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In Profile – Transcription
 
In Profile

In Profile

1998


Transcription

Written & 
narrated by: 
 
Interviewee: 
Interviewee: 
Interviewee: 
Interviewee: 

Mike Hurst
 
Steve Harris
Dave Murray
Rod Smallwood
Blaze Bayley

 

Commentary

PART I: EARLY MAIDEN DAYS 

Football to Iron Maiden and the Ruskin Arms

PART II: GROUNDWORK

The Soundhouse Tapes, Eddie the 'Ead and Maiden meet Neil Kay and find manager Rod Smallwood

PART III: ASCENDANCY

Maiden's first album and their first Reading Festival. The Killers World Tour and Bruce replaces Paul

PART IV: SUPREMACY

A Top Ten single, a Number One album, massive live productions, World Tours and the hits keep on coming

PART V: LEGENDS

Stadium room only, more hit albums and the departure of Dickinson. Blaze joins and Iron Maiden are confirmed as one of the greatest influences ever of Heavy Rock

 

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Playing: From Here To Eternity (Harris) From Here To Eternity – Commentary From Here To Eternity – Lyrics

Gothic horror, Leytonstone in London's East End, West Ham football club, Heavy Metal... At first glance these things have absolutely nothing in common, until you add the name Steve Harris. Steve, or Harry to his mates, was the catalyst in the formation of a group who've gone down in music business history as one of the all-time great Metal bands: Iron Maiden. Maiden, a band who've sold over 42 million albums, performed nearly 3,000 gigs worldwide, and have what is probably the most solid and faithful fan following of any group on the planet.

In his early years Harry had wanted to play serious football, and in certain parts of London you don't get much more serious than West Ham and Harry was no exception.

Steve Harris: I was playing for a club called Beaumont Youth, playing for a sort of under 14 side on the Sundays, and there was quite a few players already at the club who were actually trying to move up in clubs like QPR and I think [unintelligible], stuff like that... So apparently, I don't know... I didn't know a guy called Wally St Pier, he was a quite famous scout for West Ham at the time... Been to see me two or three times. I didn't even know he'd been there, I didn't even know what he looked like or anything like that. And then he just invited me down but obviously, being West Ham, I was very pleased because it's my team, but... So I trained down there when I was about 14, for about 9 months. And then I suppose I realised it wasn't what I wanted to do. It was just a bit of a shock in a way. So I gave up football for a year after that, I was quite sort of disillusioned and, you know, surprised it wasn't what I wanted be dedicated to, so... I suppose if I'd carried on, I mean, I dunno if I would have made it great with him anyway you know, it's sort of the same. But you know, I still love playing.

For Harry professional football may have been off the agenda, but in London in the seventies if you wanted adulation and the promise of untold wealth, there was always Rock music. Even in Leytonstone. A school friend of Harry's, Dave Smith, played guitar and this inpired Harry to follow suit. He opted however for bass guitar and he bought a Fender copy for about £40.

Steve Harris: I used to go around a friend of mine's and just play like chess and that a lot, and he used to play all these different Rock albums which I thought were a bit weird at the time, and he used to play stuff like early Genesis, and King Crimson, and Black Sabbath, and stuff like that... and Jethro Tull, people like that... and... So I started buying some of these albums 'cause some of the stuff sounded really interesting and that was it I just really... I got into the Rock stuff and the next step was that I wanted to play, you know, I wanted to be able to play like that.

Playing: Remember Tomorrow (Harris, Di'Anno) Remember Tomorrow – Commentary Remember Tomorrow – Lyrics

Harry and Dave formed a group called Influence who almost immediately became Gypsy's Kiss. But the gypsy's career was short-lived and Harry joined another EastEnd band called Smiler. However, they didn't play the kind of music that Harry was into at this time. He loved Wishbone Ash, UFO and the like, but Smiler was essentially a boogie band. They did try to play what as Harry describes as his first proper song, but discounted it as "having too many changes". He quit Smiler because of their musical differences and set about forming a band who would play the kind of music he was writing, the kind of music Steve Harris loved. By December 1975, he'd done just that.

Playing: Iron Maiden (Harris) Iron Maiden – Commentary Iron Maiden – Lyrics

'Iron Maiden', a Steve Harris composition that first got an airing in public at the Cart And Horses pub, Stratford, in London in May 1976. It was also the name of the new band taken from a medieval torture device Harry had seen in the 1939 movie The Man In The Iron Mask. The original Iron Maiden was designed for exquisite torture but then, as far as power was concerned, so was the new one. What influences did the band have? Purple? Hendrix?

Steve Harris: Davey Murray was really into Hendrix, being a guitar player I suppose. But I liked a couple of songs, you know, and what sounds and stuff like that, but I wasn't really an Hendrix fanatic. I was more into some of the bands like some of the ones I already mentioned like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, [unintelligible], stuff like that, but I was also into Sabbath and some of the obvious ones... Stray, UFO, Wishbone Ash, stuff like that. I think my earliest influences was probably Wishbone Ash, with twin guitar thing. Wishbone Ash was the real big love, you know.

