Iron Maiden: Album by Album
By Martin Popoff
Martin Popoff might be the most prolific rock journo of all time. But here – as in his other “Album by Album” books on bands like Pink Floyd and Rush, he doesn’t go it alone.
In addition to his own thoughts and comments on each studio record in Maiden’s discography from 1980-2015, he hosts a sort of opinionated and knowledgable roundtable with Q&As and thoughts from other music journalists, metal musicians like Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Marty Friedman (Megadeth), Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper and the all-female tribute act the Iron Maidens), and even Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden’s own lead singer for a few years.
The result is a lively, rock nerd-out for Iron Maiden fans as songs, records, sounds, and lineups are dissected. And they often go deep – this book is not for the casual fan of Maiden or the NWOBHM (that’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal to you punters!)
Portnoy notes that original lead singer Paul Di’anno was like Johnny Rotten and successor Bruce Dickinson was like Freddie Mercury. Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel recalls flying cross country to Houston in 1981 for the sole purpose of seeing Maiden open for Judas Priest. Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain plays barefoot. And the album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son – while not a big success upon its original 1988 release, has since been embraced in years since by Maiden fans as one of their best for its prog leanings and concept storyline.
Throughout, the book is festooned with scores of photos of the band, but also of posters, ticket stubs, rare album and single covers and – very cool – Maiden T-shirts through the years. Most of this merchandise features the grimacing (and grim) visage of band mascot Eddie in a variety of looks, costumes, and menacing glares.
Iron Maiden does have a special place in the pantheon of like-minded bands. While they did not have the rock radio/MTV commercial success of Judas Priest, the working-man’s appeal of Mötorhead and Saxon, or the cult love of Diamond Head and Venom, they are arguably the band with the most staying power (or, at least, number of fans who own their T-shirt).
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To this day, the six-man lineup of Iron Maiden can sell out large venues in the United States and are especially big in Latin and South America, where they fill stadiums despite the brevity of their recorded output in the past two decades. In fact, the fascinating documentary Iron Maiden: Flight 666 shows this. It features the band touring and playing on several continents in their own “Ed Force One” plane actually piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, an accomplished commercial and private driver of jumbo jets).
There's a passionate debate going on among fans of heavy metal about which band should get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though the institution itself doesn't seem to be a big fan of the music. Some feel Judas Priest should get the nod, given that they pre-date Iron Maiden. But fans of the latter group point to their edge in terms of influence and breadth of material. And just imagine all of those Maiden T-shirts descending upon Cleveland...
This book is the gift for the Iron Maiden fan in your life and – most importantly – will send listeners both back to the music they know and the music they will feel inspired to know better.