Iron Maiden: '80 '81

by Greg Prato

Besides contributing to Songfacts, you may have recognized my name from quite a few books I've penned over the years - Grunge is Dead, MTV Ruled the World, The Eric Carr Story, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other, etc. And my 15th book overall was released in March 2015, Iron Maiden: '80 '81.

By the mid/late '80s, Iron Maiden was unquestionably one of the biggest heavy metal bands on the planet - regularly headlining arenas/stadiums, each new album rocketing up the charts, and T-shirts sporting their ghastly mascot (Eddie) was one of the most popular fashion statements by metalheads. But by this point of their career, most of the band members were different than the ones that appeared on their classic 1980 self-titled debut album, while musically, they had transformed from a raw "punk metal" sound to a more refined "prog metal" approach.

For the book (which is set up in the "oral history" format), I conducted nearly 30 all-new interviews, including Paul Di'Anno (Iron Maiden singer, 1978-1981), Dennis Stratton (Iron Maiden guitarist, 1979-1980), Wil Malone ('Iron Maiden' producer), Biff Byford (Saxon singer), Udo Dirkschneider (former Accept singer), Scott Ian (Anthrax guitarist), Charlie Benante (Anthrax drummer), David Ellefson (Megadeth bassist), Dave Lombardo (former Slayer drummer), Mike Portnoy (former Dream Theater drummer), Richard Christy (Death and Iced Earth drummer), Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest guitarist), Pete Way (former UFO bassist), and Eddie Trunk ('That Metal Show' co-host, radio DJ), among many others.

Here is an excerpt from the book for you to enjoy, which focuses on the tour in support of the group's classic self-titled debut.

Running from April 1 through December 21, 1980 (101 shows total), the tour in support of Maiden's debut disc sees the group perform throughout Europe as both a headliner and as an opener for Kiss, and as "special guests" of UFO at the Reading Festival (plus dates opening for Judas Priest earlier in the year).

PAUL DI'ANNO [Iron Maiden singer, 1978-1981]: The scene in England was just out of this world, and fantastic crowds everywhere we went. And then when the album was out, we went up to playing university halls and stuff like that. So we were sort of increasing all the time. It was amazing.

GLENN TIPTON [Judas Priest guitarist]: We had Maiden on tour with us as a support act - I think we did both sides of the Atlantic with them [Maiden opened for Priest in the UK, from March 7th-27th, and would open for Priest again in 1981, on their first-ever US tour]. And it was great. Good bunch of guys. What I like about Maiden is they never wavered from what they believe in and what they play. They've stuck to their guns and they're doing really well. More credit to them.

PAUL DI'ANNO: The 'British Steel' tour in 1980, that was absolutely amazing. Really great band. I loved Priest - they're one of my favorite bands of all time. Rob Halford, I mean, come on - there's no one like him, there never will be. They broke the mold when he came out. My God, what a great singer. Even as a punk singer I can appreciate that. That guy is out of the stratosphere. Unbelievable. I learned a lot from Rob Halford - how to control my voice and control the high notes and stuff like that. I even got to push them a lot higher than what I used to be able to do, and I'm still learning from him now. Fantastic singer, great guy, fantastic band.

DENNIS STRATTON [Iron Maiden guitarist, 1979-1980]: The memories of Judas Priest, Di'Anno upset the band before we went on tour, by saying certain things in the press about them, which didn't help us. So we got treated quite badly by Priest. I always get on with the headlining band, no matter what band I'm playing with. Rod didn't like the idea of me getting on with Glenn Tipton from Priest. As I said, they didn't treat us too good, because of what Di'Anno had said. But I got on with them very well.

PAUL DI'ANNO: I do not remember what was said, and I got really pissed off, because I got the blame for it. [Laughs] I wasn't very happy about that, because I respect Priest - they're one of the most awesome bands, ever. I've learned so much of my own craft through bands like that. Obviously, I lean more towards the punk side, but for me, to get into "the metal side," I had to look up the right reference guide, and that would be Priest - for me. I certainly didn't say it, but apparently, someone said, "We're going to blow them away, because they're a bunch of old men" or something. I don't know who said it - it wasn't me, though.

