411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2011: Iron Maiden
IRON MAIDEN’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
Iron Maiden would itself come into being on Christmas of all days. It was 1975 when Steve Harris officially came up with the concept based on the novel The Man in the Iron Mask, just to show Steve’s long running love of books and poems to mine for source material. The beginning line-up featured only one member of the final line-up and that was Harris himself. The second classic member, Dave Murray, would join when his friend (and current singer of Maiden) Dennis Wilcock recommended him. Actually, Harris ended up dissolving the band due to Murray since he had two axe men already who threw a fit when Murray auditioned but was the superior player of the bunch.
So Steve dissolved the band then reformed it with Murray and Wilcock being the only members. After some new recruits Wilcock and Murray’s friendship dissolved so Steve fired Murray to keep his singer happy. Sadly for Dennis, this proved disastrous since his choice for a Maiden line-up started to perform “piss poor” at gigs (Harris’ exact words) – which prompted Steve to realize his mistake. Harris corrected that mistake by firing Wilcock and asking Murray to return to the band. This would be a definite plus for the image of the band we would know today. Dennis Wilcock wore make-up and did the whole fire and blood stage act like KISS (remember this was the mid to late 70’s). Thankfully history took a turn so we got Eddie instead.
By 1978 the band was ready to record a proper demo. At this time Steve Harris met Paul Di’Anno and after a quick audition hired him. He liked Paul’s edgier growl and thought it fit the direction of the band well by setting a new tone, aligning with the growing metal by punk street fight of the British underground. The demo this team recorded would be the famous The Soundhouse Tapes. One of those tracks, despite coming from a demo, would go on to be number one in Sounds magazine which prompted that demo to actually sell 5000 copies. The fact a demo would sell like that is monumental into itself. That song was “Prowler”…
Murray was the lone axe man at this point but Harris was still trying to get a second guitarist to make it a duel team. Dave Murray recommended a friend he had known since he was a kid: Adrian Smith. Unfortunately Smith was tied up with his own band so Dennis Stratton was hired for second lead. He ended up breaking from that band but didn’t join up with Maiden until after they recorded their first album. Add in the addition of drummer Clive Burr and the band was finally set. The band signed on with EMI at the end of ‘79 and recorded their self-titled debut, which not only became an instant hit in the metal kingdom but actually made a big enough splash to hit the number four spot in England. This scored them the spot opening first for KISS then Judas Priest the same year.
On a role, the band came back in 1981 with the mighty Killers which made international waves. During the tour for that album, Harris realized he was still missing a piece of the puzzle. Singer Paul Di’Anno was having problems on tour and the shows suffered. Paul denies the charge he was doing the drugs Harris accused him of doing, but either way when Steve saw a show for a band called Sampson playing one and watched that band’s singer, a guy going by the non-metal name of Bruce Bruce… he knew that was the man that needed to front Iron Maiden. Ironically, Bruce had also seen Iron Maiden before that and liked the band as well. Needless to say, Bruce Dickenson easily auditioned for the job of vocalist and was hired. They would go on to record Number of the Beast which would be their biggest album yet with smash international hits (“Run To The Hills”), massive MTV coverage (that song and the title track), and a progressive epic tale of a man on death row that would become an instant fan classic (“Hallowed Be Thy Name”). Harris was right with his choice of Bruce Dickinson as singer and with the new material they were now international starts. They were also easily the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that launched the golden age of 80’s heavy metal.
This would also be Iron Maidens first (and biggest) brush with controversy as Christian groups hit code red over the title track “Number of the Beast” and it’s imagery. Iron Maiden albums were being burned with Ozzy albums by these groups and it made for a lot of bad publicity at a time Tipper Gore and friends were asking congress to censor and label albums. Despite the fact the song wasn’t about that Harris never went there with his lyrics again just to avoid another controversy. Gene jacket kids everywhere didn’t care though and Eddie’s army of fans grew.
Sadly, after the recording of this album, drummer Clive Burr would be forced to quit due to personal issues. That set the stage for drummer Nicko McBrain to take over. Finally the classic line up was in place. With the release of Piece of Mind the classic albums continued to roll like some epic roll call of honor. This would be followed by another fan favorite in Powerslave in 1984, the iconic live opus Live After Death, the experimental but chart busting Somewhere In Time, and finally another fan favorite in a concept album – 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Combining more keyboards, more story elements, mainstream songs and progressive epics, Maiden were hitting all corners hard.
