Iron Maiden History
Early years (1975 – 1978)
Iron Maiden was formed on Christmas Day 1975, by bassist 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 from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, which he saw around that time, and so the group was named after the iron maiden torture device. Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray remain the longest-standing members of Iron Maiden. 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, Dave Murray, was invited to join, to the frustration of guitarists Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance. This fueled Harris to temporarily disunite the band in 1976, though the group reformed soon after with Murray as the 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.
Rise to fame (1978 – 1981)
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 four 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 hired temporarily until the band finally chose 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’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. In addition to the title track, the album includes other early favourites such as “Running Free”, “Transylvania”, “Phantom of the Opera”, and “Sanctuary” — which was not on the original UK release but made the U.S. release and subsequent re-releases. The band played a headline tour of the UK then went on to open for Kiss on their 1980 Unmasked Tour’s European leg. Iron Maiden also supported Judas Priest on select dates. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was dismissed 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 created well in advance during tour, only two new tracks were written for the album: “Prodigal Son” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (the title was taken from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe).
Success (1981 – 1986)
By 1981, Paul Di’Anno was demonstrating increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly through alleged cocaine usage, although Di’Anno himself denies the charge. His performances began to suffer, just as the band was beginning to achieve major success in America. At the end of 1981 the band dismissed Di’Anno and sought a new vocalist.
Bruce Dickinson, previously of Samson, auditioned for Iron Maiden in September 1981 and joined the band soon afterwards. He then went out on the road with the band on a small headlining tour. In anticipation of the band’s 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.
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 #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, Australia, UK and Germany. The tour’s U.S. leg proved controversial when an American conservative political lobbying group claimed Iron Maiden was Satanic because of the new album’s title track. The band members’ attempts to stop the criticism failed. A group of Christian activists destroyed Iron Maiden records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) as a protest against the band.
Dickinson at the time was still having legal difficulties with Samson’s management, and was not permitted to add his name to any of the songwriting credits. However, he was still able to lend “creative influence” to many of the songs. In a Guitar Legends interview he claims he contributed to the overall themes of “Children of the Damned”, “The Prisoner” and “Run to the Hills”.
In December 1982, drummer Clive Burr ended his association with the band due to personal and tour schedule problems. He was replaced by Nicko McBrain, previously of French band Trust. Soon afterwards, during 1983, the band released Piece of Mind, Soon after the success of Piece of Mind, the band released Powerslave on 9 September 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 and running over 13 minutes in length. “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 largest to date and consisted of 193 shows over 13 months. This was one of the largest tours in music history – playing to 3,500,000 people over the course of 13 months. Many shows were played back-to-back in the same city, such as in Long Beach, California ( 4 consecutive sold out shows to summary audience of 54 000 fans), where most of the recordings were made for their subsequent live release Live After Death which has since become one of the best selling metal live albums and is often regarded by critics and fans as the one of the best hard rock/heavy metal live albums ever. Iron Maiden also co-headlined (with Queen) the biggest music festival on Earth, “Rock In Rio 1985”. Bands played to estimated crowds of 300 to 400,000 festivalgoers. This tour was physically gruelling for the band and they took a 6-month vacation when it ended. This was the first vacation in the band’s history, including even canceling a proposed supporting tour for the new live album.
Experimentation (1986 – 1989)
Returning from their vacation, the band adopted a different style 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 and associated themes – history, the passage of time, and long journeys. It featured, for the first time in the band’s history, synthesised bass and guitars 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”.
The experimentation on Somewhere in Time resulted in Seventh Son of a Seventh Son during 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 claimed this produced a more accessible release. It was a great success, and became the band’s second album to hit #1 in the UK charts.
In 1990, to end Iron Maiden’s first ten years of releasing singles, they released The First Ten Years, a series of ten CDs and double 12″ vinyls. Between 24 February and 28 April 1990, the individual parts were released one-by-one, each containing two of Iron Maiden’s singles, including the B-sides.
Upheaval (1989 – 1994)
In 1989, after touring with Iron Maiden, guitarist Adrian Smith released a solo album with his band ASAP entitled Silver and Gold. During this break in 1989, vocalist Bruce Dickinson began work on a solo album with former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers, releasing Tattooed Millionaire in 1990.
