Iron Maiden

VHS Archives #70: Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Janick Gers live interview (1992)

I’ll let the video do the talking.  It’s a big one:  Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Janick Gers went live with Teresa Roncon to divulge the details of the new album, Fear of the Dark.  Live calls are answered, new artwork is discussed, and Bruce’s new son is named!

#742: Returning the Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #742: Returning the Rock

There’s a recurring theme in fiction that I like a lot. It’s the idea that you have to return an object back to its origin point.  The One Ring had to be returned to the fires of Mordor where it was made.  Or the recovery of Luke’s lightsaber and its journey back to Skywalker.  Roger’s golden turd returning to his anus in order to destroy it.

Countless years ago, Iron Tom Sharpe gave me a tremendous gift.  You’ve seen it here before; the giant Iron Maiden “Holy Smoke” poster signed by all five members.  It was mounted and hung here in LeBrain HQ for over a decade.  Tom just didn’t have room for it anymore.  He gave me a bunch of his posters, but that was the crown jewel.

Now the times have changed and I’m the one who doesn’t have room.  This week, I removed at least 20 full bags of possessions from my place and we’re still going strong with lots to go.  Tom sent me a message.  “What’s with losing your possessions, are you going Buddhist?”  Hah!  No man, it’s just physics.  You can only store so much stuff in a condo.  “Do you still have that old Maiden poster?” he asked.  I thought about it, and then it hit me.  I knew what I had to do.

I had to return the Maiden poster to its originator.  Tom picked it up, and it is back where it should be.  I like to think of it as I was storing it for him the last 15 years.  I like the poetry of that.

Well, I’d better get back at it.  This place isn’t going to clean itself!

#741: Homework

GETTING MORE TALE #741: Homework

Teachers and counsellors used to tell us it was OK to listen to music when you’re studying, but don’t play things you like so much that you find it distracting.  Nothing you love too much, nor anything you hate.

That was always a problem for me as a kid.  I loved music!  Then and now.

There were always a few albums that hadn’t clicked with me.  In 1992 I was studying for exams, and I chose Mr. Bungle’s debut to do it.  I was also working with the belief that listening to more complex music got your brain juices flowing even better.  I had my method for studying, and I really don’t think music had much impact.  I just remember choosing Mr. Bundgle for the reason that it was complex, and I didn’t get it.

When I was younger, in highschool, I remember listening to a lot of different things while studying.  I had a vinyl phase in early 1988.  I was 30 years ahead of the hipsters.  My sister and I had discovered B-sides in the singles rack at the local Zellers store.  Def Leppard’s “Ride Into the Sun” was playing in store, and my ears perked up.  I knew it was Leppard, but I never heard that song before!  Another single I purchased at that time was Triumph’s “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”.  Rik Emmett played it a few weeks earlier live and acoustic on the Power Hour.  The single got quite a few spins while I was doing my homework that winter.

For some reason, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind was also on the turntable a lot while studying that year.  I may have purchased the record off Bob, because I am sure I got it from him.  There were a couple songs I played repeatedly.  One was “Still Life” and the other was “Sun and Steel”.  At that age, Bob and I thought we could really sing like Bruce Dickinson if we worked hard enough at it.  Those were two songs I was practising at the time!

Listening to music while studying seemed to work for me, but I will admit to one distraction.

Do you remember when Wayne’s World came out on home video?  The first releases came with a free pair of Wayne’s World drum sticks.  My sister bought the video and got the sticks.  However, I would frequently steal them and claim that I needed them to study.  It wasn’t untrue.  A lot of the time, I would pound out a beat on the bed while I was memorising names, dates and events.  However, other times I was just playing a solo.  Probably most of the time!

One could argue that drumming on the bed eventually led to my degree.

Hey, the teachers and counsellors also told us to take breaks from studying.  Sometimes mine were the length of a song…or several!

