March 2, 1985
By David Huff
Iron Maiden - "World Slavery" Tour 84/85 - OKC
Iron Maiden's ‘powerslave’ an uncompromising rock classic
Think about the two following words for a minute and see what kind of image they conjure up.
Can you envision a weather beaten ship that has braved many an ocean storm to carry its precious cargo from port to port without fail?. Better yet, can you envision an uncompromising, battle tested, heavy metal band that has pulled no punches with their hard driving, unrelenting musical attack on your five senses? Founding member and guitarist Dave Murray can.
"It’s the way we approach things," said the musician who was enjoying a rare day off from the intense concert grind Maiden is currently undertaking. “Our attitude doesn’t necessarily make us different or unique. It really lays in the chemistry the five of us share interacting with one another on stage that makes this band something special.
"We have gradually built up a cult following that has followed and stayed with us album after album. It started back in 1976. Over the next four years, we actually laid the groundwork for the success that you see now. It was like an apprenticeship really."
The training Iron Maiden undertook evolved out of the ashes of the notorious punk scene that engulfed the London music scene in 1978. With the demise of one wave rose that of another - heavy metal. At the crest of this tide was an outfit from the east side of London who's musical fury hinged on a relentless twin guitar attack backed by a thunderous bass beat. This aural assault on the mind and soul was assailed by critics as reconstituted 'dinosaur rock' pioneered by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, then subsequently dismissed as a passing fancy. Seven years later, the only thing rejected have been the critics.
"The aggressive style of music Iron Maiden plays,” remarked Murray, “is a product of the environment Steve Harris and myself grew up in, which was East London. It was a great climate for bands like ourselves, because there were various musical paths you were exposed to and could explore. It was a very healthy environment for music.
"Where the two of us used to hang out, there would be something like 500 kids at these places. You could go in there and play your own material and not have to worry about playing the top hits of the day. Because of the positive atmosphere that surrounded bands like us, you were free to develop from there."
On New Year's Eve 1978, Iron Maiden recorded a demo, consisting of four songs, at Spaceward Studios. Hoping the tape would help them secure more shows, they presented a copy to Neal Kay, the manager of a hard rock club called the Heavy Metal Soundhouse. After hearing the tape, the manager began to play it regularly at the club. A copy of the tape also landed in the hands or Rod Smallwood, who soon became their manager.
As their popularity increased, Iron Maiden, which consisted at the time of Murray on guitar, Harris on bass, drummer Doug Samson and vocalist Paul Di’Anno. , bassist Steve Harris, singer Paul Di'anno and drummer Doug Samson.the band to release the demo on their own record label as The Soundhouse Tapes. Though it only featured three tracks, all five thousand copies sold out within weeks. In December 1979, the band was signed by EMI Records.
In an effort to beef up the live sound, Murray and Harris decided to hire another guitarist that would provide a twin-edged guitar assault. They initially contacted Murray’s childhood friend, Adrian Smith, and offered him the job when they got signed to EMI. He declined to concentrate on his own band, Urchin. That band broke up the next year. A chance meeting with both Murray and Harris by Smith ended up with them asking the guitarist to reconsider their previous invitation. He agreed.
“It was a bit like a revolving door there for a while," conceded Murray, "but finally things settled down for us. One of the most difficult decisions we had to confront was the replacement of Paul Di'Anno because the road had taken its toll on him."
With the release of their self-titled debut in 1980, Iron Maiden quickly established a name for itself. They instantly became one of the leaders of Britain’s new wave metal movement that also included the likes of Judas Priest, Saxon and Motorhead. The band’s sophomore effort the following year, Killers, solidified the group’s position as a force to be reckoned with. It also marked the end of their relationship with singer Paul Di’Anno.
Iron Maiden had to cancel several concert dates due to Di’Anno’s frequent loss of voice on the Killers tour. It was due in part to reported drug and alcohol abuse on the singer’s part. In order for the band to proceed with the massive tour obligations that were being booked after the release of the band’s next recording, a dependable singer who’s vocal chords could withstand the rigors of the road had to be found. In stepped Bruce Dickinson, formally of the British metal band, Samson.
"This is something that you have to throw yourself into," explained Murray. "This is 110 percent effort put forth where you have to think positive and know you are going to accomplish what you set out to do. I really think that’s one of the main reasons Iron Maiden has become successful today. From the beginning, we set out to create a consistent identity with our music. That image created by the particular aggressive style of music we play, is what people associate with Iron Maiden around the world.
"A lot of bands are called overnight successes because they appeared to happen just like that. I think long running bands like ourselves are admired by fans because they have sort of grown up with you. These people know you aren't something that happened overnight. Iron Maiden was a process that took four to five years to develop in order to get into the position we're in right now."
