A super quick post today, just gonna cover the new song Metallica posted yesterday. It is the title track from their upcoming album 72 Seasons, which is about to hit its due date of April 14th. This the the fourth song they’ve posted from the album, at least I think.
This is the album’s opening track and is also a bit of a longer one – the video here runs for 8:38 but the actual song lists for 7:39. It is a pretty good song, very firmly in the latter-day Metallica vibe. I wonder if it really justifies its length, though I’m not usually one to complain about long songs. Length isn’t new territory for Metallica at all, they’ve had plenty of longer cuts over the years.
The album is near and I’m pretty stoked for it. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard so far, a few songs do get me going a bit and the others don’t put me off or anything. I don’t know where this album will rate at the end of it all but there’s certainly something to look forward to here. I’m also guessing that there will be a video for every song like there was for the last album so there will be more entertainment to dig into.
This week it’s another of Iron Maiden’s signature tunes. These are being rattled off one right after the other since, well, it’s when they released all of this stuff. We get two B-sides this time, a cover song and a live track.
As with all Maiden cover art of this era, the cover here is totally on point. It’s very simple – Eddie is a British pilot flying a Spitfire during the Battle of Britain in World War II. Pretty easy premise and wonderfully executed by Derek Riggs.
There are some version differences here, the obvious one being the extra B-side on the 12-inch record versus the 7-inch. As usual I have the 12-inch version, this one from the UK. There were some further differences among cassette singles across territories but those were B-sides available on singles I’ve recently covered so nothing huge to worry about there.
The single kicks off with its feature and namesake track, a magnificent song that soars as high as its subject matter. The music is anchored by the twin guitar attack of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, alongside the rumbling bassline of Steve Harris. Nicko McBrain bashes the skins accordingly, and Bruce Dickinson has another moment to live up to his nickname as the “Human Air Raid Siren,” this time more fitting than ever. The band fires on all cylinders here, but that guitar and bass combination really stands out here.
The song is about the Battle of Britain during World War II. It was when the Royal Air Force and all of the citizens of the UK banded together to fend off the onslaught of the Nazi Luftwaffe over the course of several months in 1940 and 1941. The British spirit held through the relentless campaign and Germany was unable to accomplish its objectives of destroying the RAF or breaking British morale through terror bombing, and the tide of the war would turn to the Allies’ favor. It is obviously a major point of pride in British history.
For Iron Maiden, Aces High is yet another signature track from their golden era. It would be paired with Winston Churchill’s famous speech to Parliament in 1940 both in the music video and in live presentations. The song would be an opener on several tours and is a well-regarded crowd favorite. It would peak at number 20 on the UK singles chart.
King Of Twilight
Here Maiden cover 1970’s German prog-rock act Nektar. This cover is actually a bit of a medley, combining King Of Twilight with Crying In The Dark, both Nektar tracks from 1972. It’s a pretty well-executed cover and toes the line pretty well between honoring the original and “Maidenizing” the songs as well.
I’ll also admit that I haven’t checked out Nektar at all before. There was no Internet access to just look bands up when these covers were around so the originals remained a mystery to me. From what I’m hearing it’s some pretty cool classic prog and I’ll have to check more of them out.
The Number Of The Beast
Our bonus B-side is a live performance from December of 1983 in Dortmund, Germany. There is also video of this clip, this same song was later shown in video form on the 12 Wasted Years video comp.
There is nothing that really “jumps out” about this performance, but it is competently executed and the crowd was really into it. The video does show Dave Murray riding atop Bruce’s shoulders in Ozzy and Randy Rhodes fashion, though of course that doesn’t translate to the audio-only single. It is a nice song to have in official form.
And yes, you’ll likely notice someone wrote their name on the back of the record jacket. This was fairly common practice way back when, to prevent theft. And this is not some random stranger who I never knew, either – Steve Childers was a musician from the area I live in who lived in both Missouri and Florida and played in number of death and black metal bands. Steve had moved back to this area in the mid 2010’s and I got to know him some in that time, he was a fantastic guy.
Sadly, Steve died in a car accident in early 2016. I bought this and some other records from his personal collection after his death to help raise funds for his final expenses and family. While it’d be far better to have Steve still around, it’s nice to have something from his old stash.
That’s all for this week’s single. Next week it’s into the band’s first official live album and the first of two singles from that.
It’s time again for my occasional look at aspects of scene and identity in music culture. Today’s topic is a bit of an odd one but it’s been a prevalent factor in music for this century so it’s time to get under the hood and look at the inner workings of the most die-hard and devoted fans of all, the stans.
The term “stan” came to us in 2000 from the hit Eminem song of the same name. Eminem’s Stan was an obsessive super fan who wound up going way over the line in a murder-suicide simply because Eminem hadn’t responded to Stan’s fan mail – and it was just a delay, Eminem was actually getting around to it.
