I want to ask you a question. How much would you pay for a second hand T-shirt? Nothing? £5? Well I’m not sure if I’d buy one at all but at the end of this post I’ll tell you the street value of an Iron maiden event shirt that’s been soaked in beer and sweat for about 5 hours and I’m pretty confident that the answer may surprise you.
When I set out to write my weekly blogs about 11 months ago, I did so wanting to write about the things that I know about but at the same time not wanting it to just be filled with posts regarding my passion for Iron Maiden. Since the start I have written a review of Steve Harris’s first solo album and a review of the show I saw in June and left it at that because I didn’t and still don’t want it just to become a fan blog and I have a determination to write about other stuff that goes on in my life outside of maiden. My post ‘One night in Paris’ is the review of the show that we saw over in France in the beginning of June and given that the shows at download and the O2 in London were the same, I don’t want to simply re do a gig review.So today’s post is not simply about the show or indeed my views of it which, let’s face it, are hardly ever going to ever be unbiased. What I do want to try to write about this week is the passion,determination and loyalty that surrounds this band from the perspective of their fans of which I am of course one. A couple of examples of this I witnessed first hand in Paris on 5th June this year. We flew out of Luton on the very first flight of the day at 6am but even though we arrived at the airport at about 4.15 am there were already a number of fans already in the bar in the departure lounge and many more joined us for the flight out and most of us all seemed to be sat together on the aircraft.I later discovered that there were 4 other flights leaving London that morning for Paris that were taking maiden fans over for the show. Before flying out I had noticed that the fan club members were planning a meet up at the trocadero for a group photo so we decided to pop along to see if we could gatecrash it and get in some pictures. At the designated time there must have been getting on for 50 fans that had travelled in from the UK as well as fans from Canada, South America and other European locations too. Other meets were organised for the Eiffel tower as well as other parts of Paris. One of the guys we got talking to was telling us that he had been there since the previous day and the night before had been drinking in a bar with both Nicko (drums) and Janick (guitar) and when I asked if they had got photos he simply said no, they wern’t doing photos and if anyone tried to get silly they would protect the band from them. So here you have a situation where your heroes and yourself can just chill out with some beers with the upmost of mutual respect. The band give their fans a sense of being real and accessible and in return the fans protect them from the press and unwanted intrusion. He also went on to tell us about his global travels watching the band play in Australia, India and Japan and how he arranges his work and social life around the tours.
And then there are the shows. As a fellow fan pointed out to me the other day, there’s almost no point in trying to explain to the uninitiated just exactly what going to an Iron maiden concert is like because unless you have actually been to one, you’ll never really be able to understand what it’s like. When I try to tell someone about the energy from the band, the lights show or the huge wall of flames that erupt regularly from all parts of the stage set, I get people smiling at me in an attempt to pretend that they are either interested or impressed when deep down you know they don’t care one bit. It’s in many ways a bit like trying to convince someone that you have seen a ghost but you know they don’t believe you or a bit like telling a friend that your in love but that the words you use don’t really convey enough of the emotion that you feel. I’ve seen 19 Iron maiden shows over the years and each one has been just that… A show, an event almost. Heavy metal is the kind a music that makes me want to run around like a lunatic,to head bang to or jump up and down to. It makes me drive faster, makes my heart beat quicker and makes me feel alive. It gets me out of my sensible everyday professional hang ups where I have to be grown up and mature and it it allows me to escape reality. It also doesn’t judge me, it doesn’t tell me what I should wear or sneer at me should I not have the right label on.
Maiden have also managed to write many of the most iconic metal songs since the genre burst on to the scene all those years ago. They led from the front when the new wave of British heavy metal burst out of punk out in the late 70’s along with Def Leppard and Diamond Head. In order to get noticed in those days you had to graft hard and build up a following over many months and years of touring simply to get noticed. Having a nice haircut or a deal with a clothing company would not sell you a million albums as it does now, so back then you had to graft and keep grafting in the hope that it would bring the success you craved for. You also needed to keep writing quality songs in order to keep your growing fan base happy and so it was that in 1980 after having been formed in one way or another since the mid 70’s and having built up a reputation for brilliant shows,maidens first single actually made it into the charts and when they were asked to do top of the tops,they agreed to do it only on the basis that they could perform it live. Only Queen had ever done that before. Their determination to do things their way and on their terms matched the mindset of their fans and of metal fans in general who usually stand on the fringes of polite society getting looked at oddly due to their long hair and tattoos, but who themselves are determined to maintain a look that matches those of the bands that they follow. So with Maiden what you have is a marriage of convenience between band and fans, both of whom share the same determination to stick to their roots and beliefs but who are also very loyal to each other. This loyalty comes in many forms but for me it stands out when you consider that they have never ‘sold out’ or become corporate and never chased a deal with a jeans company just to make a few quid. But more importantly musically they have never significantly changed their sound and they continue to tour the world doing what they do, keeping the old fan base happy while picking up new younger fans along the way.
