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Iron Maiden

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Iron Maiden is a heavy metal band from east London, England. Formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, previously of Gypsy’s Kiss and Smiler, Iron Maiden is one of the most successful and influential bands in the heavy metal genre. Album sales are over 60 million world-wide, and the band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2000.

Iron Maiden's work has inspired other sub-genres of heavy metal, including power metal and speed metal and is generally thought of as an influence to any “metal” music containing dual-guitar harmonization. One example of their far reaching influence is that, amongst others, the thrash metal band Slayer list Iron Maiden as one of their major influences, as do the pop-punk band Sum 41, Flamenco-metal band Breed 77 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 originally drawn by Derek Riggs but has had various incarnations by Melvyn Grant. Eddie also featured in a first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunter.

Iron Maiden has so far released thirteen studio albums, four “best of” compilations, eight live albums and four limited boxed sets.

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

The band has 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.

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.

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 neighborhood. Although Iron Maiden was 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 who 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 was 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, the Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only four songs, the band sold all five thousand copies within weeks, with originals selling for thousands of dollars until a re-release in 1996. Two of the tracks on the demo, Prowler and Iron Maiden, went straight to number one on the English metal charts. Their first appearance on an album was on the compilation Metal for Muthas (February 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, and in November 1979, the band landed a major record deal by signing to EMI, a partnership that would last for nearly fifteen 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.

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” harmonizing 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 a 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.

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 was beginning to achieve large-scale success in America, Di’Anno exhibited increasingly destructive behavior, 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 had told Dickinson not to join the band - advice which was ignored. Dickinson’s debut with Iron Maiden was 1982’s album The Number of the Beast, which is recognized 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, Run to the Hills and Hallowed Be Thy Name. 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. This track had many people, particularly in the U.S., 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.

Before heading back into the studio in 1983, they replaced Clive Burr with 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.

Satanic accusations persisted - there was a lot of controversy about occult messages in many bands’ music at the time, 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 “Still Life” as a kind of internal joke.

Also on the Piece of Mind album, 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 released in 1983.

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, 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. The band also headlined the annual “Monsters of Rock” festival for the first time this year.

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”. This song was originally penned and recorded by Bruce Dickinson for the soundtrack to 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, with Gers as guitarist. Dickinson performed a solo tour in 1991 before returning to the studio with Iron Maiden for the 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 for a farewell tour and two live albums (later re-released in one package). The first, named A Real Live One, featured songs from 1986 - 1992, and was released in March 1993. The second, A Real Dead One, featured songs from 1980 - 1984, and was released after Bruce had left the band. He played his final show with Iron Maiden (until he reunited with the band in 1999) on August 28, 1993. The show was filmed, broadcasted by the BBC, and released on video under the name “Raising Hell”.

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 opening eleven-minute epic, “Sign of the Cross”, is perhaps the stand-out track, and even Bayley’s detractors tend to recognize 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 criticized tracks was “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.

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 for the first time. This led to a successful reunion tour.

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, and the world tour that followed ended in January 2001 with a show at the famous “Rock in Rio” festival.

The band continued with their progressive trend in 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 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 three in the UK charts. The band hit the road to support the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Days, in which the band celebrates the music mainly from its 1980-1983 period.

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