Maiden story in The Courier-Mail


I have the power
Apr 14, 2001
Brisbane, Australia

In today's colour magazine Q Weekender (or whatever it's called) with the Courier-Mail - that's Brisbane's newspaper, like - there's a four page article about Maiden. The paper's resident metalhead saw them in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - quite an interesting read, and a real treat to see it in the mainstream press.

Might type it out if it's not available online anywhere.
Well, half the pages are taken up with ads so it's not that much, and I type for a living so it won't take long.

My scanner ain't all that flash to be honest. I'd be a bit embarrassed to upload anything with it.
OK, here's the article.

Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast / For it is a human number / Its number is six hundred and sixty six...

As the train draws to a halt at Sydney's Redfern Station late on a blustery Saturday afternoon, you can hear the primal chant even before the doors hiss open. "Maaaaii-den... Maaaaii-den... Maaaaii-den..." The carriages are a boisterous sea of black T-shirts adorned with skeletal figures, nightmarish flames, fantastical album cover artwork and the names of dates of concert tours long past. Homemade flags are draped around shoulders, fathers hold the hands of the next generation of children to be inducted into the clan and the chant goes up again as the train lumbers off, bound for Homebush Stadium and the first Iron Maiden concert in Sydney in 16 years.

Total strangers - many of them middle-aged men like myself - greet each other with the heavy-metal salute of closed fist and extended index and little fingers, all the while grinning like excitable kids.

Not long to wait now until the gods of heavy metal take the stage...

Torches blazed and sacred chants were praised / As they start to cry hands held to the sky.
The Number of the Beast, 1982

Iron Maiden is a tribal thing. Sport the Maiden colours - a jagged band logo and an image of the band's demonic-looking mascot, "Eddie" - on the obligatory black T-shirt and you're part of the Maiden family. You know the bloke over there in the Powerslave shirt would rather endure root canal surgery than listen to Kylie Minogue, and probably considers rap music a bigger threat to Australian society than terrorism.

On the train, friends are made, experiences shared. But what the rest of our carriage doesn't know is that we're still on an incredible high because - forget the Pope, the US president or Nelson Mandela - we've already met the band. I'll be boring the grandkids with that one for years.

The hole-in-the-wall Irish bar in the back lanes of downtown Melbourne is quiet this February afternoon. A couple in their early thirties with strong Kiwi accents sit in one corner; the barman looks bored as he pours us pints. My long-suffering bride and I are trying to avoid a near-domestic over her inability to understand why I need a 60cm-tall robotic Eddie doll I've discovered in a cult comic shop. Not that Anne doesn't love Iron Maiden - she booked the tickets for this three-state odyssey (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane) and was prepared to fly to Japan to see the band if Australia wasn't included in the tour. She just has this irrational thing about "clutter".

But before we can debate, in an adult fashion, the merits of must-have collectables and storage of my substantial film and music collection, the Kiwi, eyeing my T-shirt of The Trooper, pipes up: "You going tonight, mate?"

"Hell yeah," I reply. "You?"

"You bet. We've flown over from Auckland to see every concert on the east coast."

Three pints later and we're all new second-best friends, exchanging phone numbers and arranging to meet up in Brisbane for the final gig of the tour. Jarrod's a leasing executive for a major finance firm and his partner Steff is PA to the chief financial officer of a NZ power company. And they love their Maiden: the spare bedroom in their house is a shrine filled with spare albums, collectables and every possible piece of Maiden paraphernalia you can imagine.

For all of us, fans for countless years, tonight is the first time we'll see Maiden play live. And it's only a matter of hours until Anne and I will be ushered backstage at Rod Laver Arena, to the inner sanctum of the greatest musicians on the planet.

Over the years I've met and/or interviewed everyone from the Queen to prime ministers, business tycoons and sports stars. But now my nerves are frayed. God, I hope I get a photo with Adrian Smith (the lead guitarist who penned the haunting World War I tribute Paschendale) and Bruce Dickinson (the greatest heavy metal vocalist in history) and Steve Harris (band founder and bassist) and that made bastard of a drummer, Nicko McBrain... damn it, I want a photo of me with all six of the current line-up. Hope I don't make an arse of myself. And how do I dress tonight? Am I fan or a journalist? Stuff it, I'm both. Number of the Beast T-shirts should do us nicely.

