live after death

#503: 22 Acacia Avenue

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”.

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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!

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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!

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Part 189: Hiding the Music

RECORD STORE TALES Part 189:  Hiding the Music

1985:

There was a group of kids on the street (Bob, myself, Rob Szabo, and Peter Coulliard) that were competing for a cassette copy of Kiss Alive II.  There was only one copy that we knew of in town on cassette.   Guys like Bob and Szabo would know that — they were older, had nice bikes, and probably had been checking all over town.  The only copy we knew of was at a store called Hi-Way Market.

Other kids on the street such as George and Todd had the album on vinyl, but Bob and myself didn’t really have any decent equipment for playing records at the time.  Cassette was portable, it was our primary medium in 1985.  In 1985, you didn’t listen to “albums”, you listened to “tapes”.  The cassette copy at Hi-Way Market was priced at $12.99.  This was more expensive than most, because it was considered a “double album” even though it was still just one tape.

KISS ALIVE II BACK

None of us had $12.99 plus tax right then, but Hi-Way Market had this tape we all wanted.  Hi-Way Market was a great store.  It had old creeky wooden floors.  Downstairs were groceries and clothing.  Upstairs, the greatest toy store in town.  Every Christmas they did a giant Space Lego display.  It was incredible.  But off to the side of this store, up a narrow staircase, was a little record store.  I bought my first Iron Maiden (Live After Death, on vinyl) there.  (I think the deciding factor in buying the vinyl of that album was the massive booklet, a rarity in those days.)

Since none of us had the money, Peter Coulliard hid the copy of Alive II behind something else in the store.  Something where no Kiss fan would ever look for it.  Probably behind Duran Duran or Michael Jackson.  This enabled Peter to have the edge when he finally did gather the necessary funds, thus edging Bob, Szabo and I out in the battle for Alive II.

1999:

These two kids kept coming into the store that were fascinated by my copy of Kiss’ Carnival of Souls.  These were young kids…well, about the same age as Bob, Peter and I were back when we pulled this stuff.  They did not have the $10.99 ($12.64 with tax) to purchase Carnival of Souls.  We didn’t have the only copy they could find, but we did have the cheapest one.  The mall stores were asking at least $20 for new copies.

So these kids came in day after day, week after week, moving Carnival of Souls.  They continually got more creative with their hiding places.  My job was to make sure the shelves were also straight and orderly, and when you’d find Kiss under Anne Murray, you’d put it back.  When bosses found Kiss under Anne Murray they’d give you crap.  So, much as I sympathized with the kids’ musical choice, they were grinding my gears as manager.

Finally I got fed up.  I sent the CD to Trevor’s store with an explanation of why he had to keep it and sell it there.  Then the two kids came in again.

“Hey, umm, do you have Kiss Carnival of Souls?” asked the first one.

“Nope, sold it yesterday,” I lied.

“Awwww…” said the second kid.

It had happened.  I had become “the man”!  I had lost sight of my old self.  Didn’t I pull that “hide the album” stunt myself? In fact, didn’t I do it with GI Joe figures at Hi-Way Market?  I did!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…Early Birds.

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Best of the Beast (1996 2 CD edition)

Part 22 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996)

I’m not sure what prompted Iron Maiden to put out their first greatest hits disc in 1996, but at least they did it in style.  Originally available as a limited edition 2 CD book set, it was pretty extravagant packaging for the time.   My only beef is by the nature of such packaging, the paper sleeves will always scratch your discs, 100% of the time.

This album was also available in a standard edition single disc, with the songs in a different running order.  I don’t have that one so I’m not going to talk aboot it.

The 2 disc version, perhaps to emphasize that Blaze Bayley is the current Maiden vocalist, starts at the present and then rewinds all the way back to the beginning, closing with The Soundhouse Tapes!  An interesting approach indeed.  As a listening experience I’m not sure that it works that well.

Since we’re starting at the present, the album kicks off with a new song.  “Virus” is 6:30 of same-old same-old X Factor Maiden, but not as good as anything on that album.   It drags and drags for three minutes before finally kicking into gear, but it is otherwise repetitive and boring until then.  Lyrically, it is another attack on the sicknesses in society, much like “Be Quick Or Be Dead” and “Justice of the Peace” were.

Then back in time one year, to “Sign of the Cross”, the dramatic 11 minute epic from The X Factor, as well as “Man on the Edge”.  (I would have preferred “Lord of the Flies” to “Man on the Edge”, but perhaps “Man” was the bigger single of the two.)

To bridge into the Fear of the Dark album, a new live version of “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” is featured, with Blaze Bayley singing.  It’s a good live version, but it’s immediately obvious that Blaze is no Bruce.

Bruce takes over on the next track, “Be Quick Or Be Dead”, and we’re back in the saddle.  Singles (including the popular live version of “Fear of the Dark”) and album tracks are counted down from 1993 to 1986’s Somewhere In Time album, ending disc 1 with “Wasted Years”, a great closer.  My beef here:  I would have preferred the single “Stranger In A Strange Land” to the album track “Heaven Can Wait” (but I know the Heavy Metal OverloRd doesn’t agree with me!)