BRIAN TATLER [Diamond Head guitarist]: We saw Maiden with Paul Di'Anno supporting Judas Priest, probably 'British Steel,' probably 1980 or something like that. They were doing "Wrathchild" and "Sanctuary" and "Phantom of the Opera" and all that. So around that time. I saw them support Priest and I'm sure I saw them somewhere else at a smallish place, again with Paul Di'Anno, but I can't remember exactly where - it might have been Birmingham Bingley Hall. Yeah, I think it was Birmingham Bingley Hall, and there seemed to be a little "NWOBHM day," where they had I think it was Samson with Bruce Dickinson singing, and then it would be Maiden, and then it would possibly be Angel Witch, and somebody else - that kind of thing. So it was a package thing, and I think we had a look at that.

I do remember the crowd really liked Iron Maiden [opening for Priest]. Because I was not a big fan - I was just checking them out. I liked certain things about them. But I was quite surprised that the crowd really liked them. Because for me, this is a Birmingham band, playing Birmingham Odeon, and you expected a loyal Priest following, with their arms folded, waiting for the main event. But no, they went down really well. And you could tell, "Hmm, this is interesting. There's something happening here. They've got something. The crowd liked them." So there was that impression. So that was quite surprising. "Hold their own" is probably a good way of putting it - they did hold their own. They went down really well.

JOHN GALLAGHER [Raven singer/bassist]: I got to see them at Newcastle City Hall, opening for Judas Priest. Personally, I thought they came on, and it was like, "You've got to be kidding me, man. You're standing there with your leather jacket, your bullet belt, and your spandex pants, and then you've got the blonde guitar player with a black waistcoat and black spandex pants, and the white Strat…" - it just looked like "Judas Priest lite." And when Judas Priest came on, it was like, "Who was the opening band again?" Priest were just destroying.

GLENN TIPTON: Not really [any specific memories of the Maiden/Priest tour in '80], but there was one occasion where we did 'Top of the Pops' and we got held up by fog, and we couldn't get back. I think Maiden saved the day on that particular concert - which we've got a lot to thank them for.

DENNIS STRATTON: I don't think that's true regarding 'Top of the Pops.' It was because our album, 'Iron Maiden,' went in at #4, and "Running Free" was the single that went into I think the top-ten [not quite - it peaked at #34 on the UK Singles Chart]. And anyone in the top-ten got to play on 'Top of the Pops,' and we played live. The reason why we wanted to play live is because no other band had played live on 'Top of the Pops' [supposedly the last rock band before Maiden to perform live on the show was the Who in 1973, when they played the song "5:15"]. So I'm not sure whether Glenn is right or not regarding 'Top of the Pops' - we were asked to do it because the single was in the top-ten. And we played live and it was very good.

PAUL DI'ANNO: Oh, horrible - absolutely horrible, because we played live, but it wasn't very live at all. You feel a bit "fake." All these other guys have got these amazing sounds coming through, when they're obviously lip-synching. But ours didn't seem "all that."

DENNIS STRATTON: We had to put the amps on "number one," and the drums were taped down, so there was no noise. They still thought we were too loud. But if you've got special little amps that can go up on gain and less volume, you can make it sound loud, when it's really like a transistor radio. So it was quite an experience, but we all enjoyed it, and it was nice that they said we came from West Ham.

CHRIS TROY [Praying Mantis bassist]: That was a great night [when Praying Mantis opened for Maiden at the Rainbow Theatre, on April 1st]. Because obviously, it's nice to play to your hometown, and we had been around the country, so to play there, it was unique and there was a real magic atmosphere about it that night. It was really sad to see the Rainbow Theatre close down [in 1981]. It was a great venue.

