The List of the Beast!

What’s that, I hear you say, The Guardian published an ‘Iron Maiden’s 30 Greatest Songs‘ list, I wonder if Gav will have an opinion on that? BY CROM I DO!

If there’s one thing Iron Maiden fans love as much as Iron Maiden, it’s making lists about Iron Maiden. We’re like Doctor Who fans in that respect, though seemingly unlike a lot of so-called Who fans, we actually like Iron Maiden. (Never let it be said I don’t have some spicy opinions.) On first impression it’s a good solid list, with a nice mix of eras and styles. The author clearly knows and loves Maiden and hasn’t just gone for the hits, which add further marks in their favour. I do have some quibbles though, which I’ll address as we go down the list.

30. Burning Ambition. (1980) A nice an obscure B-side straight out of the gate. I’d probably swap it for Prowler or The Ides of March myself. If we need an obscure B-side, why not Sheriff of Huddersfield, or Mission from ‘Arry?

28. Empire of the Clouds. You might think a 18 minute long piano led song about an airship disaster would be the most over the top thing Maiden have done. Oh my sweet summer child, we’re just getting started. And as much as I love the song, I really hope they never try it live.

Fun Fact: The 8th Doctor rescued one of his companions from the R101.

26. Dance of Death. Stuffed with more ham than a BRIAN BLESSED performance, and all the finer for it. Now if only the album cover art wasn’t quite so fucking awful…

25. Sea of Madness. Look, it’s not bad, but I’d swap it for Stranger in a Strange Land in a heartbeat and I stand by that.

23. 22 Acacia Avenue. The lyrics haven’t aged at all well, but the chorus almost saves it. I’d chop it for something from the Blaze Bayley Years, Futureal or Sign of the Cross most likely.

19. Alexander The Great. Really? It’s not the worst of Maiden’s historical epics (Mother Russia, I’m looking in your direction), but rhyming ‘Aegean Sea’ and ‘334 BC’ is both incredibly smart and completely stupid. I’d swap it for Moonchild, which has to rank among Maiden’s finest album openers and if you don’t agree with me on that you’re wrong.

Fun Fact: While Maiden themselves haven’t played the song live, allegedly owing to Adrian Smith not being able to nail the solo again, I have seen the Iron Maiden’s (The worlds only all female Maiden tribute act) play it, and it was glorious. Someday, Covid permitting, I hope to see them again.

18. The Clansman. *deep breath* FRREEEEEEEEEDDDDOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! Possibly the best thing to be inspired by Braveheart (Yes, it’s a short list I know), it’s generally considered the high point of Blaze Bayley’s tenure with the band.

17. Wrathchild. That this song isn’t top 10 is just flat out wrong, like a Clash best of that doesn’t include English Civil War.

16. Flight of Icarus. On their recent tour singer Bruce Dickinson performed this song with two flamethrowers strapped to him. I cannot help but be reminded of WASP’s Blackie Lawless and the incident with the firework codpiece.

15. Wasted Years. The Somewhere in Time album is controversial to say the least, what with the use of synthesisers and the band’s fashion sense, thanks to a load of free football kit, veering away from the traditional leather and spandex. The song is inextricably linked to memories of an unhealthy crush I had as a lad, so while it’s a cracking tune, the air of melancholy in the song is sometimes more than I can bear. I will, however, defend Dickinson’s stage outfit on that tour till my dying day.

Look, it was 1986 OK?

12. Run to the Hills. That opening drum beat and guitar riff is like a massive shot of adrenaline to me, I hear that and I immediately start air-guitaring. Every so often I wonder what my brain activity is like hearing the song.

11. The Wicker Man. Putting this one in-front of Run to the Hills takes balls of, well, iron, but hear me out on this. The 90’s were, to quote comic and die-hard metal fan Andrew O’Neill, ‘when all your favourite bands went shit’ and it’s fair that outside of a few high points Maiden’s output in that decade didn’t stack up to the glory days. I have an immense amount of sympathy for Blaze Bayley (who sang for them between 94 and 99) and consider Futureal more than worthy of inclusion on this list. But when it was announced that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were returning to the fold, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic, But they still needed a statement, something to show the world that Maiden weren’t dead and buried, that the glory days weren’t over. And then we heard this. Hearing this song for me is like first seeing Christopher Eccelston saying “Run” in Rose, this feeling that the thing I love is back, and everything’s going to be be OK.

