The MAIDEN Years: 2018/19/20/21/22/ad infinitum (Rock in Rio and Nights of the Dead)

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
With a new Iron Maiden album imminent, I figure it’s time to take yet another plunge into the band’s catalog. Listening to just the studio albums is never enough for me though, so I’ll also be listening to live albums, bootlegs, singles, basically as much Maiden as I can fit in the next 5ish weeks. In this thread I’ll be going through Maiden’s recorded (authorized and unauthorized) history year by year with an update roughly every day (we have exactly enough time to get through every year if we do one year a day, but of course not every year was filled with Maiden activity). I might look at some solo albums too. This isn’t meant to be a super regimented thread. No expansive posts or track by track reviews, but just something to get some retrospective discussion happening to build hype for Senjutsu. I’m also not necessarily going to be covering everything. If you all want to talk about stuff that I didn’t mention, that’s fine, just stay on topic to the extent of whichever year we’re on.

We’re starting with 1979 because that is when Maiden released their demo, The Soundhouse Tapes. It’s a nice starting point and there’s a lot of really cool archival material from this period. I want to draw attention to the demo and an essential live recording from that year.

The Soundhouse Tapes
I’ve always enjoyed some of the earlier recordings of songs that made it on the debut more than the album versions. ‘Iron Maiden’ is a little slow, but I feel that the playing is a lot tighter and, ironically, there’s a bit more energy as a result. The bass sits very nicely among the guitars. ‘Prowler’ same thing, a little slower but in many ways more enjoyable than the studio version. This very much captures the raw live energy of Iron Maiden. Anyway, who played second guitar on this?

Invasion is weirdly ahead of its time and behind its time. Of course they recorded this song twice, but it never made it onto an album. It has a lot of roughness that was later smoothed out as the band started polish their sound more, but it also has historical lyrics that became more commonplace when Bruce enjoyed in addition to some really tight twin guitar harmonies. I can see how it never made it onto the album, but it’s definitely not a throwaway.

Live at the Ruskin Arms 10/79
This is a historical performance for a few reasons. You’ve got (someone correct me if I’m wrong) Tony Parsons on guitar and Dave Sampson on drums. You also get some interesting performances. The big thing here is the live Ides of March, as in they didn’t play it through the PA. You also get Invasion, Strange World, and early versions of songs like Another Life and Innocent Exile.

The band hadn’t yet recorded a studio album so the songs are pretty rough around the edges, but at the same time they had also been gigging for years and probably played more shows than some established bands today have. That shows, the band is super tight and is clearly a professional outfit. The songs are also remarkably studio ready. Very little changes between what you hear in this recording in terms of arrangement and writing compared to the final products on the first two Maiden albums. The playing is also flawless. I’ve noticed few, if any, mistakes.

Another thing to note about the early songs is how slow they are. We all know Steve likes to push the tempo, but it seems that their tempos were pretty restrained at least until Clive Burr joined. These performances are surprisingly steady. The instrumental of Remember Tomorrow, for example, pretty much stays the same tempo, rather than the big jump up that typically happens. I’m not sure if I like it, but it’s pretty interesting to listen to if you’re used to the way these songs are normally played. Despite the slow tempos, the energy is unmistakeable. And the audience has clearly heard these songs many times already.

I think you can also gleam a lot about Maiden’s Setlist decisions from this period. By the time Maiden got to recording an album and touring internationally, they already had 4 or 5 years of nonstop gigging under their belts. You’ll also find that the set lists in the early years are pretty much always the same and the fixtures (Phantom of the Opera, Wrathchild, Sanctuary, Another Life) remained as late as 1982. They found what worked for them early on and seem more concerned about pleasing large audiences than experimenting with Setlist choices. As someone who plays in small clubs with several different bands, I can see where this idea comes from. When you’re trying to keep an audience engaged for a whole 90 minute set, you really need to make sure the song selection is perfect. There’s not a lot of room for error.