In the years since the song Stan, the term stan has come to represent the most die-hard of die-hard fans. It is the person who totally dedicates their social media space to their favorite artist, who buys everything released no matter what, and who staunchly defends their favorite artist from criticism and ridicule, no matter what. The stan is the next step in the evolution of the super-fan, and the advent of social media in the mid 2000’s gave rise to this new form.
And let’s make sure to note the differences here – this isn’t just being into an artist, even being really into one. The average social media user posts about a number of wide-ranging topics, from music to TV shows and movies, sports, hobbies and whatever else under the sun someone might be interested in. The stan, however, rarely posts much of anything not directly related to the object of their affection.
With the rise in social media use, mobile phone technology and, well, arguing online, the stan occupies a spot as the first-line defender of their chosen artist. As little of a thing as an offhand joke about someone can lead to a tirade from a stan, even a brigade if the stans group together in force. It’s not a pleasant thing to be on the end of and results in death threats, attempts to flag and deplatform accounts, and all sorts of weird harassment and vile shit slung one’s way. I’m glad I’ve never been a target of them. It’s not like I care if people don’t like what I say, but dealing with that level of attack can be withering to anyone.
Stans can theoretically pop up in any fanbase, though the demographic skews younger in most instances. Boy bands are a stan hotbed and the early 2000’s scene might be the true genesis of stan culture. Even before social media magnified everything, there were flame wars over the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, and Eminem was there to give it a name and also clown all of them.
As the years have gone on, stan culture has taken root in several areas. K-Pop from Korea is known for fanatical fanbases. One Direction was a huge stan congregation I recall on Twitter in the early 2010’s. A lot of pop stars like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and countless others have pretty representative stan cultures. And there is the mother of all stans, the biggest artist in the world, Taylor Swift. The Swifties are a base not to be trifled with. Just ask Damon Albarn, among others.
The true epicenter of stan culture is Twitter. While other forms of social media do harbor it (the site Tumblr was a stan haven for many years through the 2010’s), there is no outrage engine quite like the microblogging of Twitter. Assassinate your target in 280 characters or less (or in total blog form now, thanks Elon…) A total average Joe or Jane with a few hundred followers, or even less, can feel the wrath of stan culture if they dare even raise an eyebrow at an artist. It’s super easy to search your favorite artist, see a disparaging tweet about them, then call to arms across your mutual followers to have at the offending party. Block and report, talk endless shit, dig up personally identifying information to try and ruin the person’s life, this is the face of cyber warfare in the 2020’s. Of course this warfare is over the most low-level shit possible.
To the outsider, stans appear obnoxious, dumb and totally lacking in perspective. Normally I feel the truth of most anything lies somewhere in the middle, but in the case of stan culture I think the outsider observation is accurate. I certainly enjoy music and I have my favorite acts, but there is nothing compelling me to defend them from every slight posted on social media. Someone thinks Iron Maiden is overrated crap? Good, that’s one less person I have to compete with to buy singles and bootlegs. People think heavy metal is loud and noisy? Good, go away. It’s no skin off my back if someone doesn’t like something I do, I have no need to defend the people I listen to online.
It does stand to reason that metal and other independent and other underground forms of music don’t really lend themselves to stan culture. Sure, there are obnoxious fans in these circles, but there isn’t the same strength in numbers as pop stans possess and the isolated jerkoff indie fan is usually an island unto themselves.
I don’t know what the ultimate issues behind stan culture are. I’m sure part of it has to do with the proliferation of social media over the past 15 or so years, something I’m not really qualified to discuss specifically. Part of it might be a lack of identity or purpose in life, something fairly common in modern society and its great transition out of the norms of the past century or so. I’m sure there’s a need for belonging, which is pretty universal among fanbases of all sizes and genres.
And the worst parts of stan culture are mirrored in other aspects of social media and society. Political and social arguments are now more stan culture than music stans. It is the most grotesque and non-constructive discourse on the Internet today, all seemingly fallout from the 2016 US Presidential election.
Does stan culture provide any benefit? Maybe it does to the artists. It might be nice to have a rabid defense force that will deploy without you even asking. That’s probably mitigated by the times that stans go way too far on a perceived enemy, causing the artist to have to apologize for stuff they didn’t say or do. And while die-hard fans are cheerleaders for the artist, everyone knows it’s the casual fans that fill arenas, boost streaming numbers and truly line the pockets of the music industry. Selling a few records to some snot-nosed ultra fans is a far cry from having half a town at your show. Odds are the benefits of stan culture are minimal, if they exist at all.
It’s easy to make fun of, but stan culture is a thing and it’s probably not going away anytime soon. There is no reason to use reason on the Internet these days, so go ham and support your favorite act until you stroke out. Most of us won’t be stans because we can’t enter that kind of head space and, well, most of us have lives.
