Introducing Pop Culture Confessions…


By Shawn Robare

So, I’ve been thinking that it’s high time that I set the record straight and unburden my soul a bit here at Branded by talking about some of the 80s era pop culture that’s either eluded, intimidated, or out and out confounded me.  This is sort of a Pop Culture Confessional, a place where I can take a look at stuff that I feel like I should be familiar with, but am not, for whatever reason.  I think running a site like this can sometimes give off the wrong impression, that I know more than I do, whatever.  So with that in mind, I couldn’t think of a better topic to break in this new column than one of the most recognizable heavy metal bands of the last quarter century, Iron Maiden.

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Though I’m not 100% oblivious to this operatic British metal band, I have never sat down and listened to any of their albums.  Like most kids growing up in the 70s and 80s I had a fascination with their twisted ghoul of a mascot, the glowing-eyed zombie Eddie, but beyond this and their seat belt commercial from the 90s, this is pretty much where my exposure ends.  What’s strange to me is that there is absolutely no reason why I should have gotten into the music when I was 9 or 10.  It was around that time that I met and befriended a kid in the fifth grade who schooled me in heavy metal, though he was pretty heavy-handed with his infectious love of Metallica.  So while I was becoming a tried and true Metalli-Cat, banging my head along with Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, it would take another couple years to open my eyes to other bands.  With Peanut (my friend’s nickname), it was pretty much Metallica or nothing.  There was one opportunity to listen to some Maiden back in 1988 though.  Another older kid down the street from me had seen me proudly wearing my only Metallica shirt (the “Metal Up Your Ass” shirt featuring a knife-wielding hand coming up out of a toilet bowl), and he asked me if I was into Maiden.  I didn’t want to seem uncool, so I said yeah, but only some of their early stuff (what a dork I was.)  So he ran home and quickly came back with the Somewhere in Time album and he told me I needed to hear this.  I eagerly took the album from him and then ran back into my house excited and depressed at the same time.  See, he lent me the album on CD, and at the time our family didn’t own a player.  Heck, they were still like $300, and there was absolutely no way I was going to convince my parents that we needed one just so that I could finally hear what all the fuss was about with this mysterious band.

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Time passed and I eventually opened up musically, but for the most part my interest in metal kind of waned.  I was getting into some weirder stuff like Faith No More, Devo, and eventually Ween.  As intriguing as the visage of Eddie was, getting into Iron Maiden was put on the back burner.  The next thing I know I’m 35 and now I’m almost a little ashamed that it’s taken me over 20 years to catch back up with the band.  There have been signs recently, little things here and there that have been peaking my interest and nudging me back towards the band.  Whether it was scoping out some of the awesome NECA Eddie toys that were on the pegs right next to the Robocop figures I was buying, friends posting facebook updates about attending Maiden concerts (consequently Mark also co-hosts the awesome Requiem Metal Podcast), or even when I started getting into an author’s work recently and while checking out her youtube page I found the most adorable karaoke video of her performing the intro to Number of the Beast with backup by her cats.  Iron Maiden just seems to continue to jump out at me.  Well, last night, after holding a regular movie night with my friend we started talking music, and I couldn’t help but lead the conversation over to my eagerness to finally dive into Maiden.  Lucky for me he had a handful of albums that I swiped off his shelf and am preparing myself to gorge on over the next week.  For the record I have copies of The Number of the Best (1982), Piece of Mind (1983), and Somewhere in Time (1986).

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Anyone have any suggestions as far as the order I should listen to these?  Over the years I’ve realized that there tend to be key albums by bands that can really do wonders for unlocking their catalog.  Chocolate and Cheese for Ween, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots for the Flaming Lips, or how Stephen Malkmus’ first solo album opened me up to the entire Pavement catalog.  So any suggestions for listening to Iron Maiden?  Am I missing a key album?

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Esteban – Cool, thanks for the guidance! Still trying to iron out my familiarity with the first few albums so that I can tell from listening which album the tracks are on (by ear without looking.) It takes me a bit to get comfortable enough with a band to get to that point. I’m super curious about the B-sides, I remember as a kid loving Metallica, that though the albums were great, the B-sides were amazing (similarly their cover albums.) It’s to the point that these days, when I do listen to Metallica, it usually only the covers collections. I’m also really curious about the DVD of the live shows, as I have it on good authority that they have a pretty intense stage set up…