One image that fans, and eventually Maiden itself adopted, was a rather uncommonly looking figure that adorned the cover of their Killers album and became known through time as Eddie. His presence onstage has become mandatory with fans, and Murray refers to the band's official mascot simply as the sixth man.
"In England,” informed Murray, “because the competition for recognition is so intense, you have to have some sort of identifying trademark to set you apart from those you are competing against. That is where Eddie came into being.
"The Eddie character started off with us when we were playing pubs. He would be the figurehead of our backdrop and from his eyes and mouth, smoke and blood would come out while we were playing. We just sort of developed his character from there. Now, Eddie has become something that the kids can relate to, especially our hard-core following who identify with him. It's like Eddie and Iron Maiden are just linked as one."
The Number of the Beast, released in March 1982, was the debut of vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the final appearance of drummer Clive Burr. It received not only critically acclaim, but a commercial success as well. The landmark recording, featuring the seminal hits “Number of the Beast”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run for the Hills”, was Maiden’s first album to reach the top spot on the British charts and go gold in the U.S. The LP was also controversial due to the religious overtones of the lyrics and album artwork.
Iron Maiden commenced on a nearly year-long global trek that took them to four continents including Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. The band’s relentless touring schedule attracted even more people to its swelling fan base. The musical onslaught continued for Maiden with the release the 1983 recording, Piece of Mind. Maiden fever was at a fever pitch as the band went on a grueling 139-date, eight month tour. The album, which would feature concert staples “Flight of the Icarus” and “The Trooper”, was a monumental success that saw the band headline arenas for the first time. The tour also introduced new band member, drummer Nico McBain.
"I like to think our music is for the working class kids," offered Murray. "I mean, we play for an hour and 45 minutes and hopefully during that time, the audience loses themselves in our music. All that time we’re on stage our hope is to capture everyone’s attention, and as you said, give them the opportunity to release their pent up energy. It works out really good for us and them."
Following the conclusion of the World Piece tour, the band regrouped and commenced work on a semi Ancient Egyptian-themed record, Powerslave. It has become the pivotal recording in a trilogy of releases the past three years that saw the band ascend to the top. Seizing upon the mythological overtones of the album cover artwork, Iron Maiden decided to transform their stage into an eye-opening ancient world production. The stage includes monumental pedestals several stories high that Harris, Murray, Dickenson and Smith find themselves perched atop at various times throughout the show. Eddie even gets himself a Mummy makeover.
Maiden decided to travel behind the Iron Curtain to debut its massive stage extravaganza last August in Poland. Another stop included Budapest, Hungary. Earlier this year, the World Slavery tour landed in Rio De Janeiro where it headlined the inaugural Rock in Rio festival before an estimated crowd of 300,000. In total, this tour will cover thirteen months and visit 28 countries.
"We have been on the road for a long time now chipping away to build an audience," offered Murray. "We are attracting a whole new generation of fans right now. It has built itself up because we are on the road, after every album, for like 8-10 months out of the year. Word of mouth spread about us and today we’re seeing the results of that hard work. I have been amazed at some of the ages of our audiences. It’s kind of funny to watch them respond to our music.”
"The pieces have finally fallen into place for this band. Then again, it’s not like we didn't do our fair share of hard work in order to attain the position we now hold. Moving ahead and never looking back has enabled this band to forge its own future. Despite the hardships and setbacks, doing something that you really enjoy is success as far as we’re concerned. Music is our expression, our release, our identity. I have been overwhelmed at times at some of the things the five of us have been able to accomplish."
Has Maiden metal become a genre defining sound able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
"Well, I don't know if I would go that far,” laughed Murray, “but it certainly broke down some political barriers. The fact we were allowed to play in Poland just goes to show you that music is indeed an international language."
Murray’s observations may be true, but to begin a world tour in a politically unstable country like Poland could have led to some very unpredictable problems.
"Honestly,” replied Murray, “we sat down with our manager and just talked things over about where in Europe we wanted to start the tour. At first we thought about Hungary. The next thing we knew our management told us we were playing in Poland.
"It's kind of hard to explain the emotion those kids felt for us when we were in Poland. The reception we received was unbelievable when we got there. I mean in one place, 40,000 people turned up to see the band. For most of those kids, it was probably the first and only time in their lives that they will ever see a concert.
"Everybody in that country was helpful to us. I would say their experience of Iron Maiden was not only refreshing to them, but certainly different. I mean when we started playing, they all just sort of looked at us funny. The kids in the audience, the soldiers, the security, they didn't know what to think when we started playing. They just sat there silently during the first part of the show. Towards the end, they all cut loose and let their emotions fly. They threw their hats onstage. I have soldier's hats you name it, and those we met after the show just looked at us and said, 'I can't believe you're really here!"'