This bootleg, while not talked about often, is essential listening. It’s early Maiden in their prime, on the precipice of blowing up. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s hard to listen to this collection and not think that Maiden were obviously going to be the biggest thing to come out of the NWOBHM. The songs, the performance, the playing, it’s all there.
 

gazda

Educated Fool
I was always wondering if here we have some early Maiden fans on forum, like guys who started following band during Di'Anno era.

How they react to Bruce and big transition on 3rd album? Because I think that transition from Killers to TNOTB is the same as from 7th to NPFD, and yet nobody is talking on any sellout or something like that.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
We’re starting with 1979 because that is when Maiden released their demo, The Soundhouse Tapes. It’s a nice starting point and there’s a lot of really cool archival material from this period. I want to draw attention to the demo and an essential live recording from that year.

The Soundhouse Tapes
I’ve always enjoyed some of the earlier recordings of songs that made it on the debut more than the album versions. ‘Iron Maiden’ is a little slow, but I feel that the playing is a lot tighter and, ironically, there’s a bit more energy as a result. The bass sits very nicely among the guitars. ‘Prowler’ same thing, a little slower but in many ways more enjoyable than the studio version. This very much captures the raw live energy of Iron Maiden. Anyway, who played second guitar on this?
Paul "Mad Mac" Cairns
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Iron Maiden
The debut album, an all time classic. There are definitely folks who believe this is the best thing Maiden ever did, and I could see where those people are coming from considering it is considerably more raw and more punky than anything else Maiden did, but it also reflects 5 years of work. These are the highlights of the Maiden live set, and you can tell that by now they could probably play this material in their sleep.

This material is so classic and there are so many different versions of these songs that your mileage on this album is really going to be based on whether you like the production. For me, it is somehow both too polished and too raw. It feels like there were competing visions on what the album needed to be. I like the raw sound and energy, but then you have these massive overdubs or guitar fills that clutter things up. It’s a strange combination and one that I’m not sure works. So, typically, I find myself going for other versions more often, particularly any of the fantastic live recordings from this era (getting to hear Adrian on these songs is also a treat, more on that later).

As far as the songs themselves, this is basically a greatest hits package. I imagine any NWOBHM enthusiast in 1980 knew this album inside and out by the time it came out. With the complex and profound material that Maiden produced later on, it can be hard to go back to the original album with songs like Prowler and Running Free, but these songs do rock hard. They’re also still much more skillfully written than the average punk or hard rock song. I can still get a lot of enjoyment out of these simpler songs. With that being said, I reckon there’s few disagreements over the highlights: Remember Tomorrow and Phantom of the Opera definitely show the band’s ambitions and that they were on to something much greater. Both of those songs hold up today big time. The riffing, the dynamic shifts, the tempo changes, super super tight.

And of course there’s the cover. Since 1980, Eddie has been through time and space, ancient Egypt, and now feudal Japan, but there’s still something really captivating and charming about the raw image of Eddie in front of the street lamp in London’s East End.

Live At the Rainbow (1980)
Maiden’s first VHS tape, later released on the Early Days DVD. I really hope Maiden releases the full recording of this concert someday, because the whole performance awesome. There’s a really good soundboard recording out there and it’s probably my favorite way to listen to this early material. You’ve got Adrian Smith on guitar, most of the debut album represented, and it’s just a really well made fiery performance. It has all the raw energy but with great audio quality to go with it. Also fun to hear Paul Di’Anno’s unfinished Killers lyrics. It’s a transition point for the band. They’ve played the Rainbow countless times and were already a NWOBHM fixture, but now they were back with a high production video team, fancy stage clothes, and had a major label album under their belt. It’s a much different vibe from what you get watching the band play in a sweaty club or listening to some of those earlier recordings.

