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  IRON MAIDEN: THIRTY YEARS ON THE EDGE, AND IT'S FAR FROM OVER YET...
Pippa Lang

19th August 2011
pippa lang



iron maiden

Picture by John McMurtrie. With permission. Copyright: 2010 Iron Maiden LLP


PIPPA LANG spends a weekend at London's 02 Arena in the company of IRON MAIDEN, and lives to tell the tale of thirty years on the edge of the Maiden Family, with references to the 'hilarious debacle' of her first interview with the band in 1980.

"Of all the people in the 02, it had to be you!" Bruce laughs, and we share a quick peck, because he's being hustled away at the end of a long weekend.

Article continues below...



It is the Aftershow party for Maiden's second 02 Arena gig, and the last night of 'The Final Frontier' tour which is, of course, just the 'pathway to The Final Frontier' rather than the actual... This Bruce announces onstage at both 02 gigs and, presumably, the rest of the tour.

When I express dismay to Dave Murray about the inevitable day the band break up, he confirms, "that's not going to happen for a long time." Reassurance for the legions of Maiden fans around the world. Indeed, I can exclusively confirm that Eddie's contract has been extended indefinitely!


iron maiden
Picture by John McMurtrie. With permission. Copyright: 2010 Iron Maiden LLP

Last night (the first 02 gig), 5th August, was exactly 31 years to the day that I interviewed Davey, Steve and Paul Di'Anno at Morgan Studios, London, during the recording of their third single, a cover of Skyhooks' 'Women In Uniform'. Wet behind the ears at only 21, this was my first-ever interview, and a hilarious debacle. I still have the cassette recording of it to embarrass myself with from time to time. But there's some priceless banter on there, particularly from guitarist Dennis Stratton and drummer Clive Burr looming about in the background. More on that later.

So, "of all the people", tiz I who is chosen to restart the Mexican Wave at tonight's gig, in the middle of 'Running Free'. Disgusted with 'audience stage left''s limp-wristed wave, which has wilted pathetically in the middle, Bruce decides to give 'stage right' a chance to redeem the situation, and swings his gaze in my direction. Standing furthest right than any other person, it appears I will be the 'chosen one', as Bruce shouts:

"You! Lady in white...!"

It takes me a while to suss that I'm wearing white in a sea of black. Bruce is squinting, as if perhaps he does recognise me, but isn't too sure. It's been a while, after all, since he surprised me at a Hallowe'en party at London's Metropolis Studios dressed as an alien gnat.

Anyway, I'm proud to say I – the, er, 'lady in white' – manage to instigate a rather exuberant Mexican Wave (it's all there on You Tube).


steve harris iron maiden
Picture by John McMurtrie. With permission. Copyright: 2010 Iron Maiden LLP

Like I said, this is the last gig of 'The Final Frontier' tour, and I've rarely seen Maiden play better, or with more energy. But then, they've always played every gig as if it's their last.

Bruce looks like he's been working out, galloping around like a rugby player on steroids in his 'Psych Ward' t-shirt and beanie hat. The three guitarists dance around each other as if choreographed but, of course, it's just the almost telepathic instincts of those who've played together for so long that prevent them crashing into each other.

I've never really noticed before, but Dave occasionally breaks into funny little jigs ("it's my Irish roots," he chuckles later), and Janick Gers is hilarious - mincing about like a ballet dancer, occasionally raising a long, skinny leg mid-solo. Steve Harris, as usual, is as solid as a rock, legs planted on terra firma, head nodding furiously in time to the music (they should make a 'Nodding Harry' for cars!) and Nicko, well, at least he has Sooty for company at the back.


iron maiden
Picture by John McMurtrie. With permission. Copyright: 2010 Iron Maiden LLP

This year's set has been scrupulously planned, and now executed with devilish skill. A splendid 'best of' melee of songs I'd dare anyone to complain about. Even the pre-gig intro tape has been seriously ruminated over, the joie de Maiden bubbling through the 02 before they even hit the stage, UFO's 'Doctor Doctor' stirring up a wonderful rapport and a mass, energised chant.

By the time Nicko's massive drum intro to 'Satellite 15... The Final Frontier' signals Maiden's arrival, the excitement is tangible. Like a football match... But wait.

