Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band from east London. The band were formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, formerly a member of Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler. Iron Maiden are one of the most successful and influential bands in the heavy metal genre, having sold 80 million albums worldwide. The band won the Ivor Novello award for international achievement in 2002. At the end of Iron Maiden's current tour, in June 2007 they will have played 2,000 concerts over a period of 31 years.
The band have headlined several major events in its career, notably Rock in Rio, Ozzfest alongside Black Sabbath, Donington's "Monsters of Rock", "Download" Festivals and the "Reading and Leeds Festivals."
Although Iron Maiden are a heavy metal band, influenced by Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, their earlier music had punk overtones mainly due to vocalist Paul Di'Anno and punk rock's influence on NBOWHM-era heavy metal as a whole.
Iron Maiden's mascot, Eddie, is a perennial fixture in the band's horror-influenced album cover art, as well as in live shows. Eddie was drawn by Derek Riggs until 1992, although there have been various incarnations by numerous artists including Melvyn Grant. Eddie is also featured in a first-person shooter video game from the band, Ed Hunter, as well as numerous books, graphic comics and band-related merchandise.
Eddie, the iconic mascot of the band
has featured on the artwork of almost every album and single
The Early Days (1975–1981)
Iron Maiden were formed on Christmas Day 1975, by Steve Harris, shortly after he left his previous group, Smiler. Harris attributes the band name to a movie adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask, which he saw around that time, and so the group was christened after the medieval torture device.
Founding member and bassist Steve Harris, and guitarist Dave Murray, remain the longest-surviving members of Iron Maiden. The band had twelve different line-ups in the 1970s and struggled to form a stable line-up of band members. Original vocalist Paul Day was fired as he lacked "energy or charisma onstage". He was replaced by Dennis Wilcock, a Kiss fan who utilised fire, make-up and fake blood during live performances. Wilcock's friend, Murray, was invited to join, to the frustration of guitarists Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance. This fuelled Harris to temporarily split the band in 1976, though the group reformed soon after with Murray as sole guitarist.
Iron Maiden recruited another guitarist in 1977, Bob Sawyer, who caused a rift between Murray and Wilcock, prompting Harris to fire both Murray and Sawyer. A poor gig at the Bridgehouse in November 1977, with a makeshift line-up including Tony Moore on keyboards, Terry Wapram on guitar, and drummer Barry Purkis resulted in Harris firing the entire band. Dave Murray was reinstated and Doug Sampson was hired as drummer.
A chance meeting at the Red Lion pub in Leytonstone evolved into a successful audition for vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Steve Harris has stated, "There's sort of a quality in Paul's voice, a raspiness in his voice, or whatever you want to call it, that just gave it this great edge."
Iron Maiden had been playing for three years, but had never recorded any of their music. On New Year's Eve 1978, the band recorded a demo, The Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only three songs, the band sold all five thousand copies within weeks. One track found on the demo, "Prowler", went to number one on Neal Kay's Heavy Metal Soundhouse charts in Sounds magazine. Their first appearance on an album was on the compilation Metal for Muthas (released on 15 February 1980) with two early versions of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild".
From late 1977 to 1978, Murray was the sole guitarist in the band until Paul Cairns joined in 1979. Shortly before going into the studio, Cairns left the band. Several other guitarists were temporarily hired until the band finally settled on Dennis Stratton. Initially, the band wanted to hire Dave Murray's childhood friend Adrian Smith, but Smith was busy with his own band, Urchin. Drummer Doug Sampson was also replaced by Clive Burr (who was brought into the band by Stratton). In December 1979, the band landed a major record deal with EMI.
Iron Maiden on stage bass and guitars 2006
Iron Maiden's eponymous 1980 release, Iron Maiden, made number 4 in the UK Albums Chart in its first week of release, and the group became one of the leading proponents of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. The band went on to open for Kiss on their 1980 Unmasked tour, as well as opening select dates for Judas Priest. In addition to the title track, the album includes other early favourites such as "Running Free", "Transylvania", "Phantom of the Opera", and "Sanctuary" - which were not on the original UK release but made the US release and subsequent re-releases. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was fired from the band as a result of creative and personal differences. Stratton was replaced by Adrian Smith in October 1980.
In 1981, Maiden released their second album, titled Killers. This new album contained many tracks that had been written prior to the release of the debut album, but were considered surplus. With songs already shaped on the road well in advance, only two new tracks were written for the album; "Prodigal Son", and "Murders in the Rue Morgue". Fan favourites included the fast and furious "Wrathchild", but the band would also write songs with literary significance, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe).
The next level (1982–1985)
By 1981, Paul Di'Anno was demonstrating increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly through cocaine usage. His performances began to suffer, just as the band was beginning to achieve large-scale success in America. At the end of 1981 the band fired Di'Anno and began to seek a new vocalist.