Iron Maiden captured their experiences on tape and plan to make a documentary out it at a later date. For now, it’s back to the land of the free and home of the brave with a massive production that is sure to endear the band to its ever-growing American fan base.
"We know,” admitted Murray, “that we didn't have to go on the road with the kind of show that we are presenting, but it is something that we have always wanted to do. It is costing us a lot of money, but everything has actually been budgeted and we can account for all of it.
"The last few years we’ve gone on the road, each tour has been a little bit more spectacular than the previous one. The production has been more and more intense each time. We justify taking a production like this on the road because we know kids don’t like to pay good money to sit in their seats during a concert. Therefore, we want to give them the best show possible.
"If we just break even on this tour, that's alright with us. We know Iron Maiden’s putting on the best show we possibly can. Don't get me wrong, we’re still all about music, but today you have to put on a visual show to compliment the musical one.”
Despite the enormous success Iron Maiden is currently enjoying, Murray says he feels good knowing the band has never compromised their musical standards in search of an elusive hit single to get their name out on radio stations throughout the U.S. or the world.
"It doesn't bother me any," replied Murray, "because we simply don't write pop songs. Yes we have been held back because of lack of radio airplay. The thing is, we don't go into the studio under the impression, ‘Oh God! We have to write a song that is going to be commercial hit for the radio.’
"Steve gets a lot of song ideas from books he reads and things he observes around him. He actually comes up with the complete compositions before presenting them to us. Once he does that, we will sort of sit around and develop it within the framework of the band. Actually, our music is created in the studio when everyone gets together."
The concert set list for Iron Maiden consists of just 12 songs. That seems light for a two-hour show, but considering the length of the tunes performed, Maiden covers the highlights of their album catalog while introducing new material they hope become concert staples in the future. Audience reaction to the shows have been overwhelmingly positive.
"Going back to radio,” stated Murray, “we have only released songs we felt were suitable for airplay. We don’t care how long it is. For example, we have a song on the new album called ‘2 Minutes to Midnight.’ That tune has some really catchy chorus lines, but it won’t get any airplay because it is six minutes long. We refuse to cut it down to accommodate radio formats. Our music is constructed along the lines of another song on Powerslave, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." That song is almost 14 minutes long and is a perfect example of why you won’t see Iron Maiden on the radio.
"The spectrum of music you hear these days is fairly broad. It allows a group like ours the luxury of writing songs regardless length because we write are an album oriented band, not singles driven. From the beginning, we have never sold out our musical souls to conform our style around a commercially acceptable sound. If we ever do get a song on the radio, it will be by pure coincidence and nothing else.
"Radio I think, has gone a little bit crazy and that’s a sad commentary right there. Our strength has come from the fact we have never stuck to a particular musical formula. That philosophy has allowed us to have a broad range of freedom as far as where to take our music. This is our eighth year as a band. From the beginning, Iron Maiden has grown stronger every year as a unit. Since our music doesn’t stick to any prescribed formula, hopefully we’ll have another ten years out there to do our thing. That way we can keep on coming out with different albums covering a whole range of themes without worrying our music has confused people."
The impressive sales figures Iron Maiden has compiled off five studio recordings and one live mini-LP, has allow Murray and his band mates to get a good night’s rest knowing their future isn’t dependent upon commercial friendly music. .
Despite personnel changes, revolving industry music trends and radio station programming changes, Iron Maiden has remained masters of their own destiny. In the process that have become one of the persevered to become one of the world's foremost heavy metal bands. If The Number of the Beast established a metal blueprint of artist mastery, then Powerslave may very well go down as Maiden’s quintessential album that has captured all the signature elements of the band's definitive sound on a single piece of vinyl.
Once again, Dave Murray credits the band’s success to its devoted fan base that has rocked and rolled with the Brits as they journeyed down the hard rock road.
"I really think the turning point for this band,’ disclosed Murray, “came when we all packed in our day jobs and committed to this band full time almost ten years ago. We all started out working 9-5 jobs, stuff like that, when Maiden was formed. I remember the only thing I ever thought about in those days was the band. Working was kind of like a sideline to our real job, which was Iron Maiden. I will always go back to the day we turned professional as the first real step for Iron Maiden becoming who we are because it gave us all a sense of achievement.
"You referred to the word ‘commitment’ earlier. I don't believe it necessarily separates us from the dreamers of this business because we still dream today. When you envision doing this or doing that, it’s a focus you never ever lose sight of. Regardless of what tomorrow brings, we know that Iron Maiden has made its mark today. For that we’re eternally grateful."