Iron Maiden (band)

From Academic Kids

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Iron Maiden promo image for The Wicker Man single, 2000.

Iron Maiden are a heavy metal band from east London, England. They were formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris who was formerly a member of Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler. They are one of the most successful and influential bands in the heavy metal genre, having sold more than 60 million albums world-wide.

Iron Maiden's work has inspired other sub-genres of heavy metal music, including power metal and speed metal and is generally thought of as an influence to any metal music containing dual-guitar harmonisation. They are cited as major influences by (amongst others) the thrash metal band Slayer, flamenco-metal band Breed 77, pop-punk band Sum 41 and jam band Umphrey's McGee.

The band's mascot, Eddie, is a perennial fixture in the horror-influenced album cover art, as well as in live shows. Eddie was designed by Derek Riggs but has had various incarnations also by Melvyn Grant. Eddie also featured in a first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunter.

Iron Maiden have thus far released 13 studio albums, 3 "best of" compilations, 5 live albums and a limited boxed-set. Touring has slowed down recently, with the band opting to play the larger festivals instead of numerous smaller venues.

The band have written many songs based on folklore, movies and books, such as "The Wickerman", "The Prisoner", "Where Eagles Dare" and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - in which words from the Samuel Coleridge poem are sung.

The band have been confirmed to headline several major events in 2005, notably Ozzfest alongside Black Sabbath, and are the closing act at this year's Reading Festival, where the group last performed in 1982.



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Eddie, the iconic mascot of the band, has featured on the artwork of nearly every album and almost every single

The long and twisting road from formation to the current day started in 1975, when Steve Harris and Dave Murray met up. Thirty years later, the two remain at the helm of Iron Maiden.

The Beginning

Iron Maiden had twelve different line-ups in the 1970s, paying their dues on the mostly punk club circuit in London's rough East End neighbourhood. Although Iron Maiden were a metal band influenced by Deep Purple, Yes, Wishbone Ash, and Black Sabbath, the earlier music had undoubted punk overtones. Original singer Paul Day was replaced by the outlandish Dennis Wilcock, a huge KISS fan that used fire, make-up, and fake blood on stage. Neither vocalist possessed both the stage presence and vocal ability to take the band to the next level. This changed in 1978, with the addition of Paul Di'Anno at the helm, and Doug Sampson on drums.

Iron Maiden were a sensation on the English rock circuit by 1978. The band had been playing for three years and gained a tremendously loyal following, but had never recorded any of their music. On New Year's Eve 1978, the band recorded one of the most famous demos in rock history, Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only four songs, the band sold all 5,000 copies immediately, and did not reprint the demo again until 1996 (original copies sold for thousands of dollars). Two of the tracks on the demo, "Prowler" and "Iron Maiden", went straight to number one on the English metal charts. Their first apperance on an album was on the compilation "Metal for Muthas" (released on 15 Febuary 1980) with two early recordings of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild".

In several of the early Iron Maiden line-ups, Dave Murray was joined by another guitarist, but for most of 1977 and all of 1978, Murray was the sole six-stringer in the band. This changed with the arrival of Tony Parsons in 1979. Drummer Doug Sampson was also replaced by the dynamic Clive Burr. In November 1979, the band landed a major record deal by signing to EMI, a partnership that would last for nearly 15 years. Shortly before going into the studio, Parsons was replaced by guitarist Dennis Stratton. Initially, the band wanted to hire Dave Murray's childhood friend Adrian Smith, but Smith was busy singing and playing guitar for his own band, Urchin.

The Rising Force

Iron Maiden was released in 1980 to critical and commercial success. The band went on to open for KISS on their 1980 Unmasked tour, as well as opening select dates for the legendary Judas Priest. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was fired from the band as a result of creative and personal differences. Finally, the timing was right for the arrival of Adrian Smith.

Smith brought a sharp, staccato sound to Iron Maiden. His tight, experimental style was the complete opposite of Murray's smooth, rapid take on blues. One of Iron Maiden's trademarks is the double "twin lead" harmonising guitar stylings of Murray and Smith, a style pioneered by Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy, and developed further by Iron Maiden.

In 1981, Maiden released their second album, titled Killers. This new album contained many tracks that had been penned prior to the release of the debut album, but were considered surplus. Only two new tracks were written for the album; the title track, and the energetic "Murders in the Rue Morgue".

The Golden Years

As a group, Maiden partied and drank hard, but drug taking was rare (although not unheard of). Vocalist Paul Di-Anno partied harder than the others, which inevitably took its toll. Just as the band were beginning to achieve large-scale success in America, Di'Anno exhibited increasingly destructive behaviour, and his performances began to suffer. In 1982 the band replaced Di'Anno with former Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson.

