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
“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
Genre: Heavy Metal
Harris - Bass
Harris - Bass
Burr - Drums
Stratton - Guitar
Harris - Bass
Dickinson – Vocals
McBrain - Drums
Smith - Guitar
Harris - Bass
Bayley – Vocals
McBrain - Drums
Gers - Guitar
Harris - Bass
Dickinson – Vocals
McBrain - Drums
Smith - Guitar
Gers - Guitar
the Official Iron Maiden site to get more information on the band
Iron Maiden Music.
Photos Courtesy Iron Maiden
Copyright Iron Maiden
- All Rights Reserved by Copyright holder.