And it’s a happy 60th birthday to the mighty Bruce Dickinson. Best known as Iron Maiden’s most famous frontman, he’s also made a name for himself as an airplane pilot, author, brewer, broadcaster and swordsman (in both senses of the word). Little wonder that Intelligent Life magazine declared him a living example of a polymath in 2009.
But it’s to Iron Maiden we must return. Now entitled to free travel in London, Gigwise toasts Bruce Dickinson with a pint of Trooper ale and a selection of his 12 best songs with the mighty Iron Maiden…
12. ’Wasting Love’ (1992)
The third single to be lifted from Iron Maiden’s seventh album, Fear Of The Dark, this was also the band’s first power ballad and Bruce Dickinson’s last appearance with Iron Maiden until he returned to the band in 1999. There are so many numbers there you’d think it was done as some kind of heavy metal numerology conspiracy: three plus seven plus one equals 11. And er… if you take those numbers and add them together you get two, which means, umm… Yeah, it was Bruce Dickinson’s last appearance with them until 1999.
11. ’Rainmaker’ (2003)
Amid the harmonised solos and sheer, sonic onslaught, it’s easy to forget that Iron Maiden are capable of some genuinely melodic material. And so it proves on ‘Rainmaker’, a track largely written by guitarist Dave Murray but inspired by Bruce Dickinson’s comment that its central riff reminded him of falling rain. But not only that – the single’s parent album, Dance Of Death, is a return to the kind of form in which Iron Maiden first formed their formidable reputation.
10. ’Stranger In A Strange Land’ (1986)
Burnt out by the epic World Slavery World Tour that saw Iron Maiden play 187 concerts in 331 days, Somewhere In Time is the first Iron Maiden album not to feature any songwriting input by Bruce Dickinson. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t contribute anything; it’s just that his acoustic-based songs were laughed out of the studio by the rest of the band. Be that as it may and, as evidenced by the video for the album’s second single, ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’, Dickinson lost none of his ability to sport tight lycra leggings.
9. ’The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’ (2006)
In which the birth of Web 2.0 can charted. Allow us to explain: the video for the ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’ was originally uploaded on the Iron Maiden official website and was intended as an exclusive treat for paying fans only. Alas, some technical smarty-pants ripped the video and shared it on a variety of fan forums, thus kicking the digital doors open, which remain banging as loudly as a swingers’ party in a suburban sex club. Trust us – we know of what we speak.
8. ’Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ (1990)
Written by Bruce Dickinson and originally recorded as a solo venture for the soundtrack to Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, the song was then given the Iron Maiden treatment at the request of bassist Steve Harris. Released on Christmas Eve in an effort to combat Cliff Richard’s ‘Saviour’s Day’, the single managed to hit the top slot a week later despite it being banned by Radio 1. And here’s another pub quiz fact for you – it was the first No. 1 single of 1991.
7. ’The Wicker Man’ (2000)
Iron Maiden are a fact fan’s dream, so here are some more for you: not only did Bruce Dickinson’s return to the band coincide with that of guitarist Adrian Smith who’d left in 1990, this not only saw the reconstitution of the classic Dickinson/Harris/Murray/Smith/McBrain line-up, but also the band’s extension into a sextet thanks to the continued presence of guitarist Janick Gers. Widely held to be the start of Iron Maiden’s second imperial period, ‘The Wicker Man’ was subsequently nominated for a ‘Best Metal Performance’ Grammy in 2001, but lost out to the Deftones’ ‘Elite’.
6. ’Empire Of The Clouds’ (2015)
Look, if you’re going to do “epic” then make sure you pull out all the stops, hit the pedal to the metal and go for it. And this is exactly what happens here. Written entirely by singer Bruce Dickinson, this 18-minute monument is both Iron Maiden’s longest song to date a testament to the R101 airship, which crashed on its maiden voyage in France in 1930, killing 48 of the 54 people on board. An anomaly in the Iron Maiden catalogue, this is quite unlike anything they’d ever attempted before.
5. ’Powerslave’ (1984)
Widely regarded by fans as the closing and best of a trilogy of albums from Iron Maiden’s first imperial phase, the Powerslave album is the first of their LPs to feature the same line-up as its predecessor – a fact that will serve you well in any number of pub quizzes. This is probably a contributing factor to the shift in sound on the album, which finds Iron Maiden making a significant move into the area of prog metal, a territory previously dominated by Canadian trio Rush.
4. ’El Dorado’ (2010)
Aren’t South American audiences the absolute bomb? Just check out this live footage of this Chilean crowd going totally fucking batshit to the only single to be taken from Iron Maiden’s 15th studio album, The Final Frontier. None of this, “Oooh, I’m too cool for school so I’m just gonna stand here and wait to be impressed” bollocks, but a complete and utter surrender of the senses and partying like it’s your last night on earth. Take note: this is how it’s done.
3. ’Can I Play With Madness’ (1988)
The first single lifted from Iron Maiden’s seventh album, The Seventh Son Of The Seventh Son, Bruce Dickinson is back in the lyrical driving seat as the band as the band go for their first, full-blown concept album. Except that they get only half the concept done. Hitting No. 3 in the UK album charts, the video for ‘Can I Play With Madness’ feature a starring role for former Monty Python comedian Graham Chapman. One of his last roles, Chapman died of cancer in 1989.
2. ’The Trooper’ (1983)
Taken from Iron Maiden’s fourth studio album, Piece Of Mind, and inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’, ‘The Trooper’ remains an all-time classic within the Iron Maiden cannon. Containing some of the band’s very best harmony lead lines courtesy of guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith and the band’s trademark rhythms provided by bassist Steve Harris and new drummer Nicko McBrain, Bruce Dickinson recounts the story of one of Britain’s worst military disasters during the Crimean War.
1. ’Run To The Hills’ (1982)
Released as a single in February 1982, ‘Run To The Hills’ not only marked Bruce Dickinson’s singing debut with Iron Maiden, it also gave the band their first Top 10 single. Lamenting the demise of Native American tribes thanks to the brutal reality of the ropey concept of manifest destiny, ‘Run To The Hills’ is an Iron Maiden high water mark. Though solely credited to bassist Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson’s significant songwriting input was kept in the shadows thanks to contractual issues with his old band, Samson.