In that first incarnation of Maiden, there was Ron "Rebel" Matthews on drums, vocals by Paul Day, with Terry Rance and Dave Sullivan on guitars, and of course Steve Harris on bass. These virgin Maiden days were fraught with difficulty, not least for the fact that Punk was big business at that time. It was hard enough for Harry to stick to his belief in his music in the face of market trends, but that wasn't his only problem. During the next few years there were so many comings and goings in the band that Harry could have easily been forgiven for not knowing who was playing what and where they were playing it.

Steve Harris: It's always been difficult finding people, I mean there's been people in and out, it's been over the years about 20 people who have been in and out of this band. So... But you could see it always in the early days, because, you know, you got nothing to offer people, really. I was into the quality of your songs maybe, you know. I mean, it was very very difficult to find people who were going to be dedicated and believe in what you do. I found Davey and Davey has been there ever since, really. So he really believed in the songs and that. But it's very difficult to find people who are actually going to be dedicated and put all their time in, and I know I did that, but be dedicated to the point where they were actually blow-up the stuff that's important to them, to actually do, you know, gigs if gigs came in. And at that point we couldn't turn anything down. I mean any gig came in and you just have to go and do it, you know. It's just that every bit was vitally important as far as we were concerned.

Playing: Prowler (Harris) Prowler – Commentary Prowler – Lyrics

The next 12 months saw the foundation of the Iron Maiden old boys association. Apart from the original line-up, there was Bob Sawyer, Dennis Wilcock, Tommy Moore, Terry Wrapram, Thunderstick, Doug Sampson, Paul Cairns and Paul Todd. In all, there were 14 changes. But one of these would remain constant with one small hiccup: Davey Murray.

Dave Murray: It was through the gate of Dennis Wilcock who was one of the, you know, singers. I'd been... played in a band with him and parted. And when Iron Maiden... he joined Iron Maiden, and when they were looking for a guitarist he suggested me. So I went down for an audition with the band. And I remember it was in a mobile home in the middle of a cow field in the countryside. And I remember carrying guitars and amps across this sort of muddy field, you know, cows and everything, into the back of this mobile and we jammed a few of the songs and it was, you know... just immediately like the spark happened and for me it was like playing this type of music. I'd finally found something that... I mean, I could explore guitar playing and have a great time with it, you know.

During '77, Iron Maiden established what was to be a fanatical fan base through the legendary gigs of the Ruskin Arms, in East Ham, or The Bridgehouse in Canning Town. But despite being seen by quite a few A&R men from the record companies, no one was interested in signing them. Perhaps that was why Dennis Wilcock, who'd remained as lead vocalist throughout many of the changes, decided to quit in the middle of that year, somewhat inconveniently right before a gig at the Green Man in Plumstead. Drummer Thunderstick followed suit, and then they were two. Most musicians would have given up there and then, but not Harry and Dave. They found Doug Sampson, Cairns and Todd were here today and gone tomorrow, but most important of all they needed a powerful new singer, a frontman. A friend of Harry's introduced him to a tear-away from Chingford, Essex, who auditioned for the band. He did the Deep Purple number 'Dealer' and cut himself a slice of Rock legend. Paul Di'Anno made his first live appearance with Maiden at the Ruskin Arms on New Year's Eve 1978.

Playing: Strange World (Harris) Commentary Lyrics

 

 

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Dave Murray: You know, he used to wear sort of leather and the studs and that sort of stuff, and he was very aggressive on stage, except whereas a lot of Punk bands were screaming and hollowing, he actually had... you know, had a very good voice, a musical voice and was very, you know, very strong. And so he had a lot of melody in there, so it was kind of a good balance between us playing real fast and furious if you like, and he was actually singing, you know, sort of a bit melodic over the top of it.

If Paul Di'Anno was a little bit punk, the music industry was awash with it. As in most walks of life, there's a recognised structure in the music business. It's compartmentalised, and there's definitely a hierarchy. Despite the Ozzy Osbourne-type antics of Metal, Punk's frenzied aggression didn't sit well with the heavy bands.

Steve Harris: No, because to me it was aggression going nowhere, it was just, you know... to me unless you channel the aggression into the songs, the power of the songs, then it doesn't really do a lot. It's just jumping around, raving about all over the place. And without good songs, to me it doesn't really mean a lot. There's one or two bands at that time who wrote very good songs, but to me the majority of them didn't really have very many good songs and not only that, the worse thing of all they couldn't play. I mean, you know, when [unintelligible] with these bands, they were just awful.

When it came to promoting his own music, Harry was in a class of his own. He took all the other London bands on with a full-frontal assault. Maiden ran ads that pulled no punches: "Rock kings of the EastEnd, we break, shake, shock and rock, and we make the rest look average stock". It didn't endear them to their competitors, but what the hell, people noticed. They also noticed and snapped up the first Iron Maiden T-shirts which are now classics in their own right. Oh, and that was Harry's idea too.