 

#739: Aces High

GETTING MORE TALE #739: Aces High

I am fortunate, oh so very fortunate, that I still have my old VHS tapes.  Watching them again, over 30 years down the road, has been the closest I’ve ever come to real time travel.  These tapes were my childhood!  I sat in the basement, remote control in hand, recording as much music as possible from, well, MuchMusic!

The Pepsi Power Hour was in its infancy, with J.D. Roberts in the hosting chair.  One by one, each video rolls out in the order I recorded them.  In many cases that means the order in which I first heard them!

The good fortune that I even have these tapes goes further, back to my parents.  They had pay TV, meaning we had MuchMusic when it first began, not when it became free in the late 80s.  They bought a VCR and pretty much let me monopolise it when the Power Hour was on.  Even though it was the middle of the big “Satan scare”, they let me watch the Power Hour, unlike the Dolphs, the weirdo neighbours across the street.  They didn’t even let their kids watch Dr. Who.  Here I am watching Ronnie James Dio slaying people with his sword in “Holy Diver”.  A few clips earlier, a bathing suit clad teacher was dancing on desks in a Van Halen video.  Then there was Kiss.  Were they really “Knights in Satan’s Service”?  My mom asked me that question, but she didn’t stop me from watching.  That couldn’t have been easy, considering the subject matter of “I Love It Loud”.

So I kept recording videos, and stored the tapes safely, as if knowing that 30 years down the road I’d be wanting them again.  Iron Maiden came up frequently on the earliest tapes, and I can’t help thinking of my dad.

The only Iron Maiden videos my dad liked were “Aces High” and “The Trooper”.  He approved of the lyrics and explained them to me in historical context.  I knew all about the Battle of Britain long before I hit the age that they teach you about it in school.  I knew the Charge of the Light Brigade, what a “Cossack” was, and where it happened.  That’s because of Iron Maiden and my dad!  He used it as educational material.  He really seemed to like those lyrics.

Today, my friend Tom who is a teacher uses rock music in the same way — to teach.

“Aces High” was always a personal favourite.  Not only was it a great song, but also a great video.  The single had some of the best cover art you could find on a Maiden vinyl.  “Aces High” received many spins, on the turntable and the VCR alike.  At that age, my sister was like a little shadow, and copied me with everything.  We watched videos together.  We also went to the same school.  In one class, she and her friends were asked about their favourite songs.  My sister said “Aces High” but they wrote down “Ace Is High”.  Come on, people!  It’s not that kind of song!  She was in the 4th grade.

Now I sit, watching my tapes, reliving old memories fresh and new once again.  What a lucky guy I am.

 

VHS Archives #34: Iron Maiden FC vs Glass Tiger, MuchMusic & Music Express (1988)

“I had to mark the singer from a band called Glass Tiger who was quite useful. Sadly for him the pitch was in poor condition and after I chased him round for 45 minutes, he twisted his ankle and was stretchered off. I never touched him ref — honest!’ Stretchered off with ‘undisclosed injuries to his testicles’ was I believe the newspaper quotation that tells you all you need to know about the match.” — Bruce Dickinson*

This video clip of a football match between Iron Maiden FC and Toronto’s finest singers and media is surely a rarity.  It’s a shame that more wasn’t broadcast.  On a personal level, this match meant to lot to me.  My heroes (Iron Maiden) were facing off against my sister’s (Glass Tiger).  And of course Glass Tiger and Co. were pummelled.  I loved holding that over her head!

Look for Frew and MuchMusic alumni including Master T (Tony Young) and Kim Clark Champniss in this fun clip.

It must have been cool to be at this game.  I wonder what it was like?  Wait it a minute — why don’t I just ask a guy who was there?

“I was at that game. Covered it for the newspaper at U of T [that] I wrote for.  Keith Sharp (then of Music Express magazine, later my boss at ACCESS) was friendly with the band. As a kid he was a goalkeeper for the Manchester City youth squad, so he had some skills, and he’d organize a match with the Maidens, who were all soccer fiends, whenever they were in town.  Alan Frew (Glass Tiger) went down with a knee injury during the match… Others on the Music Express squad that I can recall were Mark Holmes (Platinum Blonde) and Maria Del Mar (National Velvet).  I even got some Maiden sideline quotes for my story… And it was the first time I met Keith.” — Jamie Morrison, friend and former journalist

Check it out below!

