YE GODS! How can I possibly pick one track from this wealth of classic albums? I’ll try, damn it…….
IRON MAIDEN (1980)
SONG: Charlotte The Harlot
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Phantom Of The Opera, Prowler, Running Free
Jeeeeeesum crow…. I think I’d forgotten just how many outstanding tracks there are on this album. I mean, the title track has been played at every gig since the band’s inception. And there’s Running Free. And Remember Tomorrow. And Prowler… and on and on. I’m not going to go into the history of the band and all that jazz. They do a much better job of that than I could. However, this is the start of it all. The foundation of everything that embodies Maiden; from the short, direct songs (Prowler, Iron Maiden), to the complex progressive lengthy tracks (Phantom) to the instrumentals (Transylvania). There’s far more of a punk influence on this album than Sgt Major Harris would care to admit to. Whilst being the antithesis of the punk movement, the flavour is hard to ignore. Paul DiAnno’s vocals particularly are gruff almost shouty and the overall sound of the album definitely has that ‘cardboard box’ vibe that a large number of punk albums did. It’s a curious album really, it doesn’t really sound like the Maiden we all now and love yet it’s such a huge part of their musical DNA.
This is my stand out track. It’s gritty in it’s lyrical content, the chorus has that wonderful gang vocal opportunity and the breakdown in the middle is sublime, demonstrating a deftness of touch for combining melody with heaviness.
Picking up pieces of love off the floor….
SONG: Murders In The Rue Morgue
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Drifter, Wrathchild, Twilight Zone
Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, ‘Murders’ starts off at a gentile pace before a frenetic drumroll from Clive Burr kicks things up a few notches. Killers is actually the Maiden album I am least familiar with. I’ve listened to it a bunch of times but as my entry to Maiden was in ’88 with ‘Live After Death‘ it took me a while to go backwards into the catalogue. I was also not that big of a fan of the sound of the first 2 albums (and DiAnno’s vocals in particular). But as time has passed I’ve come to appreciate these albums more. There’s definitely more of a punk rock vibe and not just in the vocals. It was on album #3 that the definitive Maiden sound would appear…..
I can’t speak French so I couldn’t explain…..
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST (1982)
SONG: The Prisoner
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: 22 Acacia Avenue, Children Of The Damned, Hallowed Be Thy Name
What an album. Not a stone-cold classic for me (that’s an album I can listen to without skipping a single track) but a hugely important album for Maiden. The first to feature Dickinson on vocals and the last to feature Burr on drums, TNOTB was a declaration of how things were going to be for Maiden for the next 8 years or so. My pick is slightly biased by the fact that I am a huge fan of the TV series of the same name (the McGoohan one not that remake with Jesus). With some choice sampling from the show and Burr’s rock steady beat we journey through a song of defiance and defence of the individual. Once again my local ASDA was my supplier of this album in cassette form. They must have loved it when they saw me walking through their doors.
You better scratch me, from your black book…..
PIECE OF MIND (1983)
SONG: Die With Your Boots On
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Revelations, Flight Of Icarus, Sun And Steel
Opening with a cavalcade of McBrain, a fitting way for him to announce his entry into the Maiden catalogue for the first time, Piece Of Mind is very much like it’s predecessor insomuch as it features some absolute classic Maiden tracks with a few that should have gotten more exposure than they did.
One of the few tracks on the album that wasn’t inspired by a book, ‘Boots’ hooked me in the first time I heard it on ‘Live After Death’ and was further cemented by the performance of Maiden England. I can’t even say why I like this song so much, what it has that catches my ear so completely. But perhaps that’s a good thing, to be able to narrow it down to specifics might take some of the fun out of it.
No point asking who’s to blame….
SONG: Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Duellists, Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Aces High
I’ve already written about my love for the live album that was spawned from this record (and tour) so this album was always going to be one of the toughest ones to pick a single song from. To be honest, it could have been ANY song from the album. But I ended up choosing ‘Mariner’ for a couple of reasons. Visually, it is the centrepiece of the ‘Live After Death’ video, the moving lighting rig, the smoke, Bruce’s vocal performance…. all stunning. It was also the song that introduced me to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. After devouring ‘Live After Death’ I sought out the original poem and gamely tried to make my way through it. Unfortunately for me, I was 8 so I lasted all of about 1 page. Many years later, at age 17, I went back to the poem out of necessity. I was studying English Literature at A level and had forgotten do bring in a poem for one of the lessons. With about 10 minutes until lesson time, I headed over to the library, found a book of Coleridge’s poems and used that, particularly the section used in the Maiden song.
This is one of the finest, if not the best of Maiden’s epic songs. Never mind the reunion albums showing their prog roots, this is where that really happened.
“This is what not to do if a bird shits on ya….”
SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1986)
SONG: Caught Somewhere In Time
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Sea Of Madness, Deja Vu, Heaven Can Wait
The album that introduced keyboards to the Maiden sound…. for the better! I’m a big believer of the idea that if something can make your song sound even better than it already does, throw it in the mix and genre/fan boundaries be damned! It was a close call between the album opener and Sea Of Madness but there is something about the way this track is structured that I love. The swathes of keyboard at the opening, the guitar melody lone before it all ramps up at a faster pace and gallops through soaring choruses, solos…..
Powerslave/LAD, this album and 7th Son are the triumvirate of Maiden albums for me. The visual concept (and accompanying live shows) of the albums, the songs…. never bettered. I know people will site the first 3 but… not for me. It’s on these three albums that Maiden are at their best. Ironic considering that SIT was the album that Bruce was hugely disillusioned with the band at the time. Also, bonus points for providing fans with hours of “spot the reference” on the album cover.
Eternally… let yourself go….
SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON (1988)
SONG: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Infinite Dreams, Can I Play With Madness, The Prophecy
There will be a much longer blog post about this album appearing sometime in the future. This is a very special album for me so I’ll save most of my ruminations for then. My chosen song was originally “the whole album”, but I thought that was a bit of a cop out so went with the title track. It could easily have been ‘Moonchild’ or ‘The Clairvoyant’.. or any of the other songs on the album to be honest. I think this is Maiden’s finest work in so many ways. Musically it’s progressive, heavy, complex, melodic, hummable…. visually it’s never been bettered. The album itself looks phenomenal, the singles artwork are all amazing and the stage set for the tour rivalled the Powerslave one for title of most awesome.
Sad to think that 5 years later Bruce would be gone, Adrian would be gone and Maiden’s fortunes take a bit of a nosedive (in some folk’s eyes). And whilst the albums that followed are great, for me, they never quite reached the heights of their mid-80s output.
Today is born the seventh one….