10. Fear of the Dark. Find me a live version of this where the crowd aren’t singing along at the top of their lungs and I’ll say something nice about Scott Morrison.

8. The Number of the Beast. The song that sparked a thousand moral panics and album burnings, that Big Scream of Dickinson’s (A result of having to sing the opening lines over and over again) was the moment I knew I’d be into this band till my dying day. Hammer horror set to music, from the Vincent Prince sound-alike to the roar of 6-6-6!, this was the song that put them over the top.

7. 2 Minutes to Midnight. Still grimly relevant, it’s a prime burst of blood and thunder, with a chorus that can demolish buildings when deployed properly.

6. Phantom of the Opera. The majority of Maiden’s first two albums (AKA the Di’Anno Years) are shorter, spikier and *whispers* slightly punk influenced. And then there’s Phantom. Epic, grandiose and suitably over the top, it’s almost a prototype for Maiden Phase 2, the Dickinson Years, Part 1. For my money the version on Live After Death is the one to beat, the way Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s guitars intertwine is just perfect.

5. Powerslave. SLAVE TO THE POWER OF DEATH!!! The highlight of the album of the same name, it’s a masterpiece from start to finish. Books could be written about it, from the way it builds from 2:55, the guitar swirling around and the atmosphere building till finally all hell breaks loose. Genius stuff.

4. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. A bold move placing this so high. It’s not undeserving of it’s rank, but maybe if the chorus wasn’t just the song’s title repeated 8 times I might feel more positively inclined towards it.

3. Aces High. I have seen grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song. I have been one of those grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song.

3. The Trooper. Maiden’s music has oft been described as galloping, and there’s no more fitting use of it than on this song, the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

1. Hallowed be thy Name. The story of a condemned man on his way to the gallows has been the soundtrack to every performance review I’ve ever had. The way it builds, from the doom laden intro, to the point at 4:30 when it goes full throttle, to that ending scream of “naaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmeeeee!’ Perfection.

There is plenty more I could add to this, and if you need to kill a couple of hours, ask me in person about it. Alas, it’s time to end the set and get to bed. Be seeing you…


How am I?

I’m cranky, furious at the number of unmasked people on my trains and constantly exhausted. My heart goes out to those affected by the recent floods, and to frontline City Rail staff who’ve had to deal with the constant stream of bullshit and stupidity that is Sydney commuters. Therefore, I’m going to write about rock and roll, Australian that is. It occasionally plagues me that I lack technical knowledge of music, that I can’t talk about what effects pedal made that sound, or how that drum kit was miked up. But what I can talk about is how it made me feel. Does that solo spark the need to air guitar? Do I remember the disastrous crush that song is linked to? Do I remember how much of an idiot I must have looked playing air guitar at that show? FUCK YES I DO.

Look, it all starts, like so many things do, with AC/DC. There’s something, primal, elemental, about them, something that almost defies description. There’s a an old joke about how they’ve been making the same album for more than 40 years with a few slight variations, and they aren’t wrong. That sort of bone headed stupidity, a commitment to the single entendre that’s almost endearing, even if parts of it are deeply questionable. They also inspired the greatest one sentence album review I think I’ll ever read, that being MORE SONGS ABOUT HUMPING AND BOOZE. I believe that Phil Mitchell, in Sounds Magazine’s 28 July 1979 issue,* wrote a full review of the album Highway to Hell, but with an opening like that, who needs more? The track Who Made Who (From the album of the same name)  was my introduction, swiftly followed by Live and by then I was hooked. I have fond memories of seeing them on the Stiff Upper Lip tour, and of the crowd largely consisting of middle aged mullet wearing men, and their young mullet wearing sons. Incidentally, that haircut seemed to be coming back these days, which has me wondering if it’s 1988 every time I see one in the wild. 

Radio Birdman’s Aloha Steve and Danno changed my life. I’m not kidding. When I got a copy of their first album, the mighty Radios Appear, I listened to nothing but that cassette for a solid month and probably longer. Truth be told, the tape also had Birdman’s Burn My Eye EP (Which had a radio ad for a show at the end of it I’ve not been able to find since) and a chunk of Grunt! by Newcastle ska band The Porkers, who also covered Steve and Danno with Birdman guitarist Christ Masuak assisting. I can’t explain just how much that song hit me – from the anticipation of the crashing waves, the surf drums and Tek’s command to “Hit it Steve.” And the solo, oh gods that solo. I am a man who needs no inducement to rock out on the air guitar, and I have no shame in admitting that. But the way I air guitar to that solo, it feels less adolescent stupidity and more a life or death.

