An Iron Maiden excerpt
On this date in 1976, Iron Maiden played their first-ever gig at St. Nicholas Hall in London. Their payment was only £5 back then! In honor of today, here is an excerpt from Martin Popoff’s 2 Minutes to Midnight: An Iron Maiden Day by Day:
Ah yes, Maiden. As much as we super-fans grit and grind our teeth at the ups and downs of Rod’s rock gods, we very much applaud the state of affairs that has the band slowly, methodically, inexorably over time overcoming adversity and just head-scratchingly becoming bigger and bigger as the years roll on. It is no less a victory for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal(NWOBHM) as it is for pure, old school heavy metal in general, as it is for working class rock ’n’ roll made with traditional tools. It’s all of those things, as well as a deeper concept: the idea that the band, in tandem with getting grand, has seeped into wider pop culture the way Kiss had before, and roughly at the same pace, in the same era and through the same yawning number of years, as AC/DC, Aerosmith, and even Skynyrd. Point is, regular non-rock folk understand references to Maiden, something that tickles the cockles of we, the patched-jean-jacket army that found something chaotic, danger- ous, and seductive about the self-titled first record, over and above similar propositions from the likes of Tygers, Quartz, Fist, Saxon, and even Angel Witch, the closest thing to a direct competitor Maiden had back in 1980.
Couple of other things at play as well, that have made Maiden the iconic army they’ve become. There’s the uniformity of merchandising, there’s the string of anthemic anti-hit singles the band has cranked over the years, and there’s the inspiring energy expended at the band’s live gigs, a leap- about that gets the point across that the band and their lockstep fans are fighting the same culture war together as one. And who are the villains in that war? Well, in many ways, it’s the same values put forth by the NWOBHM, in support of musicianship, against punk; only now it’s against synthetic, pathetic music made by computers and electronics, not the scrap ’n’ crap scratchings of one-chord wonders keeping blokes with jeans and long hair from getting pub gigs in 1976.
So this is the band we celebrate, with a twist, away from a standard narrative, mainly ’cos, well, the guys have always been well an’ good accessible, so their story has been told, not necessarily so much in book form, but through the piles of interviews in mags and on the net. With that in mind, I also appreciated and then leaned into the fact that Maiden’s career is one of event after event, milestone after milestone, productivity, side careers, reissues, major tours, singles with cool B-sides. And ergo, there goes a timeline with supporting quotes, along with contextual commentary, events outside of Maiden proper that color the times, an exercise with an academic bent just like the lyrics of Bruce Bruce and ’Arry.
The end result, one hopes, is like having an atlas to go with yer tales of travel, a reference work packed with facts and figures and most significantly, a sense of the sweep of time. The quotes, hopefully, makes this tome a nice read, and the yummy pictures (mostly provided by esteemed Maiden scholar and buddy from the DC area Dave Wright) help us all relive visually all this headbanging fun we’ve had living with Maiden through so many eras and arcs, from punk through NWOBHM, hair metal, grunge and hard alternative, into whatever weird context we’ve had during the last decade. Added bonus I was striving for were those little magic moments where you see, for example, what AC/DC or Ozzy were doing that same month, what Bruce was up to as a solo artist that same year that Maiden were struggling with Blaze, in other words, those interesting cross- hatches that are revealed through the timeline process.
In any event, generally speaking, the idea I was after was a reference book meant to be visited again and again as you listen and re-listen to Maiden’s music, as you get ready for the next time Rod’s charges invades your town, or as you check out interviews new and old every time Maiden do something of substance, which is often. Okay, enough from me. Time to turn up the calendar and let them triple harmony axes chop holes in your edbanged ’ead.