Approximately 500 years ago today (give or take), YHP discovered the joys of heavy metal. While perusing the tape collection of his then current girlfriend, he came upon a copy of "...And Justice For All" by Metallica. This was pretty surprising, in that she rarely seemed to be into anything harder than Firehouse. I sort of half-remembered a black and white video about an army dude who totally got fucked up and a chubby-cheeked head-band wearing drummer grimacing musically that was pretty cool, so I asked if I could bring it home and check it out. It was love at first listen.
From there, it was on to Megadeth, Anthrax, and anything else that would annoy my parents (quick story: Years later I was listening to P.J. Harvey's Rid Of Me in my room and my mom asked me if I was listening to Satanic music. I responded, and I quote, "No, mom, this is, like, my generation's Joni Mitchell!" I was such a putz.) Against their hopes, this was not a phase I grew out of. Even though it eventually morphed into a taste for punk and hardcore, I still love and listen to metal. Not enough to follow that road into black metal or thrash (except for Venom and Tankard, which I find, for different reasons, totally hilarious) mind you, but bands still playing classical metal, such as Motorhead, still give me a thrill.
Given this, it's hard to pinpoint why I never really got into Iron Maiden when I was younger. They've got everything I look for in a metal band: awesome guitar gymnastics, a long and storied history, incredible album artwork that featured an affable mascot (who fought and killed Margaret Thatcher!), goofy faux-philosophical lyrics, etc... But still, for some reason, it never really clicked. I think it may have been a problem of finding the right album to wade into, which I didn't find until I picked up a used copy of A Real Live One at IC's own The Record Collector one afternoon. Keep that in mind while purveying this weeks "Pointless List" - you never forget your first love.
4) Can I Play With Madness?
When I was looking up some info on this one I found the original video on YouTube (embedding disabled, I'm afraid) and the memories came flooding back. I used to LOVE this video when I was younger, not particularly because I liked Maiden at the time but because I was a huge Monty Python nerd and it features my favorite Python, Graham Chapman, in one of his final TV appearances. This is one of my favorites of the sub-class of Maiden songs I like to call "Bruce Dickenson Discusses Human Nature with Some Kind of Wizard".
Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "He said do you wanna know the truth, son?/Oh, I'll tell you the truth!/YOUR SOUL'S GONNA BURN IN A LAKE OF FIIIIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
3) Wasting Love
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so it's a "power ballad". Fuck you, dude, it still kicks ass. Power ballads can work if, and only if, the band performing them have a reputation for making ears bleed. This is a scientific fact. It's just that sometimes, after blasting out an incredible set, they start thinking about the road ahead and the loneliness and their absent sweethearts and it just sort of happens. Don't fault them just because you have a heart of stone.
Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "Dream on brother while you can/Dream on sister I hope you find the ooooone/All of our lives covered up quickly by the tiiiiiiiiiiides of tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime (sniffle)"
2) The Evil That Men Do
A great solo guitar intro leads to another rock solid rock anthem punctuated by another incredible solo by Adrian Smith. This song is easily mistaken at times with Run To The Hills because of the similar structure (and FYI, you can assume I'm a huge fan of all Maiden's more conventional hits [RTTH, Number of the Beast, etc...], I'm just pointing out these particular songs for praise because they are often overlooked). Dickenson at his most biblical.
Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "Living on a razor's edge/Balancing on the Ledge/Living on a razor's edge/Balancing. ON. THE. LEDGE-AH! (gotcha!)/Balancing on the leeeedge!/Living on a razor's edge/You know!/YOU KNOW! (chorus)"
1) Judas Be My Guide
Speaking of biblical, overlooked songs, how come this one isn't more recognized (or at least popular enough to be featured as DLC for Rock Band)? Complex harmonies, timely message, great stickwork by Nicko McBrain... I think Fear Of The Dark is just underrated as a whole.
Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "FALL DOWN!/You better pray to your god for mercy/SO KNEEL!/And help the blade cut clean!" (Note: I quote this part as much as possible in many inappropriate situations)
So there you have it. And yes, I know some of you Paul DiAnno fanboys might argue with this list and for good reason. It's just that I have a hard time even considering the first two albums as actual Iron Maiden productions (I have the same problem with the Josh Weinstein episodes of MST3K). Not that the DiAnno albums suck by any means, on the contrary - they're pretty rocking in their own way. But controversy aside, I hope my little list made you stop a while and ponder the majesty and violent beauty of one of mankind's greatest art forms.
UP THE IRONS!