Iron Maiden: 'The History Of Iron Maiden: Part One: The Early Days'

By Alun Thomas

Always known for giving the fans bang for their buck, Iron Maiden have struck again in spectacular fashion with the release of a mammoth two DVD set which chronicles every possible aspect of the bands early years, from their initial inception in 1975, to 1983’s ‘Piece Of Mind’ album. With a cumulative running time of over five hours between both discs, there’s a lot to digest, but the end result is emphatic in its overwhelming summation of the band’s history. Disc one is two hours of vintage live footage taken from shows in the 1980-83 period, with both Paul Dianno and Bruce Dickinson at the helm. Disc two’s main selling point is a ninety minute documentary about Maiden’s exact origins and those involved, while a veritable slew of extras include music videos, television appearances, old live footage and other tidbits like discography’s and artwork.

Disc One’s footage is nothing new to hardened Maiden fans, with live footage being culled from the ‘Live At The Rainbow’ video of 1981, with Paul Dianno on vocals, the scrapped 1982 ‘Beast Over Hammersmith’ video, with one of Bruce Dickinsons earliest performances and the televised ‘Live In Dortmund’ show from 1983, in which Maiden headlined a huge metal festival. In my opinion Maiden are a superb live act, but for a classic metal band they’ve always fallen well short of the mark set by legends like The Who, simply because they do not improvise or go on unexpected tangents. It’s always been straight run throughs of their tracks, which although satisfying can become wearisome. The Rainbow gig is easily the most lively of the three gigs, with the band at their youthful best and heaviest, with Dianno adding a more dangeous presence than Dickinson ever would later on. The band tear through ‘Killers’ savagely, with Dianno adding some humourous improvised lyrics, as the song hadn’t been properly completed yet. The fan reaction is rabid and fanatical for a band who had grafted their way to the top in a few short years by touring endlessly. The Hammersmith show seems far more reserved by comparison, the planned video shelved because of poor lighting. Dickinson is faultless on Dianno material, and the fiery rendition of ‘Total Eclipse’ is one of the finest moments on the DVD. Back then ‘Run To The Hills’ wasn’t stale, but it appears on both the Hammersmith concert and the Dortmund show, as does ‘22 Aaccia Aveneue’ and ‘Number Of The Beast’. The Dortmund show is one of Maiden’s most celebrated, and it’s refreshing to see the magic of ‘Piece Of Mind’ classics like ‘Revelations’ and ‘The Flight Of Icarus’ in their glory. By 1983 Maiden were numero uno in the metal world, proved by the fact they headlined a festival over Judas Priest, The Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne. In remastered form the sound is better than ever, crystal clear and as powerful as you would expect. Thumbs up for the disc, even if you’re never completely riveted.

To be honest the main attraction of this DVD for myself was the documentary, which promised an exhaustive and all encompassing glimpse into Maiden’s beginnings. These promises were not hype, as the makers went to extraordinary lengths to secure interviews with all the key players in Maiden’s history, some of whom had tenures which lasted mere weeks. The underlining message is the self belief bassist Steve Harris had in himself to reach the top, which although a mammoth undertaking, was eventually acheived. There is an abundance of insight from all concerned about the main events in Maiden’s history, such as the departures of members like Dennis Stratton, Dianno and Clive Burr, all of whom explain why they left. Interviews are also held with various roadies, fans, record executives, producers and managers associated with Maiden, in fact just about everyone I’d venture to say! Most interest naturally would be in the comments of classic Maiden members like Harris, Dickinson, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Nicko McBrain, none of whom disappoint. It’s candid, informative and a must see. Other highlights of disc two are tv appearances on shows such as ‘Top Of The Pops’ (where the band played live), a 1981 piece on Maiden from a show called ‘Twentieth Century Box’ and a rare home video of the band performing at the Ruskin, an early live haunt of the band. Videos for the bands early singles are included, but I could go for the rest of my life without ever seeing ‘Number Of The Beast’ or ‘Run To the Hills’ again’. Clocking in at three plus hours, Disc Two is jam packed and surely sets a standard in quality and quantity for other bands attempting anything as grand as this.

While this DVD set appeals to the staunchest Maiden fanatic, it should also be a must for metal fans in general, who want to know exactly where the worlds premier metal band came from and how they dominated the metal scene so easily. More importantly Maiden have rewarded their fans and included every possible thing they can fit here, making it a DVD for the ages. The quality control is flawless, and along with The Who’s ‘Kids Are Alright’ DVD , this is perhaps one of the best put out thus far. It simply makes the wait for the next volumes in the series longer and more anticipated.