryche as support.  Tickets for the Madison Square Garden concert sold-out in 15 minutes, so indeed it was evident that the Beast was Back!  

The culmination of the “Brave New World Tour” occurred at the Rock In Rio festival where the band performed before 250,000 screaming fans. Like their triumphant Long Beach Arena shows from fifteen years before the band wanted to capture this performance for posterity. Now fans the world over get to share in the “Rock in Rio” experience with the release of the new live recordings of the performance aptly titled “Rock in Rio” with an home video DVD release of the concert to be released later this year.  

“Rock in Rio” isn’t just another “live album”; Iron Maiden fans can get an entire perspective of the band’s history on the road by listening to each subsequent live album. Starting with “Maiden in Japan” (If you can find a copy) to “Live After Death”, “A Real Live One” and now “Rock in Rio” each album gives us a snapshot of the band at that period of time and luckily for fans the track listings are varied. Fans can own all of the Iron Maiden live releases without them being overly redundant. While  “Live in Rio” features some early Maiden classics, the album is really a showcase for where the band is at in this moment in time. If anything “Rock in Rio” is the third essential live album to be included in the Iron Maiden Live discography, the Iron Maiden Live Trilogy if you will. 

As this is being written in early 2002, the band’s current record label Sanctuary/ Metal-Is had just reissued almost the entire Iron Maiden CD catalog. What makes these reissues significant is in true Iron Maiden fashion they are loaded with extras, so the fans definitely get their moneys worth.  

So here is to Iron Maiden, a band that has rocked us for the past quarter century and let’s hope they don’t let up anytime soon! They are truly legends that have made a significant impact on the world of music. And to my fellow Iron Maiden fans I say simple “Up the Irons!” 

Genre: Heavy Metal

Original Lineup:

    • Steve Harris - Bass 
    • Dave Murray - Guitar 
    • Tony Parsons- Guitar 
    • Doug Sampson - Drums 
    • Paul Di’anno – Vocals
First Album Lineup:
    • Steve Harris - Bass
    • Dave Murray - Guitar
    • Paul Di’anno – Vocals
    • Clive Burr - Drums
    • Dennis Stratton  - Guitar
Best Known Lineup:
  • Steve Harris - Bass
  • Dave Murray - Guitar
  • Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
  • Nicko McBrain - Drums
  • Adrian Smith  - Guitar
  • 1993-99 Lineup:
  • Steve Harris - Bass
  • Dave Murray - Guitar
  • Blaze Bayley – Vocals
  • Nicko McBrain - Drums
  • Janick Gers  - Guitar
  • Current Lineup:
      • Steve Harris - Bass
      • Dave Murray - Guitar
      • Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
      • Nicko McBrain - Drums
      • Adrian Smith  - Guitar
      • Janick Gers  - Guitar

    Visit the Official Iron Maiden site to get more information on the band

    Purchase Iron Maiden Music.

    Photos Courtesy Iron Maiden 
    Copyright Iron Maiden  - All Rights Reserved by Copyright holder.


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