 

* Thanks Deke at Arena Rock for providing the Bruce quote!

VHS Archives #32: Vintage Sam the Record Man TV ad (1988)

Possibly the only video on the internet with both Megadeth and Poison?

Specially priced! $8.99 for cassette or LP, $18.99 for CD!

For a great look at the Poison album, check out Deke at Arena Rock!

VHS Archives #8: Bruce Dickinson interview (1986)

Popular vote by Harrison, Jessie, and a bunch of others who picked Iron Maiden’s Bruce Bruce (Bruce Dickinson) for this VHS Archive.

Yes folks it’s 1986, and that means questions about Satanism and devil worship. Oh my.

#730: It’s 2019. How do I play a record backwards?

GETTING MORE TALE #730: It’s 2019. How do I play a record backwards?

The fellows from Spinal Tap once lamented that there must be a conspiracy between the Dutch and the Japanese to eliminate any audio medium that you can play backwards.

There’s no proof, but Spinal Tap are not the kind of band who require proof.  The Dutch (Phillips) developed the compact cassette.  The Dutch and Japanese (Phillips and Sony) created the CD together.  You simply couldn’t play either format backwards, like you could with the good ol’ LP.  When the record was “finally” replaced by CD, it really did seem like playing music backwards to look for hidden messages was over and done.  How was Satan to communicate with teenagers like he did in the 1980s?

The 90s and early 2000s were a dark time for backwards messages.  It seemed like playing albums backwards would forever remain a thing of the past.  It was actually a real thing that some people did!  I have.  I played my Iron Maiden Piece of Mind LP backwards to find out what the hell Nicko McBrain was saying at the start of “Still Life”.  With the record on the platter, I cued the needle and spun the record backwards with my index finger.  It didn’t work very well, because I couldn’t keep a constant speed.  The pitch was all over the place.  Plus Nicko was using a comical accent, with reverb added.  Playing it backwards with a wobbly pitch meant I still could not tell what Nicko was saying!

This method of playing records backward wasn’t good for the player, the needle, or the vinyl.  We knew that; we just didn’t care.  We had cheap shit and it really didn’t make a difference.  The time to play a record backwards was when you had cheap kiddie equipment.


“Oh my God, Chicago kicks ass!”

So how can kids play music backwards today?  Without being able to play back-masked messages, can they truly enjoy the albums as completely as we did?  Thankfully, playing your records backwards is easier today than ever.  Thanks to “computer magic” (using Spinal Tap’s words) you can do it quickly and more easily than ever before.

STEP 1:  Download Audacity.  It’s free, easy to use, and very solid.

STEP 2:  Record your vinyl (forwards) into Audacity using a USB turntable.  Or, even easier:  load any track from your computer into Audacity.  For this demonstration we’re using the aforementioned “Still Life” by Iron Maiden.  The backwards spoken word Nicko bit is isolated by deleting the entire rest of the song.  (I’ve also boosted the volume on this part, which is quite quiet.  Now you can see the waveform more easily.)

STEP 3:  Highlight the entire track.  Click “Effects” and “Reverse”.

STEP 4:  Press play!  With just a glance you can see the waveform is completely reversed.

What’s Nicko saying?  Even playing it backwards at a constant pitch, it’s still impossible to tell what it is without enlisting the help of the internet, who have already solved this riddle.

“Hmm, hmm!” sniffs Nicko.  “What hoo said de t’ing wit de t’ree bonce.”   Roughly translated:  “What said the thing with the three heads?”  You might recognise “what hoo said de t’ing” as one of Nicko’s favourite phrases.  It appears again on Maiden’s “Black Bart Blues”.  Then he warns, “Dooon’t meddle wit t’ings you don’ unnerstand.”  Good advice for anyone.  Then finally, a belch!  It’s still all but unintelligible, even digitally reversed.