Disc 2 is the glory years, if you will, everything from Live After Death to the beginning.  It begins with the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a ballsy move for a greatest hits album, and the live version at that.  Chasing it is the live single version of “Running Free”.  Then we count them down, all the singles from Powerslave to “Run To The Hills”, plus “Where Eagles Dare” and  “Hallowed Be Thy Name” thrown in for good measure.

Then it’s the Di’Anno years, which are given an unfortunately brief expose.  “Wrathchild”, from Killers  is one of the best songs from that era, but the only included track from that album.  Maiden’s first epic, “Phantom of the Opera” and the single “Sanctuary” represent the debut Iron Maiden.  Finally, an unreleased track from The Soundhouse Tapes sessions (“Strange World”), and the rare Soundhouse version of “Iron Maiden” close the set.  To read my review of The Soundhouse Tapes and these tracks, click here.

There was also a 4 LP vinyl edition available, with 7 extra tracks:  “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”,  “The Prisoner”, “Killers”, “Remember Tomorrow”, an exclusive live version of “Revelations” from the Piece of Mind tour, plus the final two songs from The Soundhouse Tapes, “Prowler” and “Invasion”. You can read a story about the 4 LP edition by clicking here.

And there you have it, Maiden’s first greatest hits set, with lots of the hits and plenty of rarities thrown in for the collectors.  I confess that I don’t listen to it often, and this time for this review was the first time in roughly two years.

The cover art was once again by Derek Riggs, doing a sort of mash-up of his (and nobody else’s) Eddie’s.  It’s a suitably glorious piece of art for such a monument of metal.  The inside of the book is loaded with concert dates, lyrics, liner notes, and chart positions, as well as more Eddie’s and photos!

I still want to talk about the single, “Virus”, but I think that it should get an article of its own.  Check back soon for that!

Curiosity: the cover features an ad for the never-to-be Iron Maiden video game, Melt!  Maiden did eventually release a video game, but we’re not going there yet….

For the 2 CD edition of Best of the Beast:

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Live After Death (1985,1996 bonus CD, 1998 remastered edition)

Part 8 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Live After Death (1985, 1996 bonus CD, 1998 remastered edition)

…We shall go on to the end.  We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!

With that dramatic, adrenaline pumping speech from Winston Churchill, Iron Maiden hit the stage, careening across the boards ripping to shreds the opening riff to “Aces High”, guitars cranked and perfectly captured by producer Martin “Live Animal” Birch! Live After Death may be the perfect live metal album.  Running over a mammoth 100 minutes (on LP anyway), it required specially skilled engineers to cut the vinyl, so long were the records!

I have played this album so many times I could review it in my sleep. I own three copies of it, each one for its own reasons (more on that later). Iron Maiden could very well have released this album and retired, and their place in metal history would have been secured. Great value for the price of a double live album, this was at the time one of the longest double live albums ever released, with not one second of precious vinyl wasted.  The package was loaded with photos and text.

Inside the gatefold

Recorded in Long Beach, California (you can tell by Bruce’s incessant shouting, “Scream for me, Long Beach!”) and the Hammersmith Odeon, the crowds are absolutely nuts for Maiden. This is one of the best recorded live metal albums of all time, thanks to Birch. The crowd is loud, the band is clear, and the harmony vocals of Adrian and Steve are perfectly audible.  I’m certain there’s overdubs on those backing vocals, they’re too perfect.  Whatever.  Do I like the album?  Hell yeah.

There are some tunes here that you don’t hear live very often, such as “Die With Your Boots On” and the 14 minute epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (made even better with Bruce’s intro: “This is about what not to do if a bird shits on you!”). “Powerslave” is as powerful and dramatic as the original album version, glorious solo intact. There are a handful of key Di’Anno-era tracks, such as the single “Running Free”, the growling “Wrathchild”, and the band’s early opus, “Phantom of the Opera”. Indeed, this album is worth buying for “Phantom” alone, so rarely is this played. As for “Running Free”, this may now be the definitive version of that song.

(Note: the cassette version of the album edited out the long Bruce/crowd interplay.)

Here’s the three versions I own, and why:

1. Vinyl. This was what I bought back in 1985  (my first Maiden LP), and I still have it. The original vinyl was a gatefold sleeve enabling you to read all the hidden messages on the tombstones.  “Letit R.I.P.” was my favourite. Inside, the album unfolds with two fully coloured photo record sleeves and a generous booklet with liner notes from Birch and a complete list of every date on the tour. Also amusing was a list of everything they went through on tour, from guitar strings to cans of beer.

2. The 1998 remastered CD edition. The original CD releases everywhere were only one single disc, and comprised only the first three sides of vinyl, ending after “Running Free”. This CD version restores side 4 on a second CD, which included “Phantom” and “22 Acacia Avenue” among others — you can’t do without these songs!  It also includes a completely different set of photos from the album release, so that’s cool if you already have the vinyl.  No overlap.