There’s a wealth of great live material from this era. So much so that it would probably take me a week to get through it all, so I have to settle for what I have time for. There’s the Ruskin Arms video from the Early Days which features (among other things) video footage of Charlotte the Harlot, there’s the 20th century Box documentary which has some interesting footage of the band playing at the Marquee, and there’s a soundboard recording of Maiden at the Rainbow Theatre earlier in 1980 with Stratton on guitar. All of this is really worth checking out!
 

Midnight

E Unum Pluribus
The Soundhouse Tapes
I’ve always enjoyed some of the earlier recordings of songs that made it on the debut more than the album versions. ‘Iron Maiden’ is a little slow, but I feel that the playing is a lot tighter and, ironically, there’s a bit more energy as a result. The bass sits very nicely among the guitars. ‘Prowler’ same thing, a little slower but in many ways more enjoyable than the studio version. This very much captures the raw live energy of Iron Maiden. Anyway, who played second guitar on this?
This recording surprised me! It's very tight, and the only obvious differences from the album versions (apart from the tempo) are Paul's unexpected ad-libs. With that being said, however, the break just before the solo in Prowler really shows what Clive Burr would end up bringing to the band. His playing in that part is a lot more nuanced and dynamic.

Live at the Ruskin Arms 10/79
These performances are surprisingly steady. The instrumental of Remember Tomorrow, for example, pretty much stays the same tempo, rather than the big jump up that typically happens. I’m not sure if I like it, but it’s pretty interesting to listen to if you’re used to the way these songs are normally played. Despite the slow tempos, the energy is unmistakeable. And the audience has clearly heard these songs many times already.
I mean, this is pub band Iron Maiden we're talking about. They're trying to entertain the people at the bar, not start a mosh pit.

Also, Remember Tomorrow is my favourite song from the show, and the album version would have been a completely different beast if it had featured a similar vocal performance.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Killers
I’m listening to the US version that includes Twilight Zone.

Killers is one of my all time favorites. It takes the raw energy and instrumental prowess of the first album and adds the element of a classic sounding Birch production plus a second guitarist who could actually complement Dave Murray’s playing. Dennis Stratton is a fine player, but I really don’t think he fit the sound Maiden were going for. Adrian Smith absolutely does. He has his own distinct style that fits in the band but he also is close enough to Dave’s style that it isn’t jarring. His leads on this album are incredible.

The production on this album is the perfect middle ground between a polished production and the attempt at capturing the band’s live sound. Birch brought clarity and professionalism to the band’s sound, but it still sounds authentic and live. No unnecessary frills, no jarring guitar overdubs or vocal harmonies, a really warm bass sound. He also got a fantastic sound out of Di’Anno, you can tell that he was pushing his limits on a few of these songs.

As for the songs themselves, you can definitely tell that they saved most of their best material for the debut. With that being said, I tend to enjoy Killers more for a couple reasons. The first is that these songs haven’t been played to death like the songs on the debut album. The second is that, unlike the debut, the performance and production on Killers is strong enough to warrant a full album listen. This album to me is the quintessential Maiden NWOBHM sound. Even if you listen to other NWOBHM albums from this era, like Angel Witch’s debut, any Saxon album, Samson’s Head On or Shock Tactics, or Lightning To the Nations, the sound of Killers is more in line with those albums than the debut is IMO.

With that being said, these are still really fantastic songs. The Ides of March is one of the all time best openers to a Metal album. How could you listen to that and not be hyped? I know we’re all sick of Wrathchild replacing our favorite songs on the Setlist, but this version of the song rocks hard. It’s one of the most high energy, hard rocking things Maiden ever put to tape. Adrian contributes fantastic lead fills and Dave Murray comes in with an awesome full solo (a part division that still occurs to this day). Murders in the Rue Morgue is great, the title track is a mammoth. Prodigal Son is one of the band’s most unique songs, a really incredible and lush ballad. I also really dig the punky fast rockers like Purgatory and Twilight Zone. Even on the songs that are a little weaker, like Another Life, Innocent Exile, or Drifter, the playing is so tight and the guitar leads are so fantastic that they’re still extremely enjoyable.

