Purgatory – The Iron Maiden Singles Series

It’s back to the Iron Maiden singles. Today we get another 7-inch record serving up a single from the Killers album. Just one more single after this and then we’re off into the epic Iron Maiden era we all know and love. But the Paul Di’Anno tenure has some great music in it and today’s A-side is proof positive of that.

This single has very few versions compared to many other Maiden releases. Discogs only lists 4 separate original versions, all the same single just released in different territories. The other 2 versions are from a 2014 reissue of many of the singles. This isn’t one with a hundred different versions to mess with, as was the case with Maiden Japan last week. I have the UK release.

One bit of cover art trivia, which I covered last week in the Maiden cover art rankings – Derek Riggs originally did a spectacular piece of art for this single cover. Camp Maiden said “hold on, we’ll use that for something more special later on” and it was in fact the art for The Number Of The Beast. We can see Eddie and The Beast on this cover as well, though in far less elaborate form than on the future album cover.

Just two songs to get into today, and only one of them has anything to talk about, so let’s have at it. Both sides of the single are featured in the YouTube video below.

Purgatory

The single’s subject material is a punishing track that stands among the best Iron Maiden did in their early career. The rolling guitars and the thumping rhythm section accompany Di’Anno’s vocal delivery for a highlight song. Purgatory is a quintessential Iron Maiden track, no matter what era.

Genghis Khan

The B-side offers up one of the two instrumentals on Killers. It’s a pretty cool song that also sounds like what you’d think of when you say Iron Maiden. They do kind of pummel through this one for the most part, with a more melodic section about 2 minutes in.

Well, that about wraps up the single for today. Not much to talk about when you get two album tracks, which helps explain why the single itself just missed cracking the Top 50 in the UK – fans already had these songs on Killers the album. Next week I’ll tackle the final piece of the Paul Di’Anno years with an interesting “double A-side” kind of single.

The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Live! + One

Running Free

Sanctuary

Women In Uniform

Maiden Japan

Purgatory (you are here)

Twilight Zone/Wrathchild

Run To The Hills

The Number Of The Beast

Flight Of Icarus

The Trooper

2 Minutes To Midnight

Aces High

Run To The Hills (live)

Running Free (live)

Stranger In A Strange Land

Wasted Years

The Clairvoyant

Infinite Dreams

Holy Smoke

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity

Out Of The Silent Planet

Rainmaker

Different World

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Empire Of The Clouds

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 2023 Nominees

The nominations for the 2023 class of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame were announced last week. As always, the nominee list sparks a lot of outrage and argument. People love to get hot and argue over who should or shouldn’t be considered for induction, and this generates a lot of talk.

And that’s really the point – the more times the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame gets mentioned, especially on the Internet, the more they win. It’s been a series of heated arguments for many years now – the Rock Hall powers that be only select inductees based on marketability, they let in too many non-rock acts, such-and-such legendary artist should have been inducted ages ago, etc. It’s all over the place, both when the nominations are announced and the inductees are revealed a few months later.

I personally have wished to avoid talking much about the Rock Hall. I used to blog about it decades ago but it got old arguing over the same old things. It’s easy content, but it’s also just a hamster running a wheel. It never goes anywhere.

I’m not really talking about this today because I want to rehash a bunch of old arguments. I know the Rock Hall functions as a cash siphon, that much is evident in a number of high-dollar “lures” paid to the Hall to get them to set up shop in Cleveland and for hosting ceremonies, etc. I also know the Hall inducts non-rock artists and honestly I don’t care if they do. That ship sailed a long time ago and I’m not going to waste time worrying about rap and country acts being brought in today. It’s a pointless battle.

If it’s not already obvious why I’m writing about the Rock Hall in wake of the nominee announcement, l’ll go ahead and make that clear now. There are 14 nominees for the 2023 Class, the list of which can be found here if you’re interested. While there are a handful of stories among the nominees, my interest revolves around exactly one.

That’s right, Iron Maiden are again up for Rock Hall consideration. They were nominated but not selected a few years ago. Things on the surface look brighter in the wake of the Judas Priest induction last year. The (nearly useless) fan vote sees Maiden presently in 6th place in voting, just a spot out of the top 5 cutoff. (The fan vote does not guarantee induction, it’s just some BS they put together to make people feel like they have a say in the matter).

While I don’t consider the Rock Hall a huge part of my music life, or a part at all, I’m not going to just sit idly when my favorite band is up for consideration. I did finally give up on the Hall after the ignorant sagas of bands like Kiss, Rush, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and others who took far too long to be inducted, as well as some deserving acts that still aren’t in (Steppenwolf, hello?). But the new interest in and drama of the British metal bands has me casting an eye back in the Rock Hall’s direction.

The Hall seems to have softened on their “no heavy metal” stance. Judas Priest was inducted last year when an old award was repurposed as the Musical Excellence award to bring in acts who maybe fall under the “mass appeal” radar, as Priest fell short in the fan voting. I’m sort of expecting Iron Maiden to get in under that same banner this year if they aren’t selected for outright induction.

There is an additional wrinkle to Iron Maiden being selected – the Rock Hall powers that be are very shy of controversy and also can tend to be vengeful against those musicians who speak out against it. Well, bear witness to this 2018 quote from Bruce Dickinson, as found on a NME article

“I actually think the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is an utter and complete load of bollocks, to be honest with you. It’s run by a bunch of sanctimonious bloody Americans who wouldn’t know rock and roll if it hit them in the face.”

