Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band from east London. The band were formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris; formerly a member of Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler. Iron Maiden are one of the most successful and influential bands in the heavy metal genre, having sold more than 80 million albums worldwide. The band won the Ivor Novello award for international achievement in 2002. The band have headlined several major events in its career, notably Rock in Rio, Ozzfest alongside Black Sabbath, Donington's "Monsters of Rock", "Download" Festivals and the "Reading and Leeds Festivals."
Although Iron Maiden are a heavy metal band, influenced by Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, their earlier music had undoubted punk overtones. Iron Maiden's mascot, Eddie, is a perennial fixture in the band's horror-influenced album cover art, as well as in live shows. Eddie was drawn by Derek Riggs until 1992, but has had various incarnations by numerous artists, the most notable being Melvyn Grant. Eddie is also featured in a first-person shooter video game and best-of album – Ed Hunter – as well as numerous books, graphic comics and band-related merchandise.
Iron Maiden were formed on Christmas Day 1975, by Steve Harris, shortly after he left his previous group, Smiler. Harris attributes the band name to a movie adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask, which he saw around that time, and so the group was christened after the medieval torture device.
Founding members, bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray, remain the longest-surviving members of Iron Maiden. The band had twelve different line-ups in the 1970s, in the East End of London area of Manor Park, while struggling to form a stable line-up of band members. Original vocalist Paul Day was fired as he lacked "energy or charisma onstage". He was replaced by Dennis Wilcock, a Kiss fan who utilized fire, make-up and fake blood during live performances. Wilcock's friend, Murray, was invited to join, to the frustration of guitarists Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance. This fuelled Harris to temporarily split the band in 1976, though the group reformed soon after with Murray as sole guitarist.
Iron Maiden recruited another guitarist in 1977, Bob Sawyer, who caused a rift between Murray and Wilcock, prompting Harris to fire both Murray and Sawyer. A poor gig at the Bridgehouse in November 1977, with a makeshift line-up including Tony Moore on keyboards, Terry Wapram on guitar, and drummer Barry Purkis resulted in Harris firing the entire band. Dave Murray was reinstated and Doug Sampson was hired as drummer.
A chance meeting at the Red Lion pub in Leytonstone evolved into a successful audition for vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Steve Harris has stated, "There's sort of a quality in Paul's voice, a raspiness in his voice, or whatever you want to call it, that just gave it this great edge."
Iron Maiden had been playing for three years, but had never recorded any of their music. On New Year's Eve, 1978, the band recorded a demo, The Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only three songs and a four-piece (all subsequent recordings featured a five-piece until 1999 when the band became a six-piece), the band sold all five thousand copies within weeks. One track found on the demo, "Prowler", went to number one on Neal Kay's Heavy Metal Soundhouse charts in Sounds magazine. Their first appearance on an album was on the compilation Metal for Muthas (released on 15 February 1980) with two early versions of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild".
From late 1977 to 1978, Murray was the sole guitarist in the band. He was, however, fired in 1979 and replaced by Paul Cairns. Shortly before going into the studio, Cairns left the band. Several other guitarists were temporarily hired until the band finally settled on Dennis Stratton. Initially, the band wanted to hire Dave Murray's childhood friend Adrian Smith, but Smith was busy with his own band, Urchin. Drummer Doug Sampson was also replaced by Clive Burr (who was brought into the band by Stratton). In December 1979, the band landed a major record deal with EMI.
Iron Maiden's eponymous 1980 release, Iron Maiden, made number 4 on the UK charts in its first week of release, and the group became one of the leading proponents of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The band went on to open for Kiss on their 1980 Unmasked tour, as well as opening select dates for Judas Priest. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was fired from the band as a result of creative and personal differences. Stratton was replaced by Adrian Smith.
Smith brought a sharp, staccato sound to Iron Maiden. His 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 Judas Priest.
In 1981, Maiden released their second album, titled Killers. This new album contained many tracks that had been written prior to the release of the debut album, but were considered surplus. With songs already shaped on the road well in advance, only three new tracks were written for the album; "Prodigal Son," "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "Killers".
The next level
Like many bands, the members of Iron Maiden consumed a large amount of alcohol in their early days. However, most members dabbled very little in other drugs (Steve Harris abstained from them altogether). The exception was vocalist Paul Di'Anno, who demonstrated increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly through cocaine usage. His performances began to suffer, just as the band was beginning to achieve large-scale success in America. At the end of 1981 the band replaced Di'Anno with former Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson. 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 The Number of the Beast, an album that claimed the band their first ever UK number 1 record and additionally became a Top Ten hit in many other countries. For the second time the band went on a world tour, visiting the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia. The tour's US leg was marred (or perhaps promoted) by controversy stemming from an American right-wing political pressure group that claimed Iron Maiden was a Satanic group because of the album's title track, ostensibly concerning a nightmare Steve Harris suffered. The band members' attempts to deflect the criticism failed to dampen persistent accusations. A group of Christian activists destroyed Iron Maiden records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) in protest against the band. However, these accusations of Satanism were largely based on misinterpretation of the song, or fear of the aggressive, energetic nature of the music. Iron Maiden's current drummer, Nicko McBrain, is a Christian, and is happy to play the song, which he sees as a warning against Satanism.
On the same tour, producer Martin Birch was involved in a car accident with a group of church-goers. Coincidentally, the bill for the repair came to £666, a figure which Birch refused to pay, instead opting for a higher amount.
Actor Patrick McGoohan was 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, producer and series writer. 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 went:
McGoohan: "What did you say the name of the band was again?"
