May 7

When I was a kid I loved Iron Maiden. I first heard them when I was twelve, during Christmas holidays at Forster in 1982. I was hanging out at a friend’s caravan, and he put on a cassette of The Number of the Beast album. When I heard “Run To The Hills” I felt something move deep inside of me.

I hadn’t started buying my own records at that time. For starters I had no money, and my musical tastes hadn’t really formed. My older brother, Russell, had a lot of records from the ’70s, like Alice Cooper, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Elton John etc. I liked alot of what I heard coming from his room, and I especially liked the records themselves, the artwork, the feel of the record covers.

During 1983 I began to listen to the radio more and more – I had won a transistor radio in a school competition – and occasionally I would record songs from the radio onto cassette. Two songs that I remember liking are “Africa” by Toto, and “Twisting by the Pool” by Dire Straits.

Around the middle of 1983 I saved up some pocket money and bought the cassette Breakers ’83. This was a compilation album with songs like “Beat It” by Michael Jackson and “Little Red Corvette” by Prince. I listened to it about half a billion times. Then one day on TV I saw an ad for another cassette that I could not possibly live without for another day. It was a compilation album called Heavy.

I soon got a copy of Heavy and loved it. It had “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, as well as songs by Deep Purple, AC/DC, Van Halen, The Scorpions, and so on. It also had a few odd choices such as “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, which even then I realised wasn’t really that “heavy”.

I liked a lot of the bands on Heavy, but Iron Maiden was my favourite. I soon scraped together money to buy The Number of the Beast album on cassette. I began to look into what other albums they had released, and figured out that TNOTB was actually their third record. I soon had their second album Killers, which I also loved.

I loved not only the music but also learning about the history of the bands. For instance, Iron Maiden had changed singers following the release of Killers, which would explain the differences in style that I detected from one album to the next. There was no internet then of course, so research was done mainly through music magazines, as well as talking to other fans.

Over the next couple of years I got more and more into buying music. At the end of 1983 I bought my first vinyl album, Pyromania by Def Leppard. I began to expand my collection as Christmas and birthdays rolled around. I soon had the first, self-titled Iron Maiden album on vinyl, as well as their follow-up to TNOTB, called Piece of Mind. I also got a slightly more obscure live EP called Maiden Japan.

Iron Maiden records had spectacular artwork, drawn by a young artist named Derek Riggs, who created the character Eddie seen on all their covers. I loved the instantly recognisable Iron Maiden font too. I used to sit for hours listening to music, poring over the covers, and reading the liner notes on the album sleeves and inserts.

I began to understand how a band’s style can change over time, that the songwriting evolves as the band gains experience and musical knowledge. It was obvious that the first Iron Maiden record was very raw in comparison to, say, Piece of Mind, which contains numerous literary and cinematic references. I was desperate to see what Iron Maiden’s next great leap would be.

In late 1984 I heard that a new Iron Maiden album was imminent. On the day of its release I got my pocket money together and headed to Sound World, a record store ten minutes bike ride from my house. I left the store clutching my purchase in trembling hands. I raced home and shut my bedroom door – such a profound moment in my life required absolute privacy. I pulled my new record from the Sound World bag, and carefully removed its clear protective sleeve. I held it before me, instantly transfixed by the cover art. My eyes went to the upper right of the front cover, where the title was printed in gold lettering: Powerslave.

I listened to the new album repeatedly in the coming weeks, carefully considering it in the context of their earlier records. Several of the songs represented large leaps in style and song structure, such as Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was an epic re-telling of Coleridge’s classic poem.

In early 1985 I began to hear rumours of an Australian Iron Maiden concert tour. I had read with great interest magazine articles about their current World Slavery Tour, which by all accounts was mind-shatteringly awesome. Then, in late April, I learned that not only were they coming to Australia, but that they would actually be playing a concert in my home town of Newcastle.

The prospect of seeing Iron Maiden live was something I had never even considered. That these demi-gods would actually be descending on a shit-hole like Newcastle seemed ludicrous. But it was happening. My buddy Dave Parker (a fellow metal fan) and I decided that missing this concert was simply not an option.

Our joy quickly turned to disappointment. We learned that the concert was to be held at the Newcastle Workers’ Club, a licensed venue, off limits to a pair of weedy fifteen-year-olds. Our chance to see Iron Maiden was slipping through our fingers.

On the day of the concert, Wednesday May 8th, Dave and I happened to be in town for our weekly high school sport. We walked over to the Workers’ Club in King St and enquired at the front desk about the show. To our astonishment we learned that the concert that night had been cancelled, and that the band would instead play at the Civic Theatre the following evening. The guy at the desk handed us a hastily typed up press release explaining the reasons for the move, and Dave and I bolted out the door and raced like madmen to the Civic Theatre. Five minutes later we had Iron Maiden tickets in our grubby little hands. They cost $12 apiece.