I’m gonna guess that the Rock Hall elite didn’t take kindly to this, or the other times Dickinson has railed against the institution. Now, this is mitigated by the fact that a Maiden induction would be drama free, the only question being if the living former members up for induction (Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton) would join Maiden for the live performance. Whether they did or not would not lead to any drama, the likes of which poisoned the inductions of Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses and others. That might work in Maiden’s favor.

Some have wondered if Iron Maiden would even show up for a Rock Hall induction. Bruce’s comments don’t lead anyone to think so, but at the end of the day Maiden are savvy marketers and the Rock Hall is a marketing opportunity, if only a fleeting one. My guess is that the band would attend the ceremony, then Bruce could give his full thoughts to the press later if he wished.

So the big question remains – will Iron Maiden get into the Rock Hall this time around? We’ll find out sometime after April so we’ve got a minute. I think it’s more likely than not that they do, but I could also see them missing again. If anything, I feel like they’ll get put in with the same Musical Excellence thing Judas Priest got last year.

And yeah, I really hope Iron Maiden gets in the Rock Hall. Because once they’re in, I honestly never have to give a damn about that place ever again.

Album Of The Week – February 6, 2023

This week’s pick is a revisit of a 90’s album from a band that bucked popular music standards and set their own course with a mix of old-timey music and deep/dark spiritual lyrics. The music would not fit any particular scene but also capture the attention of many different scenes.

16 Horsepower – Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes

Released February 6, 1996 via A&M Records

My Favorite Tracks – Black Soul Choir, American Wheeze, Harm’s Way

16 Horsepower was an American band comprised of singer and multi-instrumentalist David Eugene Edwards, Jean-Yves Tola on drums and Keven Soll on upright bass and cello. The band’s lineup would change over the years with the constant being Edwards at the helm.

One big issue with 16 Horsepower is categorizing their music. They aren’t country, though they did slot into the alt-country movement of the late 1990’s. The music has elements of country, bluegrass and other scenes but doesn’t necessarily have its own overall description. The term “Gothic Americana” has been used to describe them and is probably as accurate as anything. It is a lot of banjo, accordion and other unconventional instruments that shape the sound here.

The lyrics of 16 Horsepower were infused with Edwards’ religious upbringing. These aren’t overt “praise” songs or anything but there is definitely a religious bent to them. The music was not embraced by Christian outlets for not being standard praise fare and was also often dismissed in secular circles for talking about religion at all. But I don’t feel “preached to” when I listen to it, rather I feel like I’m getting a person’s own experiences and perspective communicated to me. I’m being sung to, not talked at.

The album is not overly long at 48 minutes but there are 13 songs to talk about. I am going to go through a lot of them very briefly to save space, but rest assured this is a highly recommended album from front to back.

I Seen What I Saw

It’s off to a hot start as a guy sees something that isn’t good, then gets on his horse and rides off. While any greater meaning isn’t obvious, this song is pretty powerful with the instrumentation and Edward’s vocal delivery.

Black Soul Choir

Next we have what is widely considered the “hit” off the album and one of the band’s most recognized songs. Black Soul Choir is a uptempo, banjo-driven piece that presents its religious underpinnings more clearly. This is a masterpiece of a song and is often the “first one” for many 16 HP fans. Metal band DevilDriver did a cover of this song in 2011 as well.

Scrawled In Sap

This is a very trippy and atmospheric track that gets into what appears to be an adulterous relationship. It’s very well done and another of my favorites from the record.

Horse Head

A very nice and twisted dirge about some whiskey and chairs, and also some kind of dust-up over something and a guy biting the big one in the end. This is a very dark and grimy track and far outside the bounds of “praise” music.

Ruthie Lingle

An upbeat number about a young man hoping he can hook up with any number of women. I can’t find the interview where Edwards talked about it, but if my memory serves, Ruthie was an actual girl from his childhood that he was sweet on.

Harm’s Way

This song is absolutely sick, meant in the best possible way. Another accordion-led dirge that gets to the failings of life and also the simple beauty of it. The lyrics are also quietly kind of brutal in spots, there’s some dark stuff going on here.

Black Bush

Another really good banjo piece with more, perhaps opaque, religious imagery. A clouded meaning does not deter from a very enjoyable song, though.

Heel On The Shovel

This song is, if not all the way there, at least directly next to country music. It’s a good ol’ tune about vengeance and death and “reaping what you sow.” The fate of the target is pretty grim, in a grave simply to be used as fertilizer for daisies. Such is life and death, I guess.

American Wheeze

A very gripping tune about a guy off to a duel against someone who feels slighted. The specific grievance is not aired, but the narrator is prepared to die for his side of it.

Red Neck Reel

The music is fast and fun, but the lyrics are a fairly dour look at small-town life and how everyone knows everyone’s business. A nice tune either way.

Prison Shoe Romp

Almost a bit of a metal track here, or at least a pretty heavy tune though still steeped in the old time music.

Neck On The New Blade

Not really sure what’s going on lyrically but the song is another low-down one.

