Iron Maiden

Biography

Members: Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Steve Harris, Nicko McBrain

Active: 1975-present

Iron Maiden are a British heavy metal band from east London. Formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, previously of Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler, they are one of the most successful and influential bands in the heavy metal genre, selling over 60 million albums worldwide. Iron Maiden have so far released thirteen studio albums, four "best of" compilations, eight live albums and four limited boxed-sets. They won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2000

Iron Maiden's work has inspired other sub-genres of heavy metal, including power metal and speed metal, and is generally thought of as an influence to any "metal" music containing dual-guitar harmonisation. One example of their far reaching influence is that, amongst others, the thrash metal band Slayer list Iron Maiden as one of their major influences, as do the pop-punk band Sum 41, Flamenco-metal band Breed 77, pop-rock band My Chemical Romance, progressive rock group Coheed and Cambria, and jam band Umphrey's McGee.

HISTORY

The long and twisting road from formation to the current day started in 1975, when bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray met up. Thirty years later, the two remain at the helm of Iron Maiden.

BEGINNING

Iron Maiden had twelve different line-ups in the 1970s, paying their dues on the mostly punk club circuit in London's rough East End. Although Iron Maiden were a metal band influenced by Deep Purple, Yes, Wishbone Ash, and Black Sabbath, the earlier music had undoubted punk overtones. Original singer Paul Day was replaced by the outlandish Dennis Wilcock, a huge KISS fan who used fire, make-up, and fake blood on stage. Neither vocalist possessed both the stage presence and vocal ability to take the band to the next level. This changed in 1978, with the addition of Paul Di'Anno at the helm, and Doug Sampson on drums.

Iron Maiden were a sensation on the English rock circuit by 1978. The band had been playing for three years and gained a tremendously loyal following, but had never recorded any of their music. On New Year's Eve 1978, the band recorded one of the most famous demos in rock history, the Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only four songs, the band sold all five thousand copies within weeks, with originals later fetching thousands of dollars (until a re-release in 1996). Two of the tracks on the demo, Prowler and Iron Maiden, went straight to number one on the English metal charts. Their first appearance on an album was on the compilation Metal for Muthas (released on 15 February 1980) with two early recordings of Sanctuary and Wrathchild.

In several of the early Iron Maiden line-ups, Dave Murray was joined by another guitarist, but for most of 1977 and all of 1978, Murray was the sole six-stringer in the band. This changed with the arrival of Tony Parsons in 1979. Drummer Doug Sampson was also replaced by the dynamic Clive Burr, and in November 1979, the band landed a major record deal by signing to EMI, a partnership that would last for nearly 15 years. Shortly before going into the studio, Parsons was replaced by guitarist Dennis Stratton. Initially, the band wanted to hire Dave Murray's childhood friend Adrian Smith, but Smith was busy singing and playing guitar for his own band, Urchin.

On 13 October 1979, guitarist Dave Murray hit upon so many girls after a gig at Manchester's UMIST that he created a storm of protests from disgruntled males. The next week, Sounds magazine printed a notice :

"I would just like to warn Dave Murray the lead guitarist of Iron Maiden that if he steps foot inside Manchester again I will personally pummel his brains in, cos he's ruined what I thought was an ace relationship with my girlfriend. And may I point out that no matter how much she rubs his name in my face I still think Deb Brown of Wythenshawe is the best yet.
Jealous Dave."

INITIAL SUCCESS

Iron Maiden was released in 1980 to critical and commercial success, and the group become one of the leading components of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). The band went on to open for KISS on their 1980 Unmasked tour, as well as opening select dates for the legendary Judas Priest. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was fired from the band as a result of creative and personal differences. Finally, the timing was right for the arrival of Adrian Smith.

Smith brought a sharp, staccato sound to Iron Maiden. His tight, experimental style was the complete opposite of Murray's smooth, rapid take on blues. One of Iron Maiden's trademarks is the double "twin lead" harmonising guitar stylings of Murray and Smith, a style pioneered by Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy, and developed further by Iron Maiden.

In 1981, Maiden released their second album, titled Killers. This new album contained many tracks that had been penned prior to the release of the debut album, but were considered surplus. Only two new tracks were written for the album; the title track, and the energetic Murders in the Rue Morgue.

THE NEXT LEVEL

As a group, Maiden never really partied and drank hard, and vocalist Paul Di'Anno partied harder than the others, which inevitably took its toll. Just as the band were beginning to achieve large-scale success in America, Di'Anno exhibited increasingly destructive behaviour, and his performances began to suffer. At the end of 1981 the band replaced Di'Anno with former Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson.

