"The night was black was no use holding back
'Cos I just had to see was someone watching me
In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was this all for real or some kind of hell
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released"
Here's sixteen tracks, one from each Iron Maiden album that charts a course through the career of the absolutely seminal British Heavy Metal band. I include 'Live After Death' in those sixteen albums as it is probably the best live album ever.
'Phantom Of The Opera' from the album 'Iron Maiden' 1980
When the debut album was released in 1980, it took the world by storm and changed a lot of people's lives. Nothing like it had ever been heard before and the imagery, the mood and obviously the music changed the course of global rock forever.
Steve Harris has always the biggest influence on my life because Maiden got big due to Steve's 'never say die' attitude and super-human determination and drive which proved to me that you can be anything you want to be in this life and that the only limits are the ones you place on yourself.
Musically, this is the definitive track from the album and this is the original studio version.
'Killers' from the album 'Killers' 1981
A superb follow up album to the debut and the title track is classic Maiden. This was Paul Di'Anno's last album with the band and Adrian Smith's first.
'Killers' was a much cleaner album in terms of sound and production but was not, and still isn't, received as warmly as the debut or subsequent albums. It's well worth revisiting this album as there are several forgotten gems on it.
'Hallowed Be Thy Name' from the album 'Number Of The Beast' 1982
Bruce's first album with the band. It is often said that a band's third album is the difficult one but Maiden totally broke new ground with '..Beast'. Really, how many classics can you reasonably expect on one album? '...Beast' is nothing less than a masterpiece.
Nicko once said that this is the definitive Iron Maiden track and the one they should play in every set list. I think he is right. This footage comes from Maiden's gig at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2005 when Maiden played a full World Tour and only played songs from the first four albums. I think it is the best live footage of Maiden available. Twenty-five million people watched it live on Swedish TV apparently...
"Life down here is just a strange illusion..."
'Die With Your Boots On' from the album 'Piece Of Mind' 1983
The very first day I heard this track, 28 years ago, it became my personal motto and remained so. 'Nuff said.
This is from the same Ullevi gig as 'Hallowed...'
'The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' from the album 'Powerslave' 1984.
The longest song Maiden ever did and I keep using the word 'definitive'...
Coleridge (21th October 1772 – 25th July 1834) was an English poet, romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as for his major prose work Biographia Literaria.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was obviously a Heavy Metaller who would often have been seeen down the front at Maiden gigs if he had lived for another 150 years!
'The Trooper' from the album 'Live After Death' 1985.
The 1984/85 World Slavery Tour was an incredibly ambitious tour and was so draining that it nearly finished the band, But Maiden are made of sterner stuff than that.
"The World Slavery Tour was a concert tour by the Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden in support of their fifth album, Powerslave, beginning in Warsaw, Poland on 9 August 1984 and ending at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine, California on 5 July 1985. The tour was notorious for being the band's most arduous to date- although it was very successful, the band were left exhausted by its end in 1985 and demanded a break for the rest of the year before starting work on Somewhere In Time in 1986. Overall, the tour lasted 331 days, during which the band performed 193 gigs.
It included four sold-out nights at Los Angeles' Long Beach Arena and took in literally millions of countries. Yes, it really did...
This is an extract from Krusher Joule's diary from the day we drove to Donington 2009.
"Mr G's car has something called a cassette player, some new fangled gadget that I've been told will replace CD players. He has three cassettes, the double Iron Maiden's 'Live After Death', which I'd designed the cover for many, many moons ago in 1985. The other is Iced Earth with 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' and 'Horror Show'. 'Live After Death' is played several times..."
'Stranger In A Strange Land' from the album 'Somewhere In Time' 1987.
Maiden hit a new era here. Adrian's song writing hit a new peak and this was a great album to 'come back' with after a long and well deserved break.
The stage set for the tour was probably Maiden's best and you should watch this video to the end to get the full effect. Adrian's solo on 'Stranger...' produces goosebumps.
"No brave new world..." Well there would be... in the future...