Dickinson vowed from the start that he was his own man - in his own words, he "wasn't going to wear frilly collars and cut his hair". Legendary DJ, Tommy Vance told Dickinson not to join the band - advice which Bruce ignored. Dickinson's debut with Iron Maiden was 1982's album The Number of the Beast, which is recognised as a classic of the heavy metal genre. This album was a world-wide success providing definitive songs such as "The Number of the Beast" and "Run to the Hills". For the first time the band went on a world tour, visiting the United States, Japan and Australia. However, the tour was marred by controversy coming from religious groups that claimed Iron Maiden were a Satanic group because of their dark lyrics, which supposedly spoke of Satan. In actuality, it was only one song ("The Number of the Beast"), an anti-Satanic song about a bad dream, that referenced such dark theologies.

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Box cover from Powerslave Album, 1984

Before heading back into the studio in 1983, they replaced Clive Burr with heavy drummer Nicko McBrain and went on to release four albums which went multi-platinum world-wide: Piece of Mind (1983), Powerslave (1984), Live After Death (1985) and Somewhere in Time (1986). The band gathered huge audiences world-wide, especially in South America, Asia, Australia, and the United States. Support in these areas remains to this day, with the possible exception of the United States .

All of these albums contained complex riffs, multiple time changes, and classically based themes. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Iron Maiden generally avoided songs about alcohol, drugs, sex, or women. The band's lyrics were often steeped in English literature ("The Rime of the Ancient Mariner") and history ("Alexander the Great, 356-323 BC"). Such lyrical subjects would mean "Maiden" (the shortened name to which they are often referred) would be conversely mocked and revered.

The Experimentation

In 1988, the band tried a different approach for their seventh studio album, titled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. This was a concept album featuring a story about a mythical child who possessed clairvoyant powers based on the book The Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card. For the first time the band used keyboards on a recording (as opposed to guitar synths on the previous release). In the opinion of some critics, this produced a more accessible release.

Unsettled Times

For the first time in seven years, the band suffered a line-up change with the major loss of guitarist/vocalist Adrian Smith. Former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers was chosen to replace Smith, and in 1990 they released the raw sounding album No Prayer for the Dying. This album went back to the heavy style of the band, and whilst commercially successful, was not as well received by most fans. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson also began experimenting with a raspier style of singing that was a marked departure from his trademark operatic style. Nonetheless, the band obtained their first (and only, to date) number one hit single "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter" from the horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 5.

Before the release of No Prayer for the Dying, Bruce Dickinson officially launched a solo career to coincide with Iron Maiden (Gers was his guitarist). He continued to tour in 1991 before returning to the studio with Iron Maiden for the smash hit album Fear of the Dark. Released in 1992 it had several songs that were popular amongst fans, like the title-track and Afraid to Shoot Strangers.

In 1993, Iron Maiden suffered a huge loss when Bruce Dickinson left the band to further pursue his solo career. However, Bruce agreed to stay with the band until the end of the year, resulting in a pair of live albums released in the fall.

The Blaze Era

The band auditioned hundreds of vocalists and finally chose young-gun Blaze Bayley in 1994, formerly of Wolfsbane. Bayley had an altogether different style to his predecessor, which received a mixed reception amongst fans. After a three year hiatus, Maiden returned in 1995 with the hour-long album The X Factor. The album was generally seen as having dark, brooding songs that seemed more melancholy and introspective than usual. Chief songwriter Steve Harris was going through serious 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. The 11-minute epic "Sign of the Cross", opening the album, is perhaps the stand-out track, and even Bayley's detractors tend to recognise it as a classic.

The band spent most of 1996 on the road before returning to the studio for the Virtual XI (1998). The album contained few notable tracks, with only "The Clansman" and "Futureal" surviving on future tours, and chart positions were observably lower. One of the most criticised tracks was the single "The Angel and the Gambler," which was all many people heard of the album before deciding not to buy it. Virtual XI failed to reach the world-wide million mark in sales for the first time, and thus sounded Bayley's death knell.

Bruce Dickinson left the band in 1993, before returning in 1999
Bruce Dickinson left the band in 1993, before returning in 1999

The Reunion

In February 1999, Bayley left the band, apparently by mutual consent. At the same time, the band shocked the world when they announced that both Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith were rejoining the band, which meant the classic 1980s lineup was back in place - plus Janick Gers, who would remain. Iron Maiden now had three guitarists. This led to a reunion tour, which by all accounts was a huge success.

In 2000, a more progressive period began for the band when they released the album Brave New World. The songs were longer and the lyrics spoke about both dark themes and social criticism. The band gained a new fan base when they began exploring the genre of progressive metal. Brave New World, by almost all accounts, was the best Iron Maiden album in over a decade. The world tour for the album ended in January 2001 with a show at the famous Rock in Rio festival. It was a return to glory for the band, as many of their older fans now had bands themselves, and their influence could be heard through several forms of rock music in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The band continued with their progressive trend in the album Dance of Death released in 2003. The album went platinum in several countries and left no doubts that the band was still a force to be reckoned with. In fact, many fans say that Dance of Death surpassed Brave New World in creativity, and remains their best album since 1988's landmark Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

In 2005, Iron Maiden announced a tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of their first album and the 30th anniversary of their formation. The band re-released the Number of the Beast single, which went straight to number 3 in the UK charts. The band planned to hit the road to support the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Years, in which the band celebrates the music mainly from its 1980-1983 period.