And as the 80’s came to a close they were also the last New Wave of British Heavy Metal band to stay in the public eye. Even with thrash pulling into its later years and glam metal running its course it seemed Iron Maiden would be eternal leaders of a genre they helped engineer as well as an industry that changed while they did not. Like a safe harbor on stormy seas Maiden was there to prove all was well.
Unfortunately change did come as Adrian Smith grew dissatisfied with the direction of the band and after a solo album called it a day in 1989. During 88-89 Bruce had also done a solo album so he brought along the guitarist from that album, Janick Gers to fill Adrian’s shoes.
Two more albums would come from this line up: No Prayer For The Dying and 1192’s Fear Of The Dark. During this time Maiden seemed to be stuck in a new decade retreading classic ideas while the industry was getting rougher and dirtier. Worse, Bruce still worked on his solo albums and with their success allowed his music difference with Steve Harris to play out. In a move that shocked fans Bruce left Iron Maiden to pursue his solo career full time.
Iron Maiden would move on with a new darker and even more progressive direction. They would pick up former Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley and return with the much anticipated but controversial The X-Factor. More keyboards, longer songs that were moody and winding, the songs either became championed as cult classics by a few fans or got sent to the woodshed by legions of the rest. This was followed up with 1998’s Virtual XI which would not only be the poorest selling album ever for the franchise but would even managed to get worse reactions from critics and fans. As the 90’s drew to a close Blaze and Maiden agreed to call it a day and the venerable franchise had seemingly finally joined Eddie in the morgue.
But impressions were not what it had seemed. With the dawn of a new decade and in an era of reunions the ultimate reunion took place. Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris reconciled and the Air Raid Siren himself was back. And if that didn’t get fans talking it soon came out the Adrian Smith was also coming back. And if THAT wasn’t enough, it was announced that Janick Gers was also staying on so Maiden would now be a three-piece in the axe department.
It was on and the fans went nuts for new music. They got it with 2000’s aptly titled Brave New World. Combined with a world tour, a greatest hits album, and a video game featuring Eddie, Maiden was back with a vengeance. The commercial and critical success of BNW was followed up with Dance of Death, a combination of the clean clarity of the Bruce years and the dark imagery of the Blaze years, but in the new mix of the classic maiden line-up it also received commercial and critical success for venting and pulling off the ideas.
Controversy struck again for 2006’s A Matter Of Life and Death as the album was (outside of one song) all long and winding epic progressive songs and based on the concept of war. To add to the conflicting fan reaction the band decided that after six years of playing the classics live they would do a tour playing the new album straight through (and little classics). While fan reaction was hostile the tickets didn’t lie and Iron Maiden had one of their most successful tour dates as of yet.
But his shrewd plan payed off as the next tour was designated nothing but classics in the 2007-2009 “Somewhere Back In Time World Tour”. To add fuel to the fire the band even pulled out all of its old stage props included the classic Egyptian themed Powerslave set with mummy-Eddie on the loose. Fan reaction hit overdrive and that again broke records for the band. Further, in an age where singers and bands fight for precious PR time and sales numbers Iron Maiden quietly pulled up to the curb in this:
No matter how you spin it – When a band is flown by the lead singer in a custom build and decaled airplane, you have made it.
Maiden ends the last decade with The Final Frontier, a combination of modern progressive numbers and classic Adrian riffs, still touring loud and in charge, the plan continuing to rotate tours playing old and newer material. That fact alone shows the breath of the bands catalog and the fact that each era can command that respect. Few bands can even get away with that and the few that could aren’t the draw that Iron Maiden is.
Why Iron Maiden Was Selected:
From beach heading the metal revolution in the 80’s to being it’s determined champion at the end of it, from holding the course and weathering the turbulent 90’s, to today when they tour larger than life on their terms and keep drawing larger crows when they do so, there can be no doubt that Iron Maiden is one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. Their iconic status and sheer gravitas they bring to a music scene starving for larger than life heroes proves the fact they are beyond a corner stone of heavy metal and in fact are one of the greatest bands of all time. Period.
Inducting Iron Maiden into the 411 Music Hall of Fame is a decision that was easy for the staff to make. At any music gathering you will have a swell of rabid fans yelling “Up The Irons!” repeatedly. The only sensible thing is to make sure they are on your side. For that reason along with the great music legacy and incredible integrity Eddie and company bring to an industry in desperate need of it, 411 proudly inducts Iron Maiden into its Music Hall Of Fame.
Up The Irons!