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No Prayer for the Dying – Commentary
 
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No Prayer for the Dying

1st October 1990

1. Tailgunner (Harris, Dickinson)
2. Holy Smoke (Harris, Dickinson)
3. No Prayer For The Dying (Harris)
4. Public Enema Number One (Murray, Dickinson)
5. Fates Warning (Murray, Harris)
6. The Assassin (Harris)
7. Run Silent Run Deep (Harris, Dickinson)
8. Hooks In You (Dickinson, Smith)
9. Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter (Dickinson)
10. Mother Russia (Harris)

Singles:
    First Single
    Second Single
      Listen With Nicko – Part XI

Tour:
    Tour Commentary
    Tour Dates & Venues    

Video:
    Video

Lyrics
Mick Wall's Commentary
Various Pressings
Picture Disc
Line-up
Other Pictures
Interviews
Credits
Discuss in the Forum
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The first thing to say about No Prayer For The Dying is the departure of Adrian Smith and his replacement with Janick Gers. It was sad to see Smith go, for both his playing skill and song-writing talent. However, the show must go on, and it does.

Many fans dislike this album, and I can understand many of the reasons why. With a few exceptions, the song-writing is a bit weaker and the lyrics are somewhat shallower than on previous albums. The sound quality is excellent (the album was digitally recorded), but many of the songs are missing that intangible quality that creates a deep and compelling mood.

In addition, Dickinson appears to be experimenting with a different singing style which is rougher and raspier than before. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but I still prefer the clear and powerful style of the past.

I want to point our that this is by no means a bad album. It may be a step down from the timeless classics of the golden era, but it does contain some excellent material. However, for new Maiden fans I would recommend waiting on this album at least until you have absorbed the classic albums of the golden era.

Many people mistakenly believe that Iron Maiden abandoned the synths for this album. The synths are still present on a few tracks, but in order to hear them you must listen very carefully with a good set of headphones. Try 'No Prayer For The Dying', 'Fates Warning', and 'Mother Russia'.

The cover picture above is that of the original CD version of the album. Bruce Dickinson's comments are extracts taken from an interview done soon after the release of the album (thanks to Antonis Mix for pointing it out to me).

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2.5-star   Tailgunner (Harris, Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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In the Maiden tradition of war songs, 'Tailgunner' returns once again to the air war of WWII. Lyrically, the song is quite similar to 'Aces High', although it adds an element of subtle anti-war irony that 'Aces High' lacked.

Trace your way back 50 years
To the glow of Dresden – blood and tears

The song mentions here one of the most infamous and most controversial bombings of World War II. Dresden, that had been left unharmed until then because of its lack of military value, was indeed glowing on the night of 13th–14th February 1945. Although the damage inflicted on the town wer less extensive than, for example, in Battle of Hamburg, the apparent uselessness of such a murderous action has left a lasting trace in the history of all-out warfare.

In the black above by the cruel searchlight
Men will die men will fight

After dealing with the horrors of a bombing on the ground, we are taken here to the suffering of the airmen, who also risked their lives during such campaigns. The huge losses of bomber crews during the 1942–45 carpet-bombing of Germany (which began with a massive attack on Cologne, also mentioned in the song) gave Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, head of Bomber Command at that time and initiator of the switch to the destruction of civilian targets instead of military and industrial ones, the nickname of "Butcher" Harris among the RAF crewmen. Post-war, the man was considered a hero by some – the man who brought Nazi Germany to her knees and forced her to surrender, thus putting an end to the horrors that were taking place there – and a mass-murderer by others because of the killing of thousands of innocent civilians that his strategy implied.

Tailgunner

B-17G Rear Gunner by Geoff Pleasance.

No radar lock on – skin and bone

The difference between air warfare during WWII and today's "push-button" combat is highlighted in this sentence. Those who fought in those days needed "guts" to do what they did. This does not diminish the courage of the airmen who fight today with the help of a more advanced technology, but it should make us realise the extent of self-sacrifice and boldness of those who contributed to end the atrocities of an evil regime.

Nail that Fokker, kill that son

Now, this line always makes me cringe – a bit like the mention of dinosaurs in 'Quest For Fire' – as the Germans never flew any Fokker planes during World War II (although they did in World War I, Manfred Von Richtofen, a.k.a. "The Red Baron", being the most famous example of a German ace flying a Fokker). Only the Dutch air force flew this type of plane at the beginning the conflict. However, The Netherlands were defeated in five days of war in May 1940. During that time there were 36 Fokker D.XXIs operational. Losses were heavy, but they did manage to shoot down almost 40 Junkers Ju 52 transports planes and a couple of Messerschmitt bf 109s fighters before they ran out of ammo (!). The Dutch government had tried to maintain its neutrality, like during World War I, and there was therefore a kind of short-sightedness concerning their armed forces, which resulted in a shortage of ammo. After the 5 days of war, there were still 8 aircraft operational, which were destroyed deliberately just before the surrender to Germany. The others either had been shot down, or destroyed on the ground. It is therefore obvious that the name "Fokker" has just been printed in the lyrics as crude way to get around saying "Fucker".