ROBB WEIR [Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist]: We did two nights with Maiden at the old Marquee club [on April 2nd and 3rd], which was just absolutely tremendous. I've never seen a place with so many people in. The one thing that does stick out was in a song called "Slave to Freedom," in the guitar solo, I used to stand in the middle of the stage and bend over - like a crab. So my hair would touch the ground, and my head nearly touched the ground, because I was fit in those days. [Laughs] I must have been standing a little too near the edge of the stage, and I actually fell over backwards! Our truck driver actually caught me - I would have fallen five foot off and probably broken my neck. Good ol' Phil, he kind of saved my life. But to my credit, I never dropped a note! He caught me and our guitar tech - the pair of them - as I was still playing, gently pushed me upright. There was a bit of a cheer and we went into the next part of the song. I don't know whether it looked staged or if I meant to do that. But I didn't.

DENNIS STRATTON: I think all Maiden [record] covers were over the top - not just "Sanctuary" [which was issued as a single on May 16th, and featured a Derek Riggs drawing on the cover that depicted Eddie having stabbed the then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, with a knife]. But that's what if you're flicking through albums and singles in a record shop, it's what gets your attention. So you can't really knock it, mate. They did a good job.

JOHN GALLAGHER: It was 1980, we were just starting [when Raven opened for Maiden at the Marquee, on July 3rd]. We'd had our first single out ["Don't Need Your Money"], we were out playing around. We'd played with Whitesnake, we did a couple of dates. We played with Motörhead, and we got the offer to come down to London to play with Iron Maiden, at the Marquee. Which was cool, because the Marquee is legendary…until you got into it and saw it was about the size of your closet. We got down there and Steve and Paul were not there. So we met Dennis, Dave, and Clive.

Clive was a great guy - he was so friendly. What was really strange was he was there and he was rubbing liniment all over himself. And I was like, "Why are you doing that?" And he said, "Oh, I just ache all the time." It might have been a precursor to what eventually happened to him with MS [multiple sclerosis]. I don't know. That just stuck out as being really strange. The other thing that was really strange was they got up to soundcheck, and Dave Murray put the bass on, and they played - and I put my hand up and swear to God - "One of These Nights" by the Eagles! We stood their absolutely gobsmacked, with our jaws open, going, "Oh, here's the future of heavy metal, huh?" [Laughs] I mean, with the harmonies and everything! And they played the whole fucking song.

DENNIS STRATTON: We did play multiple nights at the Marquee [from July 3rd through 12th], and it was filmed for a BBC program. Again, I remember the shows very well, and you can see them on YouTube. The crowd, again, very fanatical, very mad. A wall of sound. Just sweaty - especially in a little club like the Marquee. So yeah, very, very good. Very manic.

JOHN GALLAGHER: I had the money for us to get back to Newcastle [after the Marquee show on July 3rd]. And my wife at the time and one of the other girlfriends of the band happened to see Paul Di'Anno walking out the dressing room, flashing a bunch of money to the tour manager, saying, "Look what I just found." Couldn't prove it, but I had to beg, borrow, and steal to get enough money to get back to Newcastle. I got paid in kind revenge - it takes a long time, but I did some bass playing for a project for him back in the '90s, when he was trying to do Killers [a band that Di'Anno had at the time, sometimes called "Paul Di'Anno & Killers"]. Trying to get some showcases. And I charged an awful lot of money to get the money back on that. [Laughs]
Yeah, we always got a reaction, and it's usually a good one [in response to being asked "What was Maiden's audience's reaction to Raven?"]. When it's a bad one, we'll push it to the extreme, and get people burning the place down. But we'd played for punks, and we'd played in the workingman clubs up in Newcastle, so it wasn't a big deal. We were thrown in front of an audience for Whitesnake - it was, "Gary Moore's G-Force have's Raven!" So there were boos for the first song and a half. These people were all pissed off - they wanted to see Gary Moore, their hero. But, we're energetic and we're persistent, and that's our job. We'll go out there and win people over. And we did.