Strong Man

The album ends with a dirge about a condemned man who apparently really needs to be put down. The song ends with some references to Christ so I almost wonder if that’s not who it’s about but again, it’s a bit hard to tell.

Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes was a brilliant debut full-length for the group that defied categorization and 1000% did their own thing. There is no chart or single information to share, 16 Horsepower were always a more underground and independent phenomenon. They would gain traction over in Europe through their run but were never a “hit” of any kind.

The main draw of this album and the 16 Horsepower catalog in general is the authenticity of the old-time sound. The music invokes the feel of the old days, this honestly sounds like what I’d expect to hear traveling through the desolate west. This isn’t a modern homage to music of the past, it is that music done in a modern setting. I can feel the dirt and grit of the landscape that these songs are set in, as well as the darkness of the songs and their weight.

16 Horsepower would run from 1992 through 2005. After their dissolution David Eugene Edwards would focus on his other project Wovenhand, which runs to this day and has performed 16 HP songs live in their sets. 16 Horsepower never achieved fame but they have been a known and celebrated act among those who remember them and the many, like me, who discovered them after their split. This is one of those acts that not a lot of people know, but those who know, know.

Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part Two

It’s back to the Iron Maiden album rankings and time to cap off the top 8. If you missed the first part of my ranking you can find that here.

8 – Brave New World

This was the other one that caused me a lot of deliberation and was pitted against No Prayer For The Dying. In the end I gave BNW the nod. While NPFTD has a more classic Eddie and this is more abstract, this is still a very nice piece of art. Cityscape and landscape stuff is art I like a lot so that is probably why this got pushed up the list. I also like storms, ports and Eddie so this one really has it all. It’s only missing beer.

Brave New World was an Album of the Week pick last year.

7 – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

No, I didn’t rank this here because of the number coincidence, this is really where I rank this cover. It’s a very striking image of a disembodied Eddie holding his own heart while hanging out over a frozen body of water. I have no clue what greater meaning this art possesses, if any, but it’s a pretty cool if not whacked out album cover. And just to prove I’m not ranking these based on my musical preferences, this is my favorite Maiden album.

6 – Killers

The second album is still “simple” in a way but features a more clever, purpose-filled and clearly malevolent Eddie holding an implement he most likely used on an unsuspecting victim. Maybe it was Margaret Thatcher. This is a very well done version of Eddie and is leagues above the debut album’s cover art.

Killers has been a past Album of the Week feature.

5 – Piece Of Mind

The classic fourth album features a very striking image of Eddie in a straightjacket, locked up and looking like he wants to take a piece out of someone’s mind. Poor Eddie has been lobotomized, I wonder how he’ll go on without his gray matter. This image was one of several from the classic run of albums that got millions of crazy kids into the band.

4 – A Matter Of Life And Death

It’s the highest-ranking reunion-era album cover and it’s WAY up there on my list. I absolutely love this album art with the band of brothers, skeleton edition heading into war. Eddie is not the highlight of the art and that did rankle some fans but I just totally love the art and didn’t place any importance on Eddie being more in the background. I have this back patch on my jean jacket and I’ll be gutted on the day the patch and/or jacket bites the dust.

A Matter Of Life And Death has been an Album of the Week.

3 – The Number Of The Beast

A magnificent cover featuring Eddie and every metalhead’s favorite pal, the Devil. Here Eddie is the one playing puppet master with the Beast. This duel between Eddie and the Beast plays out in many other art pieces and videos through Maiden’s history.

The really funny part about this cover was that Derek Riggs originally did it as the art for the single release of Purgatory. The band and management wisely held off on the art, correctly judging that it was too good for a single. And also this came out during the rise of the Satanic Panic in the US and the band caught a bunch of flak for it. LOL.

Coincidentally, Purgatory is next week’s pick as I run through my collection of Iron Maiden singles.

2 – Powerslave

Of all the covers and versions of Eddie, few hold a candle to this iconic art of Pharaoh Eddie as an ancient Egyptian monument. While the specifics of Eddie’s reign are lost to history, we have this spectacular image to educate us. It’s no wonder that Iron Maiden was a driving force behind 80’s kids at least pretending to care about history.

Powerslave has been an Album of the Week.

1 – Somewhere In Time

The top spot on my list goes to the 1986 album with the rad sci-fi cover. Eddie is a cyberpunk here in world definitely inspired by Blade Runner. Both the front and back cover art are chock full of easter eggs and references, head to the wiki page to collect them all.

This was the art I saw that got me into Iron Maiden, I knew I had to have this album when I saw the cover. And that’s the same tale with many fans of the group, no matter which specific album cover they first saw. These are some of the most striking and fascinating album covers in music history, and a big part of being an Iron Maiden fan.

Maiden Japan – The Iron Maiden Singles Series

On through the Iron Maiden singles I go, and this time with a bit of a note. I am fairly certain I’m out of order right now – Maiden Japan was Paul Di’Anno’s last recorded work with Maiden and there are still two singles from Killers to go after this.

How did I screw up so awfully bad? I ran with the order the singles came up on my list in Discogs. This release had different release dates across various countries, therefore it shows as simply 1981 on my list, and gets sorted before things with specific release dates attached to them. It’s not a major issue to me so I just roll with it, there’s no way I’m putting in the work needed to change the order on a list that is in several of my posts now. It fouls up the narrative just a little bit but I think it’ll be ok.