Steve Harris: Yeah, I mean the logo... it was just, I mean, I used to be an architecture draughtsman and stuff and such so [unintelligible]. I'd done sort of designs for an earlier band I was in, the very first band, it was called Influence and I did sort of artwork for that as well. So it was just a natural thing really.

What wasn't about so natural was the creation of Eddie The 'Ead. When Dennis Wilcock appeared in the band, he'd employed all sorts of horror theatrics which Harry wanted to adapt in a better way for the new lineup. Maiden had been running their mini-show with a basic lighting setup financed by Steve's aunt. The rig included a backdrop of a facemask with the band's logo that billowed smoke from its mouth.

Steve Harris: It was probably a bit daft really, but it just really, I don't know... It just made a bit more of attention to the... something different, you know... People sort of... You know, once you're drawn people's attention, then what you've got it in the end, you know, then it's up to you to prove what you can do, and stuff like that. And so, you know, all the theatrics and whatever we were trying to do... We were into... But, you know, you go and see Yes and [unintelligible], it's absolutely, trying new stuff like that, it cost us quite... It's not quite as well in the Cart & Horses as it is in the Rainbow theater, but you know...

Playing: Charlotte The Harlot (Murray) Charlotte The Harlot – Commentary Charlotte The Harlot – Lyrics

Throughout 1978, Iron Maiden were big fish in the EastEnd of London. They were making £30 a night, they had their own light show and a hardcore fan following. But with Punk and now New Wave on the rise, Harry knew they had to break new ground or stagnate. Records were the only answer, but to date no record company had shown any interest. Maiden had to make their own record. Harry decided to use a studio in Cambridge that his old friend Den Wilcock had recommended, and on the last day of the year the band had paid the pricely sum of £200 for two days' work at Spaceward Studio. They recorded 'Iron Maiden', 'Prowler', 'Invasion', and 'Strange World'. Happy with the result, they planned to return a few weeks later when they'd earned some more money to put the finishing touches to the tracks. But when they did, they found the studios had wiped the masters. They needn't have worried, what they had was raw and powerful, the essence of what Maiden was all about. What they needed though was a break. A DJ called Neil Kay was packing them in at his club the Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse at Grimby Circle in North London. He was flying the flag for what was now being called the New Wave Of Heavy Metal, a name coined by Sounds' Jeff Barton.

Steve Harris: I suppose the most important thing was the demo tape was being played at the Soundhouse by Neil Kay, because that was the thing that started people getting interested in the band. I mean, we did the demo tape basically to get work. We didn't get it... we didn't dream of it being played anywhere or anything like that. We was just trying to, you know, because whenever you'd go and try to get a gig, and I was the one who was always trying to get the gig because we didn't have a manager or anything like that at the time. People'd say "Well, what do you sound like?" and I mean how do you explain to someone what you sound like? I mean we did a four-track demo and then we gave it to Neil Kay and he started playing it at his Soundhouse and people started voting for it, and their favourite tracks or whatever and we started getting into these Sounds charts and stuff like that. So that's really what got the ball rolling as far as getting lots of people know you, because wherever we were going doing gigs after that, people were going to check us out, "who was this unknown band?", you know. So we were actually not filling a lot of pubs and clubs, you know, we all had a bit of a buzz about us, I think so, that really... I think that was the first break. It was with Neil Kay.

With the increasing popularity of the Soundhouse Tapes, Maiden now had a growing audience. And Kay put them out on his Heavy Metal Crusade Tour, along with Angel Witch and Samson. Jeff Barton of Sounds voted them the "best by far" and also credited Maiden's greatest fan at the Soundhouse, Rob Loonhouse, with inventing air guitar playing. Iron Maiden were making their mark, but they still didn't have a manager. Enter Rod Smallwood.

Rod Smallwood: When I first saw Maiden they played without the lead singer Paul Di'Anno who'd been arrested for carrying a work knife in his pocket and the police stopped him outside this one Hammersmith and took him away. It was the second time I'd been to see the band, the first time they didn't play because Steve had a big argument with the pub landlord who asked him to go on stage early. He wouldn't because he'd got friends from the EastEnd who were due to arrive. That was at the Windsor Castle up in Harrow, Harrow Road. And so this is the second time I've been to see them. Paul had been arrested Steve came up to me and said, "Well, what shall we do?" I said, "Well, do you know the songs?" He says, "Yes, I wrote them", so I said, "So can you sing?" He said, "No, not really". So I said, "Well, go ahead anyway give it a shot". So they went up on stage, there was just Steve, Dave Murray and the old drummer Doug Sampson, and I just remember thinking I'd never seen anybody look the audience in the eye with the same intent as they had on stage, and how much they were obviously into it and was probably the most real band I'd ever seen. And I just thought they were quite remarkable and they wanted to do it straight away, and they still are the same, down to the same intent and the same look in the eye.

Playing:

Transylvania (Harris)

Commentary

Lyrics

The first Iron Maiden headline tour commenced at The Gallery in Birkenhead and then criss-crossed the country, picking up legions of new fans along the way. But for Rod Smallwood they needed a record deal and, as he himself admitted, it was a near impossibility to get A&R men off their backsides to go anywhere. However, Rod had managed to include one night at the legendary Marquee Club in London.

