Iron Maiden

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Iron Maiden
From left to right : Adrian Smith, Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden in 2000)
From left to right : Adrian Smith, Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden in 2000)
Background information
Origin East London, England
Genre(s) Heavy metal
New Wave of British Heavy Metal
Years active 1975—present
Label(s) EMI
Paul Di'Anno
Bruce Dickinson
Dave Murray
Adrian Smith
Janick Gers
Steve Harris
Nicko McBrain
Former members
Clive Burr
Paul Di'Anno
Blaze Bayley
Dennis Stratton
Doug Sampson
Paul Cairns
Paul Todd
Dave Mac
Tony Parsons
Dennis Wilcock
Terry Wapram
Tony Moore
Ron Matthews
Bob Sawyer
Terry Rance
Paul Day
Dave Sullivan

Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band from East London. Formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, previously of Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler, Maiden have sold over 70 million albums world-wide. Iron Maiden has so far released 14 studio albums, four ' best of' compilations, nine live albums, and four boxed sets. The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002.

Iron Maiden's mascot, Eddie, is a perennial fixture in the band's horror-influenced album cover art, as well as in live shows. Eddie was drawn by Derek Riggs until 1992, but has had various incarnations by numerous artists, the most notable being Melvyn Grant. Eddie is also featured in a first-person shooter video game and best of album - Ed Hunter - as well as numerous books, graphic comics and band-related merchandise.

The band has headlined several major events in its career, notably Rock In Rio, Ozzfest alongside Black Sabbath, Donington's famous " Monsters of Rock", " Download" Festivals and the " Reading and Leeds Festivals."


The road from formation to the present started on Christmas Day 1975 shortly after bassist Steve Harris formed his own band after his bandmates in the group Smiler rejected many of his original songs. Harris attributes the band name to a movie adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask he saw around that time, and so the group was christened after the medieval torture device.

Harris and guitarist Dave Murray remain the longest surviving members of Iron Maiden. The band had twelve different line-ups in the 1970s, paying their dues on the mostly punk club circuit in London's rough East End while struggling to form a stable lineup of band members. Although Iron Maiden was a metal band influenced by Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, UFO, Yes, Wishbone Ash, Apocalypse, Queen and Judas Priest, the earlier music had undoubted punk overtones. Lacking "enough energy or charisma onstage", original vocalist Paul Day became replaced by the outlandish Dennis Wilcock, a huge KISS fan who utilized fire, make-up and fake blood during live commitments. Wilcock's friend, Murray, was invited to join, to the frustration of guitarists Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance. This fuelled Harris to temporarily split the band in the Winter of 1976, though the group reformed soon after with Murray as sole axeman.

Maiden recruited another guitarist in 1977, Bob Sawyer, who caused a rift between Murray and Wilcock, prompting Harris to sack both Murray and Sawyer. A disastrous gig at the Bridgehouse in November 1977, with a makeshift line-up including Tony Moore on keyboards, Terry Wrapram on guitar, and drummer Barry Purkis (later rechristened 'Thunderstick') resulted in Harris sacking the entire band. Dave Murray was reinstated and Doug Sampson was drafted in as drummer.

Star Studios in Bow, London played host to three rehearsals a week throughout the Summer and Autumn of 1978. A chance meeting at the Red Lion pub in Leytonstone evolved into a successful audition for punky vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Steve Harris reflected; There's sort of a quality in Paul's voice, a raspiness in his voice, or whatever you want to call it, that just gave it this great edge."

Iron Maiden had been playing for three years, but had never recorded any of their music. On New Year's Eve of 1978, the band recorded one of the most famous demos in hard rock history, The Soundhouse Tapes. Featuring only three songs, and a four-piece (all subsequent recordings featured a five-piece until 1999 when the band became a six-piece) the band sold all five thousand copies within weeks. One track found upon the demo, "Prowler", went to number one on Neal Kay's Heavy Metal Soundhouse charts in Sounds magazine. Their first appearance on an album was on the compilation Metal for Muthas (released on 15 February 1980) with two early versions of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild".