'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' from the album 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' 1988.
1988 was a classic year for Metal albums and Maiden weighed in with the best of the lot. It's the band's first and only concept album and tells the tale of the battle between good evil with the soul set as the battleground. This was the most difficult album to choose just one track from...
"He has the power to heal
He has the gift of the second sight
He is the chosen one
So it shall be written
So it shall be done"
'Holy Smoke' from 'No Prayer For The Dying' 1990.
A new decade and a new line-up. Janick Gers replaced the departing Adrian Smith added something special to Maiden's sound.
'Holy Smoke' was written because TV evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jimmy Backer were slating Heavy Metal badly and saying it was of the Devil. Swaggart even published a book to that effect with Steve Harris on the front cover.
Swaggart and Backer both got caught screwing hookers and that was the end of that.
Twenty years later I had to leave the Iron Maiden forum because the moderators on there objected strongly to me pointing out how Christian Militants tried to bring this band down in the 90s. Have some of this Khan, mate!
"I've lived in filth and I've lived in sin but I still smell cleaner than the shit you're in!"
'Be Quick Or Be Dead' from the album 'Fear Of The Dark' 1992.
An easy choice from the 'Fear Of Ji Sung Park' album. My favourite ever Maiden track. Along with about 300 others :-)
'Fear...' was Bruce's last album of his first stint with the band and would herald the end of a magnificent era. But when one door closes, another opens...
'The Sign Of The Cross' from the album 'The X Factor' 1995.
Big respect to Blaze Bayley for taking the mantle of frontman in the biggest Metal band around at the time.
Maiden returned to action after their longest lay-off ever and 'Sign...' opened the album with a bang. This is a Steve Harris epic and one of the most complex songs the band have ever attempted. Gregorian chanting in a Heavy Metal track? Oh yes!
'The Clansman' from the album 'Virtual XI' 1998.
Mel Gibson as Braveheart, well you can eat your heart out because this is the definitive Scottish freedom song. Blaze's best performance in a Maiden shirt.
'The Clansman' has been sampled by singer Brandy in her song 'I Tried'.
'The Thin Line Between Love And Hate' from 'Brave New World' 2000.
Maiden's most dramatic line-up change ever took place right at the end of last century when Blaze left and Bruce returned, bringing Adrian back with him. Maiden were now a six-piece with three guitarists and remain so twelve years later.
The new line-ups debut album 'Brave New World' is the best Maiden album ever in my book and another one that it's hard to pick a track from. 'The Wicker man' could win, along with at least four other tracks but this one gets the vote. So, so true... but the line is as big as you want it to be really...
This is not an offical video but the imagery is so beautiful that it just had to be included.
'Montségur' from the album 'Dance Of Death' 2003.
'Montségur' was inspired by Bruce Dickinson's holiday stay near Montségur, the last stronghold of the Cathars conquered by the Albigensian Crusade in 1244. The lyrics include "As we kill them all so God will know his own", referring to a well-known but historically false quote attributed to the papal legate before the massacre of thousands in Béziers in 1209. It also mentions "Templar believers," as it is popular belief that there was some link between Knights Templar, Cathars and Montségur.
When I went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, they gave me a piece of paper to write my 'prayer' out and put in the wall. I wrote the lyrics from 'Montségur'. I hope someone finds my bit of paper in the wall one day...
'These Colours Don't Run' from the album 'A Matter Of Life And Death' 2006.
Maiden played '...Colours...' on the Ozzfest as a protest against Sharon Osbourne who tried hard to disrupt Maiden's performance. Bruce used the title as a way of telling her to "fuck off." She did.
'The Alchemist' from the album 'The Final Frontier' 2010.
This song is about the English mathematician and alchemist John Dee. The more specific parts of the lyrics refer to historical events, for example Dee's companion, Edward Kelley, told him that an angel appeared and told him that the two should share their respective wives, hence all the anger against Kelley in the lyrics, and the reference to sleeping with his wife.
Dee had in his house a wonderful library by Mortlake, that one day burned down.