Rod Smallwood: One of the very special things about the first Marquee gig was about the guy who ran it £5 a week before they would sell out. So I bet him a fiver the day of the show would've sold out by seven o'clock, the doors open at 6:30, there was a massive queue outside and it was obviously very vibrant, very happening, it was the first time we'd brought down A&R people and they could hardly see it was so packed. And in those days they went at 7:15 to the Marquee and they didn't worry about fire regulations so much in 1979.

John Darnley of EMI persuaded his boss Brian Shepherd, head of A&R, to come and see the band. Shepherd got to the gig late and could only get room at the back. Being small of stature, he could hardly see Maiden but the reaction of the crowd was enough to persuade him to sign them. Prior to signing in November that year, the band released three tracks from the original Soundhouse Tapes: 'Prowler', 'Invasion' and 'Iron Maiden'. The EP was on their own label, Rock Hard Records, and although the demand was enormous Maiden kept supplies for hardcore fans only. Probably just as well as they finally signed with EMI on December 15th, 1979. Rod had done it and now he felt confident enough to take on management... or did he?

Rod Smallwood: The band always tended to listen to me from the beginning because they were very inexperienced. They were very wary of even having a manager, and I was worried of manageing a band. I'd managed or could manage previously called Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel who I had a very poor experience with towards the end, and I didn't really want to trust another band. I was actually not looking to manage anyone at the time I met up with Maiden, and I insisted... I didn't even sign a management agreement with them after they'd actually signed, after they actually obtained and signed the management and publishing agreements. So there was always very much a team effort, there was a lot of trust from the word go.

Meanwhile Tony Parsons had been replaced by Dennis Stratton on guitar, and Clive Burr had joined replacing Doug Sampson on drums. EMI released a compilation sampler called Metal For Muthas which included Maiden naturally. The support tour for the album coincided with the release of the first Iron Maiden single in February 1980.

Playing: Running Free (Harris, Di'Anno) Running Free – Commentary Running Free – Lyrics
 

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In the first week of release, Running Free charted an amazing feat for a Heavy Metal record and one which prompted the BBC to offer the band a slot on Top Of The Pops. Rod nearly had apoplexy! His band on a plastic show like that? Never! But never isn't always for ever and Rod finally agreed, but only on the understanding they did it live. The BBC agreed although it had been eight years since a similar performance by The Who. It was the first time Top Of The Pops had had a Heavy Metal band on with their first single record and in their first week of release. Almost immediately Maiden began recording their first album with Will Malone at Kingsway Studios in London. To promote the forthcoming album, Maiden supported the Judas Priest UK tour and when it wound up in Birmingham at the end of March it proved to be the last time Iron Maiden would support anybody in the UK. The album aponymously called Iron Maiden was released on April 11th and went straight to number 4, going silver with over 60,000 sales. Maiden had arrived.

Playing: Phantom Of The Opera (Harris) Phantom Of The Opera – Commentary Phantom Of The Opera – Lyrics

1980 was a career turning point for Iron Maiden. Almost immediately after the Priest tour finished, they set off on their own first major headline tour: 42 dates including the sell-out at The Rainbow, Finsbury Park. Maiden released a new single to promote the tour. It was an old Steve Harris classic that had originally been lost on the Muthas album. It was the artwork that caused a storm in the shape of our old friend, Eddie.

Rod Smallwood: We'd named the company after Maiden's song, Sanctuary, which became a hit single in 1980. It depicted the sort of Iron Maiden... of the Iron Maiden at the time, Maggie Thatcher, quite appropriately.

Playing: Sanctuary (Harris, Di'Anno, Murray) Sanctuary – Commentary Sanctuary – Lyrics

The cover of the Sanctuary single depicting Eddie finishing off Thatcher for apparently tearing down their Iron Maiden Tour poster set the good and the great tearing their hair out. The Daily Mirror went to town on it, EMI were forced to put a black line through Thatcher's eyes. But this was censorship, it didn't make a jot of difference since the massive publicity had already done the job. The Maiden had taken on the Lady, West Ham had won the cup final, what a month! And it didn't stop there.

Steve Harris: The first really big gig we did was probably Reading festival in August 1980 when we were special guests to UFO and in front of about 30,000 people. It was a great time as the band, you know, would release the first album which ended at number 4 after we toured with Judas Priest. And then it was sort of a combination in Britain of a great year for the band, playing to that many people and having, you know, a tremendous reaction.