This week I’m heading in to one of music’s most significant and unique live albums. One of America’s most iconic performers and a totally captive audience forged history one Sunday morning in a California prison.
Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison
Released May 6, 1969 via Columbia Records
My Favorite Tracks – Folsom Prison Blues, Cocaine Blues, The Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer
The history of Johnny Cash and prison performances goes all the way back to 1956 and his second single, Folsom Prison Blues. After release the song circulated among inmates and it became a favorite among them, they would write Cash asking him to perform at their prisons. Cash obliged and began a run of prison concerts. Both the inmates and Cash enjoyed the performances and the shows became an occasional part of his schedule.
By 1967 Cash had a bit of a career layoff, the given reason being drug use. He got cleaned up a bit and then approached a newly-reorganized Columbia Records country division about doing a live prison album. A maverick exec agreed and the plan was put in place to record live at Folsom. It took a while for the show to materialize but it was finally recorded in January 1968.
Cash and his outfit recorded two full sets on a Sunday morning – much of the material that would make the original release is from the first set, only two songs from the second were included as the band sounded tired and down on the later set. A 1999 re-issue saw 3 more tracks included, and this edition is what I’ll be discussing today. A later 2008 release saw both sets offered in full as well as a documentary in a Legacy edition. I am currently looking to get that version and may do a rundown of it when I get it, but today will be a more comprehensive look at the wider release.
The album opens with Folsom Prison Blues, which is an obvious choice to open a concert at Folsom but was also Cash’s long-time opener anyway. The song runs on a pretty upbeat tempo despite being about a man languishing in prison while free people ride the trains to anywhere. It’s pretty easy to picture yourself on the train rolling along to the music, going to anywhere but Folsom Prison. The infamous line “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” is here, though it was cut out of the single release after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Up next is Busted, a song originally penned by Harlan Howard. It is a sad but also funny song about being broke, something that hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s. Then comes Dark As A Dungeon, a tragic tale about working in a coal mine written by Merle Travis. The song resonated through the mining community as mining work is extremely tough, though on this live cut there is some funny banter between Cash and an inmate. After the song Cash lets the crowd know the concert is being recorded and you can’t say “hell and shit.” Cash then goes into one of his originals, I Still Miss Someone. It is a brief lament about an old lover and would become a frequent setlist inclusion after the Folsom concert.
It’s now on to Cocaine Blues, another tale about ending up put away for murder and one of the highlights of the record. The song was originally written by Troy Arnall and recorded by Roy Hogsed in 1944. Cash’s version changes up a few lyrics to suit the Folsom audience and also throws the word “bitch” in, something that got a bit of discussion through the years and Cash went back and forth on through different versions.
Cocaine Blues sees Willy Lee shoot his woman for being unfaithful, then he hides out in Mexico but is found and brought back for trial. The lesson is apparently not to use cocaine, as opposed to maybe don’t shoot people. Though I guess the song isn’t as interesting without the murder, I don’t know. The song was a hit with the inmates and also the people on the outside.
Up next is 25 Minutes To Go which was originally composed by Shel Silverstein. It’s a funny look at someone condemned to execution who is counting down each minute by observing what’s about to happen to him. Cash famously skips a few of the minutes in the song but his delivery is spot on. Cash then next announces he’s going to do Orange Blossom Special and then do a few ballads by himself. He also has some trouble locating his setlist in a funny bit of banter.
Orange Blossom Special is an old 1938 tune from Erwin T. Rouse that was a popular hit at bluegrass festivals and a favorite of fiddlers to play. Cash had recorded a studio cut of the song a few years prior to the Folsom concert and brought it out live here. He also used a harmonica to replace the fiddle parts and the performance marks yet another highlight from the set.
And now it’s into a trio of sad ballads. First is The Long Black Veil, a 1959 song first recorded by Lefty Frizzell. In it a man is executed despite not having committed the murder, the problem is his alibi – he was in bed with his best friend’s wife during the murder. Send A Picture To Mother is a Cash original that sees a man in prison relaying to his released cellmate to give regards to the narrator’s family. Ending the trilogy is The Wall, a Howard Harlan-penned song about a prisoner who is lovesick and dies trying to climb the prison wall.
Up next is a trio of funny songs Cash had done on a novelty album a few years prior. First comes Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog, written by Jack Clement and originally performed by Cash. The poor dog keeps eating the owner’s chickens and is the target of contempt. Clement also wrote the next track, Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart, a funny track that laments the loss of the narrator’s woman. The humor wraps up with Joe Bean, a young man who is being executed for a murder he didn’t commit. Joe’s mother knows his alibi – he was robbing a train when the murder was committed. The governor doesn’t pardon Joe but does wish him a happy birthday, which falls on the same date as his execution.
Cash would then introduce his wife June Carter to duet on a song. There’s some funny banter between the two before they go into Jackson, one of the more famous offerings from the pair. The song was originally written in 1963 by Billy Wheeler and Jerry Leibler. Cash and Carter had a hit with their version in 1967 and the performance of it here was a huge hit with the crowd.
