GETTING MORE TALE #503: 22 Acacia Avenue
Everything started with Iron Maiden. At least for me. Way way waaaay back in Record Store Tales Part 1: Run to the Hills, we revealed that pivotal moment when everything changed. The album was Masters of Metal Volume 2, and regarding hearing “Run to the Hills” for the first time I wrote, “Some people speak of moments of clarity: That was my moment.” Everything I was focused on and passionate about now took a back seat to rock and roll. The year was 1984.
I taped some Iron Maiden albums off friends, and bought the double Live After Death as my first Maiden LP. I memorised the names of the members, and made sure to include Martin “Black Knight” Birch and Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs in my memory banks. Maiden had the best album covers, the best videos, and the best lyrics. They had songs about World War II and the Crimea. It was more intelligent music than the other heavy metal bands I’d heard. I stared for hours at my Live After Death LP, so loaded was it with photos and facts. In grade 8, I was the only kid in my school who liked Iron Maiden, and that was fine by me.
Figuring out exactly what Maiden were saying, that was another story. Live After Death had a lyric sheet, but before that we were just guessing. In a case of mis-heard lyrics, I assumed that the lyrics to “Number of the Beast” went, “Hell and fire are born to be the least”. Bruce was actually singing “Hell and fire are spawned to be released.” “To be the least” went over better with teachers and parents, but when I got Live After Death, I kept the real lyrics for myself. I did learn a new word from that song, “spawned”.
Maybe it was Bruce’s accent, but I really struggled to hear what he was saying, even just when he was speaking on stage. “Scream for me, Long Beach!”, he repeated throughout the album. I could not figure out at all what he was saying, and neither could my best buddy Bob. It sounded like “Scream for me, lambiens!” So we assumed “lambiens” was British slang for “my friends”. That made sense to us. Bob had Live After Death on cassette and there were no liner notes. Not until I got it on LP many months later did I see that the album was recorded at Long Beach Arena, and put two and two together. Until then, it was “lambiens”! “Speak to me, Hammersmith!” was another Bruce phrase that we couldn’t decipher. Until I noticed that side four of the LP was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon did it click. Until then, I thought Bruce was talking to his bandmates on stage. “Speak to me, Harris Smith!”
Both of us played that live album plenty. Thanks to “Powerslave”, I was way ahead on my Egyptology. By the time we started taking Egyptian history in grade 11, I was already well familiar with the eye of Horus. All knew all about Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. Iron Maiden brought all that stuff right to our stereos, but I don’t think they got enough credit for it.
Maiden had other subject matter as well. Though seldom, they would sometimes write songs regarding the “fairer sex” such as “Charlotte the Harlot”. As a young kid first getting into the band, I had no idea what that was about. Even foggier to me was “22 Acacia Avenue”. It was a great tune, but the lyrics were a total mystery to me. It’s not complicated: Charlotte sells herself for money in both tunes. In the second, someone is trying to talk her out of this lifestyle. “You’re packing your bags, you’re coming with me.” Right over my head.
In art class at school, we had to draw a scary scene for Halloween. I chose a bunch of imagery I lifted from Maiden covers: streetlamps, grave stones, fire, dark alleys, a grim reaper and…a house with the address “22 Acacia Avenue”. I liked how Maiden’s artist Derek Riggs hid symbols and clues in his covers, so I was trying to do the same, but just randomly. The teacher walked up and observed my artwork, and asked me a couple questions. “22 Acacia Avenue, is that where you live?” No, but how the hell do I explain this to the Catholic teacher at a very Catholic school? Scrambling for an answer I said, “No, that’s the address of an actual real haunted house.” The teacher “Oooh’ed” excitedly and went to the next student. An actual haunted house? Boy did I have that wrong. Not that I could have given the real answer!
Playing Live After Death again today as I’m writing this is very much a time capsule. It’s 1985 again, and Bob and I are playing air guitars to “22 Acacia Avenue” in my basement. How badly we so wanted to BE Iron Maiden. Hell I made a birthday card for Bob one year that had his face in Iron Maiden over Dave Murray’s! Of 22 Acacia Avenue, Bruce sang “That’s the place where we all go.” Good enough for us, so we wanted to go too. If we knew what Bruce was actually singing about, I think we would have (wait for it) run to the hills instead!