Tail-end Charlie in the boiling sky

It is an interesting piece of trivia to know that the common nickname for tailgunners originates from a certain Charles Cooper. He was the first commissioned rear-gunner in the RAF during the Second World War, and was subsequently nicknamed "Tail-End Charlie" by his crew. That name rapidly became adopted for all rear-gunners in the RAF. Cooper was blinded by a German bomb which fell outside his billet in 1941.

The Enola Gay was my last try

The Enola Gay is the name of the bomber flown by Paul Tibbets that dropped an atomic bomb, lovingly nicknamed the "Little Boy", on Hiroshima, on 6th August 1945 (closely followed by another atomic bombing, this time performed by another B-29 called Bock's Car which dropped the "Fat Man" on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945). The name of the bomber derives from the inversion of the word "alone", associated with the pilot's mother's name, Gay (and has therefore nothing to do with male homosexuality as some misinformed people may think). Like the attack on Dresden, the unleashing of nuclear power on Japan was deemed an unnecessary massacre by some, while others consider that it was the only way to end the war. The "last tailgunner", Staff Sgt. George Caron, was the only crew member on board the Enola Gay to witness the explosion, whereas Tibbets only felt a tingling in his teeth, as the bomb's radioactive forces were interacting with his fillings.

On a concluding note, it would be useful to the few individuals who have suggested that 'Tailgunner' is actually not about war at all, but is instead a 'gay' song to re-read the lyrics, as well as this commentary. The lyrics are as clear and unambiguous as they can be, and there is just no way that they can be anything other than what they seem to be – any other interpretation is pure fantasy. The song's title may come from a porn film, but that's about the only link to any sexual innuendo.

Like some other Maiden songs that deal with a rather serious topic, it has that pesky 'happy' sound which creates a mood that doesn't quite match the lyrics. After listening to it many times it is possible to appreciate it more, but it would be over-reacting to call it a wonderful song.

The title came from a porno movie, about anal sex, then I thought, well I can't write the lyrics about that! So I wrote it about real tailgunners. I had some words which began "Trace your way back fifty years, to the glow of Dresden, blood and tears". I know we shouldn't mention the war but it's about the attitude of bombing people. It was real death in the skies back then. But there aren't any tailgunners on planes anymore, it's all done by computers using missiles. At least it used to be man-on-man, but now it's machine-on-machine. Who uses bullets anymore? 

Bruce Dickinson

Before the Second World War, the Saxon city of Dresden was renowned for its Baroque architecture. So beautiful was the old quarter of the city that it was known throughout Western Europe as "The Florence on the Elbe". The Zwinger Palace, an architectural marvel itself, was a centre of scientific and artistic wonder. Its collection of fine porcelain was not seen anywhere else in Europe before or since. The Frauenkirche ("Church of Our Lady" is the closest English translation, but this hardly does it justice) was a symbol of Dresden. For North Americans, like myself, it is difficult to appreciate the significance of a Cathedral Town. For many, like Dresden, Salisbury, Freiburg, etc., the cathedral was the embodiment of what it meant to be a citizen of that town. It was a symbol of religious worship, of course, but also one of pride and progress.

How does any of this relate to Iron Maiden? I’m glad you asked. The song 'Tailgunner' opens with the line:

Trace your way back 50 years
To the glow of Dresden, blood and tears

While not one of Iron Maiden’s best songs, it certainly allows for some interesting historical background information. It’s been nearly 60 years since the end of the war, but the song is an older one.

We tend to focus on the atrocities committed by the Axis powers, mainly Germany, in most studies of the Second World War – The bombing of Rotterdam, the torture of Russian POWs, the flattening of Coventry, and, worst of all, the Holocaust.

Less known are some of the actions of the Allies. (This by no means forgives the Nazis for their actions! The Nazis and their supporters were evil, regardless of the Allies’ actions.) One such atrocity was the bombing of Dresden. From the 13th to the 15th of February 1945, Dresden was on the receiving end of the most destructive aerial bombardment to that date. The Zwinger Palace was completely destroyed. The Frauenkirche, after living through numerous shellings from various enemies throughout its history, collapsed after being gutted by incendiary bombs. Thousands of homes, and hundreds of schools, shops, and other buildings were destroyed. So hot were the fires created by the firebombs that experts estimate the temperature reached 1,900ºC, hot enough to create the infamous "death wind" many surrvivors reported – a wind that sucked their loved ones into the flames. (For students of British history, this phenomenon is similar to the wind created by the Great Fire of London, 1666. It has something to do with hot and cold air…..but I’m not sure how.) The final death tolls, depending on whom you ask, vary between 35,000 and 135,000.