It's was Europe's chance to get turned on to Maiden. In August they embarked on the Kiss tour as their special guests and hit Italy, Switzerland, Norway, France, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, and Belgium. It was tough going for the band because, whereas Kiss could jet from place to place, Maiden were doing it the hard way: on the road. Exhausted or not, they gave Kiss a good run for their money, to the extent that Gene Simmons even blagued one of their T-shirts with the excuse that "If I had one with the name of a group that's going straight to the top, I wouldn't mind". On their return to the UK, Dennis Stratton quit due to good old "musical differences". To replace him came an old mate of Davey's from a band called Urchin: Adrian "H" Smith. Before recording a new album, the band took out the new lineup on a warm-up tour of 12 gigs. To coincide with it they needed a new single. They were persuaded by their publisher to cover an Australian single called Women In Uniform and the cover showed Maggie with a gun waiting to get her revenge on Eddie who has his arms wrapped around a couple of top-heavy nurses. Everafter the group were to refer to this track as "naff". The record peaked at 35, resulting in an indifferent Top Of The Pops performance due to studio difficulties. But the band made a promo video, becoming only the second Rock outfit after Queen to pre-date the MTV era. Now Iron Maiden secured the services of Deep Purple's producer Martin Birch. And after a spell in Battery Studios, Killers was released in February 1981. After the amazing success of 1980, perhaps it was inevitable there would be an anticlimax. That came in the form of an unfavourable critique in Sounds and the hypothesis that Maiden might have "lost it". If anybody really thought that all they had to do was go and see the Killers World Tour which covered 15 countries, including Japan and the USA.

Playing: Purgatory (Harris) Purgatory – Commentary Purgatory – Lyrics

When Iron Maiden started the American leg of the Killers Tour, they knew their had a job to do. America is never the easiest market to crack especially, as the band and Rod knew, they could rely on airplay. To do that you have to have an easy-listening hit along the lines of Toto or Foreigner. This was something Maiden refused to compromise on, regardless of the instant success that airtime delivered. No one says it better than Davey.

Dave Murray: It would have been nice if we had one, but, you know, we've kind of done thing in our own terms, we haven't had to make us a song, you know, that's just for radio, which would sell the album. I think the albums tend to sell themselves, you know, from the fans and... and us not actually setting out of becoming commercial, you know. And I think we, that way, we kind of stuck by our guns, I think. Possibly that's why we've been able to stick around for so long, because we haven't actually sold out and followed the trends and become commercial, just stuck what we believe in and what we love doing, you know.

Playing: Wrathchild (Harris) Wrathchild – Commentary Wrathchild – Lyrics

'Wrathchild' was another track off the new album, an album that justified Maiden's tough stance on their music in the USA. Sales of Killers topped 200,000 and it cracked the Top 100 billboard chart. America had its first taste of Iron Maiden, and Steve Harris had his first taste of America.

Steve Harris: The first gig we played in the States was in Vegas and the first actual time we went to the States, we spent 5 days before that in L.A. and they're both really crazy places. And so we just thought, how are we going to end two months of this? It was just a crazy place.

Playing: Killers (Di'Anno, Harris) Killers – Commentary Killers – Lyrics

Steve Harris: But it's a great place to tour and it's just 24 hours of everything you want, you know, when you're on the road. And it was exciting because it was playing to a totally different kind of audience. We'd had a little taste of it in the early days because we played some US Air Force bases in the UK. And seeing that how crazy [unintelligible] the Americans could be. But it depends on the place where you're going in the States, I mean some areas are really crazy and other areas are going to be quite sort of conservative. So it was quite a change to... from the audience over here. And also really if they'd not heard much about you, they tend to just stand there with a sort of folded-arms attitude. And we just went out and really attacked the audience in a sort of gig-way and right over the monitors and right in their face, and I think they were shocked that a band would go out and actually be right in their face like that, so it was exciting. And a challenge.

The challenge certainly paid off with the album going gold in many of the other countries Maiden hit on that tour. Especially Japan, where their success led to the release of an EP imaginatively titled Maiden Japan. If there was one problem with this tour however, it was Paul Di'Anno's voice or rather lack of one. Paul being no shrinking violet and a lover of all the good things of life, namely booze, cigarettes and late nights, had lost his voice which meant gigs had to be cancelled. A parting of the ways was inevitable and Maiden looked elsewhere for a replacement. The lead singer with the group Samson, still sporting ex-Maiden Thunderstick, was the engagely named Bruce-Bruce, real name Bruce Dickinson. He was an interesting character whose roots were far removed from London's EastEnd. Harry didn't see this as a problem.

Steve Harris: It didn't really make any difference, I mean... because he'd actually gone to university or college or whatever in [unintelligible] You know... It didn't really have any bearing on the way we got on with him or anything like that. A lot of press made a big deal out of it, you know. That he was, you know, ex-public school boy and this kind of stuff. It didn't really make any difference to us. I mean, he didn't sort of try and come across as being anything different or better than the rest of us, so we just treated him normally and so on.

Education be damned, it was his voice the band wanted. And in September 1981, Bruce Dickinson joined Iron Maiden. Within a few warm-up gigs he'd made his mark with the fans, being christened the Air-Raid Siren on account of his unearthly screams. That power was evident on his first single release with the band in March 1982.

