GETTING MORE TALE #463: The X Factor Failure
When Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden in 1993, the metal world was rocked yet again by another major defection. First Vince Neil, then Rob Halford, and now Bruce! It seemed the old guard of 80’s metal had suddenly fallen from the top of the world, to critical condition on life support.
Some fans gave up. The loyal waited eagerly for news. First were the rumours that Paul Di’Anno would come back (quickly shot down by Steve Harris). Then Michael Kiske from Helloween had his name dropped in a few speculative magazine articles. Finally in 1994, the identity of the new singer was released: Blaze Bayley, ex-Wolfsbane. In North America, the majority muttered, “Who?” The fans who still cared, anyway. Those who did not cut their hair and moved on to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
Another long quiet year went by before new Maiden music hit the shelves. When it did, in the form of the album The X Factor, it was clear that Iron Maiden had changed. They were now a quieter, darker animal, with a singer to suit that sound. The departure was not well received. Fans were not impressed by the long, repetitive songs, nor the lower-voiced singer. The album failed to make a significant dent in the charts, although it sold well initially in Quebec, the last stalwart of metal in Canada. One fan who did accept and embrace the changes was yours truly, Mr. LeBrain, but not without taking flak for it.
When the CD was released, I was already working at the Record Store, so I bought it immediately. We didn’t stock enough copies to get it in early, or even offer a good price on it. In other words, we ordered just three copies of the new Iron Maiden CD, with one of those being reserved for me! That’s how far Maiden had fallen. It took two or three good listens to adjust to the new softer Maiden, but certain songs jumped out fairly quickly, such as “The Sign of the Cross” and “Lord of the Flies”. I enjoyed the darkly introspective lyrics on new songs such as “The Aftermath” and “Look for the Truth”.
The girl I was dating at the time was not into rock music; not in the least. The last CD I bought for her was Much Dance ’95, featuring such hits as “What is Love” by Haddaway, “Saturday Night” by Whigfield, and of course, “Macarena”. I even took a bullet and listened to it with her, the whole thing. In turn, she tried to give my Joe Satriani a shot, but she wasn’t particularly interested. I knew there was no chance she’d be into Iron Maiden, but since I was excited that they had new music out, I was talking about it a lot. I tried to tell her how much I was enjoying the new lyrics on the album.
That’s when she said the words I will never, ever forget:
“Why are you even listening to new Iron Maiden? You know they will never be popular again.”
Popular? What true Maiden fan ever bought an album because it was popular?
I was deeply disappointed in her words, and even a little hurt. I was trying to convey to her that the words and music were impacting me; I was feeling something and wanted to express that. It is always good when music provokes thoughts and feelings. I would have loved for the album to be successful, but that wasn’t the point. I never listened to Maiden to be cool.
She dumped me shortly after I bought the new Lisa Loeb album for her. Damn you, Lisa Loeb. Then, she started banging an ex-girlfriend of mine, and her new boyfriend…at the same time.
Let me repeat that for you just in case you missed it.
Then, she started banging an ex-girlfriend of mine, and her new boyfriend, at the same time. Both of them.
Henceforth, I dove headfirst into that Maiden album to drown my misery, and it became one of several discs that were my soundtrack to that miserable winter for me: Maiden, Ozzy’s Ozzmosis, and Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. If there is a reason I have a soft spot for The X Factor by Iron Maiden, you can blame that girl who said they’d never be popular again.
While all is forgiven today, I have not forgotten that remark (obviously), and the amazing thing is that she was 100% wrong. Maiden are more popular today than they ever have been. Their T-shirts have become fashion statements. Kids who weren’t even born when Bruce left the band are buying tickets to see them live in 2016! But much more important than that, they have achieved a level of artistic integrity and consistency that most bands should be envious of.
Maiden, never popular again? File that under failed predictions from the 90’s, right next to the Y2k scare! Up the Irons!