Why Dresden? It certainly was a symbolic city, but that scarcely justified such a collosal raid into eastern Germany by the Allies. Dresden had no military of strategic value. In fact, in irony’s sick way, its lack of strategic value increased the death toll. During the late stage of the war, most industrial and military strongholds in Germany (Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin) had been hit hard. The refugees noticed that Dresden, because of its lack of (military) importance, was being spared, and thus they fled there by the thousands. The increased refugee population in Dresden caused the death toll to dramatically rise during the merciless bombing.

So – Why?

The British and Americans needed to prove they were tough. Not to Germany, but to the Soviets. The main advance of Soviet troops into Germany went right by Dresden. The Western powers, while nominally the allies of the Soviets, were terrified of Communism (whether this fear was justified is not relevant). What was to stop a collosal Soviet army from stopping at Berlin? They could try to take the industrial Rhineland, or even threaten France. This couldn’t do at all, so Dresden was used as a demonstration of the might of allied air power.

The bomber boys are going home!

So terrible was Dresden for some Allied airmen that they developed a deep loathing of themselves. Those who were Christian believed they were destined for Hell because of their "crimes". One historian writes of the airmen involved "some had nightmares, some thought they would go to Hell as war criminals, some had unshakable visions of the fires and the burning cities."

Tail end Charlie in the boiling sky
The Enola Gay was my last try
Now that this tailgunner’s gone
No more bombers, just one big bomb!

Has the conventional bomber been replaced? Absolutely not, in my opinion. While nuclear arms up the anti, the M-A-D therom (see also my comment on 'Out of the Silent Planet' .) Korea, Vietnam, the two Gulf Wars have all proven the usefulness of plain old explosives.

IronDuke – 1st March 2004

So hot were the fires created by the firebombs that experts estimate the temperature reached 1,900ºC, hot enough to create the infamous "death wind" many surrvivors reported – a wind that sucked their loved ones into the flames. (For students of British history, this phenomenon is similar to the wind created by the Great Fire of London, 1666. It has something to do with hold and cold air…..but I’m not sure how.)

IronDuke

I'm going to start with real basic chemical facts here, so you'll probably be familiar with some of this – I don't mean to be patronizing, but I want to make sure this makes sense to everyone, so I can't afford to assume that all this is common knowledge.

When a fire burns, it consumes oxygen from the atmosphere. In the process, it heats up other atmospheric gases which it doesn't need (such as nitrogen) and releases hot exhaust gases from the burning fuel. Heat is essentially a measure of molecular speed, so the hotter a fire burns, the faster the heated air rises away from it. This creates a "suction" at the base of the fire – cool air and fresh oxygen move in to take the place of the heated gases which are rising away. The rate of speed of this air movement is roughly proportional to the heat the fire generates.

Normally, the effects of this cooler air moving in are imperceptible. It happens for every fire; it happens when you do something as small as lighting a match. But because the area of most fires is very small compared to the area of the surrounding air, only a slight movement of all that surrounding air is needed to refuel the fire.

In order to create a noticeable refueling wind, the ratio of fire size to available air must be increased dramatically. This is what happened in Dresden and London. The large, hot fires by themselves weren't enough to create the death wind. The surrounding buildings constricted the air flow around the fire. Thus, the enormous volume of air the fire sucked in was compressed into narrow European streets and confined between buildings. You may have experienced this phenomenon yourself. If you've ever been in a major metropolitan downtown area that is full of nothing but skyscrapers (midtown Manhattan, for example), you may have noticed that a slow, calm wind in the intersections speeds up to become a raging gale in the middle of the streets, where it has to flow through the canyon of tall buildings.

Another useful analogy is water flow. A flow of 1,000 liters per minute is no problem for a large river – it can move very slowly and still reach that number. But try and get 1,000 liters per minute through your kitchen sink. Even if your plumbing could withstand it, the water would have to move about 250 km/hr! (That's 155 miles per hour for those of you who still aren't metric-friendly.)

In other words, it's all in the environment in which the fire burns. Take the Dresden or London fires and put them in the middle of a big empty field: no death wind. This type of phenomenon can only happen in a city, as there are very few (if any) natural features that can constrict air flow sufficiently.

SinisterMinisterX – 3rd March 2004

Strategic bombing in World War 2 is an interesting topic, to say the least. The theory is highly questionable. In the late 20s and 30s many strategists were predicting the next wars would be over in a manner of hours, with the mutual destruction of enemy capital cities by massive heavy bomber raids. Of course, by 1939 the tools for such destruction were lacking. However, there was widespread panic and the belief in terror bombing was very real.

Long range bombing was very difficult for both the Brits and the Germans. At the outbreak of war the British bombers could barely reach Germany from their home bases. From French bases they could fly over Germany, but unescorted for most of it. Pre-war theory pushed the idea of the "self-defending heavy bomber", an airplane that could ignore the need for long-range fighters in favour of a heavier defence armament. Pinpoint bombing by day was the preferred method of strategic bombing in this school.