Today we have an EP as opposed to a single. This comprises five live tracks, all recorded at a show at Kosei Nenkin Hall in Nagoyo, Japan in May 1981. The cover is a fairly famous piece of Maiden history, with Eddie wielding a katana. It’s one of the more well-known non-album Eddie arts and likely had some influence on decking Eddie out as a full samurai on 2021’s Senjutsu cover.

There is an alternate cover to this EP, though it’ll set a person back if they were looking for it. The original idea for the cover showed Eddie holding Paul Di’Anno’s decapitated head. This was before Di’Anno was out of the band and the cover was changed because band and management were frustrated with Di’Anno. This alternate cover got a South American press several years later and yeah, it ain’t cheap.

The EP’s name also clearly plays on the title of Deep Purple’s much-heralded live album Made In Japan. The “Maiden (insert place here)” would become a common tagline for Iron Maiden through the years, it was a pretty obvious thing to do.

There are too many different versions of this release to really count. I have a US pressing, which is kind of a treat as the US did not get a lot of the Maiden non-album stuff direct to market. There are official versions that differ between four and five tracks, and there are some unofficial versions that apparently have this concert in full. I have not personally run across one but they are out there.

As mentioned already, this is the last officially recorded work with Paul Di’Anno. He would be out of the band before 1981 came to a close. We all probably know who and what came next, but I’ll save that for when the time comes.

The Killers album cycle also introduces a new guitarist – Adrian Smith was hired to replace Dennis Stratton. The guitar duo of Smith and Dave Murray would become one of heavy metal’s most iconic tandems and here we are at the start of it.

I won’t go through each song as I normally do since this is a live EP as opposed to a single with B-sides. Here is the tracklist:

Running Free

Remember Tomorrow

Wrathchild

Killers

Innocent Exile

The recording is a tad rough but overall works well, both with the “rough and tumble” early era of Maiden and in context of live recording standards for emerging bands in 1981. I would say it works well as a live document of the time and isn’t just some slapdash thing with no care put into it.

The song selection here is a strength. Running Free and Wrathchild have long been live staples, while Killers has also seen some time on stage. Remember Tomorrow and Innocent Exile are absolute rarities though and honestly their inclusion alone makes this a worthy pick-up. Rarity isn’t the only issue though, and these versions of the more familiar songs are quite worthy as well.

Maiden Japan has held a special place among the band’s collectors. It is an out of the way item but also not terribly hard to find. It is one of a very few official offerings of Paul Di’Anno singing with the band in concert – other than single B-sides and a few limited releases, there just isn’t much official live material out there. It’s off to bootleg land for the collectors who want more, including the rest of this show.

I’m back tomorrow with part two of the Iron Maiden album cover rankings, and then Sunday with something that won’t have to do with Iron Maiden for once. Also – no pic of the actual record this time – I had a light go out in my room where my records are and getting good light on a record itself is a pain. I’m sure the covers will suffice.

The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Live! + One

Running Free

Sanctuary

Women In Uniform

Maiden Japan (you are here)

Purgatory

Twilight Zone/Wrathchild

Run To The Hills

The Number Of The Beast

Flight Of Icarus

The Trooper

2 Minutes To Midnight

Aces High

Run To The Hills (live)

Running Free (live)

Stranger In A Strange Land

Wasted Years

The Clairvoyant

Infinite Dreams

Holy Smoke

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity

Out Of The Silent Planet

Rainmaker

Different World

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Empire Of The Clouds

Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part One

I’m doing another two-parter post and also writing a bunch about Iron Maiden yet again. But this is a pretty mandatory ranking to do, along with the actual album ranking that I haven’t got to yet. (sometime this spring, most likely)

It’s a simple thing starting today – I’m going to rank the album covers. Maiden have (almost) always had iconic cover art and I figured I’d throw my hat in the ranking ring on that. I’ll do the first part today, then tomorrow I will keep my normal schedule and press on with the singles series. On Friday I’ll offer up the final portion of this ranking. I don’t know about breaking a multi-part post up like this but I think it’ll be fine.

There are 17 Iron Maiden studio albums. I’ll handle the first 9 on my list today and the final 8 on Friday, the latter portion of the list will have more to talk about. I am only including the full-length studio albums – no live stuff, no EP’s or singles, no other “not album” stuff. Some of that has pretty awesome artwork, much of it I’ll cover over the run of my ongoing singles series. At some future point in time I’ll get to the live albums.

I probably shouldn’t have to say this but I will anyway – this is only about the album art, not the quality of the album itself. If I’ve talked about the album before I’ll provide a link to anyone curious what I think about the actual music, but the tunes have zero bearing on my thoughts regarding the artwork.

The list format works best when working from bottom to top, worst to best, least to first. And with that, I probably don’t even need to tell you how my Maiden album art ranking kicks off.

17 – Dance Of Death

Ugh. What a crime of a cover. So bad the artist didn’t want credit for it. I’ve complained about this cover in a “bad cover art” post I did a long time ago and also when I covered this record in my Album of the Week series recently. I won’t go over it again – just behold this hideous abomination. I mean, it bears repeating – the artist didn’t want credit for working on an Iron Maiden album cover. That tells you how hosed this is.