The next two selections are from the day’s second set. First is Give My Love To Rose. It’s a Cash original where a man finds a dying person who was just released from prison. The ex-con was trying to make it back to see his family one last time but won’t make it so the man agrees to give his love to Rose. Cash then pulls out another original, I Got Stripes. Its another tune lamenting being in prison, assuredly another hit with the crowd of prisoners.
Up next is The Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer. The origins of the song are murky but are centered around a real African-American freedman who drove steel on the railroad lines. Henry famously raced a steam powered machine and won the race, though it cost him his life.
Cash’s rendition includes the sounds of spikes being driven and the various sounds of the steam engine. In this version John Henry bests the steam machine but succumbs to over-exertion the next morning. It is a true man versus machine tale that highlights the encroachment of technology on human life. John Henry has to drive steel to feed his large and destitute family, the advancement of technology doesn’t do him any favors.
The set heads into the home stretch with Green, Green Grass Of Home. The song was a very popular standard written by Curly Putnam and performed by Porter Wagoner and Tom Jones, among many others. A man is walking back through his hometown recounting memories, though in reality he is actually walking to his execution. The song has a very uplifting feel despite its pretty morose twist.
The set ends with Greystone Chapel, which is a very unique bit of lore from this live set. The song was written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley, the song is about the very chapel at Folsom. The Folsom minister gave Cash a tape of the song the night before the live show and Cash decided to perform it. The song is a praise tune that uplifts the bastion of the chapel in the face of Folsom prison.
Note – the story of Glen Sherley is an interesting one, but one that won’t fit in today’s already-crowded post. I’ll do some digging on his tragic tale and offer up a separate post later on.
The band jams out a bit to wrap up the set, to a thunderous response from the crowd. The recording ends with the second set’s conclusion, which introduces Johnny Cash’s father Ray, as well as the warden (who doesn’t get the same loving reception Mr. Cash does).
Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison was an unconventional experiment that paid huge dividends for Cash’s flagging career. The record would top the country charts and also spend a very long time on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, the precursor to the Billboard 200. The album spent a total of 124 weeks on the album chart.
The legacy of At Folsom Prison is vast. This live set has books and documentaries about it and it is widely hailed as one of music’s greatest live performances. It was a landmark moment in Johnny Cash’s career and set him on a course for more hitmaking in the early 1970’s, including a handful of other prison performances. This was one of the Man In Black’s several career reinventions, a theme he’d continue until his death in 2003.
Beyond the scope of the album’s place in music, Cash was also noted for his egalitarian treatment of prison inmates. Many people simply cast off prisoners as people suffering the consequences of their actions, but Cash approached them as humans and did not let them rot forgotten. It’s a type of outreach that’s hard to quantify but certainly had its effects. One 1958 Cash performance at San Quentin had a great deal of influence on one of the inmates there – a guy by the name of Merle Haggard. By the time Cash was releasing live prison albums, Haggard was well on the way to his own country stardom.
Johnny Cash was a country legend, but also didn’t always fit the scene. His out-of-the-box approach to doing a live album shaped a legacy otherwise unseen in music. It is a vital piece of country music history and music as a whole.
Time again for an S-Tier song. For the list of the others and also the ground rules of this whole deal, head to the main page.
Today it’s time for yet another singer to get his second song on the list. I’m still running with the “only one song per act” rule (it’s almost over), but being in two different projects or one band and solo outing works fine. Joining Bruce Dickinson and Maynard James Keenan as two-timers is the one and only Ozzy Osbourne, who has a prior S-tier song as a member of Black Sabbath and now gets one from his solo catalog.
Ozzy Osbourne – Steal Away (The Night)
Today’s song is the closing track from Ozzy’s debut solo album Blizzard Of Ozz, released in 1980. The album is a banger from front to back, so odds are good that this album will have other appearances on this list in the future.
Steal Away is an experience from the word go, and it starts immediately out of the prior song Revelation (Mother Earth). It is a jarring and pretty awesome way to kick the track off, and an experience that’s almost necessary to have a physical copy of to achieve. Digital music in a lot of forms has inserted gaps between songs, rendering this kind of playback ineffective. Though I did play with it on Spotify and it seems to hold up there with maybe just a nanosecond between the closing and opening notes.
There is a good variety of music on Blizzard Of Ozz, but the closing track is a pretty straightforward, high-engery rocker. There isn’t anything at all wrong with it – everyone is in top form on their instruments – the immortal Randy Rhodes on guitar, Bob Daisley on bass and Lee Kerslake with the drums. Add in Ozzy’s typically underrated sense of melody and we’re off to the races.