In order to understand how bombing worked it is important to look at the vehicles designed to carry out this operation, and the mechanics of the various air forces behind it. The three airforces that should be examined are the German Luftwaffe, the British Royal Air Force, and the American United States Army Air Forces.

The Luftwaffe was officially given existance in 1935 but in reality existed well back in the late 20s, well before the rise of Adolf Hitler. The German officers who survived the war worked hard to find loopholes in the Treaty of Versailles. Many glider schools were established in Germany to give pilot training. By 1933 Germany had more qualified glider pilots than any other nation.

Hitler was quick to turn this to his advantage. He proceeded to develop airplanes under the guise of passenger aircraft (Heinkel He-111), mail airplanes (Junkers Ju-88), and speed racers (Messerschmitt Bf-109). Using the German airline Lufthansa as a cover, the Germans tested airplanes and even strategy to use with their swiftly developing airforce.

However, the airforce had one flaw. The officers within it were mostly army washouts (although their most famous general, Kesselring, would be known as one of Germany's greatest generals after his largely successful holding campaign in Italy). The Luftwaffe was also inexorably tied to the demands of the Wehrmacht (German Army). This meant close relations between the two service, leading to exceptional ground support for the first half of the war, but it meant that the Luftwaffe was unable to do any other task Hitler might require of it. This includes strategic bombing.

Although Germany, by 1940, had large amounts of bombers, none of them were up to the task of strategic bombing. The emphasis on ground support led to a plethora of aging dive bombers (the Ju-87 Stuka) being employed, as well as medium bombers (He-111, Do-17, Ju-88). None of these craft were as speedy as a four-engined bomber, and carried on average a quarter of the payload of an Allied bomber.

Germany did have a four-engined bomber program. But it was shelved on express orders from Goering, who told his technical chief (famed WW1 ace Ernst Udet) that although four engined bombers were more efficient than 3 medium bombers, Hitler was unlikely to ask "how many bomber engines Germany has." So, when Germany undertook air offensives, such as the Battle of Britain, Goering's force was to find itself woefully overtasked.

The sole exception to Germany's bomber woes was the Focke Wulf Fw-200 Kondor. This airplane was a four-engined craft with enormous range. It was used to hunt down and sink Allied ships. Before the Merchant Aircraft Carriers and the escort carriers took to the seas, the Kondors were able to claim huge tonnage sunk. However, the Kondor was a civilian airframe, unsuited to the rigours of combat. Air stress showed quickly on the airplanes and as a result, few were serviceable beyond 1942.

Germany did eventually restart its four-engine bomber programme. But by then it was too late. By 1944 all German aircraft production was diverted to fighters to stave off the combined USAAF/Bomber Command onslaught on German cities. In an interesting side note to Germany's bombing career, they did create the first jet bomber, the Blitz. It came too late to aid them. Hitler had also insisted the first jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe, was used as a bomber. This crazy demand set the German jet fighters back years, as they converted the airframe to hold a payload and a bombadier. Hitler eventually allowed one in 10 to be fighters. Dr. Albert Speer, his chief of industry, ignored him.

The Royal Air Force had a small force of bombers at the start of WW2 in the formation they called Bomber Command. Led by Air Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris, Bomber Command had one job: reduce Germany to rubble. Other jobs bombers might be employed for, such as hunting down submarines, were relegated to other divisions within the RAF. For instance, Coastal Command used bombers to go sub hunting.

This allowed for one section of the RAF to concentrate on Germany. By 1940, Bomber Command was all Britain had left to hurt the Germans. Bomber Harris took up his job with relish. The British began precision bombing the Germans by night. However, it was soon apparent that this was impossible. British airmen were dying to mostly crater the German countryside.

At this point in the war the British were limited to a few poor aircraft, the Sterling and the Manchester. Both were twin-engined, had small payloads, and were unable to fly over German flak (fliegerabwehrkannon). The crews were basically unable to aim their bombs, as it was the middle of the night and the Germans did practise blackout. A few things came about to change that, however.

1) New aircraft. Introduction of heavy four-engine bombers such as the Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster allowed Bomber Command to carry much larger payloads to Germany faster, higher, and safer. The De Havilland Mosquito light bomber also arrived to power a special new unit:

2) Pathfinders. Highly trained in navigation and precision bombing, the Pathfinders used the incredibly quick Mosquito to lay flares and fire bombs down on Bomber Command's targets. The rest of the bombers would then simply arrive and plaster the area already lit up. Interestingly enough, Bomber Harris argued against the creation of the Pathfinders, believing an elite unit like this would take away from the effectiveness of the main bomber groups. However, it greatly increased efficiency.

3) Change of target. With the failure to nail Germany's industries into the ground, strategic bombing took on a new face: mass air raids over cities. Rather than destroy the plants from which armaments were created, Bomber Command chose to destroy the workers who made them, along with their morale.