Soon afterward, Iron Maiden regrouped to work on a new album, Adrian Smith left the band due to a lack of enthusiasm. Janick Gers, having worked on Bruce Dickinson’s solo project, was chosen to replace Smith and became the first new team member in seven years. The album, No Prayer for the Dying, was released during October 1990.
The band obtained their first (and to date, only) UK Singles Chart number one successful single with “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter”, originally recorded by Dickinson for the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It was released on 24 December 1990, and was one of the first records to be released on several different formats with different B-sides. The single has the record for being the fastest release to rate number one and then lose any chart rating again over the following couple of weeks.
Dickinson performed a solo tour in 1991 before returning to studio work with Iron Maiden for the album Fear of the Dark. Released in 1992, the album was noticeably longer (due to this being Iron Maiden’s first album recorded for CD rather than LP) and had several songs which became fan favourites, such as the title track and “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”. The disc also featured “Wasting Love,” one of the band’s softer songs, and “From Here to Eternity”, the third installment of the ‘Charlotte the Harlot’ narrative (although some fans will argue that ‘Hooks in You’ is actually the third installment, making ‘From Here to Eternity’ the fourth). The album featured the first songwriting by Gers, and no collaboration at all between Harris and Dickinson on songs.
In 1993, Bruce Dickinson left the band to further pursue his solo career. However, Dickinson agreed to remain 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 Dickinson had left the band. He played his farewell show with Iron Maiden on 28 August 1993. The show was filmed, broadcast by the BBC, and released on video under the name Raising Hell.
Blaze era (1994 – 1999)
n 1994, the band auditioned hundreds of vocalists, both famous and unknown before choosing Blaze Bayley, formerly of the band Wolfsbane. Bayley had a different vocal style from his predecessor, which ultimately received a mixed reception among fans.
After a two year hiatus (and three year hiatus from recording – a record for the band at the time) Iron Maiden returned in 1995. Releasing The X Factor, the band had their lowest chart position since 1981 for an album in the UK (debuting at number 8). Chief songwriter Harris was experiencing personal problems at the time with the end of his marriage, and many fans and critics feel the album’s sound is a reflection of this.
The album included the 11-minute epic “Sign of the Cross”, the band’s longest song since “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. It also included “Man on the Edge”, based on the movie Falling Down and “Lord of the Flies”, based on the novel of the same name. The band toured for the rest of 1995 and 1996, playing for the first time in Israel, before stopping to release The Best of the Beast. The band’s first compilation, it included a new single, “Virus”.
The band returned to the studio for Virtual XI, released in 1998. Chart scores of the album were the band’s lowest to date, failing to score one million worldwide sales for the first time in Iron Maiden’s history. At the same time, Steve Harris assisted in remastering the entire discography of Iron Maiden up to “Live at Donington” (which was given a mainstream release for the first time) and released the set.
Reunion (1999 – 2005)
In February 1999, Bayley left the band by mutual consent. At the same time, the band surprised 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 hugely successful reunion tour, The Ed Hunter Tour. This tour also supported the band’s newly released greatest hits Ed Hunter, which also contained a computer game of the same name starring the band’s mascot.
Iron Maiden’s first studio release after the reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith came in the form of 2000’s Brave New World. Thematic influences continued with “The Wicker Man” — based on the 1973 British cult film of the same name — and “Brave New World” — title taken from the Aldous Huxley novel of the same name.
The world tour that followed consisted of well over 100 dates and culminated on 19 January 2001 in a show at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, where Iron Maiden played to an audience of around 250, 000. This performance was recorded and released on CD and DVD in March 2002 under the name Rock in Rio.
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 in Dortmund, 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 and went straight to number 3 in the UK Chart.
At Iron Maiden’s last Ozzfest performance (20 August 2005 at the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen in San Bernardino, CA to almost 50 000 people), Sharon Osbourne interrupted their performance by turning off the PA system, after which the MC chanted: “Ozzy! Ozzy!”. Members of the audience threw eggs at the band, causing singer Bruce Dickinson to question how eggs had got past Ozzfest security. During some of Maiden’s best-known numbers, the band’s PA system wavered. On the Ozzfest website, Mrs. Osbourne later accused Bruce Dickinson of disrespecting Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, and the production quality of the Ozzfest tour, while praising the rest of the band and their crew.