Another DVD is expected to hit the shelves in 2005. Documenting the 2003-2004 Dance of Death, the release is in its final stages, as the mastering was finished at the end of February 2005 by Kevin Shirley. The DVD, "Death on the Road" is set to be released in August 2005.

No new album is expected before Spring 2006 as, according to drummer Nicko McBrain, the band will only enter the studio in November 2005.

Tales Of The Beast

Iron Maiden's longevity and popularity has helped to create many headlines, controversies and other amusing anecdotes.

Satanic Accusations

The release of the 1982 album, The Number Of The Beast, brought its fair share of controversy. The title track had many people, particularly in the US, accusing the band of being Satanic. The members of Iron Maiden tried to deflect this criticism by insisting that the lyrics were based on a dream by Steve Harris, but the accusations persisted. A group of Christian activists decided that the bands records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) should be destroyed - resulting in a mountain of vinyl records being burnt in a large fire. Pandemonium ensued when the activists were forced to flee the resultant fumes. It was then decided that smashing the records with hammers would be a better way to dispose of them.

On the same tour, producer Martin Birch was involved in a car accident with a group of church-goers. The bill for the repair came to $666, a figure which Birch refused to pay, instead opting for a higher amount.

There was also a lot of controversy about Satanic messages in other bands' music, normally discovered by playing the offending track backwards. On the Piece Of Mind album, from 1983, a backward message was placed at the start of the track Still Life as a kind of internal joke. Reverse this track, and you will hear drummer McBrain clearly saying "'What Ho,' said the thing with three bonces... do not meddle with things you do not understand!", followed by a loud belch.

The Dune Controversy

Renowned author Frank Herbert came into conflict with the band when they wanted to record a song named after the book "Dune". Not only did Herbert refuse to allow the song to be called "Dune", he also refused to allow a spoken quotation from the book to appear as the track's intro. Bass player Steve Harris' polite request was met with a stern reply from the agent: "No. Because Frank Herbert doesn't like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden". This statement was backed up with a legal threat, and eventually the song was renamed "To Tame A Land" and features as the closing track on the "Piece Of Mind" album, released in 1983.

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The Prisoner promo image. Lead actor Patrick McGoohan sanctioned the band's use of the intro to the TV series on the track of the same name

The Prisoner

Actor Patrick McGoohan was much more accommodating, when a request was made to allow the band to use a spoken intro from the cult TV series, The Prisoner, in which McGoohan was the lead actor. McGoohan was a big name in 1982, and Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood was nervous about making the request. The conversation between McGoohan and Smallwood allegedly went:

McGoohan: "What did you say the name of the band was again?"
Smallwood: "Iron Maiden"
McGoohan: "A rock band, you say... DO IT!!!"

In trouble with the locals

Early on in the career of the band (October 13th, 1979), guitarist Dave Murray hit upon so many girls after a gig at Manchester's UMIST that he created a storm of protests from disgruntled males.

The next week, Sounds magazine printed a notice :

"I would just like to warn Dave Murray the lead guitarist of Iron Maiden that if he steps foot inside Manchester again I will personally pummel his brains in, cos he's ruined what I thought was an ace relationship with my girlfriend. And may I point out that no matter how much she rubs his name in my face I still think Deb Brown of Wythenshawe is the best yet.
Jealous Dave."

Record breaking

The 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of Records contains the following entry:

"Largest PA system: On Aug 20th 1988 at the Castle Donnington 'Monsters of Rock' Festival a total of 360 Turbosound cabinets offering a potential 523kW of programme power, formed the largest front-of-house PA. The average Sound Pressure Level at the mixing tower was 118dB, peaking at a maximum of 124dB during Iron Maiden's set. It took five days to set up the system."


Founding member, Steve Harris
Founding member, Steve Harris

Current Lineup

Original Members

Other members



For the complete list of releases, please see Iron Maiden discography.


  • Running Free: The Official Story of Iron Maiden, Gary Bushell and Ross Halfin (1985) ISBN 0-946391-50-5
  • What Are We Doing This For?: A Photographic History, Ross Halfin (1988)
  • Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden, the Authorized Biography, Mick Wall and Chris Ingham (1998) ISBN 1-86074-666-7


  • Iron Maiden - The Early Years (DVD) 2004, ASIN B0006B29Z2
  • Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden, the Authorized Biography (Paperback), ISBN 1860745423
  • Official Homepage (
  • Twelve Wasted Years, (VHS) 1986, ASIN 6301092643

See also

External links

de:Iron Maiden es:Iron Maiden fr:Iron Maiden is:Iron Maiden he:איירון מיידן lt:Iron Maiden nl:Iron Maiden ja:アイアン・メイデン no:Iron Maiden pl:Iron Maiden pt:Iron Maiden sk:Iron Maiden fi:Iron Maiden sv:Iron Maiden


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