Iron Maiden are a British heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band's discography has grown to thirty-eight albums, including sixteen studio albums, eleven live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.
Pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal, Iron Maiden achieved initial success during the early 1980s. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of UK and US platinum and gold albums, including 1982's The Number of the Beast, 1983's Piece of Mind, 1984's Powerslave, 1985's live release Live After Death, 1986's Somewhere in Time and 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Since the return of lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith in 1999, the band have undergone a resurgence in popularity, with their 2010 studio offering, The Final Frontier, peaking at No. 1 in 28 countries and receiving widespread critical acclaim. Their sixteenth studio album, The Book of Souls, was released on 4 September 2015.
Despite little radio or television support, Iron Maiden are considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, with The Observer reporting in 2015 that the band have sold over 90 million copies of their albums worldwide. The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002. As of October 2013, the band have played over 2000 live shows throughout their career. For the past 35 years, the band have been supported by their famous mascot, "Eddie", who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows.
Early years (1975–1978)
Iron Maiden were formed on Christmas Day 1975 by bassist Steve Harris shortly after he left his previous group, Smiler. Harris attributes the band's name to a film adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, the title of which reminded him of the iron maiden torture device. After months of rehearsal, Iron Maiden made their debut at St. Nicks Hall in Poplar on 1 May 1976, before taking up a semi-residency at the Cart and Horses Pub in Maryland Point, Stratford.
The original line-up did not last very long, however, with vocalist Paul Day being the first casualty as, according to Harris, he lacked "energy or charisma on stage". He was replaced by Dennis Wilcock, a Kiss fan who used make-up and fake blood during live performances. Wilcock's friend Dave Murray was invited to join, to the dismay of the band's guitarists Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance. Their frustration led Harris to temporarily disband Iron Maiden in 1976, though the group reformed soon after with Murray as the sole guitarist. Steve Harris and Dave Murray remain the band's longest-standing members and have performed on all of their releases.
Iron Maiden recruited yet another guitarist in 1977, Bob Sawyer, who was sacked for embarrassing the band on stage by pretending to play guitar with his teeth. Tension ensued again, causing a rift between Murray and Wilcock, who convinced Harris to fire Murray, as well as original drummer Ron Matthews. A new line-up was put together, including future Cutting Crew member Tony Moore on keyboards, Terry Wapram on guitar, and drummer Barry Purkis. A bad performance at the Bridgehouse, a pub located in Canning Town, in November 1977 was the line-up's first and only concert and led to Purkis being replaced by Doug Sampson. At the same time, Moore was asked to leave as Harris decided that keyboards did not suit the band's sound. A few months later, Dennis Wilcock decided that he had had enough with the group and left to form his own band, V1, and Dave Murray was immediately reinstated. As he preferred to be the band's sole guitarist, Wapram disapproved of Murray's return and was also dismissed.
Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Doug Sampson spent the summer and autumn of 1978 rehearsing while they searched for a singer to complete the band's new line-up. A chance meeting at the Red Lion pub in Leytonstone in November 1978 evolved into a successful audition for vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Steve Harris has stated, "There's sort of a quality in Paul's voice, a raspiness in his voice, or whatever you want to call it, that just gave it this great edge." At this time, Murray would typically act as their sole guitarist, with Harris commenting, "Davey was so good he could do a lot of it on his own. The plan was always to get a second guitarist in, but finding one that could match Davey was really difficult."
Record contract and early releases (1978–1981)
On New Year's Eve 1978, Iron Maiden recorded a demo, consisting of four songs, at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge. Hoping the recording would help them secure more gigs, the band presented a copy to Neal Kay, then managing a heavy metal club called "Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse", located in Kingsbury Circle, northwest London. Upon hearing the tape, Kay began playing the demo regularly at the Bandwagon, and one of the songs, "Prowler", eventually went to No. 1 in the Soundhouse charts, which were published weekly in Sounds magazine. A copy was also acquired by Rod Smallwood, who soon became the band's manager, and, as Iron Maiden's popularity increased, they released the demo on their own record label as The Soundhouse Tapes, named after the club. Featuring only three tracks (one song, "Strange World", was excluded as the band were unsatisfied with its production) all five thousand copies were sold out within weeks.
In December 1979, the band secured a major record deal with EMI and asked Dave Murray's childhood friend Adrian Smith to join the group as their second guitarist. Smith declined as he was busy with his own band, Urchin, so Iron Maiden hired guitarist Dennis Stratton instead. Shortly afterwards, Doug Sampson left due to health issues and was replaced by ex-Samson drummer Clive Burr at Stratton's suggestion on 26 December. Iron Maiden's first appearance on an album was on the Metal for Muthas compilation (released on 15 February 1980) with two early versions of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild". The release led to an ensuing tour which featured several other bands linked with the new wave of British heavy metal.