16 – Book Of Souls

A very nice album that I like quite a bit, but they totally punted on any kind of art here. I wonder if criticism over past covers made them take a more minimalist approach here. They did all sorts of other art with Eddie as a Mayan kind of thing, I don’t know why they didn’t lean into that and make it a more rounded out cover. Too colorful, maybe? I think this art isn’t bad but it’s almost nothing and doesn’t communicate a damn thing about the album.

15 – The X Factor

Here we have claymation Eddie being “executed” or shoved together like a toddler playing with Play-doh or something. I give them props for trying something different but it still kind of comes up short. I will say that the bleak cover does fit the mood of the album pretty well, that they do get points on.

14 – Virtual XI

So the idea here was to combine an upcoming video game featuring Eddie with the 1998 World Cup. The lesson here is not to mix two disparate ideas unless you are really damn good. This cover isn’t horrible but it makes zero sense. I’ve read how this came about but I still don’t understand why.

13 – The Final Frontier

There is a lot going on with this cover. That I’ll give points for, there is stuff there and it’s not totally obscure like with Virtual XI. Some alien kind of thing is killing Eddie, I guess, that seems to be the premise. Or Eddie is the alien thing killing an Eddie-like being in a spacesuit, I don’t know. (I think it’s actually that one) The cover artist didn’t want to do Eddie, but the band insisted that Eddie be on the cover since he’s on, like, every single one in some form. The art is fine but the attempt to stray from the band’s iconic cover character is a bit stupid.

12 – Iron Maiden

I might be courting a bit of stiff resistance here but this is where I rank the debut album’s cover. It has its place in history, both as the wide-market debut of Eddie and as artist Derek Riggs’ first album contribution to the art. Riggs would draw several memorable Maiden covers over the years, and it should tell you something if I’m just now getting to one he did.

I do think the art is a total piece of history and is good. But let’s admit it – Eddie looks kinda out of it here. He had more precision to his other looks, and that includes some single art that Riggs did before the debut album came out. Dude looks a bit stone here and it would take a bit more art to flesh out Eddie’s persona. Good stuff but still down a few rungs from the others.

11 – Senjutsu

Massive points here for samurai Eddie, something that’s been dreamed of since the Maiden Japan EP many moons ago. (also coming up on this very site tomorrow) The art of Eddie is great and nicely detailed. The cover overall has more going on than Book Of Souls but still feels a bit lacking. I can accept this one much more since Eddie looks pretty damn good on it and it checks off a wantlist item in a nice way.

I covered the music of Senjutsu very early on in the “history” of my blog.

10 – Fear Of The Dark

A very nicely done cover that reshapes Eddie as a nasty creature out stalking in the trees. This was the first cover Derek Riggs did not do for the band. The change is apparent but it suits the album title and also the title track very well and this was a nice way to let someone else have a go at handling Eddie.

9 – No Prayer For The Dying

This was the closet call of the bunch for me, choosing between this and what became my number 8 pick. This was the final cover art Derek Riggs would do on Maiden studio albums, though he continued some other art work with the band in years since.

There are two versions of this cover – the original with Eddie holding a presumed graverobber in the likeness of band manager Ron Smallwood, and a remastered cover with Eddie not holding anyone and simply busting out of the grave. I’ve posted the remaster above and will post the original below for reference. I do tend to prefer the remastered art with just Eddie.

This is a very nice album cover, it’s one I like a lot and I’d say, in general, the art gets more love than the album. It does mark the end of an iconic run of Riggs covers and is a special part of history.

That does it for part one. Tomorrow I’ll return to the Maiden singles series with Maiden Japan and then on Friday I’ll wrap this up with the top 8.

Part Two is now up for your viewing pleasure, head here to see the rest.

Album Of The Week – January 30, 2023

Leading off this week with the album that brought about the 1990’s before 1990 even hit. The album brought everything but the kitchen sink, though that was probably in there somewhere too.

Faith No More – The Real Thing

Released June 20, 1989 via Slash/Reprise Records

My Favorite Tracks – Epic, Falling To Pieces, Surprise! You’re Dead!

Faith No More had started as early as 1979, with a lot of shifting line-ups that at one point included Courtney Love. The core of the band was settled with drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould, guitarist Jim Martin and keyboard player Roddy Bottum. Vocalist Chuck Mosley joined for the band’s first few albums but was fired in 1988.

Faith No More recorded the music for The Real Thing without a vocalist through ’88. They quickly focused their singer search on Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton, who joined Faith No More then wrote lyrics for all of The Real Thing over the course of a few weeks.

The album moved slowly out of the gate but would go on to success as the decade shifted and music tastes moved on from hair metal to alternative rock. The Real Thing lingered on MTV for a few years and Faith No More became a signpost for the major shift in music trends that shook the world in 1991.

Normally when I do an AOTW I leave off “bonus tracks” or things of that nature, but in the case of The Real Thing I will include two songs that were not available on vinyl but were on CD and cassette copies. I had the tape growing up so it’s the version I’m familiar with, so the two non-vinyl cuts are included here.

From Out Of Nowhere

The album opener also served as the lead single. It is an uptempo affair with the bass and keyboard lines providing the main drive behind the song and Jim Martin’s guitar a bit more in the background. The song’s lyrical fare is pretty simple and is about meeting someone who takes your breath away on first sight but then the person is gone. The song quickly follows suit at a hair over three minutes, not lingering around long enough to know what hit you.