Harris' new tactic brought the ire of the House of Commons on him. Harris claimed it was neccessary, but one MP (or perhaps Lord) spoke out, "Of course the Germans started it, but we do not take the Devil as our example." The wholesale destruction of cities is never the less what Bomber Command set out to do.

The British started making their infamous "Thousand-Bomber Raids" over Germany, using speed and numbers to overwhelm German fighter and flak defence and devastate a city using incendiary bombs and high explosives. Older German cities burned and burned. The tactic seemed to be a success, as far as Harris was concerned.

He thus switched targets: Berlin. During the long nights of winter he hit Berlin. However, Berlin was a newer city and resisted burning. As well, it was protected by huge amounts of flak. Of greater importance was the arrival of new German nightfighters, Bf-110s and Ju-88s, equipped with radar and "Jazz Musik" armaments, which were basically cannons mounted in the fuselage that shot straight up. All a German pilot had to do was fly directly below a British bomber and blast till it fell. These innovations and the fact that Berlin was so far from Bomber Command bases meant that the aircrews took huge amounts of damage.

 

The United States Army Air Forces entered the war with a stratagem already worked out. They clung to the 1930s doctrine of strategic bombing and had designed an airplane around it: the famous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The B-17 was coated in machine guns and had a greatly accurate bombsight. Its original purpose was to attack enemy ships from the air, a method of defense proven to work by renegade General Billy Mitchell, who was courtmarshalled for using his bombers to sink old US battleships in 1925.

The Eighth US Army Air Force was deployed to Britain to begin day-bombing German munitions factories and other important sites. Their first target was a ballbearings plant deep inside German territory. The B-17s flew as far as they could with P-47 Thunderbolt escorts, but continued through Germany without them after their range ended. The B-17 was supposed to be self-defending.

It was not.

The B-17 did have lots of machine guns. But as shown by older British fighters, 0.303 inch machine guns simply did not have the power to bring down German fighters. Meanwhile the 20mm cannons of the Fw-190 and the Bf-109 ripped through the unescorted bombers, sending over 20% of them to their doom. The American day-bombing ideal would have to wait until long-range fighters could be created to aid their attempt to slow German production.

Long-range fighters did exist, but they were twin-engined fighters: the Bristol Beaufighter and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. They simply weren't manœuverable enough to outfight the German single-engined fighters.

Luckilly for the British and the Americans, however, the strategic bombing campaign was put on hold to support D-Day. Both units protested, believing that the purpose of strategic bombing was to hit strategic, not tactical, targets. However, both Bomber Command and the 8th (and 9th, which was medium bombers and rocket fighters) USAAF provided admirable support on D-Day. Over 12,000 sorties were flown by the Allies on June 6th, 1944 alone. Carpet bombing led to the breakout from Normandy, and would continue to allow the Allies to get an edge over the Germans.

The strategic bombing campaign resumed after D-Day. The Americans now had a fighter they could use to help defend against the German fighters: the long-range, heavily armed North American P-51 Mustang. An American airframe with a British engine (the Merlin 51), the P-51 allowed the Allies to establish superiority over the daytime skies. Luckilly for the Allies, the Me-262 was in short supply.

The success of the P-51 called for more and more German day fighters to use up precious fuel to fend off the Americans. This drained the fuel from the night-fighters, who had success rates against the British sharply drop off. However, it was a sad day when the British destroyed Dresden, killing untold thousands of German civilians. There was no reason for this devastation, except that perhaps Bomber Command wanted to make sure that no German forgot the power of the Allies. Scare tactics?

 

The Pacific Ocean.

Allied strategic bombing raids began with the Doolittle Raid of early 1941. Sixteen B-25 Mitchell medium bombers took off from the deck of the USS Hornet to strike Tokyo. They did so, causing little damage but scaring the Japanese enough to initiate the Battle of Midway, where they were defeated. Bombing did not continue until after Saipan fell to the Allies, giving the Americans a base from which the B-29 Superfortress could hit Japan. They firebombed the Japanese without respite. By the dropping of the atomic bombs the US had destroyed 60% of the Japanese built up areas: most of the cities were made of wood.

The atomic bomb, however, raises interesting questions. Was it a good idea? Was it neccessary?

I believe it was. The Japanese were giving no sign of surrendering, and the idea of attacking Japan sickened even the bloodiest American generals (Patton, MacArthur). Figures as high as "one million dead" were tossed around.

However, the Americans dropped two bombs. It has been argued that one was acceptable, to show the power of America's new weapon. The second, however, might have been overkill. However, nuclear weapons brought strategic bombing to a new level. Now, a city with huge industrial capacity could be identified, and removed. And honestly, it doesn't matter if you miss the factory. A few blocks over still gets it with a nuke.

The argument about the morality continues...

LooseCannon – 2nd March 2004


 

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3.0-star   Holy Smoke (Harris, Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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Holy Smoke single 'Holy Smoke' is a religion-mocking song, in the same vein as Metallica's 'Leper Messiah' and 'The God That Failed'. The song focuses on the greed and hypocrisy of T.V. preachers and the lyrics are actually very sharp and intelligent.