For most of 1977 and all of 1978, Murray was the sole six-stringer in the band. This changed with the arrival of Paul Cairns in 1979. Shortly before going into the studio, Cairns left the band and several other guitarists played alongside Murray until the band finally settled on 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. Drummer Doug Sampson was also replaced by Clive Burr (who was brought into the band by Stratton), and in December 1979, the band landed a major record deal by signing an EMI contract at the label's old building in London's Manchester Square.

Initial success

The eponymous 1980 released Iron Maiden made number 4 on the UK charts in its first week of release, and the group became one of the leading proponents of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. 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. The timing was right for the arrival of guitarist 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" harmonising guitar stylings of Murray and Smith, a style pioneered by Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy, and developed further by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

In 1981, Maiden released its 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. With songs already shaped on the road well in advance, only three new tracks were written for the album; "Prodigal Son", "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "Killers".

The next level

Like many bands, Maiden consumed a large amount of alcohol in their early days. However, most members dabbled very little in other drugs, with Steve Harris never taking them at all. The exception was vocalist Paul Di'Anno, who demonstrated increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly through cocaine usage. His performances began to suffer, just as the band was beginning to achieve large-scale success in America. At the end of 1981 the band replaced Di'Anno with former Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson. 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 The Number of the Beast, an album that claimed the band their first ever UK number 1 record and additionally became a Top Ten hit in many other countries. For the second time the band went on a world tour, visiting the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia. The tour's US leg was marred (or perhaps promoted) by controversy stemming from an American right-wing political pressure group that claimed Iron Maiden was a Satanic group because of the album's title track, ostensibly concerning a nightmare Steve Harris suffered. Iron Maiden members' attempts to deflect the criticism failed to dampen persistent accusations. A group of Christian activists destroyed the band's records (along with those of Ozzy Osbourne) by burning them in a large fire. However, these accusations of Satanism were largely based on misinterpretation of the song, or fear of the aggressive, energetic nature of the music. Iron Maiden's current drummer, Nicko McBrain, is a born-again Christian, and is happy to play the song, which he sees as a warning against Satanism.

On the same tour, producer Martin Birch was involved in a car accident with a group of church-goers. Coincidentally, the bill for the repair came to £ 666, a figure which Birch refused to pay, instead opting for a higher amount.

Actor Patrick McGoohan was accommodating when a request was made to allow the band to use a spoken intro from the cult TV series, The Prisoner, in which McGoohan was the lead actor, producer and series writer. McGoohan was a big name in 1982, and Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood was nervous about making the request. The conversation between McGoohan and Smallwood allegedly went:

McGoohan: "What did you say the name of the band was again?"
Smallwood: "Iron Maiden"
McGoohan: "A rock band, you it!"

Before heading back into the studio in 1983, they replaced drummer Clive Burr with Nicko McBrain and went on to release four albums which went multi-platinum world-wide: the dark and ultra-heavy Piece of Mind, featuring "Flight of Icarus" and "The Trooper" (1983), Powerslave featuring "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Aces High", and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1984), the double-live album Live After Death (1985), and the experimental, Adrian Smith-led Somewhere in Time (1986) featuring "Wasted Years."

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, a backward message was placed at the start of the track "Still Life" as a kind of internal joke. Reverse this track, and you will hear drummer McBrain clearly saying "Hmm, Hmmm, what ho sed de t'ing wid de t'ree bonce. Don't meddle wid t'ings you don't understand", followed by a belch. McBrain later admitted this to be his "famous" impression of Idi Amin Dada. It translates to the following: "'What ho,' said the monster with the three heads, 'don't meddle with things you don't understand.'"

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's 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 1986, the band tried a different approach for their sixth studio album, titled Somewhere in Time. This was not a concept album, though it was themed loosely around the idea of time travel. It featured for the first time in the band's history synthetics for the bass/strings and for the guitars to add textures and layers to the sound. Though considered different from the norm of Maiden sounds, it charted well across the world and is still regarded a part of Iron Maiden's 'golden era' (from The Number of the Beast through Seventh Son of a Seventh Son).