Playing: Run To The Hills (Harris) Run To The Hills – Commentary Run To The Hills – Lyrics
 

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Run To The Hills smashed into the UK charts at number 7, giving Iron Maiden their first Top 10 single. With a video produced by ex-stylist David Mallet, Top Of The Pops went wild, as did the emergent MTV who showed it round the clock. If the single's success set the tone for the year, the best was yet to come. In March, Maiden's third album was released. Based on the passage in Revelations referring to the 666 number and the film Omen II, which Harry had loved, the result of two months in the studio with Martin Birch was electrifying. The Number Of The Beast went straight to number 1 in the UK charts.

Playing: The Number Of The Beast (Harris) The Number Of The Beast – Commentary The Number Of The Beast – Lyrics

The artwork for the cover of Beast caused almost as much comment as the power and urgency of the music. It depicted a fiendish Eddie with the devil in tow, surrounded by hellfire and damnation. This imagery confirmed in the minds of some worthy souls Iron Maiden's pact with the devil and all his works.

Steve Harris: I guess that the Number Of The Beast kind of triggered the whole thing and... It happened in America, it's... you know, we had quite a few problems over there, you know, with censorship and... People marching up and down outside the gigs, you know, selling tickets and read the Bible, devil-worshippers... I mean, in fact we never really, you know... that whole imagery was kind of put upon us really, you know, we just wanted to do our own thing and not worry about what other people thought. We never actually used it as a kind of tool to, you know, be more outrageous. That's the easiest, you know, whole devil thing, you know. I mean, we're not, we never were satanists or devil-worshippers, it's just something that was... there was a couple of songs, you know, that people picked up on.

Playing: Hallowed Be Thy Name (Harris) Hallowed Be Thy Name – Commentary Hallowed Be Thy Name – Lyrics

When the band heard the news that the album was number one, they were busy push-starting a coach whilst on tour in Europe. Was this the action of a group of demented satanists or a bunch of no-nonsense lads from dear old London? The NME decided to sink their prejudices and give Eddie their front page spread.

Playing: Invaders (Harris) Invaders – Commentary Invaders – Lyrics

The Beast Tour was bigger than ever, it covered 18 countries and spanned nearly the whole of 1982. Eddie was now a twelve-foot monster looming over the band, record sales worldwide increased accordingly with the album making 33 in the States and selling over 350,000 copies. It went gold in Japan and Canada, and platinum in Australia. By the close of '82, Iron Maiden had become one of the biggest Rock bands in the world, and all through the power of the people, not the wireless.

Rod Smallwood: I think in the beginning we never really gave it very much thought. It seemed fairly obvious that Maiden's music didn't fit very prettily with the likes of the things at the time, being Kajagoogoo and such like. And particularly with the way... what Radio One was playing. We didn't know anything much about America at the beginning so we didn't even contemplate that. But the whole thing, Iron Maiden was built completely without any thought to radio, and radio was being an added bonus whenever we'd got it, which of course historically we never have, but it's something that hasn't been a major concern to us at any one point.

If Rod Smallwood knew where the strength of Maiden lay, so did the band. The formula was in place: album – tour, album –tour... Oh, and the occasional new band member. In December, Clive Burr left for personal reasons. The split was amicable and the lads missed the kindred spirit, but they found another in Nicko McBrain who'd been drumming for the French band Trust. Nicko fitted in perfectly and they all went off to Jersey in early '83 to rehearse album number four. This has always been Maiden's technique: write, rehearse and arrange upfront, and be ready for the studio well in advance. It's cheaper and it's safer that way. Ready to go, they left one island for another, the Bahamas at Compass Point Studios. The result:

Playing: Where Eagles Dare (Harris) Where Eagles Dare – Commentary Where Eagles Dare – Lyrics

'Where Eagles Dare' was the lead track on the Piece Of Mind album, an album that achieved even greater world sales than the Beast. An album that was also voted number one Metal album of all time by readers of Kerrang!, with Beast in second place. But the cover and a secret backward message in the grooves fed the wild imagination of the Bible-bashers. Little did they realise it was all a complete mickey-take. The World Piece '83 Tour started in Hull and ended in Dortmund, Germany, in November. The American section of the tour was their first ever full headliner, and this time no concert halls, only stadiums. Was this a gamble?

Steve Harris: If you start listening to marketing people or people who think they know what's best for you, then I dunno. I've always gone by our own instincts and hoped we can go far, but whenever we have listened to other people on the odd occasion it's usually when you simply get problems. So, it's not that I'm saying that we're always right, but I think if you don't go with what you feel you don't go far on. And if you do make a mistake, then I think you knew that 'cause you've just done what you though was right.

Harry and the band were right. The stadiums were sold-out and even without much airplay the album reached number 14 in the billboard chart and stayed there for 43 weeks, going gold in the process.

