ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 24, 1987
By Steve Newton
England’s Iron Maiden is different than most other heavy metal bands in a lot of ways. For one thing, they can all play their instruments, and very well. Their songs are quite complex, and the lyrics aren’t simple-minded: there are no likes like “I’m gonna shoot you full of love.”
Although a guitar-based outfit, Maiden does not bore with long, pointless solos–guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith play with equal amounts of emotion and flash. And the group doesn’t rely on fancy clothes and makeup to get on the covers of teen-oriented rock mags.
But one thing that Iron Maiden does have that is typical of the heavy metal genre is loudness. When they visit the Pacific Coliseum this Sunday (April 26), they’ll be utilizing the biggest indoor sound system in the world, custom-built to their personal specifications, and capable of delivering 173,000 watts of power.
When guitarist Murray called the Georgia Straight from Minneapolis last week, I asked him if there really was a need for that much wattage in concert. “Dave!” I said. “That’s enough power to kill small rodents in their tracks!”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “But really it’s to keep the sound clean, rather than not bringing enough and having to turn up and get distortion. We like to get a loud, clear sound because the music has lots of different melodies and time changes.”
Iron Maiden have been lugging the sound system–as well as a lighting rig of over 1,000 lamps–around the world in seven 45-foot trucks. Their current tour, in support of their seventh LP Somewhere in Time, started in Belgrade last September and will finish off in New Zealand and Japan sometime this summer. By the time it’s over, the band will have played to over one-and-a-half million fans. Murray says that so far the tour has gone pretty smooth, although there were a couple of incidents that were “a bit like Spinal Tap.
“We’ve got a walk-on Eddie [the band’s monster/mascot], and he tipped over one night. The road crew had to get dressed up in white jackets and drag him off. but we’ve been on the tour now for eight months, so we’ve got it down to a fine art, I would think.”
One incident that the band could do nothing about was the recent disturbance at the Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey, which got a lot of coverage and was termed a “riot” by the press.
“Well it wasn’t much of a riot,” claims Murray. “It was just like thirty odd kids, out of 20,000, that got out of hand after the show. I don’t really think they were fans anyway–they just turned up to cause havoc.
“And it’s a shame, really, ’cause we’re probably never gonna play there again. And it got headline news everywhere, which is totally ridiculous. I mean this sort of thing happens at baseball and soccer games, but since it happened at a music concert it’s like ‘bang’, everybody has to hear about it.”
Heavy metal has always been criticized for its violent overtones, but for the most part Iron Maiden has been able to minimize any violent outbursts at their shows. When the group last played Vancouver, in 1984 with Twisted Sister, lead singer Bruce Dickinson went out of his way to chastise anyone causing trouble at the front of the stage.
“We want the kids to come down and enjoy themselves,” says Murray, “and not start beating each other. I mean half the time it’s the security people who start things, going in for no apparent reason. But if people start throwing things we just stop the show and try and find out who it is, or Bruce will have a word with them just to try and keep some kind of control. I mean you always get a few idiots in the audience.”
If it’s not violence, then it’s things like satanism that will get people like the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) all hot and bothered. Iron Maiden did the sinful thing of putting a likeness of the devil on their 1982 album, and then going and calling it The Number of the Beast.
“It’s funny,” says Dave, “cause when we toured ’round Europe with that album it was fine–nobody said anything. Then as soon as we got to America we couldn’t believe the amount of people that were coming down and picketing the show. I mean really, we just laughed at it. We thought, ‘These people have got to be jokin’.”
The appearance of the corpse-like Eddie on Iron Maiden albums covers has not won them brownie points with the PMRC either, but Murray points out that there’s no deep meaning in the monster. “Our fans can see that we’re just having a bit of fun with it. People who don’t understand it probably think he’s a horrific figure, but Eddie’s really a very harmless sort of chap.”
On the cover of Somewhere in Time, Eddie is done up as an avenging android in a Blade Runner type of setting. The theme from the movie opens the band’s current stage show, which has a futuristic theme with spaceships and laser battles. The show went over particularly well in Poland, where the group has a fanatical following. At a Warsaw show they were surprised by a request from the Russian embassy for tickets and backstage passes. After the concert the group treated the diplomats to English beer and cigarettes and discussed the possiblity of a fugure gig in Moscow.
To date, Iron Maiden has amassed over 60 gold and platinum albums from 17 countries. At the age of 30, Dave Murray is pretty well set for life–as are his bandmates. As a youngster learning guitar in the East End of London, he never dreamed that one day he’d be touring all around the world and making bug bucks.
“At that time you just practice a lot, and when you finally get into a band you’re concerned with playing the local circuit and the clubs and pubs around England. So that’s pretty much as far as you set your sights. I mean you read about these bands touring, but at the time it’s just like that big thing out there.”
And does he ever wake up in the morning thinking he’s a pretty lucky guy?
“You do feel lucky when you think about it, because the whole music business can be very fickle sometimes. Things come and go and change, but this form of music is very popular–there’s audiences everywhere for it. When you think of some bands, they’re big overnight and then forgotten the next week, but we’ve built up a solid groundwork, a lot of foundation. It’s good to know that we’ve got a few years to go yet.”