We had much  more success with an older record, Great White North by Bob & Doug McKenzie.  On the track “Black Holes”, you can choose to highlight and reverse only the backwards part of the track.  When you do it in Audacity, it’s a perfect digital reverse.  You can play it and it’s indistinguishable from any of the rest of the album.  In the waveform below, you can see the reversed section highlighted.  When you play the whole track like this, it’s perfectly seamless.

Now you can say that you learned something useful today.  Go ahead and try it on your Slayer albums now!

 

#724: Balls to Picasso

GETTING MORE TALE #724: Balls to Picasso

In 1993, Iron Maiden announced the departure of Bruce Dickinson, and my world was shattered.

“Oh no.  Not Iron Maiden too…”

I found out via M.E.A.T Magazine, and because of print magazine lead times, the actual announcement came weeks before I found out.

All the big bands seemed to be losing their key members.  Both Motley Crue and Judas Priest were dealing with it, and nobody knew if those bands would survive.  Maiden hurt the most; they had been with me the longest.  What could Maiden do without Bruce?  What could Bruce do without Maiden?

The band tried to keep up appearances, but the split was not amicable.  We wouldn’t know this for years.  In the meantime, my life changed when I was hired at the Record Store.  Though I loved the job, it was starkly obvious that in 1994, heavy metal was passé.  Nobody was buying it, while Soundgarden dominated our rock sales.  No matter how it panned out, both Bruce and Iron Maiden would be facing uphill climbs.

Bruce’s solo outing Balls to Picasso was released in June.  I was surprised that we were carrying it at all, but it wasn’t selling.  I hadn’t got it yet; the review in M.E.A.T stated that the Japanese version had a bonus track.  Drew Masters claimed the bonus acoustic version of “Tears of the Dragon” was better than the album cut, so I was trying to hold off until I could find the Japanese.  All I knew is the album in general was supposed to be very, very different from Iron Maiden.

I never found the Japanese version.  In 1994 it was virtually impossible to find Japanese imports, though I asked the boss to try to order one for me.  HMV in Toronto carried rare imports, but I didn’t know that.

When a used CD copy of Balls to Picasso was traded in, I waited for the boss to leave for the day and then I eagerly put it on the store player.

Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Why are you looking,
At the cameras eye?

By the first chorus of the first track “Cyclops”, I knew I was going to like the album.  Different indeed!  Growling guitar sounds backed by exotic percussion were new twists.

There were two songs that sold the album to me immediately.  I did not want to live my life any longer without the songs “Change of Heart” and “Tears of the Dragon”.  Both songs spoke to me.  I was dealing with the fallout from a nasty breakup and the lyrics seemed to apply to my life.  Not to mention, the music was brilliant!  If Bruce had to leave Iron Maiden to put out a song like “Change of Heart” then so be it.  I played the song over and over.  I even told the boss how good the album was.

“I was playing the new Bruce Dickinson in the store the other night,” I said, “and it’s really good.  Not what you’d expect.”

“Isn’t that too heavy for the store?” he semi-scolded.

“No,” I semi-lied.  “It’s pretty light.”  I obviously didn’t tell him about the white hot “Sacred Cowboys”!

For some reason I chose to buy the cassette, and I played that tape everywhere.  I jammed it in the car for my buddy Aaron.  He particularly liked “Shoot All the Clowns” because he’s terrified of clowns.  Shooting all the clowns was a sentiment he could get behind.

What I liked about the album was that it was modern sounding (“Shoot All the Clowns” had funk and rap!).  I could get away with store play, but yet it had the sterling musicianship and guitar solos that I craved.  I could play it for younger friends like Aaron, who would appreciate the modern production and maybe get past the operatic vocals.

Playing “Change of Heart” today is not the same.  I’m no longer the heartbroken sad sack of shit.  It’s still a brilliant track but I don’t hang on every word anymore.  In 1994 it seemed like every line was for me to sing.  The feelings it used to stir don’t exist anymore.  But man, what a song!  The unusual drumming, the guitar work, the singing…it is one of Bruce’s very best, including those he wrote in Iron Maiden.