Smallwood: "Iron Maiden"
McGoohan: "A rock band, you say...do it!"
Cover from Powerslave albumBefore heading back into the studio in 1983, the band replaced drummer Clive Burr with Nicko McBrain and went on to release four albums which went multi-platinum world-wide: the dark and ultra-heavy Piece of Mind, featuring "Flight of Icarus" and "The Trooper" (1983), Powerslave featuring "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Aces High", and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1984), the double-live album Live After Death (1985), and the experimental, Adrian Smith-led Somewhere in Time (1986) featuring "Wasted Years."
Satanic accusations persisted — there was a lot of controversy about occult messages in many bands' music at the time, typically discovered by playing the offending track backwards. On the Piece of Mind album, 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, the band came into conflict with renowned author Frank Herbert 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's 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.
In 1986, the band tried a different approach for their sixth studio album, titled Somewhere in Time. This was not a concept album, though it was themed loosely around the idea of time travel. It featured for the first time in the band's history synthetics for the bass/strings and for the guitars to add textures and layers to the sound. Though considered different from the norm of Maiden sounds, it charted well across the world and is still regarded a part of Iron Maiden's 'golden era' (from The Number of the Beast through Seventh Son of a Seventh Son).
This experimentation led to the more refined Seventh Son of a Seventh Son follow-up album. Adding to Maiden's experimentation, it 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). Critics stated 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 124 dB during Iron Maiden's set. It took five days to set up the system."
To close off their first ten years of releasing singles, Iron Maiden released The First Ten Years, a series of ten cds and double 12" vinyls. Between February 24 and April 28 1990, the individual parts were released one by one, and each contains two of Iron Maiden's singles, including the B-sides, along with a part of "Listen With Nicko!"
For the first time in seven years, the band had a line-up change with the departure of guitarist/backing 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. This album featured one last song co-penned by Adrian Smith with Bruce Dickinson, "Hooks in You", despite Smith's having not been involved in the band after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. 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 to date, only) number one hit single "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter". It was released on December 24, 1990, 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 single holds the record for being the fastest release straight in to number one and straight out of the charts again over the following couple of weeks. The song was originally penned and recorded by Bruce Dickinson for the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
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, the album had several songs which were fan favourites, such as the title track and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers".
In 1993 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 1975 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, broadcast by the BBC, and released on video under the name Raising Hell. Magician Simon Drake performed grisly illusions on the performance, culminating in Dickinson's "death" in an Iron Maiden.
The band auditioned hundreds of vocalists, both unknown and famous. They finally chose Blaze Bayley in 1994, formerly of Wolfsbane. Bayley had an altogether different style to his predecessor, which received a mixed reception among fans. After a three year hiatus, Maiden returned in 1995 with the 70+ minute-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 first concert supporting the new album took place on September 28, 1995 in Jerusalem, Israel.
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 criticized 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.
Bruce Dickinson left the band in 1993, before returning in 1999In February 1999, Bayley left the band by mutual consent. The main reason for his departure was his inconsistent onstage performance — Blaze's voice was not up to the rigours of a full-on Maiden tour. 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, and a successful reunion tour followed.
The new millennium
In 2000, a more progressive period began for the band, commencing with the release of the Brave New World album. The world tour that followed ended in January 2001 with a show at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, where Iron Maiden played to an impressive crowd of 250,000. 2003's Dance of Death followed, then 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 "Number of the Beast" single was re-released, which went straight to number three in the UK charts, and the band hit the road to support the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Days, playing only older material.
Music in Video Games
The Trooper, Aces High, Be Quick or Be Dead and Man on the Edge all appeared in the video game Carmageddon II. Run to the hills appeared in SSX On tour, it was the intro theme song as well. 2 Minutes to Midnight appeared in the 2002 videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, playing on Rock station V-Rock. Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" will appear on the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II.
Following the official announcement this evening on BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe show, Iron Maiden are very proud indeed to confirm they will be once again headlining at this years Download Festival on Sunday June 10, 2007, making this a record breaking fourth headline appearance at the world famous Donington Park venue.
The first time Maiden ever played at Donington was when they topped the bill in 1988, with Kiss and Guns N’ Roses among the supports, playing to over 100,000 people - the biggest Donington crowd by far and still the biggest Metal show ever in the UK - returning again in 1992 and 2003.
Says Bruce Dickinson 'Our fans know that Donington is a special place for Maiden and we are all looking forward to getting back there for a fourth time. The 'A Matter of Life and Death UK Tour' last December was very special for us and we very much appreciated the fans giving us such great support in us playing the whole album which, lets face it, was not necessarily the easiest thing to do for us or them! It was definitely the right challenge for us at that time but outdoors in the summer is different and as a thank you to our fans we will be including quite a few more 'classic' favourites balanced with some of the tracks from the new album. We will naturally bring Eddie and his toys along, so all in all it should be a great day for everybody!!'
Maiden will also be headlining other events including: Dubai Desert Rock Festival, Athens, Fields of Rock Festival (Biddinghuizen, Holland) and Belgrade. Iron Maiden will also be headlining the EDDFEST being held in Bangalore,India on 17th March 2007. This will be the first time Maiden will be performing in the country.
Iron Maiden trivia
Iron Maiden were ranked #24 in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock", and in Kerrang! magazine was ranked as the most important band of the last 25 years. The band were ranked fourth on MTV's "Top 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time". Iron Maiden were named the third best metal band of all time on VH1 Classic: Top 20 Metal Bands.