The song’s lyrical matter is not some deep plunge into existential lore – this is a song about enjoying the night and having a good time. It’s beyond the “party rock” stuff common to this decade, though. This is Ozzy truly living as the Prince of Darkness. Ozzy and whatever woman of the evening hours he has found are off on an adventure in lyrics that fit the music like a glove.
There is no talking about an early Ozzy song without talking more about the guitars. Randy Rhodes is in fine form here and playing a very nice riff that is certainly more than what the average guitar player would have brought to a tune like this, but also is not “full Rhodes” either. The solo, which gets a fair amount of time in this short song, does have a bit more of Randy on offer but even then he is playing more to the song in the full instrumental break as opposed to getting up to any virtuoso stuff.
Being that Steal Away The Night wasn’t a single, there isn’t a lot of statistics or lore to go over. The song did get played hundreds of times in the early Ozzy setlists, though it was taken out after 1985 and hasn’t been played live since (at least according to Setlist.fm) There is a live version on the 1987 Tribute album dedicated to Randy Rhodes – the song boasts an 8 minute runtime but is the song played normally then followed with a Tommy Aldridge drum solo.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
Steal Away The Night is a blistering track that showcases a great collection of talent. It is primarily the work of Randy Rhodes that shines, but this was a songwriting and recording effort that fires on all cylinders. It it a fun song that adds to the aura that Ozzy Osbourne would develop through the 1980’s and is also a great track for the ’80’s in general.
Today we enter the Powerslave album cycle and the heights of Iron Maiden’s career. Our single today has one of the signature tunes from that album, as well as a cover with a bit of trivia behind it and also our first bit of nonsense as a B-side.
For the first time in a while we get a bit of content variation across versions – the 7-inch does not have the second B-side Mission From ‘Arry, one must possess the 12-inch record to have that. Thankfully I have said 12-inch version so I’ll get to cover a funny argument secretly recorded by that bastard Bruce Dickinson.
The cover art is another unique depiction of Eddie, this time posing as a military guy/arms dealer as a nuclear bomb goes off around flags of the United Nations. A very on-point theme given the main song’s content and honestly this to me is a bit of an underrated piece of Eddie art. It isn’t as iconic as several of the more noted images of Eddie but this one communicates its message really well. I do happen to have the Eddie action figure of this pose too, only one of two that I own. There may be something a bit more to my love of this cover, which we’ll get to in a minute.
2 Minutes To Midnight
The lead song is a rocker making use of a tried but true riff to set the tone. The song is perhaps a bit more basic that some of the other stuff Maiden had gotten up to around this time, it’s certainly no 13 minute long song about some old poem, that’s for sure. But the simplicity is effective in this case.
Lyrically the song discusses the art of war, or the true nature behind the greed behind needless wars. It’s all about the war machine and the dollars that generates, which is why there’s always a war.
The song’s title also references the Doomsday Clock, a thing started during the early Cold War that scientists use to indicate how close to nuclear holocaust the world is getting. 2 minutes was the closest it had ever been set, which was in 1953. In our modern age of advancement in 2023, we’re now as close as the clock has ever been, 90 seconds from midnight. Go us.
One more thing about the song – this one just happens to be my favorite Iron Maiden song. Yes, out of all of them. This song was around quite a bit when I was growing up – Powerslave hit just as I was really paying attention to music and this was probably the heaviest thing I heard at the time. Iron Maiden were never huge hit makers singles-wise but some songs got airplay on various formats and I recall this one being around a lot. I’m also a sucker for doomsday stuff, which may say something about me more than anything, but no worries.
And while the issue was long decided by the time 2003 rolled around, it didn’t hurt that this song was included on the soundtrack to my favorite video game of all time – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I heard this as part of the V-Rock station over and over and over again when playing the game as much as I did. I’ve truly beat this one into my brain.
Our first B-side is a proper song and a cover of a perhaps not well-known act. Beckett were a 70’s progressive rock outfit from Great Britain. The band recorded one album and folded soon after, though their stuff got around a little bit. One of many Beckett/Iron Maiden trivia points of note – Beckett’s agent was Ron Smallwood, who has been Iron Maiden’s longtime manager.
Maiden does a pretty good job on this song, they take what was a pretty groovy original track and speed it up some. I’d probably say I prefer the original by a hair as it has a bit more dynamic stuff to it than Maiden’s straight-ahead cover version. But this is a worthy cover track in Maiden’s discography.
The Beckett and Iron Maiden tie-ins are numerous – Beckett singer Terry Slesser actually auditioned to replace Paul Di’Anno in Maiden. (Slesser also briefly replaced Brian Johnson in Geordie when Johnson joined AC/DC).
But that is more a footnote, there is one far deeper interaction here between the two bands. In short, Iron Maiden lifted a portion of the lyrics to their classic Hallowed Be Thy Name from Beckett’s song Life’s Shadow. While only a few lines it is pretty clearly the same lyrics. Maiden settled early on with one songwriter from Beckett, who claimed to be the sole songwriter. Decades later another former Beckett member emerged with a lawsuit – this was why Hallowed… was not played on the 2016 tour. Maiden also eventually settled the newer suit.