Iron Maiden's eponymous 1980 release, Iron Maiden, debuted at No. 4 in the UK Albums Chart. In addition to the title track (a live version of which would be one of the first music videos aired on MTV), the album includes other early favourites such as "Running Free", "Transylvania", "Phantom of the Opera", and "Sanctuary" – which was not on the original UK release but appeared on the US version and subsequent remasters. The band set out on a headline tour of the UK, before opening for Kiss on their 1980 Unmasked Tour's European leg as well as supporting Judas Priest on select dates. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was dismissed from the band as a result of creative and personal differences, and was replaced by Adrian Smith in October 1980.
In 1981, Iron Maiden released their second album, entitled Killers. Containing many tracks that had been written prior to their debut release, only two new songs were written for the record: "Prodigal Son" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (the latter's title was taken from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe). Unsatisfied with the production on their debut album, the band hired veteran producer Martin Birch, who would go on to work for Iron Maiden until his retirement in 1992. The record was followed by the band's first world tour, which included their debut performance in the United States, opening for Judas Priest at The Aladdin Casino, Las Vegas.
By 1981, Paul Di'Anno was demonstrating increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly through his drug usage, about which Di'Anno comments, "it wasn't just that I was snorting a bit of coke, though; I was just going for it non-stop, 24 hours a day, every day ... the band had commitments piling up that went on for months, years, and I just couldn't see my way to the end of it. I knew I'd never last the whole tour. It was too much." With his performances suffering, Di'Anno was immediately dismissed following the Killer World Tour, at which point the band had already selected his replacement.
After a meeting with Rod Smallwood at the Reading Festival, Bruce Dickinson, previously of Samson, auditioned for Iron Maiden in September 1981 and was immediately hired. The following month, Dickinson went out on the road with the band on a small headlining tour in Italy, as well as a one-off show at the Rainbow Theatre in the UK. For the last show, and in anticipation of their forthcoming album, the band played "Children of the Damned" and "22 Acacia Avenue", introducing fans to the sound towards which they were progressing.
In 1982, Iron Maiden released The Number of the Beast, an album which gave the band their first ever UK Albums Chart No. 1 record and additionally became a Top Ten hit in many other countries. At the time, Dickinson was in the midst of legal difficulties with Samson's management and was not permitted to add his name to any of the songwriting credits, although he still made what he described as a "moral contribution" to "Children of the Damned", "The Prisoner" and "Run to the Hills". For the second time the band embarked on a world tour, dubbed The Beast on the Road, during which they visited North America, Japan, Australia and Europe, including a headline appearance at the Reading Festival. A new and hugely successful chapter in Iron Maiden's future was cemented; in 2010 The New York Times reported that the album had sold over 14 million copies worldwide.
The Beast on the Road's US leg proved controversial when an American conservative political lobbying group claimed Iron Maiden were Satanic because of the new album's title track, to the point where a group of Christian activists destroyed Iron Maiden records as a protest against the band. In recent years, Dickinson has stated that the band treated this as "silliness", and that the demonstrations in fact gave them "loads of publicity".
In December 1982, drummer Clive Burr was fired from the band and replaced by Nicko McBrain, previously of French band Trust. Although Harris states that his dismissal took place because his live performances were affected by offstage activities, Burr objected to this and claimed that he was unfairly ousted from the band. Soon afterwards, the band journeyed for the first time to The Bahamas to record the first of three consecutive albums at Compass Point Studios. In 1983, they released Piece of Mind, which reached the No. 3 spot in the UK, and was the band's debut in the North American charts, reaching No. 70 on the Billboard 200. Piece of Mind includes the successful singles "The Trooper" and "Flight of Icarus", the latter of which being particularly notable as one of the band's few songs to gain substantial airplay in the US.
Soon after the success of Piece of Mind and its supporting tour, the band released Powerslave on 9 September 1984. The album featured fan favourites "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Aces High", and "Rime of The Ancient Mariner", the latter based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem of the same name and running over 13 minutes long.
The tour following the album, dubbed the World Slavery Tour, was the band's largest to date and consisted of 193 shows in 28 countries over 13 months, playing to an estimated 3,500,000 people. Many shows were played back-to-back in the same city, such as in Long Beach, California, where the band played four consecutive concerts. It was here where the majority of their subsequent live release, Live After Death, was recorded, which became a critical and commercial success, peaking at No. 4 in the UK. Iron Maiden also made their debut appearance in South America, where they co-headlined (with Queen) the Rock in Rio festival to an estimated crowd of 300,000. The tour was physically gruelling for the band, who demanded six months off when it ended (although this was later reduced to four months). This was the first substantial break in the group's history, including the cancellation of a proposed supporting tour for the new live album, with Bruce Dickinson threatening to quit unless the tour ended.
