If you’ve read any of my stuff you’ve noticed I get a lot into my memories associated with music. It’s something I like to do as a way of noting the personal meaning a song or album might have to me, something that separates what I do from a typical “review,” as it were. I like reading and hearing what others have to say about music but for me I prefer a different approach with the content I offer. I guess it also gives everyone context to understand what I listen to and why, where I came from and how I came into what I like today.
Of course I have to note that there are only so many memories. As I go on other content will necessarily take its place. I can only recall so many landmark moments, discoveries, highly personal matters related to songs, etc. But for the early going here, I think it’s fun to recount my first experiences with things. I don’t know how “good” of content it really is but it’s something I like doing and will roll with until its natural conclusion.
It’s time now to throw off all pretense and build-up. This post, on the week here celebrating the band and their new release, is all about my memories of my favorite band – Iron Maiden.
The first time I would encounter Iron Maiden was in a sixth grade class. For me in 1988, sixth grade was one where you’d have a homeroom class but then would maybe switch to a different class for one or two others. It was the last year of “homeroom” stuff, seventh grade and beyond would be different classes on an hour-to-hour basis.
Anyway, I was in the class I switched rooms and teachers for. I think it was English or something but who cares. The kid next to me was also from my homeroom class and was someone I was cool with. One day we were hanging out with not much to do and he pulled out a tape he wanted to show me. We were always passing music back and forth in sixth grade, we’d let each other borrow stuff or give blank tapes to people to make copies of albums.
The album he pulled out that day had the most intense cover I’d ever seen.
I saw that cover and instantly wanted to hear what this band was up to. I’d heard the name but back then I was still firmly rooted in pop and hair metal. I hadn’t yet ventured out to much beyond. He told me he was listening to it a lot because they were getting ready to put out a new album. He’d let me take the tape home overnight to dub a copy, then when the new album hit I could give him a blank and he’d dub it off for me.
I dug it right off the bat. I obviously entered the band’s catalog right in their two-album symphonic era. It was a common theme in the late ’80’s so I was familiar with it but Iron Maiden was still a bit more than what I was used to at that tender age. I did like it and I played it a fair bit but it would be a year later with a different band that would make me totally obsessed with music.
So obviously the next album was Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. A quasi-concept album, another symphonic leaning record and an epic, grandiose offering. On release it was perhaps a bit too dense for me, I could appreciate a standalone highlight like Can I Play With Madness but it took some time to digest the whole thing, or perhaps for me to grow into it. That would come in the passing year or two, though, and I was off to the races with Iron Maiden.
I’d get heavy into the band as I got heavier into music in general. I grabbed all the old stuff and liked pretty well all of it, including the first two albums fronted by Paul Di’Anno. Sure, Bruce is truly the voice of Iron Maiden but I really enjoyed stuff from those first two records.
Even as Bruce left the band in 1993 I still dug Maiden. I knew full well that the music landscape was constantly shifting, hell, I came into music hard and heavy in 1991 when the scene was completely blown apart. My own tastes would go to the extreme end of the spectrum in ’93 but I could still hold onto Maiden as a treasured part of my musical upbringing.
Just as I entered the military and a whole new phase of life, so did Iron Maiden. I wasn’t really impressed with the two Blaze Bayley-fronted albums, though my criticisms of them don’t stem with him so much as lackluster songwriting. I’ll probably pick this thread up more specifically later on, but their “low point” as a band just happened to coincide with a point where I wasn’t paying much attention anyway. Good times and fast women were more my speed in the late ’90’s.
Military time doesn’t last forever though. Just as I was leaving the Navy in the middle of 1999, the bombshell announcement hit that Bruce and Adrian were rejoining Maiden. This wasn’t a very shocking development – Maiden were scratching during the preceding years while Bruce and Adrian hit high critical acclaim with two of Bruce’s solo albums – especially the masterpiece The Chemical Wedding. The time was right for everyone to reconvene and see what they could do in the new millenium.
And damn, did they ever hit paydirt. The band’s longest-running era is now 22 years old and has brought new heights of popularity and legacy. Iron Maiden is mentioned in the same reverent tones as Black Sabbath and Metallica as the most important metal in existence. For as long as I run this blog and whatever other content I might get into, I will wind up heavily discussing Iron Maiden’s reunion era.
For now though I want to get to the other main memory, the other “first” that I have – the first time I saw Iron Maiden live. It was in August of 2000 at the outdoor ampitheater googleplex in St. Louis (yes, the same one Axl Rose tried tearing down in 1991). Of additonal significance was that the show was on my 23rd birthday. It was a pretty cool alignment of events.
The show was spectacular but didn’t start off well. Queensryche opened, and honestly I don’t have a lot of great things to say about their set. I was more than a little disappointed in the band that recorded my favorite album of all time. The sound was muddled and Geoff Tate had some pscyhotic reverb and echo on his vocals. Their material at the time was also not great, but the band did lean on their classic metal era at the blatantly obvious metal show.
Leave it to the metal god himself to save the day. Rob Halford emerged next with his solo band, a brilliant reinvigoration for an icon who’d, like the headliners, also spent the late ’90’s in a musical wildnerness. Halford was electric and metal through and through. The material from Resurection and select Judas Priest cuts more than held its own and was a perfect way to set the stage for Iron Maiden.
Then it was time for the main event. Iron Maiden took the stage, armed with their classic lineup and a new album, the excellent Brave New World. I’d already spun the disc many times, in awe of the band’s ability to chart new waters and make an epic return to form at such an advanced age, at least relatively speaking for a band from the ’80’s.
And Maiden did not come out to play a greatest hits set. They leaned hard on material from the new album, playing six songs from it. They even aired the 9 minute long epic Dream Of Mirrors, which Bruce led into with a bit of a rant. He complained, among other things, about Britney Spears and VH1 never having the balls to air a 9 minute song, so here was theirs. It was cool of its own merits but it was also hilarious since if you looked at your ticket stub for the show, you’d see the tour was sponsored by VH1. Pretty funny stuff.
Of course the band also aired many of their classics. There isn’t an Iron Maiden show without The Trooper, at least as far as I know. They also aired The Number Of The Beast and Hallowed Be Thy Name, as well as their eponymous song. And in a rare show of form, the band performed two of their signature songs from the prior era, with Bruce leading the charge on Sign Of The Cross and The Clansman. It is especially rare for a new or returning singer to want to touch stuff from a time in the band they weren’t in, but Bruce seemingly has no problem performing those songs. I can’t think of too many instances like that where a singer wants to touch something someone else did. Halford doesn’t do it, Hagar hated doing it, Dio didn’t like doing it, the list goes on. But Bruce served them up and gave the fanbase something to find appreciation for in the oft-contested Blaze era.
The show would wrap up after the requisite Eddie appearance and songs from a few different eras thrown in to flesh out a pretty diverse set. It was absolutely remarkable and I was blown away by finally seeing my favorite band just into their return to form and at the start of an unparalleled era that few bands ever get to imagine.
Since then I’ve seen Iron Maiden three other times – in 2013, 2016 and ’17. I’ll go out on a limb and say that I’ll probably see them at least one more time, if not two. Yeah they’re getting up there but I know they won’t want to quit until they pretty well have to. I guess we’ll see what the future holds, what with this damn pandemic being a massive barrier for touring bands right now.
However the future unfolds I will still have the memories of discovering my favorite band and then finally seeing them in concert. There really isn’t any topping an Iron Maiden show. And their albums almost always offer an adventure to somewhere, be it a far away fantasy or the grim realities of the here and now. From now until the end of time, up the irons.