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Killers – Commentary
 
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Killers

9th February 1981

1. The Ides Of March (Harris)
2. Wrathchild (Harris)
3. Murders In The Rue Morgue (Harris)
4. Another Life (Harris, Di'Anno)
5. Genghis Khan (Harris)
6. Innocent Exile (Harris)
7. Killers (Di'Anno, Harris)
8. Twilight Zone (Harris, Murray)
9. Prodigal Son (Harris)
10. Purgatory (Harris)
11. Drifter (Harris)
     

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      Listen With Nicko – Part II
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    Third Single
      Listen With Nicko – Part III

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Killers continued Iron Maiden on their rise to prominence, selling over four times as many albums after its release than did its predecessor. Overall, Killers is an excellent album, although it lacks the usual epic track that almost all the other Maiden albums contain (for example: 'Phantom Of The Opera', 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', 'To Tame A Land', and 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'). However, it contains a great deal of innovative material, including two of Maiden's best instrumental tracks.

Killers is not a concept album, but many of the songs do share a certain commonality. It is an interesting and complex thread, which explores the "killers" concept from several different perspectives including the angry searcher, the fleeing suspect, the innocently accused, the cold-blooded killer, the repentant disciple, and finally the reformed drifter. In this sense, with a bit of imagination the album can be viewed as a progression beginning with anger and violence and ending with repentance and reformation. This is not unlike 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', in which the mariner begins as an impulsive killer and ends as a repentant traveller and teacher.

A second and less obvious thread also exists in Killers, relating to the meaninglessness and hopelessness of life. In this sense the Killers album begins what has become a familiar Maiden topic out of which has emerged some of their very best material. But in contrast to some of the later material, the Killers exploration has an extremely depressing, regretful, and suicidal motif. This second thread is most obvious in 'Another Life', 'Twilight Zone', and 'Purgatory'.

It may take quite a few listens to fully appreciate Killers. The style of the Di'Anno albums is a bit different from Maiden's later sound, and can require some adjustment for those who are unfamiliar with it. But after you've given it a chance to sink in, it'll quite probably be one of your favourite Maiden albums.

The comments by Steve Harris were taken from an interview with John Stix in July 1983.

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4.5-star   The Ides Of March (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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We used to play this through the P.A. before we went on. Then we went right into 'Wrathchild'. 

Steve Harris
At only 1:44, this is Maiden's shortest track. It's way too short, because it's a brilliant instrumental, probably among their best. The ides is the 15th day of March, and might be referring to the famous warning, "Beware the ides of March" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The Ides of March was actually the date when Caesar was murdered by Brutus and his accomplices, as is shown in the play. It is also historically accurate and may be the first historical reference in Maiden's career, a tradition carried on with songs like 'Invaders', 'Run To The Hills', 'Alexander The Great', and many others. Great guitar solos and a cool drum track make this an awesome opener for the album, and it combines so well with 'Wrathchild' that they could easily be one single song.

It is interesting to note that there are some striking similarities between the track 'Thunderburst' by Samson and this particular piece. Thunderstick, Samson's masked drummer, used to play in Iron Maiden before Doug Sampson and Clive Burr, and co-wrote the song with Steve Harris. The song was later recorded by Samson on their 1980 album Head On whereas Iron Maiden recorded it in 1981 on Killers. Henrik Johansson's very good – but sadly now defunct – Samson website featured the following analysis: 'Thunderburst' has an acoustic guitar intro which is not on 'Ides...' and the songs are in different keys. One chord in the riff pattern is altered in 'Thunderburst' and a choir-like thing is added on the end of the song. What is strange is that Steve Harris is credited for co-writing on 'Thunderburst' while Steve takes the credits himself on 'The Ides of March'.

Julius Cæsar [1599]
Act I, Scene 1 – Rome. A street.
    Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and certain Commoners.
Flavius
    Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home:
    Is this a holiday? what! know you not,
    Being mechanical, you ought not walk
    Upon a labouring day without the sign
    Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?
First Commoner
    Why, sir, a carpenter.
Marullus
    Where is thy leather apron and thy rule?
    What dost thou with thy best apparel on?
    You, sir, what trade are you?
In 1599, when William Shakespeare’s Julius Cæsar was performed at the new Globe Theatre, Elizabeth I was an aged monarch with no legitimate heir—neither a child of her own nor a named heir. The people of England worried about succession, fully aware of the power struggles that could take place when men vied for the throne of England. They were also aware of the realities of the violence of civil strife.


 

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4.0-star   Wrathchild (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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This is THE classic track from Killers, and a concert favourite. It's catchy and accessible, and was originally recorded on the Metal For Muthas compilation, which might be why it wasn't included on the previous album. It is about an angry young man searching for his unknown father, presumably with violent intentions. Nice bass intro too.

