Friday, December 22, 2006


2002 was a weird time for me as an Iron Maiden fan. I had followed the band and Bruce's solo career throughout the 90's and the news that he was returning to the band was somewhat dissapointing. I liked Blaze and I liked Bruce's solo stuff and him rejoining Maiden seemed rather pointless to me. What new ground could they cover? Hadn't it all been done before? The live records like Live at Donnington and A Real Live/Dead one weren't all that great to me. I wasn't all that excited about Bruce returning and it seemed like a way to please the nostalgia fans to me.

So in 2002 Iron Maiden released Eddie's Archive, which was a box set with three double CDs. The first two were live material from the early years with Di'Anno through about the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son era. At the I wasn't interested in another nostalgia themed release and I passed on it. I still kept collecting their singles and new studio recordings but I swore off live albums and compilations. After getting the Run to the Hills live CD released in conjunction with Eddie's Archive, I figured Eddie's Archive was just more of the same live stuff I had 10,000 times over. I felt that none of their live material could ever be as good as the Live After Death and Maiden England CDs were to me. All the subsequent live recordings I felt were a waste of time. I decided I didn't need a 10,000th version of the song Iron Maiden live. But last week I figured I'd give this box a try and I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it blew me away.

One of the double CD sets included in Eddie's Archive is Beast Over Hammersmith. I will wait for you to read about it at Wikipedia and then come back here for my thoughts on the awesomeness of this recording. What I intended to do here was a review of the whole box but what happened was I was so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of just the first disc of Beast Over Hammersmith that I decided to write about the tracks from that instead.

Beast Over Hammersmith was recorded live in March 1982 shortly after Bruce Dickinson joined the band but before Clive Burr left. So it's a snapshot of one of my favorite Maiden lineups at a time when the band had yet to make it huge and much of their now classic material was fresh and new. In other words, imagine if Jesus appeared tomorrow and told everybody he had a voice recording of the Gettysburg Address he wanted everyone to listen to. How incredible would that be? Well, listening to Beast Over Hammersmith is INCREDIBLER.

BOH is a great recording and because it's from the awkward period before most of the classic Bruce songs were written, the majority of the tracks are not usually associated with him. But this isn't just Bruce sings Di'Anno. Mixed in with material from the first two albums are songs from The Number of the Beast, which had yet to be released at the time. What a fantastic concert to have attended. What a great time in human history. Here's what I think about the tracks from disc one of Beast Over Hammersmith:

Murders in the Rue Morgue-What a treat to kick off with a live rendition of a song rarely ever on any official release. The only other Bruce version I remember of it live was as a B-side on 1985's Running Free Live single. I still remember the first time I heard that B-side. I was like, "Holy crap a live version of Murders in the Rue Morgue with Bruce!" Now I'm all, "Holy crap a live Clive Burr version of Murders in the Rue Mourge with Bruce!"

Wrathchild- In my heart this will always be a song best sung by Paul Di'Anno. Regardless, what I love about this version is that Bruce sings the lyrics so clearly. In fact for the last 20 years I had always thought the opening line was "Born unto a scene of avarice and greed...", but here Bruce clearly sings "Born unto a scene of angriness and greed..." So for the past twenty some odd years I have been singing it wrong!

Run to the Hills-Man Dickinson sings the chorus in a really odd way just about every time here but it's still awesome! To give you an idea of how magical a place in time this concert was, it takes place after Run to the Hills was released as a single but before The Number of the Beast came out. I love how they left in the monologues between the songs that Bruce delivers. What's ungodly cool is how at the end of this song he says "We've got a new album coming out on March the 22nd in a couple of days time." It's like if Jesus was lead singer in a band and at their first concert he grabs the mike and says, "From now on the world will be awesome," and then the world becomes awesome. Wow. It's crazy imagining a time in human history before Iron Maiden released Number of the Beast. What were we listening to back then? Did we just beat our ears with rocks? I don't remember.

Children of the Damned-At this point in the concert the audience is already familiar with most of the songs played with the exception of Children of the Damned, which is the first new unheard Maiden song whipped out live in this set so far. If I was in the audience I'd think, "Hold on-did he just say 'Peeling the skin from his eyes?'" Thematically, CotD still fit the Maiden mold of the time, being a song based on a story from movies, history or literature. Between Run to the Hills and this song, if I was a member of the audience I'd say the new album looked promising. So the audience is all like, "Okay, cool, we're getting pretty decent new Maiden songs with this new singer guy". But they hadn't heard anything yet.

The Number of the Beast-Then NotB is played and the world is changed forever. How friggin awesome and yet odd it must have been to be there when the Revelations 13:18 intro to NotB is read and not have anyone in the audience screaming along with it (as they do in every subsequent live recording). This would qualify as the earliest live recording of this song I have ever heard. This is truly history in the making. If I was in the audience after they played this song I would have passed out from the blood rushing to my weiner and my brain exploding at the awesomeness. Truly a key moment in the human experience.

Another Life-Has this song has ever appeared live on any official release, sung by either Di'Anno or Dickinson? Whoa! Another rare treat for me to enjoy, although I think it's one of those that sounds best when Paul sings it. I guess that's part of the fun of hearing live recordings from this era-in retrospect I wonder why Dickinson was singing these songs but I understand that from the perspective of a fan at the time there were certain expectations of the setlist.

Killers-The throat ripping way Bruce screams "Scream for mercy" has got to be heard to be believed. This is one of the rare occasions where I think he does a better job on a song originally sung by Di'Anno. Speaking of Killers, if you got "The Early Years" DVD and you saw that crazy awesome alternative lyrics version of Killers sung by Paul, the "BBC Archives" 2 CD set that's also included in Eddie's Archive has it!

22 Acacia Avenue-Fantastic version of this song where Bruce actually sings instead of screaming it as he does often on other versions.

Total Eclipse-Holy crap has there ever been a version of this song live released anywhere else officially? I know this same track also appeared on the Run to the Hills Live single in conjunction with Eddie's Archive, but that's it. I think since '98 Total Eclipse has appeared as part of every subsequent pressing of the NotB CD, but when I was a kid it was only available as a b-side on the NotB single. Disc one of Beast Over Hammersmith ends strong with this track, which is one of my favorites. Thank you Iron Maiden, thank you Eddie, and thank you, the boys.

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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.