So, some of my favorite music videos are of big-name bands before they became super-duper stars. Before they could sell out arenas and stadiums through sheer name recognition. When they had to earn fan’s loyalty each and every night, performance-by-performance.
And that’s what we have here. Iron Maiden have been around for 35+ years and are rightly considered one of the titans of heavy metal. But in this video they had exactly one album released and were happy to headline a London theater. Admittedly, it was the legendary Rainbow Theater which was quite a gig back in 1981. This is Iron Maiden as I was first exposed to them: raw, young, agressive and, at the time, unlike any other band. And because this is early in the band’s journey we have Paul Dianno on vocals in stead of Bruce Dickinson.
Now, a lot of people consider Dickinson the definitive voice of Iron Maiden, and I can’t really argue with them. I will say, however, I like Dianno on vocals and the two albums he was involved with are classics in my opinion. We also get Clive Burr on drums, rather than Nicko McBrain and while McBrain is a more sophisticated drummer I always preferred Burr’s raw energy and attack-style of drumming.
So what we get is a band just emerging from infancy, working their way to superstardom and at the height of their “new-band-breaking-out” awesomeness. And there is perhaps no song that captures the essence of Iron Maiden better than The Phantom of the Opera. Pretty much all their future epics employed some of the features of this song:
- Reference dark, spooky, old literary classic: check
- Sinister / scary main character: check
- Lengthy, progressive arrangement: check
- Employ multiple time-changes and distinct sections: check
What can be found here that’s missing from a lot of later material is a determined emphasis on HARD and FAST. This focus on raw head-banging also displays the band’s profound musical chops. Perhaps most compelling to me personally, however, is this captures a moment in time that was highly relevant to me. I was 16 when this happened and had embraced music as a core sense of my identity. This video speaks directly to the 16-year old me that still exists today.
Love this song; love this video.