Returning from their time off, the band adopted a different style for their 1986 studio album, entitled Somewhere in Time, featuring, for the first time in the band's history, synthesised bass and guitars to add textures and layers to the sound. The release charted well across the world, particularly with the single "Wasted Years", but notably included no writing credits from lead singer Bruce Dickinson, whose material was rejected by the rest of the band. While Dickinson was focused on his own music, guitarist Adrian Smith, who typically collaborated with the vocalist, was "left to [his] own devices" and began writing songs on his own, coming up with "Wasted Years", "Sea of Madness", and "Stranger in a Strange Land", the last of which would be the album's second single.
The experimentation evident on Somewhere in Time continued on their next album, entitled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which was released in 1988. A concept album, based on the 1987 novel Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card, this would be the band's first record to include keyboards, performed by Harris and Smith, as opposed to guitar synthesisers on the previous release. After his contributions were not used for Somewhere in Time, Dickinson's enthusiasm was renewed as his ideas were accepted for this album. Another popular release, it became Iron Maiden's second album to hit No. 1 in the UK charts, although it only achieved a Gold certification in the US, in contrast to its four predecessors.
During the following tour, the band headlined the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park for the first time on 20 August 1988, playing to the largest crowd in the festival's history (107,000). Also included on the bill were Kiss, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, Guns N' Roses and Helloween.
The festival was marred, however, by the deaths of two fans in a crowd-surge during the aforementioned Guns N' Roses performance; the following year's festival was cancelled as a result. The tour concluded with several headline shows in the UK in November and December 1988, with the concerts at the NEC Arena, Birmingham recorded for a live video, entitled Maiden England. Throughout the tour, Harris' bass technician, Michael Kenney, provided live keyboards. Kenney has acted as the band's live keyboard player ever since, also performing on the band's four following albums before Harris took over as the group's sole studio keyboardist from 2000's Brave New World.
During another break in 1989, guitarist Adrian Smith released a solo album with his band ASAP, entitled Silver and Gold, and vocalist Bruce Dickinson began work on a solo album with former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers, releasing Tattooed Millionaire in 1990, followed by a tour. At the same time, to mark the band's ten-year recording anniversary, Iron Maiden released The First Ten Years, a series of ten CDs and double 12-inch singles. Between 24 February and 28 April 1990, the individual parts were released one-by-one, each containing two of Iron Maiden's singles, including the original B-sides.
Soon afterwards, Iron Maiden regrouped to work on a new studio record. During the pre-production stages, Adrian Smith left the band due to differences with Steve Harris regarding the direction the band should be taking, disagreeing with the "stripped down" style that they were leaning towards. Janick Gers, having worked on Dickinson's solo project, was chosen to replace Smith and became the band's first new member in seven years. The album, No Prayer for the Dying, was released in October 1990 and contained "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter", the band's first (and to date, only) UK Singles Chart No. 1, originally recorded by Dickinson's solo outfit for the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
After another tour and some more time off, the band recorded their next studio release, Fear of the Dark, which was released in 1992 and included the stand-out title track, which is now a regular fixture in the band's concert setlists. Achieving their third No. 1 in the UK albums chart, the disc also featured the No. 2 single "Be Quick or Be Dead" and the No. 21 single "From Here to Eternity". The album featured the first songwriting by Gers, and no collaboration at all between Harris and Dickinson on songs. The extensive worldwide tour that followed included their first ever Latin American leg (after a single concert during the World Slavery Tour), and headlining the Monsters of Rock festivals in seven European countries. Iron Maiden's second performance at Donington Park, to an audience of 68,500 (the attendance was capped after the incident in 1988), was filmed for the audio and video release, Live at Donington, and featured a guest appearance by Adrian Smith, who joined the band to perform "Running Free".
In 1993, Bruce Dickinson left the band to further pursue his solo career, but agreed to remain for a farewell tour and two live albums (later re-released in one package). The first, A Real Live One, featured songs from 1986 to 1992, and was released in March 1993. The second, A Real Dead One, featured songs from 1980 to 1984, and was released after Dickinson had left the band. The tour did not go well, however, with Steve Harris claiming that Dickinson would only perform properly for high-profile shows and that at several concerts he would only mumble into the microphone. Dickinson denies the charge that he was under-performing, stating that it was impossible to "make like Mr Happy Face if the vibe wasn't right", saying that news of his exit from the band had prevented any chance of a good atmosphere during the tour. He played his farewell show with Iron Maiden on 28 August 1993, which was filmed, broadcast by the BBC and released on video under the name Raising Hell.
Blaze Bayley era, The X Factor and Virtual XI (1994–1999)
In 1994, the band listened to hundreds of tapes sent in by vocalists before convincing Blaze Bayley, formerly of the band Wolfsbane who had supported Iron Maiden in 1990, to audition for them. Harris' preferred choice from the outset, Bayley had a different vocal style from his predecessor, which ultimately received a mixed reception among fans.