'Wrathchild' was originally recorded on an album called Metal For Muthas along with 'Sanctuary'. That was before we had a record contract. The version on this record is pretty different. A lot of people asked us why we didn't put it on the first album. But we felt because it was on Metal For Muthas we didn't want to put it on the first album. By the time we did Killers we weren't happy with that version so so we wanted to record it properly. The guitar frills around the vocals were from Adrian. Originally they weren't there but when Adrian joined the band he decided to put them in. 

Steve Harris


 

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5.0-star   Murders In The Rue Morgue (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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This was a bit of an experiment. I'd never played harmonics on the bass much before that. But with the mood of the intro, it felt really natural to play those harmonics. We wanted to create a mood and then come in and hit people across the head with it. The vocal melody is pretty much the same as the riff. That's to give them both more power. 

Steve Harris
Very loosely influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's (1809–1849) short story Murders In The Rue Morgue, this song tells the story of a fugitive who is being sought for murder It is another fast-paced and relatively catchy tune, which doesn't normally take long to like. However, it should be pointed out that the song is only vaguely related to Poe's story, which is a Doyle-style murder mystery. About the only similarities between the story and the song are, with the exception of the title, the murders of two women on the Rue Morgue in Paris (this street does not actually exist though). Consequently, it is necessary to analyse the song lyrics on their own merits.

Pay special attention to the last lines of the song:

But I know that it's on my mind
That my doctor said I've done it before

This raises the interesting possibility that the individual in the song is deluded and schizophrenic. Did he actually murder the girls after all? He did have blood on his hands...
 

The Murders in the Rue Morgue [1841]
The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension præternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
The title of the story is straightforward—that is, the murders take place in the street (the Rue) of the Morgue. In the opening section of the story, Poe offers some of the views expressed above about the need of the detective to be observant (more than the ordinary person), and, furthermore, he must know what to observe. The most casual movement or expression can often reveal more than the magnifying glass which M. Dupin never uses, even though the police constantly rely on one to help them solve crimes. And also too, the superlative detective must be able to make the proper inferences from the things he observes. Here is where ingenuity becomes the most important aspect in solving a crime.


 

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3.5-star   Another Life (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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This is a strange little song about some pretty unhappy person apparently contemplating suicide. The guitar riffs are alright, but the lyrics are somewhat repetitive, as if Harris suddenly had a mental block and decided to repeat the same verse three times. Perhaps the repetition is intended to strengthen the effect of the lyrics. In any case, it's not a bad song.

I really enjoy the harmony parts on this one, and the intro frills by Dave were really good. 

Steve Harris


 

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5.0-star   Genghis Khan (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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Genghis Khan Like 'The Ides Of March', this is another brilliant instrumental track. It is longer and much more complex, with many rhythm shifts that highlight Clive Burr's great drumming skills. This might be Maiden's best instrumental song, which flawlessly sets a mood reminiscent of Genghis Khan (c.1162–1227), the great Mongol military genius and scourge of the Far East during the 13th century, and whose empire was the largest in History. Genghis Khan features among the world’s greatest conquerors, alongside with Julius Cæsar and Alexander the Great. He was the son of a minor chief in what is nowadays Eastern Mongolia, and was originally given the name Temujin. He united the nomadic tribes of Mongolia in a disciplined military state and became known as Genghis Khan, or "Universal Ruler". In 1207, Genghis Khan led the Mongols on the first of many destructive, bloody invasions. It is not known exactly how many people were slaughtered by his destructive raids, but even the most conservative estimates suggest that several million people died. He never learned how to read, but his success as a ruler resulted from his superior military organisation, strategy and mobility.

According to Nicko, 'Genghis Khan' was written on short notice as filler for the Killers album and was at the time given the working title of 'Jenkin's Barn'. You'd never know it though, because this song really rocks!

This was another song where there could have been a vocal melody on top, but it felt good as an instrumental. A vocal would have cluttered it up. Originally it was written to depict the feeling and sound of Genghis Khan's army going into battle. It felt better not to have any guitar solos on this track.

Steve Harris


 

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3.5-star   Innocent Exile (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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'Innocent Exile' continues the theme begun in 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' of an unjustly accused fugitive. In fact, it could well be a direct continuation where the fugitive is expounding on the wretchedness and hopelessness of his situation. It may be a bit difficult to get into this song at first, but it can later become one of the favourites on the album. The bass intro is cool, but the guitar solos are particularly brilliant and the last half of the song is great.

That was one of the very first Iron Maiden songs. It was an old stage favourite, but we haven't played it in a while. That opening bass riff was originally played on the guitar. It was written on the bass for the guitar. The bass was originally playing crashing chords behind it. Then we switched it around. 

Steve Harris


 

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5.0-star   Killers (Di'Anno, Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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Paul wrote the lyrics to this one. It felt really natural for him to scream at the start of the song. Some people may wonder about this one if they have a copy of our video. We did a half hour video about three years ago, before the album came out. The lyrics on the video are totally different than what came out on the album. We weren't happy with them, but they exist in their original form on that video. 

