Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday Morning Maiden

A great way to start the week: a huge dose of Iron Maiden before 7:00 AM.

In fact, the iPod shuffle treated me to one of my favorite Maiden songs, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," from their illustrious album Powerslave.

"OK, What gives?" you may be asking. "Isn't this topic a little, well, specialized?"

Well, yes it is, but nonetheless, I am compelled to share.

Powerslave was released September 3, 1984, at the start of my senior year in high school. Formative indeed. Maiden's previous album, Piece of Mind, considered by many to be their masterpiece, was a tough act to follow. It was this album, part two of the Iron Maiden one-two punch, that marked the zenith of their career, at least in this humble metalhead's opinion.

The crowning glory of this record, in my mind, above and beyond the hit success of the singles "Two Minutes to Midnight" and "Aces High," was the song that bit into me this morning as we came off the Manhattan Bridge on the N train.

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner," written by bassist and original founding member Steve Harris, anchored the album with a whopping length of 13 minutes and 39 seconds, an unusual venture for a heavy metal song.

As one would guess, this song was inspired by and based on the 1797 poem of the same name by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. For a young man seeking validity for the genre of heavy metal music, this song was more than enough fodder for the literary cannon.

Harris' lyrics retell the tale of Coleridge's poem in true poetic form and the song actually quotes Coleridge directly, straight from the text. Again, this sort of high-mindedness set Maiden fans apart from other headbangers.

The music critic Chuck Klosterman, in his landmark book Fargo Rock City : A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota, poked fun at Maiden when he categorized all the metal bands based on how they portrayed women in song. Maiden's label, I believe, was "interested in dead girls," alluding to the fact that Maiden rarely sang about "chicks" like other metal bands, and focused instead on other matters (i.e. Frank Herbert's Dune, nuclear proliferation, dogfighting in WWII, Icarus and Daedalus, the Native American struggles against early American settlers, etc). Alas, too many remember Iron Maiden from The Number of the Beast, and think of them as a Satan-worshipping group. That couldn't have been further from the truth.

2005 also marks the 20-year anniversary of the one and only time I saw Iron Maiden in concert, on March 31, 1985 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena in Honolulu.

For me, of course, the highlight of the show was their performance of the song in all its glory.

Hear the rime of the ancient mariner

See his eye as he stops one of three

Mesmerises one of the wedding guests

Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea . . .


Tattoosday said...

All sold on eBay, old friend.

Anonymous said...

I saw Maiden last winter and they haven't lost anything off their fastball. The crowd, however, was an entirely different story. The crazy stage diving rebels I remember from the eighties concerts have been replaced by out of shape balding late thirties men desperately trying not to hurt their necks as they head banged. It was hilarious, yet at the same time sad.......