Mission From ‘Arry
If you thought 2 Minutes To Midnight was the main event of this single, you’d be wrong. We have an actual bout on our hands here. While the fight didn’t get physical, we have a spirited argument between Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain, with Bruce Dickinson also involved.
Here’s what happened – one night during a Nicko drum solo, Steve’s bass rig bit the bullet. Unsure of when he’d be going again, Steve sent a rigger to tell Nicko to extend his drum solo to give the crew time to repair Steve’s setup. The crewman tried getting Nicko’s attention, which distracted him and screwed up the solo. Nicko also failed to understand the message so it was a total failure.
This recording is the backstage argument after the show between Steve and Nicko. Steve was upset with Nicko’s attitude about the whole thing, while Nicko was very upset about being interrupted during his solo. Bruce seems to generally side with Steve. The argument goes on for nearly 7 minutes before Steve figures out that someone was recording, that someone being Bruce, who stumbled into the tape recorder in the room and hit record. The band later thought it was funny and here it is as a B-side.
This is a bit hard to follow if you’re unaccustomed to British accents, which I am not at all. There is a transcript of who is saying what, but without that it can take several listens to figure out who is saying what and what exactly they’re saying. But it is pretty funny stuff, hearing them all have a go at each other over miscommunication. I can see everyone’s side of it – Steve wants to set up a way to communicate to Nicko while playing, Nicko wants everyone to piss off while he’s playing. No real side to take here, everyone has a point.
While later Maiden singles would host a fair bit of nonsense as B-sides, this one is pretty cool and unique. Music acts go out of their way to present the best side of themselves to the public so it’s cool to hear people having at one another.
That does it for this week’s single, quite a whopper all told. Next week it’s time to fly.
A quick post today and more of just a show-off thing. I have apparently entered the world of philately, which isn’t a strange sex act but rather the practice of stamp collecting. Since I’m pretty well broke from buying music, my stamp collecting begins and ends with this series of Iron Maiden stamps the Royal Mail issued earlier this year.
There were a wide variety of stamps and collectible packages available, I settled on the presentation pack as a one-shot deal to cover all the bases. It includes the stamps pictured below as well as a pretty detailed biography on both sides of the presentation card. Eddie gets his own bio on the back of his stamp series, as the most important member of the band surely should.
In ironic fashion it did take a little while for these stamps to arrive, because mailing stuff between the British mail and the US Post Office can’t be as quick and easy and one would figure. I know people in Canada got theirs a bit before anyone here in the US did. Though in fairness I’ve had these for a bit now, I’m just now finally getting around to taking the pictures and making this post.
I am very impressed with the setup and how well done it is. I have no previous exposure to the Royal Mail’s collectible stamp issues, as honestly Iron Maiden is the only band I’d really drop money on for stamps. My intent was to frame this and I probably still will, but it seems a bit of a shame to do that when the double-sided layout is so neatly done. But in the end framing is still likely the best option for display.
And that about does it for the Iron Maiden stamps. Not much more to say, really – they’re very nice and a pretty high-class presentation. Behold the postage of the beast.
This week’s pick is going to turn 17 later this year, which is just screwed if you ask me. Pardon me for a moment while I tend to my joint pain.
Lamb Of God – Sacrament
Released August 22, 2006 via Epic Records
My Favorite Tracks – Walk With Me In Hell, Redneck, Descending
Lamb Of God were riding a high after the splendid reception to their 2004 landmark Ashes Of The Wake. (that Album of the Week post can be found here). Heavy metal as a whole was well on the rise in the mid 2000’s and Lamb Of God were becoming a huge part of the resurgence.
The only real way to go was up, and the band would do just that with their fifth album. Lamb Of God were breaking out of the metal underground and becoming a familiar name across the music landscape as a whole. The album today is 11 songs in 46 minutes so let’s get at it.
Walk With Me In Hell
The opener leaps out with a massive riff and the sense that something beyond just a song is going on here. Guitarist Mark Morton wrote the track knowing he was on to something more and was able to work the chorus into a dedication to his girlfriend, who would later become his wife.
One of the album’s three singles, Walk With Me In Hell exploded out of the gate and became an instant classic. It remains today as one of the band’s signature songs.
Again We Rise
The song is bordering on death metal territory with its insane guitar work and pace. Lyrically it deals with the issue of “modern” US Confederates, or people who praise the losing side of the American Civil War eons after the war ended. This is not a flattering portrayal of that crowd. And the issue would only increase in scope after 2006.
The lead single slams in both musically and lyrically. It’s a thunderous groove metal masterclass and a pointed confrontation song. This quickly became a crowd favorite and today sits behind only Laid To Rest as the band’s most recognized song.