I caught some of Dragonforce's support slot last night and, frankly, they're no more energetic than Maiden, and have the benefit of advanced technology to boost their sound. Having met ZP only a few nights earlier – what a nice guy! – I was curious to check out the new singer, Marc Hudson. Here's a boy around the same age as Steve Harris and Dave Murray when they first started Maiden, and playing his second-only gig at the 02 Arena (which he openly enthused about: "not bad, huh?", though to little response). What a buzz. But will Dragonforce still be around in thirty years?

Not unless they can extract the kind of chemistry from their music and performance that Maiden do and convey that to an audience. Throughout Maiden's set, we are reminded just why it is that entire families treat their gigs as family outings.


iron maiden
Picture by John McMurtrie. With permission. Copyright: 2010 Iron Maiden LLP

Like football matches, there is much to chant about: 'Two Minutes To Midnight', 'Blood Brothers', 'The Evil That Men Do', 'Iron Maiden', 'Fear Of The Dark', 'Running Free'... the list goes on. And like superhero movies, there is much to amuse: the sight of all those Dads running around the stage like Marvel Heroes!; and much to excite the senses: Eddie, of course, being the predominant icing on the cake of any Maiden gig, despite the appearance of some upstart, a horned bull swaying about during 'Number Of The Beast'.

At first, Eddie is a disappointing lump lumbering around stage playing guitar, but then, for 'Iron Maiden', his gargantuan green head rises up behind the stage, Eddie's fingers crawling towards the band, as if he's about to climb into the audience. Finally, he disappears back behind the stage into his cage (I've seen it, honest!) until the next tour.

Like I said, it isn't time for Eddie to run free yet (ouch), for the band have at least another album in them yet. And he's not about to be usurped by some beasty either!

Fabulous. But the Aftershow is still to come. The band have pulled out the stops by having not only Aftershow parties for both gigs, but Preshow parties too. It is at the final Aftershow where most of Maiden's old friends, roadies, band members, fans and family gather to catch up on old times. Obviously, there are a few journalists, record company personnel, etc., too, as a total of 800 peeps are staggering up and downstairs at the 02's three-storey Alphabet City, quaffing large amounts of free booze and food till the early hours.

But Maiden's original drummer Doug Sampson is here, a couple of other ex-band members (who I'll mention later), plus Dave 'Lights' (original lighting man), Steve 'Loopy' Newhouse (one of their first roadies), fans who've become friends, and the band's families, including Janice, Dave's sister, who greets me as if we haven't seen each other for thirty years. Well, we haven't.

THE 'INTERVIEW'

I first met Maiden at The Rainbow in London's Finsbury Park in 1980, when I was working for the long-defunct Sounds and Record Mirror. A short, but unforgettable acquaintance with a member of this band who were about to go global has developed into a lasting, if distant, friendship.

Years go by between tours, of course, but I am always 'sorted', treated well, and allowed access to the 'Family' whenever they're around, and for that I'm infinitely grateful. In return, I have never abused or exploited that privilege. Hey, even the vinyl copy of 'Iron Maiden' Dave gave me remains unsigned. I wouldn't dream of asking!


iron maiden

I still remember going to the Murray household in Clapton all those years ago, where Mrs Murray used to iron in the hallway because there was no room elsewhere to put up the ironing board. Dave's parents were salt of the earth, Mr Murray a big, solid Eastender, both of them lovely people, now sadly gone but not forgotten.

So, at that time, in August 1980, the line-up of Maiden was, of course, Paul Di'Anno, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Clive Burr and Dennis Stratton (who would be replaced by Adrian Smith shortly after). Bruce was still Bruce Bruce of Samson, and hadn't yet been kidnapped by Maiden, and Nicko was still hammering away for French rockers Trust.

I met them that memorable day at Morgan Studios, North London, where producer Tony Platt was mixing 'Women In Uniform', Maiden's only song never to appear on an (original) album because, frankly, the band didn't really like it.

iron maiden

What followed that day round a table in the bar at the studios was a total farce, with me getting constantly poked under the table and giggling most unprofessionally. Consequently, Paul Di'Anno grabbed my list of questions and decided to read them out himself:

"'Do you call yourselves Heavy Metal or... levvy rack?'!?!" He squinted at my bad handwriting.

(The most nerdish question of the NWOBHM era should read '...heavy rock' of course!)

Dennis Stratton and Clive Burr, meanwhile, can be heard in the background on the tape, both assuming the voice of David Bellamy (enthusiastic TV gardener – google it!) in turn impersonating Rod Smallwood, Maiden's manager. (Sort of three people in one - yes really.)


iron maiden

"Tony Platt?!" The Stratton/Bellamy/Smallwood person roars at one point, referring to Maiden's producer, "I call him Tony Pwatt!"