Dickinson vowed from the start that he was his own man in his own words, he "wasn't going to wear frilly collars and cut his hair". Legendary DJ, Tommy Vance had told Dickinson not to join the band advice which was ignored. Dickinson's debut with Iron Maiden was 1982's album The Number of the Beast, which is recognised as a classic of the heavy metal genre. This album was a world-wide success providing definitive songs such as "The Number of the Beast", "Run to the Hills" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name". For the first time the band went on a world tour, visiting the United States, Japan and Australia. The tour was marred (or perhaps promoted) by controversy coming from religious groups that claimed Iron Maiden was a Satanic group because of their dark lyrics, which supposedly spoke of Satan. The allegations centered around one song, "The Number of the Beast", a song ostensibly about a bad dream. The members of Iron Maiden tried to deflect this criticism by insisting that the lyrics were based on a dream of Steve Harris's, but the accusations persisted. A group of Christian activists destroyed the band's records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) by burning them in a large fire.

On the same tour, producer Martin Birch was involved in a car accident with a group of church-goers. Ironically the bill for the repair came to ?666, a figure which Birch refused to pay, instead opting for a higher amount.

On a more positive note, actor Patrick McGoohan was very accommodating when a request was made to allow the band to use a spoken intro from the cult TV series, The Prisoner, in which McGoohan was the lead actor. McGoohan was a big name in 1982, and Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood was nervous about making the request. The conversation between McGoohan and Smallwood allegedly went:

McGoohan: "What did you say the name of the band was again?"
Smallwood: "Iron Maiden"
McGoohan: "A rock band, you say... do it!"

Before heading back into the studio in 1983, they replaced drummer Clive Burr with Nicko McBrain and went on to release four albums which went multi-platinum world-wide: Piece of Mind (1983), Powerslave (1984), Live After Death (1985) and Somewhere in Time (1986). The band gathered huge audiences worldwide, especially in South America, Asia, Australia, and the United States. Support in these areas remains to this day, with the possible exception of the United States.

Satanic accusations persisted - there was a lot of controversy about occult messages in many bands' music at the time, normally discovered by playing the offending track backwards. On the Piece Of Mind album, from 1983, a backward message was placed at the start of the track "Still Life" as a kind of internal joke. Reverse this track, and you will hear drummer McBrain clearly saying "Hmm, Hmmm, what ho sed de t'ing wid de t'ree bonce. Don't meddle wid t'ings you don't understand", followed by a belch. McBrain later admitted this to be his "famous" impression of Idi Amin Dada. It translates to the following: "What ho said the monster with the three heads, don't meddle with things you don't understand."

Also on the Piece of Mind album, renowned author Frank Herbert came into conflict with the band when they wanted to record a song named after the book Dune. Not only did Herbert refuse to allow the song to be called "Dune", he also refused to allow a spoken quotation from the book to appear as the track's intro. Bass player Steve Harris' polite request was met with a stern reply from the agent: "No. Because Frank Herbert doesn't like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden". This statement was backed up with a legal threat, and eventually the song was renamed To Tame A Land and released in 1983.

EXPERIMENTATION

In 1988, the band tried a different approach for their seventh studio album, titled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. This was a concept album featuring a story about a mythical child who possessed clairvoyant powers based on the book Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card.

For the first time the band used keyboards on a recording (as opposed to guitar synths on the previous release). In the opinion of some critics, this produced a more accessible release. The band also headlined the annual Monsters of Rock festival for the first time this year. The 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of Records contains the following entry:

"Largest PA system: On Aug 20th 1988 at the Castle Donington 'Monsters of Rock' Festival a total of 360 Turbosound cabinets offering a potential 523kW of programme power, formed the largest front-of-house PA. The average Sound Pressure Level at the mixing tower was 118dB, peaking at a maximum of 124dB during Iron Maiden's set. It took five days to set up the system."

DECLINE

For the first time in seven years, the band suffered a line-up change with the major loss of guitarist/vocalist Adrian Smith. Former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers was chosen to replace Smith, and in 1990 they released the raw sounding album No Prayer for the Dying. This album went back to the heavy style of the band, and whilst commercially successful, was not as well received by most fans. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson also began experimenting with a raspier style of singing that was a marked departure from his trademark operatic style. Nonetheless, the band obtained their first (and only, to date) number one hit single "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter". It was released at the start of January, the slowest time of the year for record sales, and was one of the first records to be released on several different formats with different B-sides, thus encouraging fans to buy several copies. The song was originally penned and recorded by Bruce Dickinson for the soundtrack to the fifth Nightmare on Elm Street movie.

Before the release of No Prayer for the Dying, Bruce Dickinson officially launched a solo career alongside Iron Maiden, with Gers as guitarist. Dickinson performed a solo tour in 1991 before returning to the studio with Iron Maiden for the album Fear of the Dark. Released in 1992 it had several songs that were popular amongst fans, such as the title track and Afraid to Shoot Strangers.

