Iron Maiden Made Me Metal
As the story goes, my first forays into music were heavily influenced by my parents. My dad brought a love of jazz, blues, oldies, and even some orchestral music to my attention, but it was his interest in Vietnam-era classic rock that really helped us bond in my tween and early teen years and made much of what I was hearing feel personal to me.
Music discovery was still very much a family affair till the day I joined Columbia House Record & Tape Club (yes, they still sold vinyl and cassettes and believe it or not, even 8-tracks in the first few issues of the magazine I received). The deal back in the day was 15 cassettes for a penny, buy one at “regular price,” and get like three more free! How could you go wrong with a deal like that?
Problem was, between vinyl, reel-to-reel, and cassettes, much of the music I wanted I already had access to. I was at a loss for how to initiate my subscription of 15 cassettes for a penny.
This was an era of covering your textbooks with paper bags and three-ring binders with cloth covers that resembled burlap. That meant every kid was covering every inch of their stuff with illustrated versions of them. Bubble lettering, graffiti art, Atari game scenes, Saturday morning cartoon characters, and of course, band logos. In thinking back over the names of bands I remembered seeing scrawled on the older kids binders, I parsed together some classic rock, some punk, and some glam metal when I remembered Iron Maiden. Taking a chance, I ordered Somewhere in Time.
A few weeks later, the big box arrived, and I tore into it. Of all the titles spilled out on the floor, the Derrick Riggs cover art stood out. “There is no way something so awesome-looking could be bad,” I thought. I popped the cassette into the HiFi, cranked the volume to the parentally acceptable level, and listened. I’ll admit I wasn’t sold immediately. After the title track, I stopped the tape and went onto something else, listening through every side one, song one in the box.
Still though, I was enamored by the visuals and kept the tape in plain site. Several weeks later, after exhausting the rest of my listening, I returned to Maiden and heard “Wasted Years.” I was sold. That was it. Music changed for me forever. The lyrics to that song reminded me – “Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years.” The drumming was pounding, and there were extended fills that felt almost like solos. There was also crazy bass work going on that sounded like one long solo itself. The guitars were harmonized, and the vocals were over the top.
From that point on, Somewhere in Time took on an entirely different vibe as the sonic tsunami washed over me. Being a percussionist, hearing flutter peddle technique to mimic double bass and having the tom fills double the guitar melodies, with everything complimenting the brutal approach of the bass playing was beyond inspiring to me. Also being an aspiring writer, hearing all the literary and historical references and how everything was interpreted and rearranged was intriguing. And, although I wasn’t much good at it, I loved visual art and of course, Rigg’s art is legendary for its Easter eggs – I spent days on end trying to identify them all.
The album itself has aged interestingly. Sometimes, it sounds dated, caught, as the title proclaims, somewhere in time. Other times, it sounds futuristic and era-less as much of the art and lyrics allude to. Sometimes, it sounds just right, and in that, it remains not only the album that made me metal back in the day but also the album that constantly reminds me to “Face up, make your stand / And realize you’re living in the golden years.”