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Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden took its name from a particularly nasty medieval torture device and started as a reaction to the U.K.'s rising late '70s Punk scene. Aimed at preserving the Metal ethos, Iron Maiden set down a blistering path with chain saw guitars and manic, rage filled vocals, extolling a dark side that welcomed annihilation. They came on like street thugs channeling Nordic warriors. How could they miss? They didn't, selling over 50 million albums before the dust settled.

Of Iron Maiden's lead singers, Bruce Dickinson was the best, and certainly the most theatrical, but even he was upstaged by the band's mascot, Eddie, a decaying, wrinkled monster that graced several album covers. Eddie was perfect. That image, more than anything else, told the public what Iron Maiden was all about.

Iron Maiden formed around the Steve Harris/Dave Murray nucleus. But a falling out with the group's then-lead singer Dennis Wilcock caused Murray to pack it in. But in short order Wilcock was gone, Murray returned and vocalist Paul DiAnno was aboard.

While their first two albums, the self-titled debut ('80) and "Killers" ('81) were exercises in sonic brutality it was their third album, and first with Dickinson, "The Number Of The Beast," that hurled the group before the masses. Subsequent albums "Piece Of Mind" ('83), "Powerslave" ('84) and "Live After Death" ('85) made Iron Maiden an integral part of every headbanger's life.

By the late '80s, personnel changes and a misguided attempt to incorporate keyboards, zapped the band of much of its energy though they continued recording with some measure of success. Dickinson departed and was replaced by Blaze Bayley in '94 making the rest of '90s little more than a re-tread of earlier, better Maiden. "Brave New World" was released in '00 with a good representation of the group's '80s line-ups.

Early '03, word came out that Dickinson would front Iron Maiden once again for an album and tour. The announcement was greeted with some suspicion. Numerous groups have found themselves at the nether end of their career when someone suggests reforming the original, classic, best known or most popular line-up. Often, the ex-members are as down on their luck as the group. Unfortunately, these revivals usually fall far short of expectations. Not so with Iron Maiden. The group made a roaring return with "Dance Of Death." Their next trip to the studio resulted in '06's "A Matter Of Life And Death."

But the hits kept coming - literally. "Somewhere Back In Time: The Best of 1980-1989" dropped in '08. With that, the group played 23 concerts on five continents in 45 days. Tour stops included Mumbai, Sydney, Tokyo, L.A., Mexico City, Buenos Aires and New York. Of course, a tour like that should be documented and this one was. "Iron Maiden: Flight 666," a DVD/CD, came out in '09.

Talk about in-flight entertainment. Later in the year, Iron Maiden manager Ron Smallwood confirmed that the group would again travel on Ed Force One, a Boeing 757 with an image of Eddie on the plane's tail, for their '10 tour. Dickenson, a qualified airline pilot, was at the controls (as he was during the "Somewhere Back In Time" tour).

The band finished their fifteenth studio album prior to hitting the road. "There's always a bit of pressure to follow up the last album," said guitarist Adrian Smith. "In a way, it's good, because it motivates you."

Produced by Kevin "Caveman" Shirley, the album was cut at Compass Point Studios, where Iron Maiden recorded "Piece Of Mind," "Powerslave" and "Somewhere In Time." "The studio had the same vibe and it was exactly as it had been in 1983," added Dickinson. "We felt very relaxed in such a familiar and well-trodden environment and I think this shows in the playing and the atmosphere of the album."

Iron Maiden's '10 European tour ran into some stormy weather - literally. A high winds, torrential rain, and hail from a five minute freak thunderstorm nearly derailed the band's appearance at Finland's Sonisphere Festival. 40 people were injured by the storm which destroyed Maiden's stage equipment and tour plane. Fortunately, they were able to use gear provided by Slayer. "We're not going home until you go home," said Dickinson. "We were p**sed on by the gods and we p**sed on the gods right back. For those of you that have Rocked we f**king salute you."

On a calmer note, "The Number Of The Beast" was named the greatest album in British music made during Queen Elizabeth II's 60-year reign, according to retailer HMV's online survey of 30,000 music fans. To earn the '12 honor, Iron Maiden beat out The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Joining AC/DC and other bands marketing a branded alcoholic beverage, Iron Maiden announced, in '13, the launch of Trooper - a premium British beer. "I'm a lifelong fan of traditional English ale; I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when we were asked to create our own beer," said Dickenson of the handcrafted brew.

Sadly, on the very next day (3/13/13), original drummer Clive Burr died from health complications due to Multiple Sclerosis at age 56. Burr was the drummer on Maiden's first three albums, including their '82 commercial breakthrough "The Number Of The Beast."

On a happier note, Iron Maiden was named the Kerrang! Inspiration Award winner a few months later at the magazine's annual event in London. "No other band was as big of an influence on Anthrax," said Anthrax frontman Scott Ian in his tribute to Maiden. "Creatively, we looked up to them as a band because they did everything their own way, not giving a s- about what was trendy or popular because they were Iron Maiden."

As if to prove the point, the two-year Maiden England tour was another huge success. Maiden topped Billboard's Hot Tours List three times in '13. The trek netted more than $57 million from 54 concerts with a total attendance above 903,000.

The group's business acumen hardly went unnoticed. In '13, Iron Maiden LLP, the band's holding company, was been named one of the fastest-growing music companies in the UK by the London Stock Exchange.

Business took a backseat in '15 when Iron Maiden revealed that Dickinson had completed a seven-week cancer treatment program consisting of chemotherapy and radiology. A routine checkup in late '14 showed a small tumor on the back of the singer's tongue. The tumor was caught in early stages.

Then there was a blast from the past. Iron Maiden's '77 line-up reunited for a London club show. Dennis Willcock (vocals), Terry Wapram (guitar), Tony Moore (keyboards) and Barry "Thunderstick" Purkis (drums) took the stage in February of '15. The only person missing was bassist Steve Harris, the band's only constant member. For the record, this edition came and went before Iron Maiden's '80 self-titled debut.

The double album, "The Book Of Souls," landed later in the year. "By the time we'd finished we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that it needed to be a double album," stated Dickinson. The set debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 after opening week sales of 75,000 copies.

"The Book Of Souls," contained the track "Tears Of A Clown" which had its own back story. Dickinson admitted to having no idea that the song was about the late comedian Robin Williams, who took his life, until after he'd recorded it. The lyrics were penned by Harris.

Following a two-year world tour - 39 countries - Iron Maiden released of "The Book Of Souls Live Chapter."
Iron Maiden Discography

Studio Albums:

1980 Iron Maiden
1981 Killers
1982 The Number Of The Beast
1983 Piece Of Mind
1984 Powerslave
1986 Somewhere In Time
1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
1990 No Prayer For The Dying
1992 Fear Of The Dark
1995 The X Factor
1998 Virtual XI
2000 Brave New World
2003 Dance Of Death
2006 A Matter Of Life And Death
2010 The Final Frontier
2015 The Book Of Souls

"The Number Of The Beast" always gets attention. Though it is Iron Maiden's breakthrough album and has the inescapable "Run For The Hills," it is not their most accomplished. The earlier "Killers" with "Women In Uniform" and "Twilight Zone" and later "Piece Of Mind" featuring the classic "Flight Of Icarus" are the ones to get. "Live After Death" has enough raw power and Metal aggression for any savage beast.

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