On the bus home I read through the press release, put out by Peter Anderson of Rock City Promotions. I still have my copy to this day – the front page was hand-written in large Iron Maiden font:

IRON MAIDEN HAS MOVED

Underneath that, in smaller text, were the following bullet points:

** 8 Hours Notice **

** Band want under 18′s to be able to see show **

** 35 tonnes of equipment to be transferred **

** Enormous Costs!! **

Below is the rest of the text that I read that glorious day in May 1985, sitting on the number 216 bus. All errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar are left intact.

Iron Maiden the leaders of the hardest rock and roll school in the world have cancelled tonight’s show at the Newcastle Workers Club and will play tomorrow night Thursday 9th at the Civic Theatre!

WHY??

The band believe that their under 18 year old fans have not been catered for by playing in licenced clubs.

At noon today the band arrived at the Newcastle Workers. Found under 18′s could not be admitted and immediately looked for an alternative venue. The Civic Theatre was free and now Iron Maiden will play there Thursday!

AT WHAT COST??

The enormous advertising costs and expenses incurred by the Newcastle Workers will be freely compensated by the band. That is the extent of the feeling Iron Maiden have for their younger fans. Money is no concern!

The huge Egyptian concept set is at present being disassembled and transported to the Civic. A move not as easy as it sounds. It involves 35 tonnes of equipment that takes 3 thirty foot semi-trailers to move. Over 450 lights, an 18′ high mechanical mummy and the biggest P.A. to be seen anywhere in the country.

WHAT ABOUT TICKETS?

All tickets purchased at the Newcastle Workers Club will be valid for entry at tomorrow night’s performance at the Civic. Any refunds will be given at the Civic Theatre tomorrow night only. Not at the Workers Club.

The costs of this move are enormous but Iron Maiden feel it is necessary to show faith with their thousands of younger fans.

Jesus wept.

My memories of the concert are a little hazy. I went with my buddy Dave and another guy from our year at school who had bought a ticket separately. We rode the bus into town and as we approached the venue I noticed dozens of motorbikes parked along Hunter Sreet. There was a large crowd outside the Civic Theatre, with almost everybody wearing the obligatory metal uniform of jeans, denim vest and black t-shirt. Studded wrist-bands were an optional accessory.

I bought a t-shirt and we entered the theatre. There was no reserve seating, so we decided to sit upstairs in the balcony to have a good view, and to avoid being battered to a pulp in the denim ocean below. The support was an Aussie metal outfit called Boss, who we didn’t rate at all. I just wanted them to get the fuck off the stage and make way for the big boys. We sat and chatted during intermission, my stomach tingling with anticipation. Then the lights dimmed …

The show began with a tape of Churchill’s “We shall fight them on the beaches…” speech, then the band burst onstage playing their current single “Aces High”. The stage was decorated in an Egyptian theme, complete with fake stone blocks covered in heiroglyphics. It was fan-fucking-tastic. I recall Eddie coming onstage, transformed for this tour into a large mechanical mummy, swathed in bandages. Before I knew it, the show was over and we were out on Hunter St once again. A long-haired guy staggered past, babbling incoherently, clutching a precious drumstick that he had snatched from the depths of the moshpit.


Iron Maiden live in 1985 on the World Slavery Tour

Sadly, this was the last hurrah for me and Iron Maiden. Their next album release was a double live record, Live After Death, which chronicled their lengthy world tour. I had to wait until 1986 for their next studio recording, Somewhere In Time, which I found incredibly disappointing. Guitars made way for synthesizers, and it felt like the band had seriously lost their way – or perhaps I had just moved on. Their following record, a loose concept album titled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, was the final straw for me. I hated it, and it was the last Iron Maiden record I would buy.

Iron Maiden continue to release music and tour. I still have my Iron Maiden t-shirt and ticket from the show, as well as the press release and a little scrapbook of clippings from the era. And I still have the records of course. Maybe I’ll go and give one a spin right now …

One Response

  1. Clive Says:

    Hey dude.
    That story sounded just like me.
    I too heard a friends notb cassette tape, got my hands on peice of mind and bought the record of powerslave the day it came out and raced home to listen to it.
    I got tickets to the sydney show and me and a mate caught a train down to sydney from tamworth. I wasnt aware they were playing newcastle until bruce mentioned it at the show.
    It was a fabulous night. I was 17 at the time and the whole lot cost as much as I had.
    I recently went to the acer arena show is sydney, as well as the brisbane show. I didnt bother seeing them during the fear of the dark tour.
    I reckon you should give somewhere in time and seventh son another listen. They get better and better. There last 3 records are the same. Just get better and better.
    Anyway, loved reading your post.
    Sorry to bother you.
    Clive