Today’s single is a curiosity from the early 1980’s. This is a band that never wound up recording a proper album. They released one single, featured here today, as well as a handful of songs on compilation albums. A retrospective CD would come many years later, long after the band called it quits.
There are a number of ways to market a single for an emerging band. In the early 80’s, one such way would be to feature a guest spot from a famous rock star. It would appear from the cover that Xero have that part nailed down.
But, appearances are deceiving. Yes, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden does have a vocal track on this single. But Bruce never sang for Xero, he did not drop by the studio and lend his vocal talents to the band.
Here’s what happened, this rather obscure tale is sourced through the Discogs page for Xero as hard info is hard to come by. The common thread between Bruce Dickinson and Xero is a band called Shots. Bruce sang for them for a bit before joining Samson in 1979. Shots recorded a few songs with Bruce, one of them being the track Lone Wolf.
At one point in Shots before they broke up, guitarist Billy Liesegang joined. It does not appear that Liesegang was in the group at the same time as Dickinson, but I can’t confirm one way or the other. Shots would break up and Liesegang formed Xero.
As Xero were preparing the release of their lone single, it would appear that the band’s manager was the one who had the idea to take the Shots recording and tack it on to the Xero single. I can’t source this definitively, but I have seen it mentioned at the Bruce Dickinson Wellbeing Network, an archive of Bruce-related news and releases. This concept that it was the manager’s idea also comes up in discussion, but again, a super hard and fast source is tough to come by. It doesn’t appear to have been Billy Liesegang’s idea, that much seems clear.
Whatever the case, Xero released the single with Lone Wolf on it. It apparently didn’t take long for Iron Maiden management to come calling in regards to the unauthorized use of Bruce Dickinson’s vocals. The track was replaced with a different song in subsequent pressings of the single.
So, with all that commotion out of the way, let’s get into the songs themselves. Bear in mind that these are not hosted by any official source and, as is often the case with YouTube, these clips may vanish without warning.
The lead single is a melodic rock affair with, uh, not the greatest production but good enough to hear what’s going on. The song seems a bit “light” given that the group have a New Wave of British Heavy Metal billing, and it’s especially light when compared to the B-side. I think the song is fine, I don’t at all mind listening to it. The single apparently moved a few copies back in the day but I don’t have solid information on that, just Internet anecdotes.
On to the B-side and a very nice track. This is more along the lines of what I expected when I first checked this single out. It is a very straightforward song with a nice solo passage and I, like many, think maybe they should have led the single with this instead of Oh Baby. This song did appear on a comp record called Brute Force so maybe that’s why they didn’t release it as the A-side.
Here we have what is not really the band Xero, but the band Shots instead. This was one of a few tracks that Shots recorded with Bruce Dickinson and it was illicitly used on this single (again, an apparent management decision and not the band’s).
The song is pretty cool but it does stand out a bit from the other two recordings, this one is clearly a bit older than the other two songs. One can be forgiven for not thinking that Bruce is singing on this, but recall that he was still a teenager when he recorded this and hadn’t fully fleshed his voice out, something he’d do more of in Samson. After a few listens I can find him in there a bit, it’s interesting to hear him on an old recording so young.
So that’s the tale of Xero and their big single release, something that would be derailed by a pesky thing called performance rights or something like that. I don’t know what caused Xero to not get around to a full-length or to break up, again, info on them is super hard to come by and almost all of it revolves around the Bruce stuff.
Given the difficult nature of putting all this together with very few good sources, if anyone out there reads this and has any true, factual source material about this release I’d be happy to be pointed to it so I can make sure my stuff is accurate. I’m not really expecting much since few concrete leads turned up in my searches, but hey, never hurts to ask.