Rock Influences: Aaron Phillips on Iron Maiden – The Band that has Influenced a Generation

(Ed note) Welcome to the first installment of Rock Influences, an occasional feature by musicians and writers to the site which describes a band or album which has had a major influence on their outlook and career.

Today Rock and Roll Report contributor and Blue Bullet drummer Aaron Phillips talks about one of his major influences: Iron Maiden.

The history of heavy metal can be traced back to the early 1970″s with the likes of Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash and Deep Purple, who were breaking away from traditional rock sound and experimenting with darker sounds.

A young teenager from east London by the name of Steve Harris was hugely influenced by these bands, and it was their influence that convinced him to start his own band, which was to become Iron Maiden.

The start of the Maiden story starts in Christmas day 1975 when Steve Harris first set up what is now known as Iron Maiden, named after a medieval torture device which was a coffin shaped box with sharp nails protruding from either side, very apt.

After going through various line up changes, Maiden went into Spaceward Studios in Cambridge on new years eve 1978 to record “The Soundhouse Tapes”, which were paramount In getting the break they needed after DJ Neal Kay played the four tracks Prowler, Invasion, Strange World and Invaders at his DJ nights at the Soundhouse nightclub in Kingsbury.

The exposure Neal Kay gave Maiden helped them increase their fan base, and all five thousand copies of the demo sold out within a week.

Soon after this Maiden gained a residency slot at the Ruskin Arms in Manor Park London, and through a friend of Steve Harris their demo was passed on to ex Steve Harley manager Ron Smallwood.

With Ron on board, Maiden quickly had national gig’s booked, and gained the attention of EMI Records, who subsequently signed them in December 1979.

Maiden released their debut album the self titled Iron Maiden in 1980 to good press, and it featured the classic tracks Prowler and Iron Maiden which are all out rockers with big sing-along choruses and the now instantly recognizable twin guitar riffs.

This album featured Paul Di’annio on vocals, whose gritty punk-esque voice gave the album a more punk edge.

1981’s follow up Killers was the album that people really stood up and started to take notice of Maiden. With Adrian smith joining the band as a second guitarist, replacing Dennis Stratton, Maiden really had found their sound with the simply awesome Wrath Child, which is a firm favourite of mine.

Number of the Beast followed in 1982, and featured ex Samson lead singer Bruce Dickinson after Paul Di’annio left due to alcohol and drug issues.

This created the line up of Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Clive Burr, which with the exception of Clive Burr, who was replaced on 1983’s Piece of Mind album by Nicko Mcbrain, is thought to be the classic Maiden line up.

From then, through to the present day Maiden have recorded a further eleven studio albums, nine live albums, and countless compilation albums.

My recommendation for you to experience the overall Iron Maiden experience without listening to fourteen albums, would be to check out these tracks, Prowler, Wrath Child, Run to the Hills, The Trooper, Powerslave, The Evil That Men Do, Fear of the Dark, The Wicker Man and Dance of Death.

This will give you an insight into one of the true great metal bands who have influenced countless bands after them, and will continue to in the future.

They have a style which is unique to them, and no matter how many bands try and copy it, it will never be done with as much panache, quality, and pure song writing brilliance as Steve Harris and Iron Maiden do.

If you ever get the chance to see Maiden live I truly recommend it, as they are one of the most breathtaking live band’s I have ever had the pleasure of watching, with Bruce Dickinson’s boundless energy, the triple guitar attack of Murray, Smith and Gers, Steve Harris’ foot on the monitor presence, and the ever mad Nicko Mcbrain on drums you will not leave disappointed.

With fresh material hoping to be released this year is does not seem that Maiden are showing any signs of slowing down, and believe me that is a very good thing.

Aaron Phillips