Iron Maiden: Maiden Voyage
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2010
When they set off on their career in 1980, Iron Maiden promptly made a
big splash with their self-titled debut album. Dave Murray and Steve
Harris give their account.
Nineteen-eighty saw the release of more classic metal albums than perhaps any other year in music. From AC/DC’s Back in Black to Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz, Judas Priest’s British Steel to Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, the new decade was ushered in with landmark albums from some of the genre’s biggest names.
Add to this list the self-titled debut from five lads from East London who called themselves Iron Maiden. Though initially lumped in with the then-burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement (which included bands like Motörhead, Def Leppard, Saxon and Angel Witch, all of whom also released albums that year), Maiden over the course of the decade rose to become one of the biggest and most successful acts in heavy metal, a position they still hold today, 30 years later. Along the way, the band’s sound influenced generations of newer metal acts, from legends like Metallica to current stars like Avenged Sevenfold.
In 1980, however, Maiden were little more than a struggling young outfit themselves. Formed by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris five years earlier, the band burned through a slew of members before lead guitarist Dave Murray and singer Paul Di’Anno came onboard in the late Seventies, solidifying Maiden’s core early lineup. It was then that the band’s sound—metal riffs and rhythms played with punky speed and aggression, and tempered by twin-guitar harmonies and progressive twists and turns—came into focus.
“I think if anyone wants to understand Maiden’s early thing, in particular the harmony guitars, all they have to do is listen to [British rock band] Wishbone Ash’s Argus album,” Harris says. “Thin Lizzy too, but not as much. And then we wanted to have a bit of a prog thing thrown in as well, because I was really into bands like Genesis and Jethro Tull. So you combine all that with the heavy riffs and the speed, and you’ve got it.”
By 1978, Iron Maiden had built a solid following around London as a result of their energetic shows (which already included an appearance from an embryonic version of their fiendish mascot, Eddie). A four-song demo recorded at the end of that year, and later released as The Soundhouse Tapes, attracted a manager, Rod Smallwood, who subsequently landed the band a deal with EMI. And so, in early 1980, Maiden—which in addition to Harris, Di’Anno and Murray also included coguitarist Dennis Stratton and drummer Clive Burr—entered London’s Kingsway Studios to record their debut album.