I can’t say that I am as passionate about Balls to Picasso in 2018 as I was in 1994.  I still love it, but I daresay Bruce has made better solo albums in his amazing career since.  Still, Balls to Picasso is historically important.  It introduced many of us to Roy Z for the first time, and it may have put him on the map.  Roy’s work in metal since has been highly respected by connoisseurs worldwide.  And then there’s that personal history.  I played this album so much during that cold, depressing winter.  It still stands up today, with a timelessly clear production and some very strong material.

Obviously things eventually worked out between Bruce and Iron Maiden.  He’s been back fronting them for almost 20 years.  Things worked out OK for me too.  Balls to Picasso was a step in both Bruce’s journey, and mine.

 

GUEST REVIEW: Iron Maiden – 01/22/1981 Beat Club

By Harrison Kopp

IRON MAIDEN – 01/22/1981 Beat Club (Video)

Good day everybody; Harrison here with a public service announcement/review. You see, on the 20th of September 2018, something amazing happened. As part of their endeavours to digitise their archives, the Beat Club (a poor man’s Rockpalast), surreptitiously uploaded a video to YouTube. But this was no ordinary video. It was a video of an Iron Maiden show. As Iron Maiden are renowned for their stinginess with archive material and reissues [1], this upload was met with celebrations across cyberspace for those in the know. And for those not in the know, here is this review of the show to bring it to your attention.  [The video can be found at bottom — LeBrain]

As you will be able to tell, this show falls in the Di’Anno era, of which the only official video release was the six song “Live at the Rainbow” from 1980, which left fans clamouring for more. (Yes, I am aware of the 1980 show on Disc 2 of The Early Days but given its status as a curiosity due to its terrible quality, I’m ignoring it for the purpose of this review). As a side note, while the original six-and-a-half song broadcast of this show has been available as a bootleg for quite a while, this is the full twelve song show (and a little more), without the visual effects of a degrading VHS either. Unfortunately, the audio and video are just ever so slightly out of sync.

We kick things off rather characteristically with the taped “The Ides of March” heralding the band’s arrival onstage and it’s instantly clear, that this is going to be so much better visually than Live at the Rainbow. While yes, the Iron Maiden stage set of the Rainbow is not present, neither is the tape hiss of that show, which, rather obviously, leads to a much better sounding show. That’s not all. The atmospheric theatre lighting of the Rainbow is also gone, having been replaced by the ever-present TV studio lighting. While it does break the immersion a little, the net result is a picture that despite being only 480p, puts virtually every other video from that era (and some after it too [2]) to shame. It really does look fantastic for its age. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The band have the performance to back it up too. [3]

The performance commences rather uncharacteristically with “Prowler” following “The Ides…” instead of the quintessential “Ides of March/Wrathchild” combo, although this was well known as “Prowler” opened the original broadcast as well. With Paul Di’Anno and Clive Burr both in fine form, “Prowler” doesn’t get much better than this.

Next up however, is something that did not feature on the original broadcast nor features on any Maiden video since: one of my favourite songs from the debut, “Charlotte the Harlot”. It becomes clear here, as the band kick the energy up to 11, of the great hindrance that Wil Malone’s production on the debut was. Steve Harris is right. It didn’t even begin to capture their ferocity live. Thankfully this mix rectifies that error, and this song is a definite highlight of the show, no mean feat in a Maiden performance. Another broadcast song, “Wrathchild” follows on, with the honour of being the first song of the show from their then unreleased second album. An awesome rendition of the enduring Di’Anno era classic, there’s not much else you can say about any of Maiden’s performances of this song.