Initially active from 1974 to 78, they only released two albums (The second,1978’s Living Eyes was released posthumously and is an acquired taste, shall we say) but following a reunion on the mid 90’s for the Big Day Out have continued to play sporadically, releasing a new album, Zeno Beach, in 2006. I will forever remember seeing them at the Gaelic Club in Sydney around that time where they opened with Do The Pop, and blew the roof off the place. They may as well have chucked a grenade in the place for what it did to the crowd. Speaking of live stuff, the Live at Paddington Town Hall album is essential listening. Their influence goes on to this day, with members being involved in the likes of The New Christs, the Visitors, The Hitmen and a myriad of other projects.  

Outine’s The Cicada That Ate Five Dock is either a catchy novelty song or an unmade episode of Torchwood. It reminds me a lot of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, but we’re keeping things Australian. Painters and Dockers formed to help pay off a mate’s parking fines, which is something wonderfully endearing. They also covered Kill, Kill, Kill, from an episode of Get Smart, and those two facts alone are enough to endear them to me. That their first show involved a local arriving at the venue with a machete to complain about the noise followed by 6 police vans showing up just makes it all the funnier to me. That may have helped explain the song You’re Going Home (In The Back Of A Divvy Van), which for me is inextricably linked to the time ABC’s The Late Show staged a protest about a Sale of the Century hostess being sacked and wound up burning the host in effigy outside Channel 9 Melbourne, at which point they were arrested. I can’t find it online, but it’s on the Best Bits Of DVD set.

Moving to bands that have made me cry, we go to The Sunnyboys. The song Alone With You is in my Top 5 pieces of teen angst, along with I’m 18 and My Pal, about which we’ll talk more later. The longing, sadness and hope in that song hits me pretty damn hard. Their heyday was cut short by overwork and singer Jeremy Oxley’s then undiagnosed schizophrenia, but they happily reunited a few years ago. I got to see them a few years back, with the mighty Celibate Rifles supporting, and I openly wept during this song. i believe my wife has a photo of me doing so.

Speaking of the Rifles, they played Ocean Shore at that show, which fulfilled another dream for me. I hopefully still have somewhere a CD of their Roman Beach Party album recorded off a co-workers vintage LP and hearing the pops and crackles as the song begins makes me so happy I can’t put it into words.

My Pal by God, what can I say? “To be a party head, is something I could never do” is one of the great opening lyrics to anything, to say nothing of the fact that the band were too young to step inside the pubs they were playing in at the time. It’s a perfect song and that’s not a tag I hand out lightly. Though I may as well go ahead and do so again, as God bassist Tim Hemensley’s later band the Powder Monkey’s song The Supernova That Never Quits more then deserves the tag. A sober minded and serious analysis of the track by this humble scribe describes it as a nitrous fuelled full throttle rock and roll assault on the senses and that’s putting it fucking mildly. It’s so good a song it almost put me off seeking out more of their stuff, as could anything possibly hope to match up to it?**

It’s late, and I really should take my brain pills and sleep, so I’ll cut things there. I had planned to talk about the Saints and how Nights in Venice sounds like the band are about to melt, You Am I’s cover of the Victims Television Addict and Tim Roger’s frantic cry of “Just because I watch Prisoner, Cop Shop, Fat Cat, Humphrey fucken B!” or that time the Datsuns turned the normally 6 minute long Freeze Sucker into a 15 minute epic and left me feeling about to collapse, but time is against me.

For those wanting to investigate further, the compilations Do The Pop and Tales from the Australian Underground were an incredible help to young me and well worth your time. Radio Birdman’s Radios Appear is perfect and I will fight any who say otherwise. The Lime Spiders Nine Miles High compilation and Live at the Esplanade are more than worthy, as is The First and the Last from the short lived ‘supergroup’ New Race, comprised of members of Radio Birdman, the Stooges and the MC5. it still amuses me that Spotify has two quasi bootleg albums from the tour, but not the official album. When I think of how easy this stuff is to find these days, it makes me happy. Part of me loves the obscure stuff, that feeling of loving a band that only 5 people and a dog have heard of. But I love getting to share that with, or more accurately, at people these days.

Support your local music scene. After all, the government won’t. May you all have something in your lives that brings you as much joy as music does me.

Be seeing you.

*Isn’t the internet fun?
** A problem I also have with The Jam and their song In the City.