Epic

In the Faith No More lexicon, Epic is surely the band’s most-known song. This is a true kitchen sink song that could be listed under ten different genres and not be wrong. Funk-metal and alt-metal are probably the two main descriptors, though the song is also an early example of rap-metal.

The song’s meaning is very obscure, though Patton offered that he wrote it about sexual frustration. Most remember the very simple “it’s it – what is it?” repeated at the end of the track.

Epic was the band’s first major hit and remains today as their best-performing US single. The iconic video saw heavy MTV play and drew a lot of attention, this is one of the prime cuts of pre-grunge 1990 rock.

The fish in the video also became famous – the band were assailed by animal rights activists for allowing the fish to flop around out of water. Reports are that the fish did survive. The band also started a joke that the fish belonged to singer Bjork and either she gave the band the fish or they stole it from her, a gag that Bjork went along with. This of course led to widespread belief that the story was true.

Falling To Pieces

The funk metal train continues on with another album single. Mike Patton expresses falling apart at the seams as the band slams through with more alt-groove and atmospheric keyboards. The single itself wasn’t a hit but again, the video was often found on MTV.

Surprise! You’re Dead!

A super heavy track that’s pretty simply about revenge killing someone. The song had a video filmed for it but was never released as a single.

Jim Martin actually began this song in the 1970’s while he was in a Bay Area band with future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. While Burton has no connection to the song, he and Martin were great friends and Martin often paid tribute to Burton with shirts and in interviews.

Zombie Eaters

A very interesting premise that sees lyrics told from the point of view of a newborn baby who relies on its parents for everything. The baby winds up being the dominant figure in the relationship, as the parent becomes a zombie in caring for the infant. The music is also really well done here, starting with a very moody intro before going into a heavy groove for the rest of the track.

The Real Thing

The title track serves as a bit of an “all you can eat buffet” of what Faith No More is about on this record. It covers both groove and atmospheric ground and shifts between movements and passages. It’s perhaps an underrated highlight of the record.

Underwater Love

The upbeat music belies the lyrics actually being about murdering your loved one via drowning. A pretty trippy tune as the soundtrack to domestic discord.

The Morning After

The funk is in full effect here on this song that’s either about waking up after a one-night stand or becoming a vampire, no one is sure which. It’s a pretty rocking and peppy take on something that’s generally looked at through a gloomy lens.

Woodpecker From Mars

An instrumental that sounds like it’s based on some old piece of music but I can’t place it so I’m not sure. It’s a pretty nice tune that holds attention better than these kind of pieces in other places.

War Pigs

Here we have a cover of the famous Black Sabbath song. The band often performed this live, with Patton famously forgetting words and making up gibberish to fill the gaps. In the studio he got everything down right.

Edge Of The World

The other sort-of bonus track is a slow, jazzy/lounge piece. In it Mike Patton plays the part of an older man who makes advances on younger women. The song has been described in some circles as being about criminal acts but no actual evidence bears that out, this more of an old man of means preying upon young twenty-somethings. Sure it’s creepy but it’s legal creepy.

The Real Thing released to little fanfare but its audience built as Epic hit radio and MTV. The album would eventually hit platinum in the US and reach number 11 on the Billboard charts, while also getting platinum in Australia and peaking at 2 on its album chart. It also got a gold certification in the UK and is believed to have sold upwards of 4 million copies worldwide.

Faith No More would have vast influence over the music of the coming decade. They were a primary favorite of up-and-coming acts, members of Korn have practically written a book about how much they were into FNM while coming up. Faith No More’s ability to craft songs outside the confines of rock structure at the time led them to being a torch-bearer for many musicians who would make their own mark.

As an aside it’s worth noting that not everyone was entirely into Faith No More – specifically Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. Kiedis was unhappy about Mike Patton’s appearance in the Epic video, believing Patton to have copycatted Kiedis. While Kiedis kept his criticisms along those lines, it’s apparent that Faith No More and RHCP would be compared as their music was along similar lines. Patton did not engage Kiedis in the feud, at least as a member of Faith No More, but did express displeasure with him later due to RHCP interfering with a Mr. Bungle album release. The other members of both bands were not involved in the feud and reportedly got along well.

In the end the music is what matters, and Faith No More brought an album that would help transition music from its 1980’s rock phase into the more experimental period of the 1990’s. While Epic was the band’s most successful song, it’s arguable if The Real Thing is their biggest album, as the follow up Angel Dust did similar numbers and is hailed as a masterpiece in its own right. Obviously another story for another time.

An Album A Day – Week 3

Back again with the Album A Day series, and on its new day. This is a selection of stuff I listened to in the third week of the year.

Zach Bryan – American Heartbreak

Starting off with a whopper here, both in terms of album size and in the scope of the album’s reception. Bryan was an active member of the US Navy and was doing well releasing songs via YouTube, eventually he was discharged from the Navy so he could pursue a country music career. To say that worked out would be an understatement.

American Heartbreak was the country album of 2022. It not only topped the country charts but also placed high on the mainstream chart, something kind of rare for a country record. Recalling all of Bryan’s 2022 achievements would take more space than this digest-sized post could really get into.

