Laugh at What I Love

Iron Maiden

A Tale of Two Singers (How Paul Di'Anno made me dump Bruce Dickinson)

Tim Baker | August 25, 2011

Iron Maiden is the first band that I can remember absolutely and unquestionably loving. I don't know if it was the dark themes that played to my adolescent mind, or the comically low budget videos filled with old tyme silent film stock featuring men and women reenacting wars between 'injuns' and the white man or wars between the white man and the white man.

Who am I kidding?

It was the fucking album covers!

They had the best album covers ever.

They featured a corpse monster who was obviously an early 80s punk/metal fan and his name was Eddie, just Eddie. Eddie was the best, especially for a young jag off like me, whether he was killing a random stranger with a blood soaked ax, trapped in a mental asylum after having his brain removed, having is visage used as the inspiration for a massive Egyptian tomb, a futuristic part machine part zombie-blade-runner-bounty-hunter-hybrid or simply controlling Satan himself like a puppet; Eddie was the fucking man. As great as Eddie was he was merely the gateway drug to the Iron Maiden universe.

If you are unfamiliar with Iron Maiden here is a little history, they are from the UK and formed on Christmas day in 1978. They are the brain child of hyper-talented bass player Steve Harris, feature the killer double ax work of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith and have two distinct eras; the Paul Di'Anno era which is more of a punk/metal hybrid, a little more street themed, a bit more roughshod and raw as Fuck. The second era is the era most people are referring to when they are talking Maiden, it is the Bruce Dickinson era.

The Bruce Dickinson era is the bands most successful era and if you compare the two side by side it makes sense. With the introduction of Bruce Dickinson to the mix Iron Maiden took off, both sonically and financially. They became a massive worldwide machine touring the planet non-stop and dropping 13 of their 15 albums during this era, the whole time refining their sound and evolving their content. Oh I forgot to mention Bruce Dickinson has one of the most powerful voices in the business, when he replaced Paul Di'Anno, who by all accounts was a bit of a diva and had limited range, the band was able to maximize their potential. It should also be noted that Bruce Dickinson is a world class fencer and a jumbo jet pilot, the former is immaterial but the latter was a great device explored in the bands Flight 666 DVD where Bruce Dickinson flew the band around the world for one of their world tours.

I was introduced to Iron Maiden at the start of the Dickinson years, with their certified classic Number of the Beast. While the songs on the album are some of the band's best, it is the album title and artwork that pushed the sales numbers over the top. Released in the early 80s, a time when religious types were even loonier than they are now, the mere image of the devil would drive them into a frenzy of protest. Protest that inevitably ended up being the best press a band can get because anything that can get these Fucks worked up like that has to be good. Needless to say Number of the Beast went on to become a huge album and by the time Piece of Mind, the second Bruce Dickinson album dropped I was a full-fledged Iron Maiden head.

Eventually I started moving on to heavier bands but I still followed Iron Maiden, though not as feverishly. I still bought all the albums, at least through 7th Son of a 7th Son but by then I was in college and had moved on to jam bands and rap music. However, during this winding down period I was able to catch them live during the Powerslave tour when the stopped at the Brendan Byrne Arena at The Meadowlands in NJ. This was epic, the show was fantastic, the music translated brilliantly live and Dickinson controlled the crowd like a charismatic and beloved dictator. After the show the parking lot turned into a riot where drunken teens turned over and burned a cop car, it was the last time they served booze at a metal show.

Over the past 5 or so years I have been having a bit of an Iron Maiden renaissance, returning after a long hiatus and finding the band just as enjoyable as I did in my youth. I still go nuts for the Bruce Dickinson era Iron Maiden, especially the deep cuts on Number of the Beast like Hallowed Be Thy Name, Children of the Damned and Gangland, but I now find that I absolutely adore the Paul Di'Anno era.

When I was young I had a lot of trouble getting into the Paul Di'Anno era. This was probably due to my limited exposure to music and my inability to look beyond the borders of the version of the band I came to love. However, after some time away and broadening my musical horizons I can truly appreciate how great Paul Di'Anno era Iron Maiden is. Especially their eponymous album, which is a masterpiece of what at the time was called The New Age of British Metal, this hybrid of heavy metal and punk stylings was sonically groundbreaking and remains perfectly relevant. Perhaps more so than the Bruce Dickinson era which at times comes across a little dated and heavy handed, especially post Piece of Mind.

I have been listening to Iron Maiden for the better part of 25 years, of course now when I listen to them it is a series of floods and droughts, but they remain a fixture. Outside of my parents and my brother there is little else that has been so much a part of my life over that extended period. I love those limey bastards.