Playing: The Trooper (Harris) The Trooper – Commentary The Trooper – Lyrics

Each year had eclipsed the previous one in Maiden's career in terms of success. But the workload had become a well-established routine. Early 1984 saw Harry, Dave, Bruce, Adrian and Nicko off to Jersey and then the Bahamas to record the new album. This time the headmaster, as Martin Birch was affectionately called, took the tapes of the mix at the Electric Ladyland Studios in New York. The result was if anything more powerful than anything that had gone before. It was called aptly Powerslave and the cover depicted Eddie as the Egyptian god Horus, up to not good as per usual. The trailer single for the album was this little epic:

Playing: 2 Minutes to Midnight (Smith, Dickinson) 2 Minutes to Midnight – Commentary 2 Minutes to Midnight – Lyrics

Looking at the schedule of the World Slavery Tour, it was obvious that Maiden would need the power simply because they'd be working like slaves: 300 dates in 13 months through 28 countries. Rod Smallwood might or might not have seen himself in the role of slave-driver, but one thing's for sure: he was the man who had to solve the enormous logistical problems.

Rod Smallwood: The Maiden show was always being quite huge, particularly the Powerslave and Somewhere In Time tours. We took our own PA which we added to. I mean there's always been about 100,000 watts of their own PA which we added to for the festivals, and the lighting was enormous.

And it had to be. During the tour, Maiden played the Rock In Rio festival in South America in front of 200,000 fans and then went on to do four consecutive nights at the Long Beach Arena in Southern California, the capacity audiences. They were the first band to accomplish this feat, performing for over 52,000 people. Things had come a long way since the Cart & Horses in London.

Playing: Aces High (Harris) Aces High – Commentary Aces High – Lyrics

The World Slavery Tour finished in July 1985 and just as well there was a live album to come, Live After Death, plus a knock'em dead video. Iron Maiden had been on the road for five years, they'd circumnavigated the globe more times than round-the-world yacht racers, and they were now one of the top 3 best-selling artists on the EMI roster. What else could they want? They wanted a holiday, and no one could deny them, especially Rod who knew just how hard they'd worked to build up their enormous fan-following.

Rod Smallwood: Maiden's success in some respects is like a snowball effect, they wanted to do one album which went down extremely well with the fans. And those fans would in turn turn on their friend so the next album would be more successful and the tour would be bigger. And it continued snowballing and it was... it was great fun 'cause every time you went out, the new faces, new people, new places... And it was always dependent on the quality of the music and the live performance, not how much radio and TV we got.

Playing: Wasted Years (Smith) Wasted Years – Commentary Wasted Years – Lyrics

1986 certainly wasn't wasted, Maiden recorded and released a brand new album, Somewhere In Time. They made it in Nassau and in Holland with the same old setup, but for the first time Harry & Co. used synthesisers. Some critics came with the opinion this would would water down the hard driving rock that had made Maiden legendary. They needn't worry. Somewhere On Tour lasted for 9 months in 23 countries. Eddie was now a cyborg and the entire band was raised above the stage by hydraulics. One inflatable Eddie head and a huge claw loomed over them. Somewhere In Time reached number 3 in the UK, 11 in the States, and achieved gold or platinum in every other major territory in the world, and there was nothing synthetic about that.

Playing: Heaven Can Wait (Harris) Heaven Can Wait – Commentary Heaven Can Wait – Lyrics

There's no peace for the wicked or a rock band, and after a short break the band set up preparing a new album early in 1988. This one would acquire the tag "concept", not that it was designed that way, it just happened that the songs seemed to link as they were written. As a taster, Can I Play With Madness was released in March that year and went straight to number 3 in the UK.

Playing: Can I Play With Madness (Smith, Dickinson, Harris) Can I Play With Madness – Commentary Can I Play With Madness – Lyrics
 

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The Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour broke with Maiden tradition by starting on the North American continent. It took in the usual vast number of countries and also included headlining the legendary Donington Park Monsters Of Rock Festival in the UK, the biggest ever with Kiss, David Lee Roth, and Guns'N'Roses in supporting roles. The only band Kiss had ever supported.

Steve Harris: Their involvement in playing, say 1988 on the Seventh Son tour where we played 207,000 people at Donington and regularly toured anything between 40 and 60,000 right across Europe. The huge logistical problem was one of the advantages in the latest stages of Maiden was the fact we're always careful who we're planning to employ in the beginning.

The Seventh Son album went to number one in the UK and number twelve in the USA, gathering the usual plethora of gold and platinum along the way. 1989 was meant to be a rest year for Maiden, but Bruce and Adrian recorded solo albums, and Harry finished editing the video of two night at Birmingham's NEC the previous year. This was titled Maiden England and was released to celebrate the group's tenth anniversary in November. A typically British party was thrown by EMI and Rod, with beer and fish'n'chips on the menu to trumpet the success of one of the greatest Rock bands of all time. By 1990, the party was over and it was back to business which meant a new album. After seven years of stability it also meant another personnel change: Adrian Smith decided to quit for his own reasons which the band accepted. Luckily in the blink of an eye, guitarist Janick Gers, who had been with Gillan, lept to the opportunity when Harry offered him the job. Recording commenced at Steve's own studio in Harlow. The result: songs with a more serious edge that dealt with AIDS and big business corruption. No Prayer For The Dying hit number 2 in the UK, and the single Holy Smoke reached number 3.