On this tour I saw for myself just what being an Iron Maiden fan means to the fans and the lengths they go to in order to see the band perform. The best example of this that I have is a guy called Adam who answered an advert I posted on the maiden fan forum on their website. I had bought 4 tickets for the show in London on Sunday but due to holidays clashing and babies being due most of our chums were unable to make it, so I put an advert on the site to see if anyone wanted to buy it. Adam saw my ad and asked if it was still available to which I said yes and then he tells me that subject to flights he would like it. Flights? I asked. “Yes” he said “I’m from Stockholm so need to check out flights and accommodation”. An hour later and on nothing more than my say so he messages me on Facebook and says “right I’m there, 3500 kr lighter in the wallet but definitely coming”. Then when we finally met up at the arena he happily helped two of our party get the two remaining first to the barrier wristbands that we were missing so that we could get right to the front.Adam went on to tell me that he had been to 14 of the 32 European dates that the band had done on this leg of the tour as well as having travelled to North America last year for many of the those shows too. And he wasn’t alone either as many of the people who were around us on Sunday were on first name terms with each other and while addressing the audience from the stage, Bruce (vocals) announced that he could see “several familiar faces”.Also impromptu Facebook pages sprung up since the announcement of the London shows where total strangers arranged to meet for beers and group photos on show day to make new friends and share tour stories.
When you wear your maiden t-shirt you belong to something much bigger than simply an audience. You could be anywhere in the world and if a fellow fan see’s that your a fan too you will almost certainly soon find yourself in a bar sharing a beer and discussing your favourite songs with them. This doesn’t happen with any another band that that I’ve ever been to see. From a marketing point of view it’s probably true to say that Metallica are the biggest grossing metal band at the moment and have been for some time but Metallica are always on the coat tails of maiden when it come to the devotion of the fans, quality of the shows and in my humble opinion the music too. One of the best things about watching legends like Iron Maiden is that they are living legends, still selling out arenas, stadiums and festivals around the world. When people talk about the pioneers/creators of the genre they quickly talk about the style and the influence that Maiden have had in their field since starting to get noticed way back in the late 70’s early 80’s. When you look at those pioneers now, most of them have gone only to be referred to as legends and although people of a certain age will always talk of Zeppelin or sabbath with a kind of nostalgic sense of superiority, its worth pointing out that maiden are still going, still touring the world and still appealing to new audiences all over the world. And still getting bigger. You can actually still see these legends in action.
I’d love to finish this off by telling you or begging you to go and witness them for yourself but I’d rather you didn’t. I’d rather curiosity didn’t get the better of you and I’d rather you didn’t turn up at the show just to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve worn the colours for nearly 30 years, I’ve been on the end of the butt of many jokes about liking metal and there are a whole bunch of people I could name right here right now who have judged me because of it but I won’t. I’m a better person than that. So despite the fact that I KNOW you would have the experience of your life at a maiden show I’d like you keep away. I’d like it to remain the case that like Paris, Download and London this year as well as all the other shows since the first at Hammersmith odeon on 4th November 1986 it’s just me and the hundreds of thousands of my blood brothers going to see them. It’s our secret.
I posed a question at the start about a t-shirt and here’s the reason why. When were leaving the O2 on Sunday my friend Mike was approached by a couple who went on to explain to him that they had finished their honeymoon in London that day and that going to see maiden was the icing on their marital cake but like many of the other concert goers that night, the merchandise stalls had sold out of the event shirt. Now you should know that the event shirts are unique to the show and cannot be bought afterwards, they are like badges of honour that can only be obtained at the show. What makes them unique is that the back of the shirt has the date of the show on it and although they can be bought through official stores on maidens website they cannot be bought with the tour date on the back which makes the event shirt a desirable piece of kit. The honeymooners wanted the shirt as a souvenir of the “pinnacle of their honeymoon” and had picked out Mike as he was the same build as the husband. Bear in mind this shirt was covered in much beer and sweat and for reasons that I won’t go into, it had also been very firmly pressed into the floor of the arena by over officious security despite the fact that Mike was still in it at the time.
He got £60 for it. And I think he got the rough end of the deal too.