3. The 1995 UK CD reissue of this album, which included all three B-sides. The “Running Free” single had two exclusive songs, which were “Sanctuary” and “Murdered In The Rue Morgue”, both with Bruce singing of course. The “Run To The Hills” single included the very rare instrumental “Losfer Words” which, as far as I know, was only played a handful of times and never again.

Briefly on the cover art:  You recall last time we saw Eddie was being buried.  Well, he seems to have recovered.  You can see the pyramid in the background.  How much time has passed?  Maybe we’ll find out next album….

If you don’t own Live After Death yet, then it’s time to fix that!

5/5 stars.

I’m going to pause here for a few days, as this seems a natural place to do so.  Not only does Live After Death summarize the previous 6 years appropriately, but the Iron Maiden that emerged after it would be a newly modernized Beast, “Caught somewhere in time…”

Part 116: IRON MAIDEN’s Gonna Get Ya…No Matter How Far! (The first 10, in 2 CD picture discs!)

Alright folks, strap yourselves in and get ready for the ride.  After the positive feedback from my series of Kiss reviews, I’ve decided to go with popular demand and do all the Iron Maiden next.  We’re going to talk about every studio album, every live album, every compilation, and every rarity that I have access to.  But why not start off with a Record Store Tale?  Here’s how I acquired rare editions of the crucial first 10 albums….

 RECORD STORE TALES PART 116:

IRON MAIDEN’s Gonna Get Ya…No Matter How Far!

My love of Maiden is well documented.  The very first blog here at LeBrain’s Record Store Tales, Part 1, was called “Run To The Hills”. It describes the first time I ever heard the band.  I don’t need to explain to you why I love Iron Maiden.  If you’re reading this, chances are that you already understand.  Iron Maiden are more than just a band.  They are a passion.  With a band like Maiden, the fans strive to own everything.

The setting:  Early 1996, when we still carried new CD stock.  One of our suppliers dropped off a brand new catalogue.  Inside, was a new listing.  An exciting new listing!

Iron Maiden were reissuing their first 10 albums in 2 CD editions, with a bonus disc of B-sides!  Picture discs!  Iron Maiden, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Peace of Mind, Powerslave, Live After Death, Somewhere In Time, Seventh Son, No Prayer, and Fear of the Dark!  Knowing that Maiden usually released a minimum of two singles per album, with a minimum of 2 B-sides per single, this was a MUST for me.  I didn’t have all the Maiden singles.  Not even close.  Some of these songs, like “Burning Ambition” and “Invasion”, I’d never even heard before!  Now I was going to have the chance to own them on CD.

The discs were expensive, even with my staff discount.  But there was absolutely no way I was missing these.  As an added incentive, I didn’t even own all the Maiden albums on CD yet.  Most of these albums I still only owned on cassette or vinyl!  So really, it was a win-win situation.  Not only was I getting the B-sides, but I was also getting all the Maiden albums on CD with a minimum of overlap with my existing collection.  Plus, these were picture discs with Derek Riggs’ singles artwork.  Picture discs were something of a novelty at the time.  Today, most CDs are picture discs and nobody cares if they are.


My boss warned me:  “If you order these, you better make sure you buy them all.”  There was absolutely no question of that, I’m surprised he even mentioned it, knowing what a collector I am.  It’s too bad we didn’t order more, for stock.  The rarity of these discs has shown that we could have sold them quickly, or better yet, hung onto them for a couple years and jacked up the price once they were out of print.

The supplier we were ordering from, the name of which escapes me, was a small-time supplier, and usually couldn’t get everything we ordered.  They had about a 50% success rate.  Yet he listed all these European imports that our main supplier usually shied away from.  The Maiden reissues were all from Europe.  I crossed my fingers.  I wanted all 10.  Not “some”, but all!  “Some” would not do it!

A week later, the first five Maidens arrived!  The following week, another chunk of Maiden shipped!  They only failed to get me one disc: Fear of the Dark.  Resolving to get it somehow, it turns out I didn’t need to worry about it.  Two weeks later, even that one arrived.  Total expenditure:  About $300 with taxes!  I had all 10.  My Maiden B-side collection:  almost complete!  [Note:  When I go through the Maiden reviews, we’ll cover all the B-sides, including songs that are not on these deluxe editions.]

I settled in for some long, long nights of listening.  I made a compilation tape of all the B-sides that I had (including up to the current album, The X Factor), and it ended up being 3 tapes, 100 minute cassettes, which I still have.  To knock so many songs off my wishlist in one fell swoop like this was the kind of thing I lived for.  This was the perk of working in a record store.  What a score!  Today, I don’t know anybody else who has the full set of 10.

Be sure to check back in the coming days and weeks for all the reviews, starting with The Soundhouse Tapes, to the present day…