Iron Maiden ‘s self-titled masterpiece turns 40

Forty years ago today, Iron Maiden unleashed a beast.  One that would define them as a band. Define a genre. And set the bar to which all others would be measured against. Unbeknownst to them at the time, Iron Maiden had started a whole sub-culture that continues today.

Pioneers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), which became almost a genre unto itself. Iron Maiden would find commercial success two years down the line, after a shift in personnel. Which had been a common theme for four years before the band came together as it was for this album. This was the record that put them on the map. Their debut full-length record. And the first of two albums that feature vocalist Paul Di’Anno. Whose raspy and gruff voice would really set the scene for the early Maiden years.

Iron Maiden promotional photograph from 1980
Iron Maiden promotional photograph from 1980

Paul Di’Anno would go on to build a career based off of the two records he did while with Iron Maiden. Even naming one of his many bands after Iron Maiden’s second full-length, “Killers”. It is on these two early records that Di’Anno is at his best. Truly cementing himself in rock history. Di’Anno has had a torrid career. The bad boy of the original bunch. His farewell live performance was supposed to take place later this year at the Beermageddon Festival. Who knows if that will still transpire.

Paul Di’Anno would leave Iron maiden in 1981. At that time, the bands manager, Rod Smallwood, bought out Di’Anno and as such, he doesn’t receive any form of royalty from the songs he performed on. The music business is a rough place to play.

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Although I was a little on the young side when this record originally saw the light of day. It still played a key role in my transitioning to who I am today. As such, the first copy I owned of this fantastic recording, included the song “Sanctuary”. Which wasn’t included on the original UK version. It wasn’t until later that year, when the record saw its first American issue, that “Sanctuary” joined the party. Hard to picture, seeing how much that particular track fits into the record.

I have been a fan of Iron Maiden since I was seven years old. Although my love for the band began with 1982’s “The Number Of The Beast” –  the earlier albums are what really drew me in. My parents weren’t keen on the idea of my young self owning something that depicted the devil. But my Grandmother didn’t seem to mind. It took some persuading, but I eventually got my way. I had  seen the LP cover in a Boots chemist on Orpington High Street.  A district of South London where I grew up. At the time, all I wanted to do was draw – and I wanted to draw this record cover.

Of course, once you have the record – you might as well listen to it. And that was the start of my adoration for Iron Maiden – and for music in general. My other love – photography, also begins in that same Boots chemist. It is after-all where my first camera was purchased. I digress.

The album starts off with a riff that defines the decade perfectly. A perfect storm between old and what was to come. What was about to become the starting point of a whole music culture. The screeching guitar wail, punching its way into existence.  The speed of the songs, for its time, was ground breaking, too. The perfect symbiotic merger of punk rock and heavy metal of the period.

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I’ve just got to find my way!” barks Di’Anno. From there, depending on which version of the album you have or had, Iron Maiden prevail. Iron maiden’s debut features some of the groups greatest moments. Which is momentous when you account for how solid their entire career span has been. How many amazing records and song they’ve penned. How vital they have been to the metal world.

From the opening number, “Prowler”. To be the chart hit “Running Free”. “Charlotte The Harlot” to the progressive and avant garde “Strange World”. Virtually every song of this recording remains in the bands tour itinerary. Forty years later, these songs are still loved and adored. Still sung with vigor by Bruce Dickinson, and fans alike. Dickinson didn’t write any one of them, yet has made them his own.

Amusingly, Iron Maiden were severely displeased with the production on the album. Fans, on the other hand, ate it up. It is in the production that the comparison to punk is made. However, bassist and founding member, Steve Harris, has said he hated everything about punk. You wouldn’t think so after listening to this recording though.

Two years after this first cut, came the cult-classic “The Number Of The Beast”. The first album to feature Bruce Dickinson on vocals, where he remains to this day. Albeit after a short hiatus. Despite the band being best known for its records released during the Dickinson era – most songs from the first two records are still being played live. And can of course we be found on any of the bands twelve live albums. Yes, that’s twelve live records.

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Now with thirty-nine recordings under their belt. Including twelve live albums, sixteen studio albums, four EPs, and seven compilations. Over one hundred million albums sold. Iron Maiden remain atop of the world they created. Visionaries. Legends. Kings.

Iron Maiden is showing no signs of slowing down. In their own words at the conclusion of the marvelous record. “Iron Maiden can’t be fought, Iron Maiden can’t be sought”.