After a two-year hiatus (as well as a three-year hiatus from studio releases – a record for the band at the time) Iron Maiden returned in 1995. Releasing The X Factor, the band had their lowest chart position since 1981 for an album in the UK (debuting at No. 8), although it would go on to win Album of the Year awards in France and Germany. The record included the 11-minute epic "Sign of the Cross", the band's longest song since "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", as well as the singles, "Man on the Edge", based on the film Falling Down, and "Lord of the Flies", based on the novel of the same name. The release is notable for its "dark" tone, inspired by Steve Harris' divorce. The band toured for the rest of 1995 and 1996, playing for the first time in Israel and South Africa, before stopping to release Best of the Beast. The band's first compilation, it included a new single, "Virus", whose lyrics attack the critics who had recently written off the band.
Iron Maiden returned to the studio to record Virtual XI, released in 1998. The album's chart scores were the band's lowest to date, including the UK where it peaked at No. 16 failing to score one million worldwide sales for the first time in Iron Maiden's history. At the same time, Steve Harris assisted in remastering the band's entire discography, up to and including Live at Donington (which was given a mainstream release for the first time).
Bayley's tenure in Iron Maiden ended in January 1999 when he was asked to leave during a band meeting. The dismissal took place due to issues Bayley had experienced with his voice during the Virtual XI World Tour, although Janick Gers has since stated that this was partly the band's fault for forcing him to perform songs which were beyond his natural register.
Return of Dickinson and Smith, Brave New World (1999–2002)
While the group were considering a replacement for Bayley, Rod Smallwood convinced Steve Harris to invite Bruce Dickinson back into the band. Although Harris admits that he "wasn't really into it" at first, he then thought, "'Well, if the change happens, who should we get?' The thing is, we know Bruce and we know what he's capable of, and you think, 'Well, better the devil you know.' I mean, we got on well professionally for, like, eleven years, and so ... after I thought about it, I didn't really have a problem with it."
The band entered into talks with Dickinson, who agreed to rejoin during a meeting in Brighton in January 1999, along with guitarist Adrian Smith, who was telephoned a few hours later. With Gers, Smith's replacement, remaining, Iron Maiden now had a three-guitar line-up and embarked on a hugely successful reunion tour. Dubbed The Ed Hunter Tour, it tied in with the band's newly released greatest hits collection, Ed Hunter, whose track listing was decided by a poll on the group's website, and also contained a computer game of the same name starring the band's mascot.
One of Dickinson's primary concerns on rejoining the group "was whether we would in fact be making a real state-of-the-art record and not just a comeback album," which eventually took the form of 2000's Brave New World. Having disliked the results from Harris' personal studio, Barnyard Studios located on his property in Essex, which had been used for the last four Iron Maiden studio albums, the band recorded the new release at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris in November 1999 with producer Kevin Shirley. Thematic influences continued with "The Wicker Man" – based on the 1973 British cult film of the same name – and "Brave New World" – title taken from the Aldous Huxley novel of the same name. The album furthered the more progressive and melodic sound present in some earlier recordings, with elaborate song structures and keyboard orchestration.
The world tour that followed consisted of well over 100 dates and culminated on 19 January 2001 in a show at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, where Iron Maiden played to an audience of around 250,000. While the performance was being produced for a CD and DVD release in March 2002, under the name Rock in Rio, the band took a year out from touring, during which they played three consecutive shows at Brixton Academy in aid of former drummer Clive Burr, who had recently announced that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The band performed two further concerts for Burr's MS Trust Fund charity in 2005, and 2007, before his death in 2013.
Iron Maiden (1980)
The Number of the Beast (1982)
Piece of Mind (1983)
Somewhere in Time (1986)
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
No Prayer for the Dying (1990)
Fear of the Dark (1992)
The X Factor (1995)
Virtual XI (1998)
Brave New World (2000)
Dance of Death (2003)
A Matter of Life and Death (2006)
The Final Frontier (2010)
The Book of Souls (2015)
Steve Harris – bass, backing vocals (1975–present), keyboards (1988, 1998–present)
Dave Murray – guitars (1976–1977, 1978–present)
Adrian Smith – guitars, backing vocals (1980–1990, 1999–present), keyboards (1988)
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals (1981–1993, 1999–present), piano (2015)
Nicko McBrain – drums, percussion (1982–present)
Janick Gers – guitars (1990–present)
Doug Sampson – drums, percussion (1977–1979)
Paul Di'Anno – lead vocals (1978–1981)
Dennis Stratton – guitars, backing vocals (1979–1980)
Clive Burr † – drums, percussion (1979–1982)
Blaze Bayley – lead vocals (1994–1999)
Michael Kenney – keyboards (1988–present)