DENNIS STRATTON: The key members of the Maiden road crew - Dave Lights, Loopy, and Pete Bryant. Just three of them. And they were brilliant. They were my best friends. I used to share a room with Dave Lights. I used to sometime travel with the crew, because they were much more fun and they used to enjoy life and have a laugh and things like that. And yeah, they were the most important people in the band, because without them, you can't do anything. Dave Lights was always messing about with Eddie - making Eddie heads with smoke coming out of his mouth and eyes. So yeah, they had a big lot of work playing into Maiden's early success.

PAUL DI'ANNO: Oh, that was really awesome [Maiden's appearance at the Reading Festival on August 23rd]. I really enjoyed that. It was a bit scary, as well. I think it was the biggest place we'd ever played. We played a couple of festivals in Belgium and that was our first trip abroad to Belgium. But the Reading Festival was amazing. I even hooked up with an old girlfriend that I used to go to school with when I was about fourteen of fifteen. I had her up there with us, and I said, "Hey, look at what I'm doing now! They always said I'm doing nothing in my life, and now, here I am." Whitesnake was on as well - it was good times.

DENNIS STRATTON: The memories of the Reading Festival, bloody hell, are brilliant. I remember a lot of bands there had Winnebagos and things like that backstage. But we had nothing, because Rod didn't want to spend any money, so we got changed and we went on, and I've still got great memories of that performance - especially with Dave Lights lighting up the crowd when I shouted over the mic, because we couldn't see the crowd. It was too dark. But when he lit them up, you could see all the way back. 100,000 people. It was just unbelievable.

PAUL DI'ANNO: Oh man, I'll tell you what, I was walking around in a bit of a daze for most of that time [when Maiden opened shows throughout Europe for Kiss, from August 29th through October 13th], because you hear about this band Kiss, and you see all this stuff, and you start believing the hype of it all. And I've always thought we were just five East London kids - where we come from, you're not impressed by all that stuff, to be quite honest with you! Because where we come from, it's sort of the ghetto end of East London. Things like that, you think, "Oh blimey. This is a bit of a joke, isn't it?" They were great people! That was the thing - they were absolutely fantastic people, for all this big, out-of-this-world sort of rock stars. Gene Simmons, absolutely amazing bloke. I really had a lot of time for him. And he used to look after us and steer us in the right way. Brilliant.

DENNIS STRATTON: Again, with Kiss, we were told by Rod not to talk to Kiss. Rod, as I said, had gotten very sort of paranoid about losing control of the band. I always got on with headlining bands. I got on very well with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They took me out on my birthday in Stockholm [on October 9th], and I used to hang around with them quite a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the crew. I find hanging around with the crew better than the band, because you have more of a laugh. It was a shame, because on the Kiss tour was when Rod started talking about the sort of music I listened to. We had constant arguments about what I listened to in my hotel room, and it was a shame, because it started to affect his thinking about me in the band.

The reason why we didn't support Kiss in the UK [from September 5th-9th] was that they were frightened that we had so much fanbase - so many fans. Even in Europe and Scandinavia, we had thousands of fans there, which I was very surprised at. You saw so many Maiden t-shirts on the Kiss tour. We stayed in Italy while they came to the UK, because I think basically they were a bit concerned, because our fanbase was so huge in England that we would end up being on level peggings rather than being the support band. So that's why we didn't open the shows in the UK.
The last show of Kiss in Norway [at the Drammenshallen on October 13th], I remember it very well, because we spent about 24 hours on a ferry, and that was when I knew Rod was fed up with me listening to other lighter sort of material, like the Eagles and easy-listening stuff - Steely Dan, Foreigner, and Journey. They were some of my favorite bands, and he didn't like the idea of me listening to it. So I think I knew then that it was coming to the end.

March 16, 2015
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