By Adam Waldman
For the first few installments of the “My Favorite Album” feature, choosing one album from a particular artist was somewhat challenging, but ultimately, the choice was fairly easy. Choosing a favorite Iron Maiden album is like choosing a favorite child.
My introduction to Iron Maiden came in 1982 when I saw the video for “Run To Hills” on MTV. I was mesmerized, and became an instant fan. Sometime that week, I went to the record store and bought The Number Of The Beast on cassette. The whole album blew me away.
Bruce Dickinson’s debut with Maiden took the band to another level. The Number Of The Beast was one of my favorite albums of 1982. Another favorite was Judas Priest’s Screaming For Vengeance. One of my biggest concert regrets to this day was not being allowed to go and see Maiden and Priest together in July of 1982 at Madison Square Garden. Had I been allowed to go to the concert, there’s a chance that I’d be writing about The Number Of The Beast in this forum. Perhaps not.
Dickinson and Maiden set the bar incredibly high with The Number Of The Beast. It was hard to imagine how they could make a better album, but in my opinion, they did it with Piece Of Mind.
I remember being kind of bummed out when I saw the Piece Of Mind album cover because Eddie’s look changed drastically. Even though I had only discovered the band a year prior, I had grown attached to the badass character that adorned Maiden’s first three album covers.
Any hesitation that I had because of the cover was quickly alleviated when I hit play. It was the first album with Nicko McBrain on drums, and it didn’t take him long to make his mark. On the drum intro to “Where Eagles Dare,” McBrain brought the thunder like few that I’d ever heard. Suddenly, the album artwork became secondary to the musical journey that I was about to embark upon.
Unless you’re a musician (especially a bass player), it can be difficult to decipher the bass parts on rock songs. Often times, the bass players are the unsung heroes of a band. That’s not the case with Iron Maiden. Not only is Steve Harris the founder of the band, he’s also the primary songwriter, which is why his signature is all over the music.
During the ‘80s, most of the subject matter for hard rock and heavy metal songs was sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and heartbreak. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, Iron Maiden being one of them.
I was never much of a fan of history in school. I found most of the history material (and teachers) to be incredibly boring. Like many metalheads of the ‘80s, I preferred to get my history lessons from Iron Maiden lyrics. Even if I didn’t know the exact meanings of each song, I was at least thoroughly engaged. Maybe if my history teachers delivered their lessons with the fury of Iron Maiden, and Harris’ signature galloping rhythms, I would have been more interested.
Harris is also the first bass player that really made me stand up and take notice of the bass parts. One of my favorite bass riffs ever comes in the musical bridge of “Where Eagles Dare.” Getting noticed as a bass player is challenging enough, but when you factor in the dual guitar attack of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Harris’ playing standing out is even more impressive.
While the band set the tone with an album filled with songs tailor made for arenas, like Icarus, Dickinson’s vocals soar “as high as the sun” throughout. Though it usually results in a bit of a headache, bordering on passing out, I have to admit that I belt out every song when listening to Piece Of Mind to this day (at least when I’m alone).
Piece Of Mind was released 35 years ago today, and as I listened to the album more than once in its entirety, it became crystal clear that this is definitely my favorite Iron Maiden album. Though it’s not a concept album, there is a vibe (both lyrical and musical) that carries throughout the entire 9-song journey.
I remember wearing out my Piece Of Mind cassette out from playing it so much. Eventually, I replaced it on CD. Seeing Maiden (for the first time) on the tour supporting the album in the summer of ’83 is still one of my favorite concert experiences to this day.
As I mentioned earlier, choosing a favorite Iron Maiden album is like choosing a favorite child. Although Piece Of Mind gets the nod for me, that’s not to say that there haven’t been numerous other outstanding albums. It’s just that this album captures a moment in time for me in a unique way.
Please feel free to share your thoughts about why you agree with my sentiments, or make your case for why one of the Maiden’s other albums is your favorite.
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