Playing: Holy Smoke (Harris, Dickinson) Holy Smoke – Commentary Holy Smoke – Lyrics

With the album hitting 17 in the States, the band set off on a No Prayer On The Road Tour. They'd missed touring and this time they also wanted to get back to the roots of Metal. Not too much in the way of sets, just hard driving Rock enhanced by the amazing energy of new boy Janick. EMI released another track from the album in December and Bring Your Daughter gave Maiden their first number one single in the UK.

Playing: Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter (Dickinson) Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter – Commentary Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter – Lyrics

Harry then took time out to record the Zeppelin classic 'Rock'n'Roll' with tennis stars Pat Cash and John McEnroe. But now it was the 90s, the band and the management decided that an image change was on the cards. Maiden's image? Surely not!

Steve Harris: We've never been a fashion-conscious band, we just... you know... we just do what, you know, we're very selfish really, we just do what we want to do and the way we want to do it, and people, you know, take it or leave it really, and if they don't like it they'll have to lump it, I mean, we're very very sort of stubborn like that.

It was Eddie's image they changed for the new album Fear Of The Dark. A design by Melvyn Grant was chosen which depicted Eddie as a horrific green man, a twisted evil tree-creature. The opening single was co-written by Janick Gers and went straight to number 2 in Britain.

Playing: Be Quick Or Be Dead (Dickinson, Gers) Be Quick Or Be Dead – Commentary Be Quick Or Be Dead – Lyrics

The critically-acclaimed Fear Of The Dark was Maiden's third number one album in the UK, and the tour of the same name continued to break records all around the world. Once again they played Donington and the entire show was filmed for video release later that year, as was a live recording of several of the shows. With Eddie as a giant tree and the band on top form, the tour ended on November 4th in Tokyo and the band flew home.

Playing: Fear Of The Dark (Harris) Fear Of The Dark – Commentary Fear Of The Dark – Lyrics

In March 1993, Bruce Dickinson decided his turn with Maiden had run its full course and he wanted to concentrate on his own career, which included writing best-sellers for the literary world as well as the music business. Fortunately, there was time now to regroup and the group planned to release two live albums, one of later material and the other of vintage Maiden. The band advertised for a replacement and was predictably flooded with replies. Dickinson joined the rest of the band on the Real Live Tour ending up in Moscow for the first time in June. The Russians went berserk. Returning to the UK, Bruce bailed out on a pay-per-view magic and Rock TV show, Raising Hell, which was beamed all around the world.

Playing: Tailgunner (Harris, Dickinson) Tailgunner – Commentary Tailgunner – Lyrics

Now came the job of finding a new lead singer. In the end he was right under their noses: Blaze Bayley, lead singer with Wolfsbane, who had worked with Maiden before, was the optimum choice. No matter how much new talent was out there, a band with the stature of Iron Maiden had to choose someone who was tried and tested. But Blaze still had to audition.

Blaze Bayley: I thought I had a chance as much as anybody else 'cause I'm quite a determined person. But I thought, "I'm never going to get it", you know, it's such a dream job you know, it's... Suddenly you think you know "Well, but you know..." So I was just relieved more than anything that all the anxiety when you think, "Will I get it? Why will I get it? When will I get it?... <mumbles>", you know. So I was just, it was like "Are you sure? Are you sure?" you know, just to make sure, "It's me? You have phoned the right person? Are you sure?" And I just spent the next three days getting completely drunk and staying drunk.

So with a new singer and a new producer, Nigel Green with whom Steve Harris would share responsibility, Iron Maiden prepared a new album. It took a year, and because in a way it was a step into the unknown, Harry christened it The X Factor. It was released in October 1995.

Playing: Man On The Edge (Bayley, Gers) Man On The Edge – Commentary Man On The Edge – Lyrics

The X Factor Tour started in Israel and later took them to Maiden's first fully-comprehensive Eastern European dates. By now the album was Top 10 in the UK and world sales were confirming the new lineup certainly wasn't an "X factor". After all the changes, it must be strange for Davey Murray to look back and reflect on the fact that he and Steve had outlasted a host of Maidenites through the years.

Dave Murray: You know, Steve and I had something working in there, you know, the chemistry between us, but when there has been other members coming into the band, we've always felt, you know, we wanted to make it a complete band, not like a new member coming in, you know. So we always tried to keep it as a, as a, you know, the focus on the whole group, on five members. You know, but ultimately I think, you know, that Steve is like the nucleus behind the whole thing.

No one could have put it better. Iron Maiden started with a dream, Steve's dream, and it all came true. Right now the boys are working on yet another album and another tour to keep that legion of fans around the world, young and old, rocking and yelling for more.

Steve Harris: It's never lost its sparkle for me. I mean being out there in front of an audience that's really hitting on everything you're doing, or pretty almost everything. I think it is, you know, you can't ask for better than that really...

Playing: The Unbeliever (Harris, Gers) The Unbeliever – Commentary The Unbeliever – Lyrics
 

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Beginning
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Somewhere In Time
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