This experimentation lead to the more refined Seventh Son of a Seventh Son follow-up album. Adding to Maiden's experimentation, it 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. The 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of Records contains the following entry:

"Largest PA system: On Aug 20th 1988 at the Castle Donington "Monsters of Rock" Festival a total of 360 Turbosound cabinets offering a potential 523 kW of programme power, formed the largest front-of-house PA. The average Sound Pressure Level at the mixing tower was 118 dB, peaking at a maximum of 124 dB during Iron Maiden's set. It took five days to set up the system."

To close off their first ten years of releasing singles, Iron Maiden released The First Ten Years, a series of ten cds and double 12" vinyls. Between February 24 and April 28 1990, the individual parts were released one by one, and each contains two of Iron Maiden's singles, including the b-sides, along with a part of "Listen With Nicko!"


For the first time in seven years, the band had a line-up change with the departure of guitarist/backing 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. This album featured one last song co-penned by Adrian Smith with Bruce Dickinson, "Hooks in You", despite Smith's having not been involved in the band after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. 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 to date, only) number one hit single "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter". It was released on December 24, 1990, and was one of the first records to be released on several different formats with different B-sides, thus encouraging fans to buy several copies. The single holds the record for being the fastest release straight in to number one and straight out of the charts again over the following couple of weeks. The song was originally penned and recorded by Bruce Dickinson for the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.

Before the release of No Prayer for the Dying, Bruce Dickinson officially launched a solo career alongside 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, the album had several songs which were popular amongst fans, such as the title track and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers".

In 1993 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, A Real Live One, featured songs from 1986 to 1992, and was released in March 1993. The second, A Real Dead One, featured songs from 1975 to 1984, and was released after Bruce had left the band. He played his farewell show with Iron Maiden on August 28, 1993. The show was filmed, broadcast by the BBC, and released on video under the name Raising Hell. Magician Simon Drake performed grisly illusions on the performance, culminating in Dickinson's "death" in an Iron Maiden.

Winds of change

The band auditioned hundreds of vocalists, both unknown and famous (among them Doogie White of Rainbow), and even offered the position to James LaBrie of Dream Theatre but he declined. They finally chose 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 70+ minute-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 11-minute epic "Sign of the Cross", opening the album, is perhaps the stand-out track, and even Bayley's detractors tend to recognise it as a classic. The first concert supporting the new album took place on September 28, 1995 in Jerusalem, Israel.

The band spent most of 1996 on the road before returning to the studio for 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 single "The Angel and the Gambler", which was all that many people heard of the album before deciding not to buy it. Virtual XI failed to reach the one million mark in worldwide sales for the first time, and thus sounded Bayley's death knell.


In February 1999, Bayley left the band, apparently by mutual consent. The main reason for his departure was his inconsistent onstage performance - Blaze's voice was not up to the rigours of a full-on Maiden tour. At the same time, the band shocked their fans 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, and a successful reunion tour followed.

The new millennium

In 2000, a more progressive period began for the band, commencing with the release of the Brave New World album. The world tour that followed ended in January 2001 with a show at the famous Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, where Iron Maiden played to an impressive crowd of 250,000. 2003's Dance of Death followed, then 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 "Number of the Beast" single was re-released, which went straight to number three in the UK charts, and the band hit the road to support the 2004 DVD entitled The Early Days, playing only older material.

Ozzfest incident

At Iron Maiden's last Ozzfest performance (August 20th 2005 at the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen in San Bernardino, CA), the band's sound was turned off several times, eggs were thrown towards the stage, and chants of "Ozzy" were shouted through the PA system. This was the work of Sharon Osbourne, who took to the stage and proceeded to call Bruce Dickinson "a prick" after they performed their encore, followed by a large portion of the crowd booing her off the stage. She officially admitted this in a scathing letter, accusing Bruce of heckling her husband and signing it "The Real Iron Maiden", although claiming not to have any personal vendetta against the band.

The band completed its summer tour by headlining the Reading and Leeds weekend festivals on the 26th and 28th August 2005, playing classics from the first four studio albums to a combined audience of approximately 120,000. The final gig took place in London at the famous Hammersmith Odeon (now Apollo) in early September 2005. For the second time, the band played a charity gig for former drummer Clive Burr.

