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

19th August 2011
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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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The festival with a track record of successful events is offering festival goers a unique opportunity be part of making Wildfire even bigger and better...

wovenwar DEBUT WOVENWAR ALBUM LANDS ON NUMBER 36 ON THE BILLBOARD TOP 200
See Wovenwar live at their debut UK appearances on the current European tour...

evile EVILE ANNOUNCE NEW GUITARIST - EX- FALLEN FATE GUITARIST PIERS DONNO FULLER
After months of auditions and rehearsals the band are confident that they have found the perfect man for the job...

darkest era DARKEST ERA ANNOUNCE HEADLINE SHOWS IN BELFAST AND DUBLIN
These two dates are in addition to the already announced seven date UK tour in support of their latest album, 'Severance'...

buckcherry BUCKCHERRY SAY FUCK IT AND RELEASE THEIR NEW EP ON AUGUST 18TH
The EP is simply titled 'FUCK' - six songs that unapologetically rattle the speakers as much as they will the censors..."

orphaned land ORPHANED LAND LAUNCH VIDEO FOR 'LET THE TRUCE BE KNOWN'
"The tragedies we see in the Middle East are down to the fact that no negotiations, nor peace conventions, will ever help us achieve peace as long as hate, revenge, and self-victimisation are used as excuses for war..."

demonic resurrection PRO-FILMED FOOTAGE OF DEMONIC RESURRECTION AT WACKEN IS REVEALED
The band can be seen performing three numbers: 'The Demon King', 'Trail Of Devastation', and 'The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance'...

lacuna coil LACUNA COIL ANNOUNCE UK CO-HEADLINE TOUR WITH MOTIONLESS IN WHITE
"A melting pot of darkness, adrenaline, sick rock Metal and goth atmosphere is going to embrace you all soon..."

blackwolf tour PLANET ROCK PRESENTS BLACKWOLF, THE BREW & FIRE RED EMPRESS UK TOUR
Catch this sparkling line up on five dates this coming September...

mr big MR. BIG CONFIRM DETAILS OF NEW ALBUM "...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL"
The original line-up are back with some of their most powerful material to date and their signature hard rock sound...

neal morse NEAL MORSE LAUNCHES VIDEO FOR 'HEAVEN SMILED'
The opener from 'Songs From November' sees Morse in classic singer/songwriter mode...

hrh prog HRH PROG 3 ANNOUNCES RICK WAKEMAN TO HEADLINE NEXT SPRING'S EVENT
The Prog icon heads up an exceptional bill, with more to come...

billy idol BILLY IDOL ANNOUNCES UK LIVE DATES IN NOVEMBER
As well as the live dates, a new album and an autobiography will also be released this autumn...

mike portnoy MIKE PORTNOY TO JOIN BIGELF FOR UK/EUROPE TOUR
Portnoy has also contributed his drum work and arrangement skills to the band's latest album, 'Into The Maelstrom'....

martin barre MARTIN BARRE ANNOUNCES STUDIO ALBUM FEATURING TULL CLASSICS
'Order Of Play' is the studio version of the acclaimed show performing Tull classics with his talented live band...

accept ACCEPT REVEAL THIRD TRAILER DOCUMENTING NEW ALBUM 'BLIND RAGE'
Wolf Hoffmann talks about the ingredients needed to write a great song, as well as mentioning the guitarists who have influenced his playing...

avenged sevenfold AVENGED SEVENFOLD UNVEIL NEW TEASER FOR 'WAKING THE FALLEN: RESURRECTED'
"We have left no stone unturned in our quest to bring you the archived footage, rare and early recording and demos and live performances of the madness which set the pace for the Avenged Sevenfold we are today..."

hammerfall HAMMERFALL REVEAL THIRD ALBUM TRAILER FOR FORTHCOMING ALBUM '(r)EVOLUTION'
Watch for a sneak preview of the band's upcoming video for the track 'Hector's Hymn'...

tryptikon TRIPTYKON UNVEIL NEW VIDEO CLIP
The clip is an ominous visualisation of 'Aurorae', one of the most poignant and personal songs on 'Melana Chasmata'...

absolva BREAKING NEWS: DAN BATE LEAVES ABSOLVA; FURY UK LINE-UP REUNITED FOR EUROPEAN TOUR
"Although we're more than a little shocked at this turn of events, the situation has been entirely amicable and we have nothing but good to say about Dan..."

california breed CALIFORNIA BREED LINE-UP IS RE-ASSEMBLED
Bonham Out, Joey Castillo In - Bonham: "I wasn't going to be bullied into touring"...

wacken 2015 SAVATAGE TO REUNITE FOR WACKEN 2015 WHICH ALSO FEATURES TRANS SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA AND RUNNING WILD
The Savatage reunion gig will mark the band's first live performance in over a decade...

gus g GUS G. LAUNCHES NEW VIDEO FOR 'BLAME IT ON ME'
There are also videos of guitar tutorials and a recap of the recent European tour...

hammerfest HAMMERFEST ANNOUNCES HRH DOOM
It's an afternoon of Doom on Friday 13th March with a specialist stage...

persian risk PERSIAN RISK TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM 'WHO AM I'
The NWOBHM band, who reformed in 2012, are back with their third album...

the agonist THE AGONIST SET TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM 'EYE OF PROVIDENCE' IN NOVEMBER
The follow up to 'Prisoners' sees the debut of vocalist Vicky Psarakis...

sixx am MÖTLEY CRÜE'S NIKKI SIXX RELEASES NEW SIXX:A.M. ALBUM
Sixx:A.M announces long-awaited third album, 'Modern Vintage', with the first single available on August 4th ...

wolf cover WOLF PREMIERE VIDEO FOR 'SHARK ATTACK'
The video is taken from the album 'Devil Seed'. "No story, no acting, no bullshit - just full throttle velocity of in-your-face Heavy Metal..."

hammerfest 2015 HAMMERFEST ANNOUNCE MORE ACTS FOR MARCH 2015
Candlemass, Devilment, Raging Speedhorn, Hell, Hirax & many more join the event in Wales...

les fest wildfire LES-FEST ANNOUNCES FIRST DOZEN BANDS FOR 2015 AND A NEW NAME
Les-Fest-Wildfire is back in June 15 with Tygers of Pan Tang revealed as the first headliner...

striker STRIKER RELEASE PREVIEW TRACK FROM UPCOMING 'CITY OF GOLD' ALBUM
"It's about Heavy Metal and a good time. If you're having a party at your house, then put our CD into the player and drink some beer..."

devin townsend DEVIN TOWNSEND REVEALS 2ND 'CASUALTIES OF COOL' VIDEO
The haunting video for 'Flight' is available to watch now. The long awaited stock of physical CDs of 'Casualties of Cool' have also arrived...
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