At which point Dennis and Clive snort uproariously, and the real Rod 'Smallwallet' Smallwood, 'The Sheriff Of Huddersfield', walks in...

"'ey oop! What's goin' on 'ere then?!" says he, before buying me a drink, necessitating Grand Opening Of Wallet, an unheardof phenomenon in Rod's case.

Well, you had to be there really. There is absolutely no point trying to transcribe the tape. It is just a wonderfully silly capsule in time, catching Maiden just before they went supersonic. A strange feeling to know a band just before they step through that door and get mobbed by the rest of the world.

I keep that tape under lock and key, and all I can say is, thank God I've interviewed them several times since, in a slightly more professional manner!


iron maiden

Back to the present, and apparently the two 'Bellamy' brothers are actually here at the 02 Aftershow. It's been decades, I believe, since Harry and Dennis have seen each other, but Maiden have been keeping in close contact with Clive Burr, who was stricken by multiple sclerosis in 2004. Indeed, the band are responsible for setting up the Clive Burr Multiple Sclerosis Trust Fund and have staged many charity gigs for him. Tonight, it appears, is a night of many reunions, much nostalgia and more than a hint of sadness.

An unforgettable weekend as only Maiden can host. Fantastic to touch base briefly with Harry, Janick and Adrian. Nicko seemed distracted, and I wonder if this has anything to do with his friend Jon Lord's recent cancer diagnosis? They've been working on a project called 'Who Cares?' with Ian Gillan, Jason Newsted and Linde Lindstrom – but that's obviously on hold while Jon seeks treatment.


iron maiden

Highlight of the weekend for me: quality catch-up time with one particular, very old friend who is as funny, sincere, gentle and unflappable as he was thirty years ago living in a two-up two-down in Clapton.

Some things don't change, and Maiden – apart from line-up changes – really haven't.

Oh and, sorry, can't resist this one: I'd rather be Maiden's Lady In White than Chris de Burgh's Lady In Red anyday. Ouch.











 

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bruce dickinson EXCLUSIVE: SCREAM FOR ME SARAJEVO FEATURING BRUCE DICKINSON SCOOPS SARAJEVO FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
The audience surveyed rated the film 4.98 out of a total of 5.00 while Al Jazeera awarded it the Best Documentary out of twenty two entrants...

wakrat WATCH RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE'S TIM COMMERFORD START NEW NATION IN PARLIAMENT SQUARE ON VIDEO HERE
"The current system is oppressive and elitist, promoting racist ideologies in order to push a self-serving agenda..."

led zeppelin LED ZEPPELIN GIVE YOU AN INSIDE LOOK AT 'THE COMPLETE BBC SESSIONS' SUPER DELUXE
Musical highlights on this new collection include the debut of a long-lost radio session that has achieved near-mythic status among fans...

saxon SAXON PRESENT A HOARD OF LIVE GLORY IN A BOX OF VINYL GOLD
"This is not going to be around again and with exclusive art work too. Bring it on - I think we'll play some of these tracks on tour in the Autumn."

journey toto JOURNEY AND TOTO LIVE SPECTACULARS ON THE WAY IN SEPTEMBER
"When I first listened back, the thought omnipresent in my mind was simply, 'That's that raw, sizzling energy we had in high school!'"

titanfest SKYCLAD, OLIVER/DAWSON SAXON AND MORE ANNOUNCED FOR TITANFEST
It's the 30th anniversary of Onslaught's 'The Force' and they requested that Titanfest be scheduled for November so that the album could be celebrated in style.

geoff tate GEOFF TATE'S OPERATION MINDCRIME UNVEIL TWO NEW TRACKS
"With the key finally in his possession, "H" has everything he needs to finally launch his long awaited project called The New Reality. Or does he..."

big country BIG COUNTRY HEADING OUT ON 'THE SEER' 30th ANNIVERSARY TOUR
Big Country will be performing 'The Seer' in its entirety when tbey hit the road for a 24-date UK tour starting on September 14th...

metallica UK EXCLUSIVE: METALLICA RELEASE 'HARDWIRED' - NEW VIDEO RIGHT HERE
"Has it really been eight years? Doesn't feel like it! We’re obviously beyond psyched to share new tunes with all our friends out there via MetalTalk...

