This week we are on to the album Fear Of The Dark. It would be Iron Maiden’s second in the 1990’s and it would mark a final album for a band member, at least for awhile. This stuff is the end of an era but Maiden went out swinging.
There are a pile of different versions of this release. I am holding a US CD copy that is almost “complete,” we’ll get to that later. The cover art was done by the band’s long time artist Derek Riggs, though it’s worth noting that he did not do the art to the full album’s cover and was soon on the way out. In fact, as far as I can tell, this is Derek’s last appearance in this singles series. Some of that is due to me not having a few live ones that come just after this, but for the purposes of this series it’s worth noting that Eddie’s iconic artist did his final work. There has been use of and involvement with Derek since then so I’ll correct this if I find I’m wrong down the line.
Not a whole lot else to say before I get into the music, but it is worth mentioning that the single did very well on the charts, getting to number 2 in the UK and charting in many other countries. While this period of Maiden is generally regarded as their weakest, they did have their biggest chart success during this time and also had strong album sales. Things are weird sometimes.
Be Quick Or Be Dead
The single is a tune penned by Bruce Dickinson and Janick Gers. It is based on a series of scandals and frauds that were all over the news at the time, mainly British and European stuff that I’m not terribly familiar with. But it’s all the same, we’ve always had our share of garbage like that in the US.
As for the song, this one is HEAVY. Sure, Iron Maiden are a metal band, we all know that. And yeah, they have heavy stuff, many parents couldn’t handle what they were hearing when Maiden made their rise in the ’80’s. But this song is just on another level heavy. It’s fast, ferocious and will absolutely rip your throat out. The band did more on the heavy side during the Blaze Bayley years but I’m sure they got up to a lot again that went like this.
While Fear Of The Dark will forever be known for its title track, this song is one of the highlights of an album that is a mixed bag of tunes but offers some quality cuts. This was always one of my favorites from the record and its vitality didn’t make the ensuing years any easier to digest.
Nodding Donkey Blues
The “all versions” B-side is just what the title suggests – Iron Maiden are playing the blues. This is an original composition that is credited to each band member, I suppose as a way to share the blame. The song is a laughable and crude one about picking up a hard luck woman. Obviously the song is a total joke and should be discussed in that context, this isn’t competing with Rime Of The Ancient Mariner for lyrical analysis. It’s one of those things that’s funny to hear the first time but any entertainment value wears off quickly. To borrow from the British, Maiden are having a wank here.
Space Station No. 5
It is again a Montrose cover, Maiden previously covered I’ve Got The Fire (two times even). This time, Maiden chug out a serviceable version of the song.
For the first two minutes, anyway.
After the first bit, Bruce goes into some extended sequence of gibberish on the mic. No telling what he’s up to there. Then there’s a solo and as the song picks up pace toward the end, Bruce decides to announce a horse race between gems like Wanker and Prick, as well as Metallica.
The bit itself is amusing but it’s not something that really elevates the song any. In and of itself I don’t really care, again Maiden have a trillion singles out and if they want to jack around here and there, that’s their business. It does kind of suck because Space Station No. 5 is one of my favorite Montrose songs, both from the band and from Sammy Hagar’s early solo career. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more reverence toward the original, but in the end it’s a pile of whatever.
On my US version of the single, this is the end of the line. But, on international editions and the 12-inch vinyl, there is yet another track to behold. I’ll go ahead and include it here since I don’t feel it’s worth the effort to post a new entry to this series if/when I do get the record.
Bayswater Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
On some versions this track is hidden and a part of Space Station No. 5. On most vinyl that I’m aware of, the song is actually on the A-side after the lead single. Here, Maiden again have a go at their manager Ron Smallwood. Janick plays a bluesy acoustic riff while Bruce imitates Ron ranting about various things. For eight minutes.
The premise here is funny but holy hell does this drag for way too long. This is the first time I’ve played the entire thing since the mid ’90’s and this might be the last time I play the whole track in my life.
I don’t have every single and I can’t recall some of what’s to come, but this collection is probably the worst pile of B-sides Maiden did in their career. They started having a wank and didn’t stop until the tape ran out. Thankfully we get something better next week – well, mostly.
That does it for this single and its lukewarm bonus offerings. Yes, that is a stock photo up top rather than the actual single from my collection – this CD is somewhere in with the roughly 800 other CDs I own and I’m not sure exactly where. I’m tired and want a nap and I’m gonna do that instead of looking for it. I’ll update this someday when I bother finding the disc.
The Iron Maiden Singles Series
Bring Your Daughter … To The Slaughter
Be Quick Or Be Dead (you are here)
From Here To Eternity
Out Of The Silent Planet
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Empire Of The Clouds