While Lamb Of God is often dark and dreary, Redneck is a pretty fun song. The music video is an absolute laugh riot, with the band being booked to play a kid’s birthday party and the hi-jinx that ensue.
Another twisted riff from Mark Morton and some great drumming from Chris Adler shape this next track, which thematically is Randy Blythe screaming at someone who sucks. It’s kind of a connecting theme of this album. Lamb Of God played this song live on Conan O’Brien’s show in early 2007, and it became far more common to see metal acts on the late-night shows after that.
Foot To The Throat
A political track this time, as the band takes aim at politicians and other “powers that be” keeping the rank and file citizens down. The music is as unrelenting as everything else on the album.
Another brutal track nearly in death metal territory, the song has lyrics purporting to reflect the duality and contradiction of religion, yet unverified sources indicate that the song is really about alcoholism. Either way it’s an album highlight.
Blacken The Cursed Sun
This was the album’s third and final single. The song is a very dark and dreary affair about being at the end of your rope and going out with one final push. There’s a bit of a call and response anti-sermon kind of thing at the end that’s pretty cool.
Forgotten (Lost Angels)
A short but slamming track that is chock full of Morton riffs and takes aim at Los Angeles and the fake and plastic culture. It was reportedly inspired by shady music industry execs. Taking aim at Los Angeles has been a favorite pastime of heavier bands but LoG pull it off in pretty convincing fashion here. This is also a song that invites comparisons to the prior kings of groove metal, that being Pantera.
Don’t be fooled by the title – this song is not a requiem from the punishment the album delivers. It’s another song with some religious symbolism and being down and out and trying to go for it one more time after being completely broken. It has a spoken word portion that’s hard to make out in the middle before a bit of soloing. It’s another track where Chris Adler is pounding the piss out of the drums too.
More Time To Kill
This one’s a pretty evil track aimed at someone who is dying but was on the wrong side of the ledger with the narrator. It’s another confrontation, go get bent kind of song. No clue what the story might be behind this one but it’s very hard feelings and not for the faint of heart. Also a bit of black metal style vocals from Randy Blythe here, pretty neat little part.
Beating On Death’s Door
The closing track keeps with the “fuck you” theme, this time it’s about a woman of ill repute who apparently pissed some people off. The song is more aimed at the unlucky sap this woman ended up with. A fittingly brutal end to a brutal album.
Sacrament was a huge success for Lamb Of God. It joined Ashes Of The Wake with a US gold certification for more than 500,000 copies sold. It peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200 and even higher on several other US subgenre charts. Redneck was nominated for a Grammy in 2007, an award that went to Slayer. Several metal publications had this at or near the top of their year-end lists for 2006, back when print media was still a thing.
While it was the prior album that truly broke Lamb Of God into a wider audience, it felt like Sacrament was their true superstar turn. The band had previously been a part of the wider “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” movement, but by this time had broken free and far wider than the more underground sensibilities of that designation.
And the inevitable comparisons continued for LoG – both fans and detractors noted the “new Pantera” vibe to Lamb Of God, something not really present in their more extreme early days. And on this album those comparisons seemed at least somewhat valid, even if LoG were still their own distinct entity. It’s probably fair to call them the spiritual successors to Pantera’s crown, but LoG are far from a pale imitator of a past revered act.
With Sacrament, Lamb Of God solidified their place on the top of the metal mountain, or maybe scrap heap is more appropriate. They are still going all these years later, through some kind of crazy drama and all the changes in the times. A lot of riffs and a bit of cussing can take you pretty far sometimes.
It’s time again to play that game where I take a bunch of different songs with the same title and see which one is the best. Today is especially interesting because I don’t have a clue who is going to win this as I set out to write, in fact there are a couple here I haven’t heard at all.
As per usual, this is not a comprehensive list of everyone who has ever recorded a song with this title. Hell I’d bet this list would be a mile long if I really got to looking. But these choices represent a pretty good selection of stuff so I’ll go with them.
Leading off with the alt-rock behemoths and a song that was originally done in the mid-80’s but was unreleased for nearly 20 years. The version that appeared on a 2003 greatest hits comp was a re-recorded version, then an outtake from the 80’s under a different title was issued a few years later. Bad Day was released as a single and did respectably well. I’m not knowledgeable on R.E.M. at all but from what I can gather, their fans think a lot of this song.
This song is pretty good. Michael Stipe sounds a little tired here, maybe it’s just what I’m hearing. But it’s a decent track with a good groove that’s not far removed from their hit It’s The End Of The World. They lyrics deal with the media and all the wonderful stuff they bestow. Nothing rules this song out of the contest at this point.
Let’s get this one over with – this was a mega hit song in 2006 or whatever. This guy was not technically a one-hit wonder as he had one other song barely crack the Top 40, but in any practical sense this is a one-hit wonder thing.