  • http://pleasesavemerobots.blogspot.com/ Esteban

    Oh how I envy you. If you have not yet heard Live After Death, go out and get the DVD and live that most incredible of religious experiences that way. It’s their greatest live release of the 80s and one of their greatest albums period. If you really want to get into 80s Iron Maiden on a carnal level, I’d say it is absolutely a must that you track down their “First Ten Years” series of CD singles. Starting in February of 1990, they rereleased all of their singles in a 10 CD compilation over a period of 10 weeks. Each CD had two of their original singles on it starting chronologically from the very first ones, plus a bonus commentary track called “Listen With Nicko”. I consider these commentaries presented by their drummer Nicko McBrain to be the very first podcasts ever and absolutely essential Iron Maiden listening. You can find them on YouTube if you search “Listen with Nicko”. Since the singles included many now classic Iron Maiden B-sides you might want to search for those tracks online so you can listen to them as well. Stuff like “I’ve got the Fire” and “Kill Me CeSoir” (although that wasn’t from their 80s releases) are some of the greatest cover songs done by anyone. In fact, go listen to Golden Earring’s original version of Kill Me Me Ce Soir, then listen to the Iron Maiden one and be prepared to be blown away. My favorite Iron Maiden fan site is one called ironmaidencommentary.com You can get lost for hours in there. Also a blog I like called Black Wind Metal has just recently started reviewing all their albums starting from the first one. They’re up to Killers so far. Here’s the link to their first review: http://blackwindmetal.com/?p=4053 and here’s Killers http://blackwindmetal.com/?p=4249 Well good luck. If you ever get into 90s Iron Maiden and the side projects of Bruce Dickinson and Paul DiAnno I’ve got advice on those, too!

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Micki – Number of the Beast is pretty darn rad, but I think I’m enjoying Piece of Mind more. I haven’t listened enough to pin down why yet. I also went out and picked up a copy of the first DiAnno album yesterday and have listened to it twice so far. As much as I’m enjoying Dickinson’s over the top vocals (I’m a huge fan of operatic glam, T-Rex and Sparks), DiAnno’s more gravely voice is speaking to me a little more. I listen to a lot of 70s New York punk, and DiAnno speaks to that sound a bit more. All in all, I’m really glad I finally dipped into Maiden though, don’t know why I waited so long…

  • http://www.escalonimaginario.com Micki

    cool! so how did you like Number of the Beast? this is interesting because I was just discussing Maiden with one of my best friends last week, having some beers at the beach. he’s a huge Dickinson/Seventh Son fan and I’m a huge Di’Anno fan, and we always have the same arguments about which album is better and which video is worse. hope you’ll like the first LP, I’m almost sure “Prowler” is impossible to dislike :)

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    RockyRambo – Yeah, I need to look into Powerslave. Not sure why my friend’s collection has such large holes in it…

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Striker Z – I’ll be picking up the Self-Titled and Killers sometime this week. Not sure if I’m ready for the newer stuff, but I’ll keep your recommendations in mind…

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Micki – I’ve been consistently advised to pick up the first two albums, so that is pretty much what I’m going to do. Been listening to Number all weekend and now I’m curious to compare and contrast Dickinson with Di’Anno…

  • Rocky Rambo

    Being a fan of Dickinson rather than Dianno i think you have started at the right point with Number Of The Beast. But you are missing POWERSLAVE from 1984 which features one of there best singles ACES HIGH which is also there best non album artwork (Check it out on google). But my favourite album of theres is Seventh Son Of a Seventh Son from 1988 as i think its when they were at there most commercial peak. So buy them 2 aswell and listen to them the order they came out!

  • Striker Z

    My favs are Number of the Beast, Killers, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Fear of the Dark. For newer stuff, ai would say New World.

  • http://www.escalonimaginario.com Micki

    big Iron Maiden fan here since I was about 11 or 12. Maiden were my third musical obsession (following Michael Jackson and Queen, in that order) until I finally opened myself to the magical world of having so many bands and so much cool stuff to discover when you’re 14. so, I ate and breathed Iron Maiden for a while back in the day, and I think I’ve always been in the minority here, but I developed a special taste for their first two albums (the self-titled one from 1980 and Killers from 1981), when Paul Di’Anno was still fronting the band, before Bruce Dickinson. I absolutely love Di’Anno, and have followed all his musical ventures without exception, I’ve watched him try and play lots of many different musical styles, playing originals, and I’ve been saddened to see him get into a horrible physical shape, and resigned and resorted to playing all those Iron Maiden songs for years and years, because that’s all people want to hear from him, and the only thing that makes him money. anyway! looking in perspective, and as much as I loved listening to anything by Iron Maiden back then, I rarely feel like playing anything by them nowadays, EXCEPT those first two albums. I never got tired of them, and they never stopped sounding fresh, raw, punkish, mysterious, dark, dangerous and exciting to me. I look at the cover for their very first album, and I feel like the stupid 12-year old kid with hopes of growing his hair very long, be a successful bass player and take over the world that I was. so there’s my advice, start from the beginning and get ahold of the first two albums to experience the progression, as they have little to do with, say, Somewhere In Time. don’t get me wrong, I love most of the Dickinson albums, especially Powerslave, but… Iron Maiden and Killers will always be *my* albums :)