manowar WAS BREAKING NEWS: MANOWAR TICKETS ON SALE FOR THE FINAL BATTLE WORLD TOUR
The Kings Of Metal are abdicating and our very last Call To Arms is coming...

opeth OPETH DETAIL WEMBLEY ARENA SHOW
"We'll only play this set list three times on the whole world tour so if you miss it, you'll have missed it..."

tank UPDATED: TANK RELEASE DIGITAL DELUXE VERSIONS OF 'WAR MACHINE' AND 'WAR NATION'
"Doogies vocals were exactly suited to this period of Tank and we're extremely proud of what we created in these two albums."

pete way PETE WAY LEAVES HOSPITAL AFTER HEART ATTACK
"Pete Way and I would like to thank you all for your messages, kind thoughts and prayers..."

vader WAS BREAKING NEWS: VADER ANNOUNCE NOVEMBER LONDON GIG
Vader will be touring in support of their recently announced new studio album 'The Empire' which is due for release this autumn...

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES RELEASE NEW VIDEO FOR 'JOIN TOGETHER' AS 'MAKE SOME NOISE' CRASHES INTO WORLDWIDE CHARTS
"We want to thank all of our fans and friends around the world for the amazing support of our new record 'Make Some Noise'!"

bloodstock POLICE APPEAL FOR INFORMATION REGARDING SEXUAL ASSAULT AT BLOODSTOCK
"Police are appealing for anyone with information to get in touch and are asking people to share this appeal..."

guns n roses EXCLUSIVE: GUNS N' ROSES DOWNLOAD ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE WAY WITH AUSTRALIAN AND JAPANESE DATES CONFIRMED
Other possibles for the remaining two headline slots are Aerosmith, Def Leppard and Metallica...

roger dean URIAH HEEP, BUDGIE AND ATOMIC ROOSTER ARTISTS WORK TO BE IMMORTALISED ON STAMPS
Roger Dean has designed over 100 album covers for artists including Yes, Asia, London Symphony Orchestra, Nightwing, It Bites and Snafu.

evil scarecrow WAS BREAKING NEWS: EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCE 'ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANADO' TOUR
"We'll be bringing our biggest, silliest show yet along with some brand new, probably never heard before, music 'genius'..."

blaze bayley BLAZE BAYLEY TO BE FEATURED IN MULTI-PART CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY
"I'm excited to be returning to Canada and I look forward to meeting my fans, with the opportunity for them to be a part of the documentary."

last in line LAST IN LINE ADDED TO WINTER STORM LINE-UP
Winter Storm, the festival that will take place over the weekend of 25th and 26th November in Troon, South Ayrshire, have already announced an exciting line-up...

tony iommi GREAT NEWS FROM TONY IOMMI: CANCER IS IN REMISSION
"The chemotherapy and the follow-up treatment appear to have done the trick — but I'm aware that it could come back one day."

suicide silence SUICIDE SILENCE ANNOUNCE NOVEMBER 2016 UK TOUR
"Hold on to your butts cause we will be headbanging our way through your town! Bring your A game cause we will be bringing ours..."

ac dc AC/DC IN FULL FLIGHT: QUALITY LIMITED EDITION BOOK IS A MUST FOR COLLECTORS
All of the photographs have been carefully processed and digitally restored to optimise reproduction quality.

ozzy osbourne BOB DAISLEY FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST OZZY OSBOURNE, WHO RESPONDS
"We would have hoped that after 36 years that Mr Daisley would have lost his unhealthy personal obsession and resentment towards Mr Osbourne's success."

70 tons of metal 70000 TONS OF METAL: SIXTY BANDS, BARS THAT NEVER CLOSE AND MUCH MORE
Heavy Metal bands from around the globe playing concerts on four different stages...

lamb of god WAS BREAKING NEWS: LAMB OF GOD REVEAL NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR 'EMBERS': MARK MORTON HAS SOME DEEPLY PERSONAL WORDS
"Nearly a decade after 'Walk With Me In Hell' it was happening yet again. Art was imitating life..."

iron maiden WAS BREAKING NEWS: IRON MAIDEN RELEASE "THANK YOU" VIDEO - WATCH IT HERE
Now it's break time for Iron Maiden but they will be back for a full scale UK Tour in 2017...

meat loaf WAS BREAKING NEWS: MEAT LOAF RELEASES SECOND TRACK FROM FORTHCOMING NEW ALBUM WITH JIM STEINMAN - LISTEN HERE
"Now psychologist and psychiatrists all over America are giving it to their patients..."

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