Won't you come into my room, I wanna show you all my wares / I just want to see your blood, I just want to stand and stare / See the blood begin to flow as it falls upon the floor / Iron Maiden can't be fought, Iron Maiden can't be sought.
(Iron Maiden, 1982)

Formed by Harris in the rough-and-tumble of working-class London in 1975, Iron Maiden first began to make waves with the release in 1982 of their third album, The Number of the Beast. On a subsequent tour of the US they were branded devil-worshippers by some sections of the religious Right who claimed satanic messages could be heard when sections of certain songs were played backward. (The band hit back by including a "secret message" on their next album, Piece of Mind, which was a back-masked recording of a very drunk Nicko McBrain doing an Idi Amin impersonation and belching.)

Maiden, you see, are not like U2, AC/DC or other supergroups. On this leg of their world tour (and Australia is only part of their first leg) they're playing to some 1.5 million fans and flying 150,000km in their own Boeing 757, piloted by lead singer, historian, competitive fencer and qualified commercial jet pilot Dickinson, whose nickname for much of the '80s was "Air Raid Siren". Unlike their more mainstream counterparts they receive almost no commercial radio airplay, but have sold about 100 million albums over the past 30 years. Their just-released Live After Death concert DVD (a digitally remastered version of a series of gigs in Long Beach, California, more than two decades ago) debuted at No 1 in the Australian charts last month and is still selling well. And even before they take to the stage for tonight's sold-out Melbourne concert, they'll break the arena's merchandising sales record set in 2006 by the Rolling Stones. But Australia is a Maiden backwater compared with, say, Europe or South America - in Brazil in 2001, the band headlined the Rock in Rio festival and played to 250,000 fans.

Maiden is something you grow up on. It is something you share: in my youth by borrowing mates' big brothers' scratchy vinyl records and battered cassette tapes; today there's YouTube and online fan clubs, for starters.

Rod Laver Arena is only a walk away from our hotel. As we make our way along the banks of the Yarra, the tide of black shirts - some decidedly timeworn - bearing the artwork for Maiden anthems such as Fear of the Dark, Can I Play With Madness and The Number of the Beast - begins to thicken into an ebullient throng. With 12,000-odd people streaming towards the arena, there's electricity on the air. We've all waited years - decades - for this.

I enter through the stage door (an anonymous-looking truck access point) with Anne, our backstage passes hanging like lumps of pure gold from neck lanyards, and we're ushered into one of the "green" rooms in the bowels of the stadium. Okay, now I'm nervous, and really worried about first impressions as we sit sipping mineral water. The drink has no calming properties whatsoever and my tension levels are only heightened by nicotine deprivation. Then, finally, Iron Maiden's longstanding manager Rod Smallwood enters the room.

Smallwood's a slightly ruddy-faced Yorkshireman, as down to earth and chatty as they come. He quickly senses my plight and replaces the water with an icy cold beer. Music industry people and other assorted freeloaders begin to fill the room as the usual banal pleasantries are exchanged. Then guitarist Dave Murray comes in to introduce himself and pauses to be photographed with us. Next is McBrain the drummer (his face looking very lived-in at close quarters despite the twinkle in the eyes) and Smith. Here I sink to new lows of fandom, presenting Smith with a signed (by us) copy of Les Carlyon's WWI masterpiece The Great War, and gush about how anyone who could pen a song like Paschendale should love this book. Have I no shame? But he seems chuffed.

Then Smallwood (my latest new second-best friend) claps me on the back and says we'll be watching the concert with him from the sound desk, where he also happens to keep an Esky full of beer. There is a God.

Is it now could it be the Angel of Death has come for me? / I can't believe that really my time has come / I don't feel ready, there's so much left undone / And it's my soul and I'm not gonna let it get away / Heaven can wait...
Heaven Can Wait, 1986

The roar of aeroplane propellers fills the stadium, and grainy black-and-white images of pilots racing toward their Spitfires fill the two giant screens in the arena as the lights dim. All interest in the workings of the sound desk - which make about as much sense to me as the bridge of the Battlestar Galactica - is immediately forgotten. The Winston Churchill's voice booms out: "We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them on the landing grounds... and in the air..." And the crowd goes ballistic.

