#463: The X Factor Failure

SAM_1043

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.”

 

Aye carumba!

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!

SAM_1037

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32 comments

  1. What an amazing story. You clearly have a way with words, my friend. And that two way ex-girlfriend of yours really had no clue about music what so ever. I really enjoyed this write-up, Mike.
    About the album, it’s really a piece of shite (to use a British version of the word) in my book. It’s partly Blaze’s fault because he’s really not that great as a singer, but mostly it’s the songs themselves – no Bruce Dickinson in the world could have saved those. And let’s not get me started on the production… Jeeeeeez. It sounds like a bad demo from a bunch of 14-year olds in the drummers dad’s garage. It’s unlistenable.
    Besides, i can’t it it through my skull why they chose Blaze over Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tank, Michael Schenker). He could at least have lifted this album and the almost as horrible follow-up a little bit.

    On a more positive note, I can’t say enough how much I like the latest Maiden-album, Book of Souls. I really didn’t think they had an album like that in them anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what is really funny Jon? The ones that know nothing about music are often the ones who claim to know everything about music!

      When I heard Doogie White was up for the role in Maiden, I couldn’t believe it. Blackmore was no fool, and he grabbed White when he could. Maybe it was just chemistry, but I think Doogie’s an awesome singer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. True, Iron Maiden hit a blip back then but it didn’t last long and their new album proves they’re as good as ever. As for the girlfriend, she sounded like a bit of a fruit loop anyway so you had a lucky escape.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. +1 as a fan who accepted the changes and moved with the band. I think the key thing you hit upon in your (great, as always) review was that you were going through a dark/negative period and the album suited your mood. The same can be said for Steve Harris who, during the writing and I assume recording of the album, was going through a separation and divorce. This is why the album has a darker tone lyrically and musically. It perfectly suits Blaze’s vocal tone and range. You’ve only got to listen to Virtual XI to see how jarring it is in the context of “traditional” Maiden writing. There are a number of standout tracks on this album. Opening with ‘Sign Of The Cross’ was VERY ballsy. I’ve always had a soft spot for “2AM” though. I was just about to turn 16 so was in that sweet spot for lyrics about being alone and feeling adrift and lost…. Yadda yadda yadda. I still spin this album quite a lot. Highly underrated. At the time, most fans couldn’t see past the change in singer. Now, I hope, they can appreciate the album with distance and recognise that this is a great Maiden album. Something that can’t be said for its follow-up….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 2AM is the song that took the longest for me to get into. But when it did — oh man. That chorus!

      I think fans sometimes go into panic mode when they don’t like the new album. “It’s over!” we might cry. But things often go full circle. When Bruce was putting out excellent solo albums, I was happy for Maiden to experiment with Blaze. I think Bruce did a better job than Maiden on some of those albums though! Chemical Wedding in particular is a masterpiece.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I never clicked with that album or that version of his band. I bought it of course, but I don’t listen to it that often. I like the live CD when he asks one of the audience members if he’s Eddie Vedder.

          Like

        2. ‘Cuz it takes Diff’rent Strokes to move the world,
          Yes it does.
          It takes Diff’rent Strokes to move the world.

          :D

          I really like the version of the band although I’m not a huge fan of Skunkworks the album. ALl this talk is making me want to listen to AISA now… which I think I will!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s good to see the Power Of Music carry you through tough times and although X Factor is not my cup of tea it had some decent stuff. Having said that I have not listened to it in years! Not really wanting to visit it either. Sounds like you got off the Crazy Train just in time Mikey! Lisa Loeb? Betcha Aaron The Melting Pot has something brewing there….
    Brent Jensen in No Sleep TIL Sudbury writes about when he went to see Maiden In Hamilton with Blaze singing. He sums up the expierence well….don’t want to give it away…….ha!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OK. When I read “Then, she started banging an ex-girlfriend of mine, and her new boyfriend, at the same time. Both of them.” at first I thought that you were mourning the fact that such a horny little bitch escaped your clutches. :-) As someone else here said, different strokes (pun, as always, intended) for different folks!

        Like

  5. I was always too quick to break it off with a girl for any reason.

    This is how that conversation would have went with me.

    Her “Why are you even listening to new iron Maiden? You know they will never………..”

    Me ” Let me just stop you there. I think this isn’t going to work out.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man, that girl broke up with you so that she could spend Saturday Night doing the Macarena and then wonder What Is Love while she has a threeway that may or may not have included Lisa Loeb music. AND she didn’t like Maiden? You’re well clear of her.

    And I say that as one of the guys who didn’t really like the Blaze records. I liked the music just fine, I just didn’t really dig on his vocals. Of course, it was way better than I could ever do (natch), but I was doing all the albums in a row in a series, with little space between them, and it was quite a jolt to go from a long string of Bruce records into that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Blaze was such a nice, decent fella too. I saw Wolfsbane a couple of times and he was great, a really good frontman and a very good lyricist too. Maiden always seemed like a stylistically odd move to me, can’t blame him for taking the pay day though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh absolutely not. I would have, anybody would have. It’s like people who say “Tommy Thayer is a dick for dressing like Ace Frehley.” No he’s not. He’s earning his living. Just like everyone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think the Blaze albums are vastly underrated, though I like Virtual XI better than The X Factor. What about the titles, though: noun-preposition-the-noun, four syllables, or a slight variation. Only Ian Anderson’s Divinities is better in that respect. One of my biggest LOL moments: reading a review in A New Day (Tull fanzine), where each song had a paragraph which started with the name of the song in boldface. Then, after the last song, the review continued, with the first paragraph beginning with, in boldface, “In the final analysis”. OK, had to be there. :-|

    I think the post-Blaze albums, musically, are more similar to the Blaze era than the ones before.

    Dougie White would have been good. I remember someone from Helloween mentioning that Kiske was going to Maiden as if it were a done deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly Brave New World sounds like it was the next “Blaze” album, and it basically was. Half of it was written with Blaze still in the band. Once we get to A Matter of Life and Death, I think Maiden moved on well past the Blaze years.

      Like

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