Iron Maiden are one of rock’s formidable bands but success wasn’t instant. They were formed on Christmas Day 1975 by bass player and primary songwriter Steve Harris. They also became known as the pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and although their chart career began in 1980, they had to wait eight years before they received commercial recognition, by which time come of their hardcore fans moved on.
Harris attributes the band’s name to a film version of The Man in the Iron Mask which he’d recently seen and the dialogue referenced the iron maiden torture device. The early line up had Paul DiAnno on vocal duties and in December 1979 they landed a record deal with EMI and the same time added a second guitarist Adrian Smith.
Their eponymous debut album arrived in 1980 and contained the hit singles Running Free and Sanctuary. In 1981, former Samson singer Bruce Dickinson replaced DiAnno and were immediately rewarded with their first top 10 hit Run to the Hills.
Six years and six albums later they hit the big time. This might have something to do with the inclusion of keyboards for the first time. Bruce Dickinson recalled, “When the 1987 Somewhere in Time tour finished we were genuinely looking forward to the next album. I must say, when we got to Seventh Son of A Seventh Son and I was quite optimistic about it. I think it was the last really good record the band made and it was a record where everybody was really trying hard to come up with directions, but it was so slow developing that record and it took such a long time to record it. But it was a pretty good record.” It was a concept album which was based on Orson Scott Card’s series of books called The Tales of Alvin Maker.
The first song written for it was The Clairvoyant which Bruce really liked the idea of and the band was quite keen on doing the entire album based around this character with the gift of clairvoyance. According to the song’s writer, Steve Harris, it was inspired by the death of the media psychic Doris Stokes, and he wondered if she were truly able to see the future, wouldn’t she have been able to foresee her own demise. The song starts in the first young person, from the main character’s point of view, runs through the second and ends in the third person, after they’re dead.
It became their 19th UK hit and the third single from the album following the number three hit Can I Play with Madness and the number five hit The Evil That Men Do. The Clairvoyant reached number six and thus gave them three back to back top ten hits for the first time.
In the summer of 1988 Maiden headlined the Donnington Park rock festival and played to a crowd of 110,000 people. Also on the bill were Guns N’ Roses, Kiss and Megadeth among others. The video that accompanied The Clairvoyant was clips from the Donnington show although the sound was the studio recording. It’s one of the lighter songs on this album, the verses are quite sad whereas the chorus is quite happy.
In 38 years they have amassed 36 albums and 35 UK hit singles, but their apex came in 1991 when there was some clever marketing by EMI when they released Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter, a song originally recorded by Bruce as a solo artist, on the first week of January 1991. It’s a time when generally sales are at their lowest, which is bizarre because in those days you’d think that everyone would rush out after Christmas and spend their gift vouchers, but with multiple formats including a ‘brain’ shaped pack, it entered the chart at the summit and spent two weeks there.
In 1993 Bruce Dickinson left for a solo career and was replaced by ex-Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bailey and they had further top 20 hits with Man on the Edge, Virus and The Angel & The Gambler. Bruce Dickinson, now with full pilot’s license returned to the band and to this day flies the band around the world on tour.
In May 2012 Bruce, who also heads Cardiff Aviation Ltd, which is based at the Twin Peaks Hangar at the Vale of Glamorgan, announced that he was opening his own aircraft maintenance business where he hopes to create hundreds of jobs. In his spare time, he helps others, for example, in 2010 he flew the Liverpool football squad to Naples for a Europa League clash.