A live album entitled Death on the Road was released on August 30 2005.

A Matter of Life and Death

Iron Maiden's 14th studio album named A Matter of Life and Death was released worldwide on the 28th August 2006 (5th September for the US and 29th August for Canada). It was preceded by the " The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" single on August 14. The album was once again produced by Kevin Shirley, and is the longest Iron Maiden album to date. The album is not a concept album, but six songs directly revolve around war and four religion (some overlapping takes place) and these two themes shade every piece of the album; this is likely Maiden's most serious lyrical effort. The music is often described as a cross between Dance of Death, The X Factor, and Bruce Dickinson's late nineties solo material, and seven of the songs could qualify as epics by general metal standards.

Anticipating the release, the official website released two songs in streaming audio on August 10 and 11. The album topped the charts in ten countries, and entered the American charts in the Top 10 for the first time since album sales could be properly counted (ie 1991).

There is currently a degree of controversy going on within the Iron Maiden fan community regarding the tour in support of A Matter of Life and Death, with Trivium supporting, as the band is playing every song off of the album, with a small amount of older material at the end. However, Iron Maiden strongly stand by their decision to have the tour set up as it is, as they feel that A Matter of Life and Death is some of the best material they have put out to date.

The album also won the 'Classic Rock 2006 - Album of the Year Award', voted for by the magazine's fans, which further backs Iron Maiden's preference to do the whole album live.

New company

In November 2006, Iron Maiden and manager Rod Smallwood annouced that they were cutting off their 27 year old ties with Sanctuary Music and have started a new company named Phantom Music Management.

Rod Smallwood said, 'I formed Sanctuary in 1979 and named it after the Maiden song, so it's a bit of a wrench leaving after all these years. However in the latter stages of my career I want to be able to fully concentrate on and enjoy managing Maiden without being distracted by other areas of the business. As you all know we have an awful lot going on and we have many exciting plans for the future. The forthcoming European Tour will be incredible and l want to be at as many of the concerts as possible to enjoy the feeling l think you can only really get at a Maiden show! My new company is called Phantom and no prizes for guessing where that came from. Don't worry - it's Maiden business as usual!! 6.7 million albums in 2000 alone.' Upon release in the USA Singles chart, the single Different World debuted at number 8. It is due for release in the UK early January 2007.


Iron Maiden were ranked #24 in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock", and in Kerrang! magazine were ranked as the most important band of the last 25 years. They were ranked fourth on MTV's "Top 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time".


Studio Albums

  • Iron Maiden (1980)
  • Killers (1981)
  • The Number of the Beast (1982)
  • Piece of Mind (1983)
  • Powerslave (1984)
  • Somewhere in Time (1986)
  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
  • No Prayer for the Dying (1990)
  • Fear of the Dark (1992)
  • The X Factor (1995)
  • Virtual XI (1998)
  • Brave New World (2000)
  • Dance of Death (2003)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (2006)


  • "Phantom of the Opera" Listen  – From the debut album, featuring Paul Di'Anno on vocals.
  • " Run to the Hills" Listen  – A top ten hit in the UK, and vocalist Bruce Dickinson's debut.
  • "Caught Somewhere in Time" Listen  – This clip showcases the band's trademark twin guitar harmonization/"galloping" bass.
  • "Sign of the Cross" Listen  – The band's third recording vocalist, Blaze Bayley, singing on the opening track from The X Factor album.
  • "Brave New World" Listen  – Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith return in 2000 to critical acclaim.


Current lineup

  • Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals (1981-1993, 1999-present)
  • Dave Murray – guitar (1976-1977;1978-present)
  • Janick Gers – guitar (1990-present)
  • Adrian Smith – guitar, backing vocals (1980-1989, 1999-present)
  • Steve Harris – bass, keyboards, backing vocals (1975-present)
  • Nicko McBrain – drums (1983-present)

Original lineup (1975)

  • Paul Day – lead vocals
  • Dave Sullivan – guitar (replaced by Dave Murray after only two months)
  • Terry Rance – guitar
  • Steve Harris – bass
  • Ron Matthews – drums

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