THERE’S NO LOVE LIKE THE FIRST: HOW IRON MAIDEN FOUND ME
I was probably 10 years old, maybe 11 and I was watching a national talk show on TV, like I used to do every day after school. In this show people would call and ask for songs to listen to and among Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Offspring songs I heard an epic and powerful song. One that left me energized like I had drunk 4 cans of Red Bull followed by popping a box of Aderal.
I had no idea of who those guys were, but I sure liked their music. We never forget those defining moments of our lives, those that change everything: the first kiss, the day you marry, the day you fly for the first time, the day your child is born, the day you publish your book, the day you first heard Iron Maiden:
How could I forget that moment, this is exactly the same video clip, their would to be mythical performance at Rock in Rio 2001.
Since then it is a beautiful love story. Unlike my childhood crushes on Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Yasmine Bleeth, (yes, all from Baywatch, that show had an effect on me) I was embraced in the arms of Eddie and welcomed to be one of the boys. I felt understood like never before.
From there I bought every single album from Iron Maiden, first it was “Dance of Death“, then the legendary “Brave New World“, followed by “A Matter of Life and Death“, “Final Frontier“and the newly released “Book of Souls“. I also bought a great number of merchandising and watched them live 3 times.
If the exposure was utterly accidental the love for Iron Maiden wasn’t. Neither was all other heavy metals bands that I discovered in my teenage years: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Il Niño, Korn, Linkin Park, System of a Down, Disturbed, Tool, Rage Against the Machine and some more punk-like formations as Rise Against or Anti-Flag.
It goes without being said that my parents weren’t properly thrilled with having their oldest son listening on his CD player to songs with the title of “The Number of the Beast” or “Killers“, which they considered nothing more than loud music with violent lyrics, border lining satanic devotion, — the fact that I was obsessed with doing the “devil’s horns” probably didn’t help.
This didn’t make any sense to them and in their vision I was probably just a few steps away from social derision, drug consumption, tattooed arms, dropping out of school and becoming a vagabond. (Now that I think of it… they could see into the future ahaha).
Heavy Metal, and specially Iron Maiden, had a vital impact on my teenage years and shaped my personality in that crucial formative time.
“Headbangers” music suffers from a terrible reputation and few people understands it. Many themes present in this type of music such as social isolation, depression, anger, alienation and pain, death and even suicide ring very true to the hearts of intelligent young people who have a difficult time fitting in and making sense of the world.
I still remember one time when I ran to my room with tears running down my eyes and tuned in “The Lord of The Flies“. After so many years I still have shivers whenever I listen to it.
Adolescence is always a difficult time for a human being growing up, and specially hard for an intelligent kid. Many normal activities for other kids, seem frankly stupid or meaningless. For a smart kid is rather complex to come to acceptance that evil things happen to good people and that the world isn’t a fair place. There are a lot of confusion bowling down and the fact that people still see him/her as a “kid”, doesn’t really help. It is normal that young kids feel frustrated and anger, since few people understand them, they can’t just shrug their shoulders and keep playing video games or do a new hairstyle and feel that all their issues are gone.
In heavy metal music they listen to their issues being addressed in a total honest and open way, they feel that others have been on the same path and don’t have in a paternalistic tone.
For a kid like me, trying to find meaning in everything, I.M. songs were the perfect elixir. Their lyrics were complex, smart and filled with snippets of history and literature. Their sound was powerful, aggressive and way more than just noise. I felt superior to other kids and even to some adults because I enjoyed something that they couldn’t get. I would mentally orgasm, (and not just mentally on a few other occasions, what? Never had sex listening to heavy metal?), while listening to Brave New World, Paschendale, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Dream of Mirrors lyrics.
It is so so good that is not possible to describe.
This great composition of lyrics had a tremend impact on my love for writing and it was through that same music that I came in touch with Aldus Huxley’s book with the same title and from then I got introduced to “1984” and many years of political literature and discovery.
These musics weren’t just intended to make me feel good or cool, it was art, it was poetry! It was the most personal, deep and meaningful part of my life. I remember during classes to slide one headphone through the sleeve of my left arm, pretending that I was just resting my head, while I was dumping powerful decibels straight into my brain. School and classes bored the shit out of me and with music I could retract myself to my own world.
While most kids were listening to MTV, I was in my bedroom jumping around, screaming my lungs out while replicating Bruce Dickinson’s “siren scream” in The Trooper.
While most kids had no idea of who was Winston Churchill I came in touch with his famous speech through “Aces High” and I can still say it by memory.
It is funny that one of my longest relationships started with your mutual love for Iron Maiden.
But it wasn’t just a salvation, heavy metal gave me so much knowledge and vision about life.
Through the lyrics I felt motivated to write and pour my feelings in the form of art.
Through the album covers… I mean, holy fuck! Have you ever seen some Iron Maiden’s album covers? They are ridiculously good and filled with meaning. Check these out:
Through Steve Harris persistence and vision I learned how important it is in life, and business, to know where you are going and not bending yourself to other people’s will. Also, selling out is not an option.
Through Eddie, their mascot, I realized how marketing and branding are effective. Eddie is likely to be the most powerful brand in the music history: there are people with tattoos, car paintings and thousands of shirts were sold with Eddie’s figure.
With Bruce Dickinson I understood that you can be good, actually fucking good at many different things. The man is the lead singer of a band who sold millions of albums, who tours around the world after 30 years of their debut, had a successful solo career, is a damn good guitar player, survived a cancer and… stay with me: is a best-selling author, Olympic-level fencer, host a radio show on BBC, is a professional airline pilot(!!!!) and owns a fucking tank.
You can’t get any more cool than that. Remember Bruce when someone tells you that you shouldn’t try new stuff or that you can’t be good at more than one thing. That’s bullshit. If he can do all that, you can do at least a fraction of it.
Ever heard about Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” concept? Iron Maiden are the perfect example of that. They very rarely went on radio or television shows. How did they survive the 80’s, a time filled with bad pop and disco music, by being an Heavy Metal band? They did not only survived by they thrived, they were the spearhead of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal).
After 30 years of their first commercial album “Iron Maiden” they still sell entire stadiums across the world and their fans are known by their dedication and love for the band. Very rarely you will find a I.M. fan which has another band as their favorite group.
They had different formations across time, some guys were fired, others were re-hired, they went some through some dark periods and they came back even better. They kept the quality bar really high and since the 1999 that every single new album breaks into the first place of almost every country chart.
It is true that nowadays my musical taste is a lot more diverse. I listen from 2Pac to Ludovico Einaudi, it goes months without listening to I.M. but whenever I get back at it the feeling is the same. And to close down I do have to put here perhaps the best music ever produced by a rock group:
I have to tell you that if you listen to this song and something does happen inside you, then you are a deceitful, conniving, not worth a rats ass human being. My god! If this isn’t the best music ever made I don’t know what it is: the atmosphere, the sound, the lyrics, the energy, the power, it is all in there.
What can I say, I love these guys way too much.
Up the Irons and Long Live Eddie!
Originally published at adventurousartist.com on March 16, 2016.
João Fernandes is a Portuguese writer, professional traveler and marketing strategist. He has been featured on Vice.com, ThoughtCatalog and EliteDaily. You can find out more about his writing and ineptitude to ride bikes on: www.adventurousartist.com