The band completed this tour by headlining the Reading and Leeds weekend festivals on the 26th 28 August – two shows to combined number of people estimated 130 000, and Ireland 31st august to almost 40 000 fans at RDS Stadium. For the second time, the band played a charity show for former drummer Clive Burr’s Clive Burr MS Trust Fund charity.
A Matter Of Life And Death (2005 – early 2007)
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 tour followed, during which they played the new album in its entirety; though response to this was mixed.
Iron Maiden recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road in December 2006. Their performance was screened in an episode alongside sessions with Natasha Bedingfield and Gipsy Kings in March 2007 on Channel 4 (UK) and June 2007 on the Sundance Channel (USA).
In November 2006, Iron Maiden and manager Rod Smallwood announced that they were to end their 27-year-old relationship with Sanctuary Music and were to start a new company named Phantom Music Management. No other significant changes were made.
The second part of the “A Matter of Life and Death” tour was dubbed “A Matter of the Beast” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Number of the Beast album, and included appearances at several major festivals worldwide. The band announced plans to play five songs from A Matter of Life and Death and five from The Number of the Beast as part of their set but in fact played only four songs from The Number of the Beast. They played in the Middle East for the first time at the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2007 playing to 20,000 fans. They made their first appearance in India with a concert at Bangalore playing to over 45,000 people at the Bangalore Palace Grounds. This event marked the first time any major heavy metal band toured the Indian sub-continent. On the 24 June they ended the tour with a performance at London’s Brixton Academy in aid of The Clive Burr MS Trust fund.
Recent years (late 2007 onward)
On 5 September 2007, the band announced their Somewhere Back in Time World Tour, which ties in with the DVD release of their Live After Death album. The setlist for the tour consisted of successes from the 1980s, with a specific emphasis on the Powerslave era for set design. The tour started in Mumbai, India on 1 February 2008 where the band played to an audience of almost 30,000. The first part of the tour consisted of 24 concerts in 21 cities, travelling over 50, 000 miles in the band’s own chartered airplane “Ed Force One”. They played their first ever concerts in Costa Rica and Colombia and their first Australian shows since 1992. On 12 May, the band released a new compilation album, titled Somewhere Back in Time. It includes a selection of tracks from their 1980 eponymous debut to 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, including several live versions from Live After Death. With the sole UK headline show at Twickenham Stadium, this tour also marked the first ever stadium headlining show in the UK by the band. A final part of the tour took place in February and March 2009, including the band’s first ever appearance in Peru and Ecuador, and their first performances in New Zealand for 16 years.
On 20 January 2009, the band announced that they were to release a full-length documentary film in select cinemas on 21 April. Titled Iron Maiden: Flight 666, the movie was filmed during the first part of the “Somewhere Back In Time” tour between February and March 2008. Flight 666 is co-produced by Banger Productions and was released by Universal Music Group in the U.S. and EMI Records in the rest of the world.
During a Rock Radio interview promoting Flight 666, Nicko McBrain revealed that Iron Maiden had booked studio time for early 2010 and would be likely to be touring again late that year or the year after. At the 2009 BRIT Awards the band won the award for best live act.
During their live presentation in São Paulo, on 15 March 2009, Bruce announced on stage that the show was the biggest of their career. In fact, the crowd of 100,000 people was Iron Maiden’s all-time biggest attendance for a solo show, without other bands. The attendance was bigger than Chile’s show (almost 70,000 fans), according to the organisers. During the Somewhere Back In Time tour, Bruce Dickinson said that there are plans for Iron Maiden to write and record a new album, most likely to come out in 2009, and in an interview with Metal Edge, Steve Harris said there definitely would be another album, stating that, “I always had this vision that we would do 15 studio albums, and the next one would be the 15th. Hopefully, we’ll do another one or two for luck, but we’ll see how we go, really.” Dickinson has also informed audiences that future tours would feature more recent Iron Maiden material. Asked about the possibility of a new album and Harris’s fifteen-album limit, Adrian Smith commented that “we’re musicians. We’ll carry on. The great thing is that there’s clearly a huge audience out there waiting to hear what we do right now”, renewing hopes that a new album is forthcoming.