This song is annoying. It’s adult contemporary pap. It doesn’t get into anything specific at all, it’s just a generic mish-mash of shit that happens when you have a bad day. Of course everyone can “identify” with it – there’s nothing but vague generalities here. Next.
On to the other more or less known quantity here and also a decently-performing single from the band’s 2000 album Something Like Human which was their apex in terms of success and visibility.
This song has far more going on for it than the last one. It’s maybe not much more in terms of specific themes, but the alt-rock presentation is leagues better than whatever that last one was. Dude could sing too, that does more or less carry the tune. A pretty good one here that certainly bears consideration come decision time.
While I know the name, I am honestly very unfamiliar with Juliana’s work. I maybe saw a video or two on MTV back in the day but I have no recollection. This song is from her 1998 album Bed, which is where I’d rather be on a Friday morning as opposed to getting ready for work.
This song is good, I enjoyed my few plays of it. There is an actual narrative here that can be followed, something is actually going on to cause the bad day. This could be a case of a song I haven’t heard at all before coming away with the victory, though there is one more contender.
And finally on to a group I am actually a fan of, though I don’t recognize the song title right off hand. And that’s probably because it’s from their debut album, 1991’s Leisure. The album highlighted the band’s potential but was also a bit of a sloppy mess.
I don’t recall the last time I played the album or this song, it’s probably been a very long time. With it going now I think it’s a pretty cool tune. It’s maybe not representative of what Blur would become, but it’s a groovy little jam that bears resemblance to some of the stuff coming from Great Britain in that time period.
So now it’s decision time and when I take everything into consideration, I’m left with a choice between the last two – Juliana Hatfield and Blur. And while the first impulse is to pick the band I listen to, when it comes down to it, I think the other track is a bit better.
Winner – Juliana Hatfield
For the first time I’m going with a song I’ve never heard before doing this. It’s a fair indication I should explore more of Juliana’s catalog. Though in all honesty, today’s contest was fairly fought among four good contenders and only one stinker, which of course in the music biz means it was the best-selling one.
I’m gonna leave with a bit of a bonus, since they don’t always have to be bad days.
We’ve hit a big one in the single series, time to go under the hood of one of Iron Maiden’s most beloved songs.
This is another from the series that is fairly standard issue – several variations but all with the same cover and track list. Mine is again a 12 inch version, note that this did get issues primarily as a 7 inch release. This song has been repackaged and re-released with other content so there are multiple releases floating around. Today’s focus will be on the original issue.
The cover art is here is beyond good – this is one of the most recognizable images of Eddie around. Redcoat Eddie holding a tattered Union Jack and his blood-spattered sword with the results of a battle and the Grim Reaper behind him is one of the instant classic pieces in Iron Maiden art. This ranks alongside Powerslave Eddie as one of the mascot’s most revered poses.
The cover art might be iconic, but certainly so is the featured song. It’s a bit of an exercise to pick Iron Maiden’s most recognizable and beloved song, hell those might be two different things. But The Trooper ticks both boxes and is a certain top-tier contender in those battles.
The song’s riff hits right away and is a knockout from the word go. It’s fast-paced and high energy all the way through the song, never letting up. When combined with the bass and drums, the “horse gallop” effect comes in. It’s fairly common through a lot of Iron Maiden songs but is highlighted here big time. I mean, I love it and I personally can’t stand riding horses.
This is a case of a Maiden song where Bruce really isn’t the shining star. Sure, he delivers the vocals splendidly, but there is no real “human air raid siren” moments here. He just belts out the lines and the ever-so-simple chorus that isn’t even real words. It’s the band who do the work on this one, highlighted by two fantastic solos from Adrian Smith and Dave Murray that fit the song like a glove and keep the horses charging in the right direction.
And where are these horses going? Honestly, not in the right direction. The song is based on The Charge of the Light Brigade, a huge blunder by British cavalry in the Crimean War in 1854. The British made a guess about where to best deploy their cavalry units to attack Russian positions and their guess was bad – most of the brigade died in the attack. It was immortalized in a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson and that poem is where Iron Maiden got much of the inspiration for the song.
The Trooper has endured as one of Iron Maiden’s most popular songs. Bruce often dons a redcoat jacket to compliment the song on stage. The single just missed the UK top 10 and was also a rare notable US single, hitting number 28.
Cross Eyed Mary
The B-side is a cover of the beloved Jethro Tull classic. It is a well-done rendition, though sans flute and piano. Here Bruce really does go all out, hitting parts of a range that he wouldn’t normally tackle in Maiden tunes. It’s generally considered one of the best cover songs Maiden did and this also did get some airplay in the US. There is a radio promo single of it though I don’t own it and it’s just this song so it won’t be a part of this series.
That does it for this week’s entry in the singles series, a pretty monumental one. The hits keep rolling as the singles from Powerslave are on deck and we continue the true golden era of Iron Maiden’s career.