Steve Harris
A journey into the twisted mind of a deranged killer, this is undoubtedly the best song on the album. It represents the climax of the "killers" theme, describing the murder from the killer's perspective, who for the most part seems to revel in the adrenaline and power of the act. There is however another interesting detail in the lyrics:

I have no one, I'm bound to destroy all this greed
A voice inside me, compelling to satisfy me

This suggests that the killer is not only motivated by blood lust, but is also on some sort of moral crusade. And the mention of internal voices reinforces the possibility of schizophrenia that may have been implied in 'Murders In The Rue Morgue'.


 

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4.5-star   Twilight Zone (Harris, Murray) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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Twilight Zone single This song appears on the North American versions of Killers, but was not included in the European version since it had already been released there as a single. 'Twilight Zone' was originally intended to be a B-side, but it turned out to be so good that the band released it as an A-side instead. According to Nicko, the band's producer Martin Birch was absent from this particular recording session and the band produced 'Twilight Zone' themselves. It is another great track, about a spirit in purgatory that longingly watches and yearns for his still living former lover, and even contemplates killing her so that she might join him and ease his loneliness. Like most Maiden songs, it has a fast-paced beat, but still carries a mood of sadness and loss.

There is an American TV series of the early 1960s that is also called The Twilight Zone. The story of the song could very easily constitute one of its episodes.

This was a single in England that wasn't on the British album. We put it on as an extra track over here. Dave came up with the riff for this one. I wrote the melody line and the lyrics. But the main riff was Dave's. 

Steve Harris


 

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4.5-star   Prodigal Son (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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John Waterhouse – The Lamia This is a mostly acoustic song, about a repentant man reminiscent of the prodigal son parable found in Luke 15. It is not a direct interpretation however, because in the song the man is confessing his past to a Lamia. What is a Lamia? The word is not mentioned in the Biblical parable. However, among the ancient Greeks and Romans, a lamia was supposed to be a female demon who devoured children and whose name was used to frighten them. According to the myth, she was originally a Libyan queen beloved by Jupiter (Zeus), but when robbed of her offspring by the jealous Juno (Hera), she became insane and vowed vengeance on all children, whom she decided to start enticing and devouring. In Africa, the race of lamia were said to have the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a serpent, and they enticed strangers into their embraces and devoured them. John Keats's (1795–1821) poem Lamia (1820) relates the story of a bride who, when recognised by Apollonius as a serpent or lamia, vanishes in an instant. The 1909 painting by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) is also based on this poem.

'The Lamia' is also a song by Genesis on their 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Now, Steve Harris was a great fan of this band at that time and was probably influenced by them in the writing of the lyrics of 'Prodigal Son'. The ethereal atmosphere of the song seems to reinforce the idea of a Genesis influence on Harris's writing.

'Prodigal Son' could possibly be considered a continuation of the "killers" theme, in which the former killer is now searching for some kind of help and atonement. However, this reasoning doesn't exactly fit, since the lyrics hint that the prodigal son's past was linked to "mystic things and magic", and not necessarily to violence or murder. Still, it's quite a good song with a very different sound than the rest of the album.


 

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4.0-star   Purgatory (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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Purgatory single This song is a remake of a very early Iron Maiden song originally called 'Floating', and which they used to play in their live set during '76 and '77. It is not sure if there are any existing recordings of 'Floating' (Steve Harris may have some), but according to Nicko 'Purgatory' is a speeded up re-arrangement for the Killers album. The lyrics of this song read like a poem, and like most poetry, the meaning is not readily apparent. It might be a continuation of the theme begun in 'Twilight Zone', or it might just be some sort of a dream. It's a good song though.

That's quite an old song. In a slightly different form it was originally called 'Floating'. Then we changed the lyrics and a couple of bits in the middle section. 

Steve Harris


 

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With a bit of imagination, 'Drifter' can be seen as the final part of the "killers" thread, which seems to focus on the possibility of new beginnings and hope for the future. The mood of the song is much happier than the rest of the album, and for many years was played extensively in concert.

'Drifter' is one of those songs that is at its best when played live, and often features the audience-interaction part of the show with the familliar "yo yo yo" routine which is supposed to make fun of The Police's song 'Walking On The Moon' that was a very big commercial hit at that time. This is considered by many fans as one of the lesser songs on the album – as it just seems mundane and drab, without Maiden's usual flair. It is still a brilliant song in my opinion, and I suppose that this is probably just a case of personal preference.

That's a song we still do live. Now we bring it down to a beat and get crowd participation with a sing-a-long. We recorded it live as a B-side for one of the British singles. The slow section in there is one of Dave's blues things. The different parts in this song really flowed together. It wasn't a song that was done in separate sections. On this one I pretty much knew what I wanted. 

Steve Harris


 

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