Di’Anno, the people’s prowling prince of the opera, remembers yesterday and tomorrow
Working his way back to full stage fitness, following Di’Anno horribilis of health set-backs, the erstwhile Iron Maiden frontman returned to where the story started for an intimate Q&A session at the famed Cart And Horses.
Although a half-brick lob from the regenerated Stratford town centre, the pub retains its charm and claret and blue colours of a typical east-end pub. As in important venue in the formative years of the band that would, in a few short years, have Beelzebub on speed-dial, it remains an earthy shrine to the Waltham Forest beast that grew into a globe guzzling monster.
By midday, the pub was packed with fans eager to spend a few hours in the company of the still revered frontman that won our Metal hearts in the 80s with that aggressively melodic voice which ran free on visceral songs like ‘Purgatory’, ‘Prowler’ and ‘Drifter’ that even today still get the pulse racing.
The lock-in session was marshalled (to eleven, naturally) by rock journalist Malcolm Dome, whose longstanding acquaintance of his subject and deep knowledge of the band’s history drove a lively, revealing and very frank exchange. Despite its hallowed history, Paul shattered a few illusions, stating that he only ever performed with Iron Maiden once at the Cart And Horses, reminding us he was the third vocalist in the band, with his predecessor Dennis Wilcock also in attendance. Paul Mario Day, the original vocalist, subsequently rose to quasi-prominence with the excellent More, before emigrating to Australia.
Malcolm teased out Paul’s opinions on the different production styles of the first two albums upon which he sang. Like many, he’s no fan of Will Malone’s lacklustre mix of the debut album, but he was equally scathing of Martin Birch’s more elegant and dynamic job on ‘Killers’, commenting that while it sounded OK it was too smooth and didn’t reflect the personality of the band. In hindsight, he mused that he’d love to have one of The Ramones, his avowed favourite band, to have taken on production duties.
He bemoaned the demise of his last band, Architects Of Chaoz, given the quality of the debut album, but teased that there was a possibility of rebirth of the much-loved Battlezone, citing ‘Fighting Back’ as still one of his favourite albums.
When quizzed on the line-up of his perfect band, his picks were inspired. Dimebag on lead, supported by KK Downing, Lemmy and Geddy on twin-bass assault and a pair of his former bandmates on percussive attack, Clive (RIP) for sure, accompanied by post-Maiden compadre Steve Hopgood or pre-Burr drummer Doug Samson, who was also in the room. Cheekily, he also nominated Rob Halford as his backing singer.
Other topics included the madness of dodgy Jonathan King supergroup Gogmagog’, and less than satisfying cover of Skyhooks’ original and brilliant ‘Women In Uniform’. ‘Twilight Zone’ was mentioned as a great track that was rarely performed live, not due to its quality, but more due to the fact that it was so hard to sing live.
Questioned about his opinion of the band that Maiden have now become, he said that ‘Somewhere In Time’ was probably the last album he had listened to properly and it was already far from the original band that he knew and loved. He was asked to listen to tracks from the latest ‘The Book Of Souls’ opus and has remained diplomatically silent on his opinion, apart from the suggestion that the title might be missing a vowel.
Paul prickled when someone asked about what he thought about the internet meme that depicted Eddie brandishing his severed head. It is clear that, quite rightly, he does not tolerate anyone that seeks to create animosity or controversy with his old band. The fact is that he retains strong respect for his old band-mates as “superb musicians” and has always been open to the idea of guesting with the current band. However, following a number of false starts, he now doubts that will ever become a reality and would rather focus on getting back to better health and making new music. Most surprisingly, he indicated that he has entertained the idea of songwriting collaborating with Steve Harris beyond the confines of Maiden, but reflected upon the unlikelihood of any such project coming to fruition.
Although scheduled as an hour-long event, when MetalTalk beat a retreat almost two hours later, Paul was still patiently meeting and greeting fans, some of whom had travelled from overseas. As he stated earlier when quizzed if he had any regrets about leaving Iron Maiden, he reiterated that for him success has nothing to do with money, it’s about musical integrity. Listening back to those great Killers and Battlezone albums, in contrast to the later period Maiden albums, it’s clear that Di’Anno indeed lives by the courage of his convictions, which is why he remains such an iconic member of the rock community.
Although his mobility is currently limited, his recollections were lucid and energetic, commanding attention and respect from a rapt audience. He revealed that while he still suffers from chunder inducing stage-fright before a show, he can’t wait to get back up behind a mic and do what he still does best.
In fact, later that evening, rather than seeking sanctuary back-stage, he hauled himself on-stage at Islington Academy in a show-stopping, jaw-dropping guest appearance with The Iron Maidens, on ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Iron Maiden’. His voice appears to have lost very little of its spiky power, despite a fifteen month lay-off from live performance, so imagine what it will sound like when he can stand on his own two feet again.
The next chapter in Paul’s life has yet to be written, but like many rock fans, we’re eager to read what will be on the next page and to hear that prodigal primal howl again.
At the Cart And Horses, it wasn’t just old band members in attendance. It was also great to see longtime friend and road-crew to the band, Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse. The source of endless fascinating tales of the early years, the next best thing to an evening in a dodgy east-end pub with the man, is to get the book that captures his treasured memories. It’s a cracking read and highly recommended.
You can read Steve’s original ‘Loopyworld’ columns right here.
The Iron Maidens produced a staggeringly good ninety minute performance at Islington on the final night of their highly successful first ever UK tour as a more than respectable crowd showed their appreciation for the world’s only all female tribute to Iron Maiden.
We’ve said it before on these pages – where tribute bands win is in the fact that we get to hear songs that the original band no longer play, or in the case of one song performed by The Iron Maidens, have never played live once.
“These girls are really great!” screamed Di’Anno as he wheeled himself onto centre stage and nobody could disagree with him after a performance that reminded us all just why Maiden are the greatest Heavy Metal band of all time.