Maiden Japan

Another Maiden holy grail for me would be the release of a full Maiden Japan recording (there’s a good soundboard from this tour as well). The band is on fire here. Running Free is so fast, but they’re playing it extremely tight. Adrian and Dave lock in more than Dennis and Dave did on the original studio recording. The energy is palpable on these recordings and there’s an air of triumph around the success of the band’s first world tour.

With how overplayed a lot of these songs, and with the musical strides Maiden has made since, I think it’s easy to forget how powerful these songs are live. They became live staples for a reason, although I would argue that they’re not played with the same energy today. These original versions really show why they’re Maiden classics though. I find myself rocking out the most to Wrathchild and Running Free on this collection.

The liner notes say that there are some overdubs on the record. Anyone know what they dubbed?
 

LooseCannon

Enterprise-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
With Killers, you definitely hear the production difference immediately. It's incredible how clean these songs seem, even though they come from the same pub rock background as tracks like Running Free, Charlotte the Harlot, and Sanctuary. I sometimes wonder what it might be like if the band had found Martin before the ST, but you know, can't have everything.

Killers, the track, is the clear standout here - a great song that I wish Maiden would bring out more often. I'd rather hear Killers than quite a few other songs they play regularly. I've always been a big fan of Prodigal Son, as well.
 

gazda

Educated Fool
IM & Killers are the albums that I can always play in full without skipping some songs and get bored. Others are POM, SIT, 7th, XF & AMLOAD
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Who do you think played the first solo in Prodical Son? It’s one of my favourite Iron Maiden moments
It’s Adrian, pretty sure there’s a recent interview out there talking about the recording process of that particular solo.
 

Midnight

E Unum Pluribus
Maiden Japan

Another Maiden holy grail for me would be the release of a full Maiden Japan recording (there’s a good soundboard from this tour as well). The band is on fire here. Running Free is so fast, but they’re playing it extremely tight. Adrian and Dave lock in more than Dennis and Dave did on the original studio recording. The energy is palpable on these recordings and there’s an air of triumph around the success of the band’s first world tour.

With how overplayed a lot of these songs, and with the musical strides Maiden has made since, I think it’s easy to forget how powerful these songs are live. They became live staples for a reason, although I would argue that they’re not played with the same energy today. These original versions really show why they’re Maiden classics though. I find myself rocking out the most to Wrathchild and Running Free on this collection.
It's a pretty fun EP. I did notice something after listening to it, though: most Iron Maiden albums are mixed with the hi-hat on the left and the ride cymbal on the right, which makes it feel like you're the drummer and the rest of the band is facing you. Maiden Japan and their other live albums have it the other way, which more closely resembles hearing the entire band in front of you.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Mixing from the drummer’s perspective is industry standard, although there is some debate out there. I actually like audience perspective mixes, but I also think it doesn’t really matter that much.

There isn’t a lot of separation on this album, I assume it was something that was quickly thrown together as a souvenir for the fans.
 

Ruflux

Ancient Mariner
I thought the drummer's perspective vs. audience perspective thing was still a bit of a preference thing? Most professional mixes I hear tend to go for audience perspective since that's how the guitars and other instruments are typically laid out too (in Maiden, for example) but I did notice that some "rougher" mixes go for the drummer's perspective instead. I know there's definitely some debate over which is better in the industry too.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Beast Over Hammersmith
Starting here because this performance was before the release of the album. I love hearing future classics such as Run To the Hills and Hallowed Be Thy Name being played to an audience that clearly doesn’t really know the material (though to be fair Run To the Hills had been out as a single already). Hearing the intro to The Number Of the Beast without the audience shouting along is pretty abnormal sounding.