Believe in me – Send no money
I died on the cross and that ain't funny

The first verse is obviously looking at the preachers from Jesus's point of view (whether or not he has really existed seems to remain open to speculation and some links provided may help to gain further insight into this matter). Basically, he's not impressed to realise that some unscrupulous characters are making money out of what was originally a free charity and a message of love and tolerance. Many preachers are more interested in "Saving your souls by taking your money" than in anything else and it's obvious that "They ain't religious but they ain't no fools". Those who want to get rich out of others' gullibility are probably in the best trade to become millionaires.

 
I've got a book by Jimmy Swaggart at home, Music: The New Pornography, with a big picture of Steve on the front! It was sent to me by a Bible-basher and a quite sincere letter came with it, very sincere. She sent me a copy of the Holy Bible, which was good because I didn't have one and I needed one to research for some songs. 

Bruce Dickinson

I've lived in filth, I've lived in sin
And I still smell cleaner than the shit you're in

This is a sharp and ironic statement that reminds us of the truth behind whatever "Jimmy Reptile and all his friends" are saying. Incidentally, this "Jimmy Reptile" mentioned in the song is in fact Jimmy Swaggart, a homophobic Bible-thumper who was advocating the utter respect of family values, but was caught with prostitutes in a cheap motel at the time. That rat apologised publicly on air, cunningly shedding a few crocodile tears, asking for the forgiveness of God and his flock, which earned him even more followers. As Voltaire is supposed to have said, "Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool"...

Unfortunately the lyrics of 'Holy Smoke' are not enough to save this song, which lacks that elusive deep and compelling mood. Maiden don't seem to be at their best with political or contemporary subjects – instead their strength resides more in History, films, and literature.

This is about TV preachers and all the various lies they tell and I just had this big image of all those ovens in the death camps with the preachers' feet sticking out and holy smoke going up. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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4.0-star   No Prayer For The Dying (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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A Prayer for the Dying – The Film This is a very introspective song, which combines soft acoustic verses with powerful choruses and instrumentals. Although its title may have been inspired by the 1987 film, the lyrics do not deal at all with the story line. Its topic is the familiar questions about the meaning of life, which the song doesn't attempt to answer. Instead, there is an uncharacteristic appeal to God for answers. However, it is difficult to see a link between the lyrics and the song's title. In any case, this is a very good song, possibly one of the best on the entire album.

This song has Steve's lyrics and for me it has the best vocals on the album – the one I like best, even though it's like just two lines. It's one of the best "quiet beginning"-type songs I've ever done with Maiden and I really like the melody line. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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3.0-star   Public Enema Number One (Murray, Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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'Public Enema Number One' is another politically motivated song, which seems to be pointing out the "enema" that the public is getting from the current state of the world. For those who are not familiar with medical terms, an enema is, according to the dictionary, "the injection of liquid into the rectum through the anus for cleansing, for stimulating evacuation of the bowels, or for other therapeutic or diagnostic purposes." Basically and crudely speaking, it's about "getting it up the arse". Even though it's political, it is a stronger song than 'Holy Smoke', with great but too short guitar solos. It's one of the better songs on the album.

It's actually about... green hypocrites. It's about a big guy with his fast car, and he's leaving the city in a cloud of smoke leaving the children crying in fear. He's got a one-way ticket out of here. Fine, see ya. Because he can afford it, he's left everyone else behind and in the cities there is over crowding, guns and riots and it seems like everything is gonna snap. The politicians just lie to save their own skins, gamble that they are gonna do the right thing, and they give the press scapegoats all the time. The whole thing is based on a cross between New York and LA and I just hope the kids of today have more brains than the frazzled remains of the Sixties and the Seventies generations... California dreaming as the earth dies screaming! That's what it's about, people talking about the environment and not doing anything. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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3.0-star   Fates Warning (Murray, Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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'Fates Warning' is a fairly standard song whose subject is the finality and unavoidability of fate. This topic is still open to discussion: are our experiences simply a string of coincidences, or are our lives already laid out for us? A pre-destined life seems – to me at least – quite unlikely, though...

The best feature of this song is the good instrumental and the guitar solos. To my knowledge, 'Fates Warning' has never been played live in concert.

Steve's words again. This is about feeling secure when everyone's life can hang by a thread. You can go anytime and who knows why or how? 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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4.5-star   The Assassin (Harris) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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This song is lyrically very similar to 'Killers', describing the perspective of a hit-man as he prepares for the assassination. The feeling of the song matches perfectly what a real hit-man once said to a psychologist:

"I have a special power. It takes a special power to kill a fellow man and it gives you a secret something – a force, a confidence, afterwards. [...] There is a something which I feel as I do the job. It is a private thing, but you know when you fly, at take-off, you feel a strange feeling in your body, not explicable, but strange. A sort of revolution in your belly. That's the way I feel when I kill. It's no mystery."