In 1993, Iron Maiden suffered a huge loss when Bruce Dickinson left the band to further pursue his solo career. However, Bruce agreed to stay with the band for a farewell tour and two live albums (later re-released in one package). The first, A Real Live One, featured songs from 1986 to 1992, and was released in March 1993. The second, A Real Dead One, featured songs from 1980 to 1984, and was released after Bruce had left the band. He played his farewell show with Iron Maiden on August 28, 1993. The show was filmed, broadcasted by the BBC, and released on video under the name Raising Hell.

WINDS OF CHANGE

The band auditioned hundreds of vocalists and finally chose young gun Blaze Bayley in 1994, formerly of Wolfsbane. Bayley had an altogether different style to his predecessor, which received a mixed reception amongst fans. After a three year hiatus, Maiden returned in 1995 with the hour-long album The X Factor. The album was generally seen as having dark, brooding songs that seemed more melancholy and introspective than usual. Chief songwriter Steve Harris was going through serious personal problems at the time with the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his father and many feel the album's sound is a reflection of this. The 11-minute epic "Sign of the Cross", opening the album, is perhaps the stand-out track, and even Bayley's detractors tend to recognise it as a classic.

The band spent most of 1996 on the road before returning to the studio for Virtual XI (1998). The album contained few notable tracks, with only The Clansman and Futureal surviving on future tours, and chart positions were observably lower. One of the most criticised tracks was the single The Angel and the Gambler, which was all that many people heard of the album before deciding not to buy it. Virtual XI failed to reach the one million mark in worldwide sales for the first time, and thus sounded Bayley's death knell.

REUNION

In February 1999, Bayley left the band, apparently by mutual consent. At the same time, the band shocked their fans when they announced that both Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith were rejoining the band, which meant the classic 1980s lineup was back in place - plus Janick Gers, who would remain. Iron Maiden now had three guitarists for the first time. This led to a successful reunion tour.

In 2000, a more progressive period began for the band when they released the album Brave New World. The songs were longer and the lyrics spoke about both dark themes and social criticism. The band gained a new fan base when they began exploring the genre of progressive metal, and the world tour that followed ended in January 2001 with a show at the famous Rock in Rio festival.

The band continued with their progressive trend in the album Dance of Death released in 2003. The album went platinum in several countries and left no doubts that the band was still a force to be reckoned with. These new songs were described as "harmonizing and original".

In 2005, Iron Maiden announced a tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of their first album and the 30th anniversary of their formation. The band re-released the Number of the Beast single, which went straight to number three in the UK charts. The band hit the road to support the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Days, in which the band celebrates the music mainly from its 1980-1983 period.

The band's show in Gothenburg on Saturday 9 July 2005 was broadcast live on TV across Scandinavia.

Iron Maiden toured the United States with a stint on the 10th anniversary Ozzfest tour, playing before Black Sabbath from July 15 through August 20, 2005. The band performed a shortened version of its Early Days European set, usually lasting about an hour. Several nights of the Ozzfest tour saw Iron Maiden headlining due to Ozzy Osbourne experiencing throat problems. Iron Maiden also played several "Off-Fest" dates headlining in places such as Toronto and Denver. During this tour, the band were added to the Hollywood Rockwalk.

At Iron Maiden's last Ozzfest performance, the band had their sound turned off several times, eggs were thrown towards the stage, and chants of "Ozzy" were shouted through the PA system. This was the work of Sharon Osbourne, who took to the stage and called Bruce Dickinson "a prick" after they performed their encore, followed by a large portion of the crowd booing her off the stage. She officially admitted this in a scathing letter, accusing Bruce of heckling her husband, which she signed "The Real Iron Maiden".

The band headlined the Reading and Leeds weekend festivals on the 26th and 28th August 2005, playing classics from the first four studio albums to a combined audience of approximately 120,000.

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

Iron Maiden's 14th studio album named A Matter of Life and Death was released worldwide on the 28th August 2006 (5th September for the US and 29th August for Canada). It was preceded by the "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" single on August 14. The album was once again produced by Kevin Shirley, and is the longest Iron Maiden album to date. The album is not a concept album, but six songs directly revolve around war and four religion (some overlapping takes place) and these two themes shade every piece of the album; this is likely Maiden's most serious lyrical effort. The music is often described as a cross between Dance of Death, The X Factor, and Bruce Dickinson's late nineties solo material, and seven of the songs could qualify as epics by general metal standards.

Anticipating the release, the official website released two songs in streaming audio on August 10 and 11. The album topped the charts in ten countries, and entered the American charts in the Top 10 for the first time since album sales could be properly counted (ie 1991).

