Iron Maiden is one of the biggest and most influential heavy metal bands of all time. Despite that, there are different opinions among fans regarding the role of their different singers. While some believe that Paul Di’Anno was the band’s best vocalist, others believe that honor belongs to Bruce Dickinson. Actually, it all comes down to a matter of taste.
The band’s self-titled debut album, which was released on Monday, April 14, 1980, clearly demonstrates the differences between the two vocalists. Di’Anno had a much more limited vocal range, but a more raw and abrasive style that makes songs like “Running Free”, “Charlotte the Harlot” and especially the title track forceful and punk-tinged.
“I come from a more punk than rock background. I didn’t even know who Iron Maiden was back then. Then a friend told me about them. At first I didn’t know what to think, but his music grew on me,” Di’Anno said.
Iron Maiden was unlike other bands in the nascent New Wave of the British Heavy Metal scene. Although Saxon, Def Leppard and Diamond Head were also stirring it up at London’s The Soundhouse, Maiden had a level of musicianship that was a cut above the other bands, with a combination of galloping riffs, flashy guitar harmonies and complex arrangements. to instantly amazing Iron Maiden.
“The only ones who did something slightly different was us and Motorhead. But Motorhead had been around for years and everyone knows what they were like, they just didn’t know what to call them: punk, metal, whatever. People realized that we were a new kind of metal and they came to see us. And a lot of them are like, ‘Wow, this is fantastic,'” adds Di’Anno.
There was no shortage of material for the album, which was filled with a variety of punk-tinged anthems and complex, rhythmic labyrinths of sound. There was even a classic instrumental, “Transylvania.” From the start, the aggression and attitude of “Prowler” – which kicks off with a killer jagged riff, a memorable wah-wah saturated lick, and fiery lead work even before the vocal star – proved that Iron Maiden would be a hit. showcase of fiery guitars to rival anything from Judas Priest.
And that was even before Adrian Smith joined the band (guitar duties on Iron Maiden were shared between Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton, who quit to join Lionheart in October 1980).
Still, then as now, the driving force behind the Iron Maiden sound was bassist Steve Harris, who wrote or co-wrote all the songs and lyrics; Di’Anno only contributed lyrics to “Remember Tomorrow” and “Running Free”.
Over the next year, the lopsided division of lyrical labor would become a sticking point between Di’Anno and Harris, but when Iron Maiden recorded their debut album, everyone was excited to be in the studio and positive about the whole thing. creative process.
Maiden knew most of the songs before signing a contract with Harvest/Capitol Records, and recorded the album at Kingsway Studios in West London in just 13 days in January 1980. The tracks were mixed at Morgan Studios in North West London. in February.
After firing the other two producers, the record was produced by Will Malone, who reportedly had no interest in the band and allowed Iron Maiden to set up their own labels and record much of the record on their own. Some have praised the album’s raw, punk sound, but even Di’Anno feels that Iron Maiden suffered from lackluster production.
“If Iron Maiden really had better production, I don’t think there would be another album to play it for a thousand years. The guy who produced it mixed the triangle on the fucking Mike Oldfield album and that’s all he did. But we were so naive that we didn’t know what we were doing,” says Malone.
For the public, Iron Maiden was a tremendous first look at a band that would continue to evolve over time, but would, at its core, remain a band in the NWOBHM tradition. The album also offered a first look at artwork from Derek Riggs and the band’s mascot, Eddie.
Riggs was discovered by Iron Maiden management, who brought his portfolio to his studio in hopes of commissioning some of his work. Eddie’s original painting was called “Electric Matthew Says Hello” and featured a hairless Eddie designed for a punk album. The band liked it, but wanted it to appear more tactile, so Riggs added wild, untamed long hair to the painting, and the immortal Eddie was born.