This is a kind of “current events” post I’m not all that into doing, but the topic at hand is significant enough to warrant my interest. It involves my favorite band and I just talked about them on Monday, so when this bit of news dropped the same day it certainly got my attention.
Iron Maiden’s legendary singer Bruce Dickinson recently gave an interview to UK tabloid Daily Star. The interview’s contents are transcribed via this Blabbermouth.net article. In the interview, Bruce gets at the (dark) possibility of not being able to perform to his usual standard as age wears on. He is on board with the band finding a replacement singer, with Bruce perhaps making small guest spots. It would be a situation like what Glenn Tipton does with Judas Priest, making spot appearances here and there as his battle with Parkinson’s disease keeps him from touring full-time.
In the abstract I honestly don’t see anything wrong with the sentiment. I get the thought here – if I can’t do it the way it needs to be done, get someone else who can. I’m generally not opposed to a band going out without a key piece for whatever reason – it is a job and if you can function as a unit with a replacement, go for it.
But we’re not in the abstract. This is Iron Maiden, and this is Bruce Dickinson. People don’t want a replacement for Bruce because it would be insanely tough to even find one, and because we’ve been down this road before. Bruce was replaced in the 1990’s by Blaze Bayley, who found rough footing behind the mic and took a lot of heat for his tenure. While a lot of Maiden’s backslide during the 90’s isn’t the fault of Blaze at all, it is true that he had a difficult time with some of the band’s classic material. With the band unwilling to step down in tuning to help, it left Blaze hanging at times in the live department. It was one oft-cited complaint from fans of that era.
Casting someone else in the role of Bruce Dickinson just isn’t going to work. There are some very talented singers out there, but is anyone really going to replace Bruce? Even if it was limited to being a touring vocalist, I just don’t see it happening.
And Bruce doesn’t see it happening either – he flat-out says “this will never happen” in the interview, referencing both being replaced and the idea of a hologram tour. And this is what leads to the speculative but curious part of the interview – if it isn’t happening at all, why discuss the topic with the media?
I have to begin with this thought – the Daily Star is a tabloid and one with a not-always sterling reputation. While I doubt there was any deception involved here, did the paper simply lead Bruce into this line of questioning? I don’t have access to the paper itself so I didn’t see the whole interview, and we know that media types know how to lead interview subjects into lines of questioning that provide sensational headlines. I can’t say either way but it’s a possibility.
The interview sent Maiden fans into a bit of a tizzy. One possibility discussed was that Bruce was foreshadowing – maybe he knows something we don’t and that his time as Maiden’s air raid siren is nearing its end. Of course we have zero evidence of this, and also the band is presently on tour and Bruce doesn’t sound like Jon Bon Jovi, er, someone who needs to step down from his duties. I doubt this is the case and I also hope it isn’t. Bruce has survived throat cancer and was able to return to the stage, and is presently in fine form on tour.
Some fans are speculating that Bruce is talking in code here – that he is in favor of replacement of a member who can’t continue, and that the rest of the band is against it. While it’s a wild theory that leads down a few rabbit holes, it’s also purely based on speculation about things we have no information on, so I’m going to leave it at that. I don’t see enough based in reality to commit more words to the series of ideas and I don’t think that’s what Bruce is doing here.
At the end of the day I’ll take the part where Bruce says “this is never happening” as the gospel from the interview. He could very well have just been making conversation or talking off the top of his head, who knows? It gave me and others pause, but after looking at it a bit there’s probably nothing of real concern here.
Someday, of course, Iron Maiden will ride off into the sunset. That day is closer than it ever has been, but it’s also not happening tomorrow or anytime soon. They have this tour to finish, they have a planned tour to air out the Senjutsu album in its entirety, and there has been talk about new albums and other things. This lineup of the band has remained in tact for over 20 years and the band has cemented its legacy as one of metal’s greatest acts in this time. Hopefully when they do call it a day, it will be with this lineup bowing out.