The music successfully manages to create a mysterious James Bond-ish type of mood, but unfortunately never rises to any type of climax. It is still a very good song, though.

Here we are trying to get into the head of a hired killer. He doesn't do it for money, but because he likes it and he's cool, calculating, cold and sadistic. These are Steve's lyrics again. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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5.0-star   Run Silent Run Deep (Harris, Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum

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Run Silent Run Deep – The Film Based on the classic novel by Edward L. Beach (1918–2002) and the 1958 film starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, this song is about WWII submarine warfare in the Pacific. It's a brilliant song, which does a good job of recreating the mood of suspense and excitement of the film.

For those who are not familiar with the English language and who wonder who Davy Jones may be, just know that "Davy Jones's locker" is a common name give to the bottom of the sea, and especially the grave of those who died at sea. Apparently, the term was first recorded in 1726, and alludes to Davy Jones, a name given to the evil spirit of the sea. The real origin of both "Davy" and "Jones" is disputed. A logical theory is that Jones referred to the biblical Jonah, who, according to the legend, was swallowed by a whale and spent 3 day inside, and that Davy was a corruption of a West Indian word for "devil". Alternatively, Jones may have been a real character – a 16th century publican (mentioned in the ballad Jones Ale Is Newe) who owned a locker, much feared by sailors, where he stored his beer. The first mention of Davy Jones – his locker came later – is to be found in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, written by Tobias Smollett in 1751. Lastly, Davy Jones may have taken his surname from Jonah, but first name from Saint David, the patron saint of Wales and guardian of Welsh sailors.

These are some words I wrote for the Somewhere In Time album. That particular song never made it but I kept the words, and when Steve came up with something, I said: 'You know what will fit brilliantly there – these words'. It's a song about submarines, actually the first song about submarines. 'Dive, Dive, Dive' came later. This is a slightly more serious version. The title comes from one of my favourite war movies. We do use a lot of film and book titles because they always inspire good material for us. But then books crop up a lot on films! This is about the dog eat dog, no mercy world of life and death at sea during the Second World War, and it was as rough for the guys below as it was for the guys up top. They both engaged in this evil struggle without any mercy. And the sea didn't have any mercy. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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2.5-star   Hooks In You (Dickinson, Smith) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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'Hooks In You' represents Adrian Smith's last song writing contribution to Iron Maiden until the Brave New World album. Some people argue that this song is a continuation of the 'Charlotte The Harlot' saga, and perhaps the strongest evidence for this is the reference to "number 22". Like 'Charlotte The Harlot' and '22, Acacia Avenue', this song speaks of a relationship with a woman who is unable or unwilling to reciprocate. However, the mood of the song is very unlike the other "Charlotte" songs, and has that "happy" sound. Because of this, I generally do not consider it to be part of the series.

'Hooks In You' is a slightly tongue-in-cheek thing. Me and Paddy went to look at a house to buy and it was lived in by three gay guys. We looked around and it had all these beams, and one of the guys was obviously into S&M and leather and stuff, and in one room there were these enormous industrial hooks screwed into the beams. My mind boggled at what they could be used for. I went home and wrote 'Hooks In You' with the line 'All the hooks in the ceiling, that well hung feeling'. I couldn't write it about gay guys, but what if you went round to the house of Mr. and Mrs. Average you found all these hooks in the ceiling? What do THEY get up to? (Did Bruce buy the house?) No we didn't! At the end of the song the guy thinks his wife has been unfaithful and sets her in concrete in the foundations. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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2.5-star   Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter (Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics Discuss this song in the forum
 

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Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter single The original version of this song was written by Bruce Dickinson for the Nightmare On Elm Street 5 soundtrack and featured Janick Gers on guitar (before he had joined Iron Maiden). According to the Iron Maiden FAQ, this song is based on the poem To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell (1621–1678). After reading the poem several times, I am a bit skeptical that it has much to do with this song. To His Coy Mistress is a love poem, where the poet is urging his lady to abandon her coyness. On the other hand, the song seems to be coarsely sexual ('slaughter' is just a metaphor). Perhaps it parallels the poem in some extremely distant way, but shares in little of the poem's depth and introspectiveness. However the song is quite good musically, especially in the instrumental and excellent guitar solos, and was part of the standard concert setlist until the departure of Bruce Dickinson. But taken at face value, many people – mostly those who have daughters! – may be offended by the title and apparent subject of this song.

Here I tried to sum up what I thought Nightmare On Elm Street movies are really about, and it's all about adolescent fear of period pains. That's what I think it is – deep down. When a young girl first gets her period she bleeds and it happens at night, and so she is afraid to go to sleep and it's a very terrifying time for her, sexually as well, and Nightmare On Elm Street targets that fear. The real slaughter in the Freddie movies is when she loses her virginity. That is the rather nasty thought behind it all, but that's what makes those kind of movies frightening. 