Bruce Dickinson, previously of Samson auditioned for Iron Maiden in September 1981 and joined the band shortly afterwards. He then went out on the road with the band on a small-headlining tour. Notable on this mini-tour was that, in anticipation of the forthcoming album, the band played "Children of the Damned", "Run to the Hills", "22 Acacia Avenue" and "The Prisoner" at select venues, introducing fans to the sound that the band was progressing towards.
Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast album cover
The Number of the Beast
Dickinson's recorded debut with Iron Maiden was 1982's The Number of the Beast, an album that claimed the band their first ever UK Albums Chart number 1 record and additionally became a Top Ten hit in many other countries. For the second time the band went on a world tour, visiting the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia. The tour's US leg was marred by controversy stemming from an American right-wing political pressure group that claimed Iron Maiden was Satanic because of the new album's title track. The band members' attempts to deflect the criticism failed to dampen persistent accusations. A group of Christian activists went on to destroy Iron Maiden records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) in protest against the band.
In addition to the title track which was popular amongst fans despite its controversy, the album also included such hits as "Run to the Hills", "22 Acacia Avenue", and "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Songs of historical and literary significance would continue their presence in Iron Maiden albums, including "Children of the Damned", based on the film of the same name, and "The Prisoner", based on The Prisoner television show starring Patrick McGoohan.
Piece of Mind
In late 1982, drummer Clive Burr left the band due to personal and tour schedule problems. He was replaced by Nicko McBrain, previously of Trust. Shortly afterwards, in 1983, the band released Piece of Mind.
The album is widely considered a fan-favourite and contains "The Trooper" and "Flight of Icarus", which were both released as singles. Songs inspired by literary works included "Where Eagles Dare" (based on the movie of the same name), "To Tame A Land" (based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert), and the aforementioned "The Trooper", based on Tennyson's poem Charge of the Light Brigade.
As a comedic response to controversy about occult messages being backmasked in rock music at the time, a backwards message can be heard at the start of the track "Still Life", which consists of McBrain impersonating Idi Amin Dada:
Iron Maiden Powerslave album cover
Following the success of Piece of Mind, the band released Powerslave in 1984. The album featured fan-favourites "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Aces High", and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", the latter based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem of the same name. "Back in the Village" followed up on an earlier hit "The Prisoner", both based on the television show starring Patrick McGoohan.
The tour following the album, dubbed the World Slavery Tour, was the band's biggest to date and consisted of around 220 shows over 13 months. Many shows were played back-to-back in the same city, such as in Long Beach, California, where most of the recordings were made for their subsequent live release Live After Death. The tour was physically gruelling for the band and they took a 6-month break when it ended.
Somewhere in Time
The band adopted a different approach for their 1986 studio album, titled Somewhere in Time. This was not a concept album, though it was themed loosely around the idea of time travel. It featured, for the first time in the band's history, synthesized bass and guitars sounds to add textures and layers to the sound. Though considered different from the norm of Maiden sounds, it charted well across the world, especially with the single "Wasted Years".
Album art was influenced by the movie "Blade Runner".
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
This experimentation led to a more refined follow-up album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, released in 1988. Adding to Iron Maiden's experimentation, it was a concept album featuring a story about a mythical child who possessed clairvoyant powers.
For the first time, the band used keyboards on a recording, as opposed to guitar synthesisers on the previous release. Critics stated this produced a more accessible release. Still, it was a huge success, and was the band's second album to hit #1 in the UK charts.
In 1989, after touring with Iron Maiden, guitarist Adrian Smith released a solo album with his band ASAP entitled Silver and Gold.
In 1990, to close Iron Maiden's first ten years of releasing singles, Iron Maiden released The First Ten Years, a series of ten CDs and double 12" vinyls. Between February 24 and April 28 1990, the individual parts were released one-by-one, and each contains two of Iron Maiden's singles, including the B-sides.
In 1990, vocalist Bruce Dickinson launched a solo career with former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers, releasing Tattooed Millionaire.
Soon after, the band experienced its first line-up change in seven years when guitarist Adrian Smith left the band. Bruce Dickinson's solo project guitarist Janick Gers was chosen to replace Smith.
No Prayer for the Dying
In 1990 Iron Maiden released the raw sounding album No Prayer for the Dying. This album featured one last song co-written by Adrian Smith, "Hooks in You", despite Smith's having left the band prior to the recording of the album.
The band obtained their first (and to date, only) UK Singles Chart number one hit single with a cover of "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter", originally recorded by Dickinson for the movie-soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It was released on December 24, 1990, and was one of the first records to be released on several different formats with different B-sides. The single holds the record for being the fastest release straight in to number one and straight out of the charts again over the following couple of weeks.
Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark album cover
Fear of the Dark
Dickinson performed a solo tour in 1991 before returning to the studio with Iron Maiden for the album Fear of the Dark. Released in 1992, the album was noticeably longer and had several songs which became fan favourites, such as the title track and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers". "Wasting Love" is perhaps the band's only power ballad, and "From Here to Eternity" is the fourth segment in the 'Charlotte the Harlot' storyline.
In 1993, Bruce Dickinson left the band to further pursue his solo career. However, Bruce agreed to stay with the band for a farewell tour and two live albums (later re-released in one package). The first, A Real Live One, featured songs from 1986 to 1992, and was released in March 1993. The second, A Real Dead One, featured songs from 1975 to 1984, and was released after Bruce had left the band. He played his farewell show with Iron Maiden on August 28, 1993. The show was filmed, broadcast by the BBC, and released on video under the name Raising Hell.
Winds of change (1995–1999)
The band auditioned hundreds of vocalists, both unknown and famous. They finally chose Blaze Bayley in 1994, formerly of Wolfsbane. Bayley had an altogether different style to his predecessor, which ultimately received a mixed reception among fans.
The X Factor
After what had been a three year hiatus, the band returned in 1995 with the album The X Factor. Chief songwriter Steve Harris was experiencing personal problems at the time with the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his father and many feel the album's sound is a reflection of this.
Notable songs included the 11-minute epic "Sign of the Cross", "Lord of the Flies", "Man on the Edge" - based on the movie Falling Down, and "The Edge of Darkness" - based on the movie Apocalypse Now.
The band spent most of 1996 on the road before returning to the studio for Virtual XI, released in 1998. Chart positions of the album were lower, failing to reach the one million mark in worldwide sales for the first time in Iron Maiden's history.
In February 1999, Bayley left the band by mutual consent. At the same time, the band shocked their fans when they announced that both Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith were rejoining the band, and that Janick Gers would remain. Iron Maiden now had three guitarists and a successful reunion tour followed. This tour also supported the band's newly released computer game Ed Hunter.
Brave New World
Iron Maiden's first studio work after the reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith came in the form of 2000's Brave New World. The album was met with much critical acclaim. Thematic influences continued with "The Wicker Man" - based on the 1973 British cult film of the same name, and "Brave New World" - based on the novel of the same name.
The world tour that followed consisted of around 80 dates, and culminated on 19 January 2001 with a show at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, where Iron Maiden played to a crowd of 250,000. This performance was recorded and subsequently released on CD and DVD in March 2002 under the name Rock in Rio.
Dance of Death
In 2003, Iron Maiden released Dance of Death. As usual, historical and literary influences continued - "Montsegur" in particular being about the Cathar stronghold conquered in 1244 and Paschendale relating to a significant battle during World War I.
Their performance at Westfalenhalle stadium in Germany, as part of the supporting tour, was recorded and released in August 2005 as a live album and DVD, entitled Death on the Road.
In 2005, the band announced a tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of their first album, Iron Maiden, and the 30th anniversary of their formation. The tour also was in support of the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Days and as such during the tour they only played material from their first four albums. As part of the celebration of their early days, the "Number of the Beast" single was re-released, which went straight to number 3 in the UK Singles Chart.
At Iron Maiden's last Ozzfest performance (August 20, 2005 at the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen in San Bernardino, CA), Sharon Osbourne interrupted their performance by turning off the PA system and chanting.
The band completed this tour by headlining the Reading and Leeds weekend festivals on the 26th and 28th August 2005,. For the second time, the band played a charity show for former drummer Clive Burr's Clive Burr MS Trust Fund charity.
Iron Maiden's A Matter of Life and Death album cover
A Matter of Life and Death
In November 2006, Iron Maiden and manager Rod Smallwood announced that they were cutting off their 27 year old ties with Sanctuary Music and have started a new company named Phantom Music Management.
In Autumn 2006 Iron Maiden released A Matter of Life and Death. While the album is not a concept album, war and religion are recurring themes in the lyrics throughout, as well as in the album's artwork.
A successful North American and European tour followed, during which they played the album in its entirety, a first for the band. The band have announced that a live album recorded from this tour will be released.
In 2007, the band confirmed several major festival appearances across the world for the year to form the second leg of the A Matter of Life and Death tour. These include performances at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival, Eddfest, Download Festival, Heineken Jammin Festival, Fields Of Rock Festival, Graspop Metal Meeting and Bilbao BBK Live Festival. They have also scheduled concerts in countries such as India, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Germany. The main leg of the tour has been renamed "The Matter of the Beast", to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Number of the Beast album. The band will play 5 songs from A Matter of Life and Death and 5 from The Number of the Beast as part of their live set for the tour.
Iron Maiden were ranked #24 in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock", and in Kerrang! magazine were ranked as the most important band of the last 25 years. The band were ranked fourth on MTV's "Top 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time". Iron Maiden were named the third best metal band of all time on VH1 Classic: Top 20 Metal Bands.
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