There is currently a degree of controversy going on within the Iron Maiden fan community regarding the tour in support of A Matter of Life and Death, with Trivium supporting, as the band is playing every song off of the album, with a small number of older material at the end. However, Iron Maiden strongly stand by their decision to have the tour set up as it is, as they feel that A Matter of Life and Death is some of the best material they have put out to date.

The album also won the 'Classic Rock 2006 - Album of the Year Award' which was voted for by the magazines fans which further backs Iron Maiden's stance to do the whole album live.

IRON MAIDEN IN POPULAR CULTURE

Bruce Dickinson and Eddie did a public service announcement for British television with "The Seat Belt Dummies" in 1991. The seat belt dummies were in the audience playing air guitar and Eddie is shown. The dummies remark that, "if you don't wear your seatbelt, you may end up looking like this (points to Eddie)". At the end, Bruce says "Don't forget, buckle your safety belt, mate".

Iron Maiden is referenced prominently in the lyrics to the 2000 hit "Teenage Dirtbag" by American punk-pop group Wheatus. The song tells of a lonely, nerdy teenage boy who secretly yearns for a pretty female classmate, Noelle, while listening to Iron Maiden. Noelle later surprises him by declaring herself to be a "teenage dirtbag" too, and inviting him to join her at an Iron Maiden concert. Bruce Dickinson returned the favour by playing guitar on Wheatus' third single "Wannabe Gangstar".

The band is mentioned several times in episodes of Beavis and Butt-head. Songs featured include "The Prisoner" and "From Here To Eternity".

In the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted travel back in time to medieval England, and are caught talking with the King's daughters. The King decides to "put them in the Iron Maiden" at which point Bill and Ted look at each other and say, "Iron Maiden?! EXCELLENT!".

In the computer game GTA: Vice City Two Minutes To Midnight, a song by Iron Maiden is played by V-Rock radio station. Player can also see a parody of Eddy on posters on concert hall in downtown area of Vice City.

Several computer viruses contain references to the band, such as the "Seventh Son", "Evil Men" and "V800" infections.

Christopher Walken portrayed music producer Bruce Dickinson (not to be confused with Bruce Dickinson, singer in Iron Maiden), in the humourous "More Cowbell" Saturday Night Live skit, a spoof recording session for Blue ?yster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." Dickinson repeatedly stopped the recording to request "More Cowbell!". The skit has become a huge cult hit.

Phantom of the Opera Listen was used in two UK television commercials in the early to mid 90's. One commercial for KFC saw Colonel Sanders bungee jump as the music speeds up while letting his audience know of his latest offerings. The second, and more well known, was a commercial for Lucozade where we see Linford Christie preparing to race (albiet as a training excerise) and, once again as the music speeds up, he is seen sprint from his starting blocks.

Canadian punk band Sum 41 made reference to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the hit single Fat Lip where they state:
"Heavy metal and mullets it's how we were raised.
Maiden and priest were the gods that we praised."

CURRENT LINE-UP:

Bruce Dickinson vocals (1981-1993, 1999-present)
Dave Murray guitar (1976-present, replaced Dave Sullivan after only a few months)
Adrian Smith guitar (1980-1990, 1999-present)
Janick Gers guitar (1990-present)
Steve Harris bass (1975-present)
Nicko McBrain drums (1983-present)

ORIGINAL LINE-UP:

Paul Day vocals (1975 - 1976)
Dave Murray guitar (1976-present, replaced Dave Sullivan after only a few months)
Terry Rance guitar (1975 - 1976)
Steve Harris bass (1975-present)
Ron Matthews drums (1975 - 1977)

STUDIO ALBUMS

1980 - Iron Maiden
1981 - Killers
1982 - The Number of the Beast
1983 - Piece of Mind
1984 - Powerslave
1986 - Somewhere in Time
1988 - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
1990 - No Prayer for the Dying
1992 - Fear of the Dark
1995 - The X Factor
1998 - Virtual XI
2000 - Brave New World
2003 - Dance of Death
2006 - A Matter of Life and Death

LIVE ALBUMS

1983 - Beast Over Hammersmith
1985 - Live After Death
1993 - A Real Live One
1993 - A Real Dead One
1993 - Live at Donington
2002 - Rock In Rio
2005 - Death on the Road

COMPILATION ALBUMS

1996 - Best of the Beast
1999 - Ed Hunter
2002 - Edward the Great
2002 - Eddie's Archives box-set: Best of the B-Sides (2002)
BBC Archives
2005 - The Essential Iron Maiden

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Running Free: The Official Story of Iron Maiden; Bushell, Gary and Halfin, Ross (1985) ISBN 0-946391-50-5

What Are We Doing This For: A Photographic History; Halfin, Ross (1988) ISBN 0-946391-65-3

Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden, the Authorized Biography; Wall, Mick and Ingham, Chris (1998) ISBN 1-86074-666-7

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