Bruce Dickinson


 

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

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'Mother Russia' is a tribute to Russia and the Russian people, inspired by the imminent collapse of soviet communism at that time. However, many Russians don't like this song, as they consider it somehow patronising. It is the epic song of the album in the Steve Harris tradition, and while not quite in the same league with others such as 'Phantom Of The Opera' or 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', it is still a decent song. You can really hear those synths on this one, and anyone who thinks that there are no synths on this album should give this another listen.

'Mother Russia' is about the tragedy of a great land which has an incredible history of being overrun and people being massacred, for centuries, and this song says: wouldn't it be great if Russia could finally get itself together now and live in peace? 

Bruce Dickinson

In contrary to what the Commentary says, the song cannot have been inspired by the 'fall of Soviet Communism', simply because it had not taken place by the time the song was written (1990).

The song is much more inspired by the political reforms that took place under Gorbachev's government, known as Glasnost and Perestroika, in the same vein as 'Wind Of Change' by Scorpions. Gorbachev was/is not an anti-Communist – else, he would've ended in Siberia and not at the head of the Communist Party. Gorbachev was much more a realist who knew that the people of the Soviet Union were not happy with the way things were. It does not take many brain cells to realize that the people were not free in the Soviet Union despite what all the propaganda said.

During the 1980s, the Soviet Union suffered from a series of economical mistakes made in the past, which were not all because of Communist ideology, but also because of ecological short-sightedness. Take, for example, the quick dependency on agricultural ground in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which turned out to be a disaster, with the Kazakh farmlands turning into deserts again and the Aral Sea shrinking dramatically. These small examples can serve to visualize the dramatic situation in the entire Eastern Block. No matter how much the Communist rulers struggled against it, sooner or later, a change had to take place if they still wanted to stay in power.

What really forced these political changes, however, was the increasing unhappiness among the populations of the Communist countries. After a wave of unrests and riots in the 1950s, most importantly in Poland, East Germany and Hungary, the Communist world had been quite peaceful, bar Czechoslovakia in 1968. The 80s proved to be rather turbulent, with the people of Poland making the start in the 1980s with the Solidarnosc movement. Other Satellite states of the USSR quickly followed suit, most importantly Hungary. Surely everyone here will know that Iron Maiden toured Poland and Hungary in 1985, something that would have been outright impossible just five years earlier!

Gorbachev became president of the USSR in 1986. He quickly introduced political reforms that guaranteed more freedoms and rights to the people. It soon became clear that Gorbachev was not too keen on keeping the Eastern Block as it was, and therefore tolerated the democratic process in formerly Communist countries – much to the dismay of Communist hardliners.

In 1990, when the song was written, the Soviet Union had changed its face considerably. While the people were still not exactly "free", as the song claims, they did enjoy a vast number of liberties they didn't have before. The system of satellite states of the USSR was in the process of collapsing. Countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were peacefully becoming democracies. East Germany was in the process of re-unifying with the Federal Republic (which finally happened on 3rd October 1990 – two days after No Prayer For The Dying was released) while Romania got rid of Ceaucescu in a bloody revolution a year before.

Despite what the song claims, Russia did not finally enjoy peace and freedom. It was at the verge of civil war in 1993, after the Soviet Union had officially been disbanded in 1992 following declarations of independence by almost all former Soviet Republics. Today, the situation has improved, but poverty and crime are a very big problem in Russia, and the level of political freedom and security is certainly not comparable to western standards.

Perun – 10th October 2004

Definitely one of Maiden's most enduring commentaries on contemporary events. As stated above, the song was written around 1990 when the Soviet Union was collapsing under its own weight. I believe the second stanza is key to this understanding:

Mother Russia poetry majestic
Tells the time of a great empire
Turning round the old man ponders
Reminiscing an age gone by

It seemed like the real Russia could reassert itself. The glory days of the Tsars when Russia was at the centre of the world, politically and culturally. Russian art and culture thrived, and out of the cold barren steppe a great empire emerged. That is, in my opinion, the "age gone by" about which the old man is reminiscing.

As we know, however, the new Russia did not revert to the greatness of the old. The country is being torn apart by terrorists, corrupt officials, poor economic outlooks, etc. In these unsure times, many Russians have looked back to the glory days of the Soviet Union: The Great Patriotic War, the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin; when the world trembled at the sound of their rockets (to steal from the Hunt for Red October). This nostalgia is manifesting itself in many ways. The old Soviet Anthem, with its imposing refrains, was adopted (with new words) as the anthem of the Russian Federation. The Russian government is becoming increasingly centralized under Putin, making it resemble the Soviet system more each day. The people have forgotten the horrors and brutality of the old regime in favour of the relative security and ‘sureness’ it offered.

In other words, this song comments on the Russian habit of always looking back instead of forward. The music is superb, and unlike almost anything else Iron Maiden plays. Even if it weren’t entitled 'Mother Russia' and the words not present, the listener instantly recognises the ‘Russianess’ of the music.

IronDuke – 11th May 2005


 

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