On the other hand, there is much to say about the performance of “Remember Tomorrow”, except, not much of it has to do with “Remember Tomorrow”. During the second verse there’s a most interesting sound coming through: the sound of a technical failure, and the band stop playing soon after, having a beer and mucking around with their guitars as the problem is fixed. I’m so glad they left this interlude in. It shows a little bit behind the scenes and is a nice deviation from the main stuff, one that is not often shown, even on these full show sorts of things. Eventually someone decides to stop using up tape, and we cut to the start of the second go at “Remember Tomorrow”, which is done by the numbers in spectacular Maiden fashion.

With things definitely back on track the band plough into “Transylvania”. When it comes to instrumentals, Maiden really knocks it out of the park, and I do wish they’d done more. This performance is no exception, although I do think I might prefer “Genghis Khan” from Killers. Now, despite being one of their few singles at the time, “Running Free” didn’t make it onto Live at the Rainbow. This travesty thankfully does not reoccur here, and while Live After Death boasts the ultimate “Running Free”, Di’Anno and co. are no slouches and that’s reflected in probably one of this line-up’s best performances of the song.

Another Killers song, “Innocent Exile” is next. It’s done well, and as this is before the era of the twig-snapping bass tone, you get a nice full little bass workout from ‘Arry as the intro. [4] “Sanctuary” comes next. It’s one of my least favourite Di’Anno era songs and I fully believed it outstayed its welcome on subsequent tours. It’s not the best rendition either: Di’Anno mixes some lyrics up and the solos are not up to the usual standard.

Now here’s something interesting though: “Killers”. This show was recorded only 11 days before that release of Killers, yet this version of “Killers” is the most experimental I’ve ever heard it. The intro and the guitar harmonies have a spacey feel to them and there’s even the changing up the lyrics for a couple lines. Di’Anno’s screams being mostly absent for most of the intro only accentuate this experimental vibe. It’s nice to have a good quality video now of the album lyrics (most of them anyway).

“Another Life” is the next song, one that was fade-cut halfway as the credits rolled on the original broadcast. Now it’s here in all its glory: a good, if perhaps almost filler song from Killers. It’s a fiery rendition, but it suffers from “If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it three times”. The drum solo is sadly but expectedly skipped on this show, pushing this good, if unspectacular song into the background.

This slight lull in awesomeness is immediately rectified with “Phantom of the Opera”. The original Iron Maiden epic, it was played at breakneck pace at the Rainbow show and it’s not much slower here, a slight shame because “Phantom of the Opera” is one of the few songs I think isn’t better when done faster. That being said, it’s still a chunk of pure awesome no matter how you slice it.

Of course, now it wouldn’t be an Iron Maiden show without “Iron Maiden” and it wouldn’t be an awesome rendition of the song without Paul Di’Anno. [5] The end of the show is signalled in spectacular fashion, with the ever-reliable Eddie making an appearance to send off the show in style. Except that it’s not the end yet. They were recording for TV after all, so the band semi-encore with another rendition of “Sanctuary” to replace the muffed version from before. And then it’s over. One hour’s worth of early classics and deep cuts by the best band on earth. [6]

Watch now or else.

4.5/5 stars (-0.25 for audio/visual sync issues, -0.25 for lack of Di’Anno screams here and there)

Tracks: – Intro/”Ides of march” – “Prowler” – “Sanctuary” – “Phantom of the Opera” – “Iron Maiden” – “Wrathchild” – “Innocent Exile” – “Sanctuary” – “Another Life”

 

[1] This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1998 remasters.

 

[2] The 1983 live album and video Alchemy by Dire Straits is a prime example of this. It has terrible lighting, being way too dark most of the time. But then again, most landmark live albums don’t have video components anyway, so we should be grateful to have any sort of video of Alchemy in the first place. Although when it comes to picture quality verse age, you can’t beat Deep Purples Granada 1970 performance.

 

[3] Don’t even get me started on the video of The Rolling Stone’s Live at the LA Forum 1975. Complete waste of valuable high-quality film.

 

[4] ’Arry’s bass tone on Maiden England ’88 is a thing of beauty. (Actually no, it really isn’t)

 

[5] The only Dickinson rendition of this song I think is truly awesome is the Beast Over Hammersmith one.

 

[6] Sorry LeBrain.