This is a two-hour long album with 34 songs, a double or even triple album. It had a mess of singles, with Something In The Orange being the standout hit. The album is really good, though it’s worth saying that it’s a bit samey and doesn’t really explore a lot of territory despite its size. The songs have a fairly similar structure and the mood is pretty desolate across most of the album. It is also probably as much of a folk album as a country album, an argument that has been lighting up the Internet.

Overall I really liked the album, as the “sad, simple” song deal is right up my alley. It takes a bit of time to listen to, obviously, but I’ll be spinning this again to explore it further. This was a huge album for country music last year and has a lot of ramifications in terms of an artist getting huge while not being part of the Nashville machine. Zach Bryan’s career is going to be a very interesting one to follow.

Dark Angel – Leave Scars

This got a spin as we were partying one weekend night. A thrash classic from way back when, this album saw Dark Angel add a bit more technical prowess to their songs as opposed to the rawness of their prior effort Darkness Descends. It’s a very enjoyable listen after all these years and as a bonus curiosity features a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Fun stuff.

Warrel Dane – Praises To The War Machine

It had been a long time since I played this solo effort from the late Nevermore/Sanctuary frontman. Dane enlisted the help of longtime Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers to co-write and produce, and then-Soilwork and now-Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren came long to handle drumming.

This is a nice collection of songs that differ enough from Nevermore’s output to be a worthwhile effort. It isn’t Dane just treading the same ground, he offered up something different here. August is a pretty intense song, and Brother is a super personal one. This would be Dane’s only solo album before his death, he was recording his second when he died.

Vicious Rumors – Celebration Decay

I am continuing my run through the VC catalog as I’ll be seeing them in March. This time I went to their most recent album, this was released in the summer of 2020. (oh the memories…) The band’s lineup here is considerably different than their classic era, and it’s even different now than just a few years back.

This album is a very modern-sounding affair and it delivers quite a pummeling. The band had clearly updated their sound and weren’t out as a retro act. This one is good though it’ll require me a few more listens to process it more. I figure that this sort of sound is what I’m going to hear live in March, with even their older material having a bit of an update.

Aerosmith – Greatest Hits

Not an “album” really but still a full-length compilation so good enough. I put this on for a bicycle ride so I could have something on familiar and not really have to think about what I was listening to much. This was the band’s first compilation and it covers the early prime of their career. The tracklist is fine by me, this is fairly short comp featuring the essential cuts.

The one thing about this comp – several of the songs are edited. Same Old Song And Dance is, so is Sweet Emotion. There are more edits as well, so these aren’t the album versions of the songs. In an interesting twist, if you play this on Spotify, they are the unedited versions and the comp is four minutes longer than this original version. Kind of weird but hey, that’s what odd music trivia is for.

Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army

This was a last year album that I didn’t give a lot of time to. It didn’t grab me in the same way some of their earlier material did. I don’t feel much differently about it now after another listen – I enjoy the album for what it is but it doesn’t wow me. I don’t feel that this one will be a “grower” on me, I think the book’s pretty well written on this one.

Toxic Holocaust – Primal Future: 2019

Wrapping up the last week with the most recent album from one of my favorite 21st Century thrash bands. This was the first album in six years from TH and it saw mainman Joel Grind return to his original style of recording the entire album by himself.

It was not only cool to hear the band again after such a long break, but this album is also great. It is maybe a bit more thrashy and metal than the punk-laden earlier albums but is still a signature Toxic Holocaust record. There was supposed to be touring behind the album, but of course this came out in 2019 and … well, we know what happened.

That does it for this latest installment of An Album A Day. The math would indicate I have 49 more weeks and 344 more albums to go. Doing all this a week after the fact is also proving a bit confusing at times but that’s ok, this is just some BS to do to fill space. Until the next edition, interrupted of course by my usual posts through the week.

A Story And A Song – Shakedown

Today’s story is a quickie and not much of a specific story. The song in question is Shakedown, a 1987 tune from the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop II. It was performed by Bob Seger and, oddly enough, was Seger’s first number one Billboard Hot 100 hit. He’d had plenty of past success on the chart and had other number one songs on other charts like the Mainstream Rock chart, but it took a song from a soundtrack and originally shopped to someone else for Seger to finally hit number one on the big chart.

That other person was Glen Frey, who’d had huge success on the first Beverly Hills Cop movie with The Heat Is On. He turned down Shakedown and his loss was Seger’s gain.

Bob Seger is an artist who, while I can certainly respect and appreciate him, I’ll admit I’m also not his biggest fan. I don’t mind his songs but I don’t have any of his music in my collection or playlists. There’s just a disconnect where I don’t really “get into” his stuff that much. It’s not that I’m annoyed by his songs or anything, I just have other stuff to listen to.

Shakedown is a pretty funny song. It’s good, but it’s also really damn dumb. Most of the song is just the chorus repeated, to the point that even Klaus Meine and Bruce Dickinson would probably think the chorus is repeated too much. But the song does fit the late 80’s aesthetic very well, it is absolutely a product of its time. The most striking thing about it is that, again, it was Seger’s first number one overall as compared to his prior body of work.

