It was the Spring of 2003 when I was finally blown away by the music of Iron Maiden. It’s one thing to discover your favorite band when they’re brand new, and to anxiously await its new album every few years. But to discover it 23 years late, well, let’s just say I’ve never felt so treated in my life when it comes to music, not with one album, but more than two decades worth.
I had heard of Iron Maiden in the 80’s, when my friend, Dan, a jean-jacket wearing bully, told me that I couldn’t handle their music – I just wasn’t cool enough, apparently. My relationship with Dan was like Bart Simpson’s relationship with Nelson Muntz – we were friends by location, not because we had much in common. So, I never really heard an Iron Maiden song – well, maybe Number of the Beast once – until years later. Instead, I grew up listening to Bon Jovi, Genesis, Def Leppard, and Madonna, having no idea of what I was missing. I blame radio and MTV, which never plays Maiden’s music. But I could have heard their music, only if Dan had played it for me. This missed opportunity cost of more than 15 years.
It wasn’t until the invention of the MP3, and file sharing on college campuses around 1998, when I illegally obtained a copy of Run to the Hills.
I loved it, but I didn’t think to listen to other songs. I can’t count how many one-hit-wonders there are out there, and I’ve spent too much money on albums because of one good song. And if it was so good, why was it the only one available on that illegal file-sharing network at one of the University of Maryland dorms? It must be their only good song, I thought, and didn’t bother listening to any others.
Though I had never really listened to Iron Maiden’s music, I always enjoyed their artwork. Heavy medal albums with grotesque figures on them, like Metallica’s or Megadeth’s, have always appealed to me for some sick reason. One day in Vegas, I bought The Wicker Man T-shirt, and wore it though I had never even heard the song.
Now, keep in mind, even with MP3’s and illegal file sharing prevalent, I still didn’t bother checking out too many of Iron Maiden’s other songs. Somewhere along the line I got a copy of Aces High and 2 Minutes to Midnight, but I was still too busy listening to Run to the Hills and Number of the Beast to realize that I really liked those, too. I’ve noticed that sometimes I must listen to a song a few times before I know how much I like it. I had mixed feelings the first time I listened to Dance of Death, but now I listen to it regularly.
In 2003, I decided to buy the albums of my favorite artists, even if I already had copies of them. I suppose you could say I felt guilty about illegal downloading, especially with entire albums that I love. Before Korn’s Untouchables even hit stores, I was playing it repeatedly. So much, in fact, I went out and bought the real copy because I wanted the album art, too.
Because BMG Music Service gives you 12 CDs for the price of one, I started buying more albums that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if I already had copies. That included all three Eminem CDs. With four more albums to pick, and lousy options (those stamps BMG sends are sometimes horrible!), I decided to get Best of the Beast. After all, it had Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast, 2 Minutes to Midnight and Aces High, songs that were so good, I didn’t mind at all paying for them, and it clears my conscience.
When I listened to the album, I was nearly floored. Fear of the Dark. Virus. I listened to those two songs repeatedly. Each song outdid the previous. Incredible. I looked at Iron Maiden’s web site. What timing. They were coming to my town! I got a ticket, went to their concert, expecting only to hear the songs on Best of the Beast. Of course, they played others, like Iron Maiden and The Clansman. Again, blown away.
So I went back to BMG. I bought Rock in Rio and Brave New World. A couple months later, Dance of Death hit stores, and I bought it on the first day without even hearing it.
Then came Piece of Mind, The Number of the Beast, and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in the mail. It was like finding multiple buried treasures at once. I was overwhelmed. I listened exclusively to Maiden for months, trying to catch up on those Wasted Years (haha).
I heard that Iron Maiden and Killers had a different singer than Bruce Dickenson. I was skeptical that I would like them. But on Live After Death, which I also bought, I very much enjoyed some of the early songs, sung in concert by Dickenson. I bought them, happy to fork over my money.
BMG didn’t sell any other Maiden albums so I had to go out and pay full price for Powerslave and Somewhere in Time. In total, I bought 12 Iron Maiden albums in less than a year, including two live double-disk albums. I plan to buy more, perhaps even the rest of them.
Never have I discovered a band that I enjoyed so much, so many years after they came about. If I ever speak again to my childhood buddy, Dan, the first thing I will say to him is, why didn’t you let me listen to Iron Maiden?