This to me is the best document of early (1975 - 1983) Maiden and possibly my favorite Maiden live album. This is the sound of a band that is ready to go from underground Metal darlings to a worldwide powerhouse. They already sounded really tight live, but there’s a greater air of professionalism on this particular recording. The guitars sound a little cleaner, the tempos are steadier, the Setlist has more of a theatrical flow (more dynamic shifts, more of an arc). Bruce Dickinson brings in a new layer of finesse, although he’s clearly still learning how to interact with a large audience (in a few short years he would become the master of this). Also, unfortunately, this is the only officially released live album from the 80s where Bruce’s voice isn’t shot.

The Setlist is a total greatest hits package. You’ve got all the essentials from The Number of the Beast while they still sound fresh (I don’t think there are superior versions of any of these songs on other live albums, but I’ll be on the lookout). You’ve got songs from the first two albums that, after this tour, are rapidly replaced by newer material. We can probably debate endlessly over whether Bruce does the earlier material better (in most cases, he doesn’t), but these songs are really well performed and fit nicely in the Setlist. Murders In the Rue Morgue is an awesome opener, songs like Killers and Remember Tomorrow perfectly fit the vibe of the show. With that being said, you can hear a pretty clear difference between the new material and a lot of the old songs, the band took a massive leap musically on TNOTB. It’s not surprising that Another Life didn’t remain on the Setlist after this tour.

A final essential element here is the inclusion of Total Eclipse. Not only is this version superior to the studio recording, but it’s also the only tour where they played it live and the only officially released recording. Awesome song, much stronger than the two songs they didn’t play live, and at least on par with The Prisoner and 22 Acacia Avenue. By the way, considering some talk and speculation about Senjutsu, this is a great example of Maiden doing environmental disaster songs. I wouldn’t mind more of those.

The Number of the Beast
Overrated! Overexposed! This is the album that will get you kicked out of a party of Maiden snobs if you say it’s your favorite.

And yet, it is a classic album for good reason. I definitely think they improved with each subsequent album, but this album sets a really high bar. Lots of variety, a huge step up in musicality, and Maiden’s first real statement as a major commercial force. Songs like Run To the Hills have an anthemic accessible feel that you don’t really hear on their other albums.

I’ve always seen Invaders as the last vestige of NWOBHM Maiden. It’s like they’re saying “yes, we’re still that East End club band, here’s a final taste of it before we move on to something bigger and better.” And then it’s time for Children of the Damned, one of the most dynamic and epic songs the band has ever produced. Love the way it builds, love the lyrics, the guitar solo is otherworldly. Awesome stuff.

I think it’s interesting that, for such a classic album, only three of the songs are staples. Even on the Legacy of the Beast tour, there was more representation from Piece of Mind. It’s to the point where if anything besides those three (TNOTB, Run to the Hills, Hallowed) gets played live, it’s a pretty big surprise. Children of the Damned on the Book of Souls tour for example. It’s also the rare instance of an album where all the hits are on the back half.

There isn’t really a lot to say about this album, other than that it still holds up and makes for a very enjoyable listen. Oh, and Bruce Dickinson immediately cements himself as Metal’s best vocalist. For many bands, this would be the peak of the mountain. For Maiden, it’s just the beginning.

Here’s today’s minutiae question: My original USA pressing doesn’t seem to have any writing credits. Is this true for the UK version too? When did we get officially published track credits? I know there were issues with Bruce not being able to receive writing credits on this album, is that related? It’s interesting to me that people seem to take it as fact that Bruce helped write The Prisoner (and possibly other material), yet whatever contract prevented him from receiving writing credits then is probably expired now and they could retroactively give those credits. Just some musings I had while listening.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Yea my mistake, I was thinking of the live B-side from that time which is just a Paul era recording with Bruce vocals overdubbed.

Phantom of the Opera is on the set though and is awesome.
 

srfc

Ancient Mariner
Here’s today’s minutiae question: My original USA pressing doesn’t seem to have any writing credits. Is this true for the UK version too? When did we get officially published track credits?

Original UK 1982 LP the writing credits are only on the label of the actual record. On the cassette they are on the inlay card
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
:facepalm: I didn’t even think to check the label. There they are on the US press too.
 
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