The “story” here is extremely simple. I was at the grocery store the other day when Shakedown came on over the store’s PA playlist. It’s the first time I’d heard the song in many, many years and it’s quite possible that it’s the first time I’ve heard Shakedown in the 21st Century. It took me more than a minute to even remember that Bob Seger had done the song. I was seriously breaking my head trying to remember who the hell did the song or what it was even from. Let’s face facts – Beverly Hills Cop II pretty well sucked, so it’s not like I even want to remember that. It was finally remembering it was a Seger song and getting sucked back into that wormhole of old lore that led to a flood of 1987 memories and this post.

It is kind of funny, the effects of age and all that. I am accused of having an encyclopedic knowledge of music, it’s true that I can often identify a song on its first few notes or name some random dude who played in a band for part of a tour in 1996. But as the years go on, the distance from the stuff of youth grows, and it doesn’t come back quick enough to win bar trivia or whatever. But no one else usually answers those questions either, so I still feel comfortable on my throne of arcane music lore.

And, simply put, that’s all there is for today. This one didn’t dive the depths of any obscure knowledge, but I do feel like it hit on something with it being Bob Seger’s first true number one hit. One would think Turn The Page got there, but I guess it only got to number four. And he scored on quite an array of other songs, but him getting over the mountain was this silly ass soundtrack song. Funny how it works sometimes.

Women In Uniform – The Iron Maiden Singles Series

On through the singles series we go, today we essentially re-visit the very first one. While Live Plus One was a Japan-only release, this one was released in a wide variety of formats and to many different countries.

Already with the cover art we have some differences in versions. Posted above is the typical cover for most of the versions. It features British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in an army uniform with a gun, ready to ambush Eddie as he strolls along with a few lovely ladies. Maggie’s revenge is for Eddie killing her on the cover the of the Sanctuary single.

Now you can see that I have a different version of the release and a fairly generic cover that’s just the debut album cover with some hype text. I don’t know if they did this in case they needed a censored version of the cover, but it seems the Thatcher original got to market in good shape.

Women In Uniform

On now to the songs, and the feature track this time is a cover. The original was a very recent tune from 1978, the original artist were Skyhooks, an Australian glam rock act. Skyhooks had achieved some level of success in their home country but didn’t break through internationally. Women In Uniform as a Skyhooks single charted at number 8 in Australia and hit a modest 73 on the UK charts.

Iron Maiden were persuaded to record the song by their management team and record label. The recording process did not go the way Iron Maiden wanted, with information provided in Mick Wall’s 2004 edition of his biography of Iron Maiden, Run To The Hills: The Authorised Biography Of Iron Maiden.

Steve Harris and his outfit were keen on recording a heavy version of the song. The record label hired producer Tony Platt, who had worked as an engineer when Mutt Lange produced his run of AC/DC albums. Platt was under instructions to get a hit out of the Maiden recording sessions, and tinkered with the mix behind Harris’ back. When Harris found out, he canned Platt and did the final mix himself.

Harris was always dissatisfied with how Women In Uniform came out and this led to a deep distrust of outside interference in his music after that. It wouldn’t matter much, as Iron Maiden’s remarkable run with Martin Birch as producer was just on the horizon. But the incident might have contributed greatly to a “control freak” approach from Harris, which has been a topic of much discussion in Maiden circles in years since.

Women In Uniform was a decent single for Iron Maiden, heading to 35 on the UK charts. The band also filmed a music video for the song, the band’s first. This was also a bit before MTV was a thing so it was something of a novel concept for an up and coming act to film a video. This was the only time Maiden released a cover as a single – while that statement isn’t technically true, the other instance is a very limited promo item and also I don’t own that one so as it stands, this one is all we need to worry about.

The single is noteworthy as the final work of guitarist Dennis Stratton in Iron Maiden. Stratton left the band soon after, citing musical differences, but truly due to conflicts with Steve Harris and manager Ron Smallwood. Stratton reportedly was complicit in helping Tony Platt attempt to re-engineer this song as a radio hit, so this might actually be his reason for exiting. He would be replaced by some guy named Adrian…

There is another issue surrounding the song, and that is how it is viewed in a modern context. In short, it isn’t viewed highly. It is considered crude and objectifying to women, and has been dismissed by a fair number of people. Sure, it’s a bit raunchy, but there’s far worse out there. I honestly don’t see the huge problem with it – the lyrics are pretty dumb on the surface and this isn’t a song that should be taken seriously. I don’t think the song is that bad and I feel like it’s a bit of posturing over what are some juvenile at worst lyrics. I don’t have a problem with people wanting their music to be more conscientious, but I think this song is barely a blip on the radar and isn’t worth the hassle.

The rest of this 12-inch single has two live cuts that are also found on the Live Plus One release – Phantom Of The Opera and Drifter. I’ve already been over them (link is below on the list if you missed it) so I’ll just leave things at that.

Three more cuts from Paul Di’Anno’s tenure in Maiden await. Also the list continues growing, at least for as long as I keep finding decently priced stuff. That time might soon be at an end.

The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Live! + One

Running Free

Sanctuary

Women In Uniform (you are here)

Maiden Japan

Purgatory

Twilight Zone/Wrathchild

Run To The Hills

The Number Of The Beast

Flight Of Icarus

The Trooper

2 Minutes To Midnight

Aces High

Run To The Hills (live)

Running Free (live)

Stranger In A Strange Land

Wasted Years

The Clairvoyant

Infinite Dreams

Holy Smoke

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity

Out Of The Silent Planet

Rainmaker

Different World

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Empire Of The Clouds