With a blaze of pyrotechnics and four screaming guitars, Maiden take the stage to open with Aces High, their adrenalin-fuelled anthem about the Battle of Britain. I look around to see what the other VIPs in the nerve centre of this concert are doing, wondering if I can get away with jumping about and yelling like a lunatic. By the second number, Two Minutes to Midnight, the bride throws decorum to the wind and is waving her fists in the air and screaming like a woman possessed, and the mass of black-shirted humanity around us is in the same euphoric zone.

It would be churlish not to join in. Up goes the first with index and little finger extended. Smallwood hands me another beer and grins approvingly. It's cool.

Dickinson, belying his 49 years on the planet, struts and jumps about the stage, a tattered Union Jack flapping from his arms as the band belts out The Trooper, and hiding behind an Egyptian death mask as he brings the hosue down with Powerslave.

The Number of the Beast
arrives with jets of flame from the stage, and after nearly two hours of powering vocals and shattering guitar solos, the now totally hoarse and sweat-soaked audience is treated to Hallowed Be Thy Name, the closing number.

The lights go up and 12,000 smiling people, many arm in arm, file out of the arena. Smallwood turns to me and says, "Now, you are coming to the pub afterwards, aren't you?"

Bridie O'Reilly's in inner-Melbourne doesn't know what's hit it. The two poor bastards behind the bar are trying to contend with a crush of patrons that you couldn't cut your way through with a chainsaw. The word, judging by the Maiden fashion statements on display, is obviously out: this is where the band is coming for drinks.

We eventually find Smallwoodand his business partner Andy Taylor at the back of the throng, and Smallwood and I repair with pints to the drizzle out front to share cigarettes and a yarn. Dickinson arrives, stepping out of an anonymous Toyota looking more like an errant husband being dropped off for a couple of late-night cleansers than an international rock star. No entourage, no security guards, no paparazzi - and he's shorter than he looks onstage.

A small cheer goes up from the smokers on the footpath. Poor bugger, Smallwood explains, Dickinson's absolutely shagged after having to fly the plane for extra legs of the tour after his co-pilot contracted Mumbai belly at their first show in India on February 1. Still he poses for photos, signs autographs and we are introduced briefly, though the noise and the crush around us make anything approaching conversation impossible.

After a photo inside with Smith, who thanks us for the book, we decide enough is enough of the groupie thing and bend our heads into the weather to brave the few blocks back to bed. Sober yet high as kites, we check and recheck the digital camera all the way back to the hotel to make sure those precious photos are safe.

Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes / Galloping hard on the plains / Chasing the Redskins back to their holes / Fighting them at their own game / Murder for freedom, the stab in the back / Women and children and cowards attack / Run to the hills... run for your lives
Run to the Hills, 1982

Another day, another concert - and the adrenalin's still there. We're in Brisbane for the final show of the Australian tour, and we've managed to scoop up our new Kiwi friends in Fortitude Valley and jump on the train bound for the Entertainment Centre.

The chant goes up again, and the entire carriage is punching its collective fist in the air. These people are pumped... but not as pumped as they are a few hours later when, halfway through the now familiar set, Dickinson informs us how much he loves Brisbane, that it has been far too long between visits and that Maiden will definitely be returning soon (next year, is the buzz). I'd be surprised if you couldn't hear the screams from the Gold Coast.

As the lights go up and the sweaty crowd shambles out of the stadium, reality starts to kikc in. That's it. No more shows - Maiden are off to Japan tomorrow. Months of build-up, a few days of rapture, and now it's all over.

The next morning we're on the Maiden website to check how far ahead their world itinerary extends. A big festival gig somewhere like Castle Donington in England later in the year would be something else, for after all...

Iron Maiden's gonna get you... / Iron Maiden's gonna get aaaaaallll of you...
Thanks for typing that out, Spiffo. I really enjoyed that. It's good to see a journo so enthusiastic about it. Sounds like he had an excellent time. I think I'll have to head down to Bridie's if Maiden come here again.
No probs, Bev! I don't mind going out of my way for you guys on occasion. Best not to make a habit of it, though, lest I be taken for granted.
Well done Spiff, thats a hell of a lot of typing. :loco:

As I was reading I felt like I was on the same train heading for Sydney, then I was at the same bar in down-town Melbourne even tho I hadden't left Brisbane, great story...:headbang: