Life is what happens when you are making other plans~ John Lennon
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind~Gandhi
The time is always right to do what is right~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bruce Dickinson: Maiden Voyage

This is the new autobiography from Bruce Dickinson. It goes into a very great detail about who he is and his life both in/out of Maiden. It also talks about early girlfriends, meeting his first wife and then second wife and how it was to become a father. He also talks about the health scare and risk of having a golf ball-sized lump of cancer on his tongue. This book is a sort of continuation of the previously released book with the irritatingly long title Bruce Dickinson: Flashing Metal with Maiden and Flying Solo.
This book is very interesting. It starts out telling how Bruce's grandparents came to meet. About how they had children and how one day they would meet. Bruce's mother, Sonia, was a talented ballet dancer who had won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet Academy. But she had to drop out because she had become pregnant with her son, who she would name Paul Bruce Dickinson. She was only 16 at the time while his father, Bruce Dickinson Sr, was 17 and in the Army. His parents were very young to have a child, a child that was never meant to be born, an accidental birth. Not only that, they were very financially poor, so they sent the new child to live with Bruce's grandparents while they went to look for work in Sheffield. Not only that, but later on, his parents would have another child, a girl they named Helen. To this day, Bruce feels incredibly estranged from his sister because he describes her birth as a planned birth because his parents wanted to have her while his birth was accidental.

He went to a variety of schools, like the somewhat posh Sharrow Vale, very rough Manor Top Primary, and later on Oundle, a British public school (private school in American English). It was there that he discovered music. Deep Purple had just released their LP, In Rock. The song that captured his mind was "Child in Time". Up until then, most of the schools Bruce had attended left him with the perpetual "new kid" label and left him subject to bullying, ranging from drying out clothes that had been drenched with water, picking out dried eggs from his bed and even getting late night beatings with pillows

As he got older, despite his here-and-there educational career, he applied himself to Queen Mary College in London, despite never being to the capital city at all. During this time, he was trying to get a career in music started. Originally, singing is not what he had in mind. He actually wanted to be a drummer, like Ian Paice of Deep Purple. But since he had no room for said drums, he settled on bongos. What inspired this was one time during high school, he was watching a bunch of classmates messing around with the Beatles song "Let It Be". Noticing that the singer couldn't seem to hit the high notes, he stepped in to bolster this singer's voice and immediately noticed that he could in fact hit those high notes and more. That inspired him to go out and get a microphone-he had found his calling. During college, he had moved through various bands, all seemingly starting with the same letter, S-Shots, Styx (not the American version of the band; he was unaware that there was an American band of the same name), Speed (not from the drug, but the breakneck speed of the music) and finally Samson, named not after the biblical character whose hair is shorn, but after founding member, guitarist Paul Samson.

Bruce Dickinson and girlfriend Jane



Later on, Bruce would have a solo band with an S-starting name again-Skunkworks, although the label recording this album didn't want the band called Skunkworks. They insisted the album be called Skunkworks with Bruce's name prominent on it, which aggravated Bruce because he wanted the whole band to get credit, not just him. He knows how to work as a team.
When Bruce joined Samson, he had to learn all the material from their Survivors album. Not everyone was enthused by the new addition of the singer. Some people preferred the hard bluesy rock Paul Samson provided with his singing and guitar playing, rather than the prog rock, Deep Purple-type direction Bruce was taking the band in with his voice. But handling both was proving too difficult. So it was decided to find a singer.

Even then, Bruce was developing his stage craft. He would call people out from the audience and joke with them. As time went on, the time with Samson became less about the music and more about the pyro. It seemed Paul Samson was trying to beat the newer, younger bands at their own game when the reality was he simply couldn't. One day, Bruce was offered the role of front man for Iron Maiden since that band's front man, Paul Di'Anno, had been unceremoniously let go due to his issues with various recreational substances and the very constant loss of his voice, which irritated Steve Harris to no end. Some nights, Steve Harris had to handle lead vocals, which I didn't even know he could do. I  didn't know he could sing. Bruce consulted friend and PR consultant Jennie Halsall, known as the Heavy Metal Queen of PR. When told about this upcoming offer, she said something to this effect. "I do what is right, not necessarily what is right for me. Offers like this don't come around a lot. You can take this new offer, but the Samson boys are going to hate you because their deal is going to fall through". At the time, Samson was being courted by new labels, since they had just gotten off their label, Ramkup. When Bruce broke the news, he did it as amicably as possible.

Bruce auditioned for Maiden, unofficially, at a music studio in London, shortly after the 1981 departure of then front man Paul Di'Anno. When the Maiden boys heard Bruce sing, it was like a sign from the heavens. His high wailing vocals meant the band could go in directions previously unheard of. The 1980s proved to be very successful for Bruce and Maiden; they managed to break America, break records, sell records. Unfortunately, they became part of the problem of the so-called "moral majority", meaning they were considered to be bad influences on the youth of America, turning them on to what was called "devil's music" and being accused of being Satanists or devil worshippers. This is complete crap! The last band on the planet to be devil worshippers is Iron Maiden. Their drummer, Nicko McBrain, is a 100% devout Christian and most likely so are all three guitar players-Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, since they all wear crosses around their necks.

1986. Jeez, you think Dave Murray's jeans could be any tighter? lol!

The 1990s, however, proved to be more difficult. It was the time of experimentation, where members of bands went out and did something completely different than what they normally did, something completely out of left field. Bruce, it seemed, wanted to pick from the fruit of a tree different than Maiden. In the 1990s, he had upped his game in fencing, a sport he had done while at Oundle, but had lost interest in over the years. He had some problems with customs because they didn't know what fencing equipment looked like and he had to learn how to say "fencing" in over ten languages. Most likely, the customs people thought it was weird that a heavy metal singer would have the whole fencing kit travelling with him. He also began taking flying lessons.

He also had begun working on a solo album, that was to be called Tattooed Millionaire. This was said to be one of his most successful solo albums, not only because the songs were good, but for the David Bowie fans out there, he did a heavy metal overhaul of the David Bowie classic "All the Young Dudes". He had started doing this right after the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son tour. He describes that album as being long and really expensive to record. Unfortunately by the time the Somewhere in Time album was recorded, Bruce was contributing just as many songs as Steve Harris and the others, but most if not all of Bruce's songs were rejected. Most of the guys laughed hysterically at some of his suggestions because some of them had a Spanish folk guitar-type sound to them. Which explains why Bruce went out and did a solo album of music he wants because he felt that no one was listening to his suggestions when he was busting his butt, writing just as many songs as Steve Harris, but it was Steve's songs and songs written by the other guys that were getting used. Not only that, but with Steve being a now father, he had started taking his own tour bus to gigs because he now had kids and this allowed him and his young family a type of freedom to go and stay wherever their hearts desired and go and see the sights, rather than go from gig to hotel to gig to hotel. Steve wanted to start taking his own tour bus because he didn't want to keep the others in the band up with crying babies all night.

When it came time to record the band's first new album of the decade, which was to be titled No Prayer for the Dying, they did the recording in a barn at Steve Harris' house. When Bruce listened to some of the songs for the album, he felt the band had taken a step back. He had recently began listening to a band called Dream Theatre and when he talked to Nicko, he said something to the effect of "Listen to No Prayer for the Dying and listen to these demos of a band called Dream Theatre. This band completely blows Maiden's sound away and it shouldn't." It turned out that the first one to leave Maiden wouldn't be Bruce, but Adrian. He had left to pursue a solo career under the moniker ASAP (Adrian Smith Album Project). The next album, Fear of the Dark, is said to be one of Maiden's darker albums, in terms of lyrical content because bass player Steve Harris was in the process of splitting with his high school sweetheart Lorraine, who was also the mother of their four kids-George, Kerry, Faye, Lauren and it was said to be a nasty divorce

After Fear of the Dark, Bruce went on to form a solo career. He talks about the songs on each one and not only that, the producers, musicians and anyone else who helped on the albums talked as well. He talks about celebrating the marriage to now wife Paddy Bowden and celebrating the birth of his two sons, Austin Matthew Bowden Dickinson in 1990 and Griffin Michael Bowden Dickinson in 1992. When Bruce left, tabloid journalists were trying to dig up every amount of dirt they could on the singer's departure. Unfortunately, the one person they chose to annoy was drummer Nicko McBrain, who was tired and slightly intoxicated at 2am after a gig in Bremen, Germany. He was already tired of being asked repeatedly about the singer's departure from the band. He said something to the effect of "When he left, that was almost saying "F--- you" He doesn't want to be with a bunch of has-beens. He went his way, we're going our way. We'll get a new singer. F--- him!" He would go on to have a very successful solo career, making albums such as Balls to Picasso, Accident of Birth, The Chemical Wedding, Tyranny of Souls, Skunkworks. It was during the making of Balls to Picasso that Paddy and Bruce welcomed their third child, Kia Michele. When Bruce left the band, Steve was starting to think the end had come. He was at a very low point in his life, after going through a divorce from his high school sweetheart, Lorraine. Just when he thought he couldn't go on any further, it was his trusted second in command, Dave Murray, who finally spoke up. He said something to the effect of why should we have to quit just because Bruce did. We'll get someone else. And get someone else they did. They recruited former Wolfsbane front man Blaze Bayley.

Bruce Dickinson and wife Paddy
Austin Dickinson. He's handsome!
Griffin Dickinson. He's handsome too!
Bruce and daughter Kia
During the mid to late 1990s, Bruce started working on what would be the album Accident of Birth. He said that he wanted to challenge himself, see how far he could push himself musically, on his last album, Skunkworks. The label that was to release the album said they insisted on having the name "Bruce Dickinson" on it, which aggravated Bruce to no end, as he saw the making of the album as a team effort. He wanted the whole band to be credited for it instead of having the album name "Bruce Dickinson Skunkworks". He went painfully out of his way not to make it seem like he called all the shots. He made sure that people working with him got credit and got songs on there as well. Most if not all the critics labelled the album Skunkworks as a failure. But Bruce said he enjoyed making it. But he wanted to make a return to all-out heavy metal, what he known best for. And that return would be called Accident of Birth. This album is definitely the heavier of his solo albums in terms of heavy sounds, riffs, just an overall metal feel. It almost has an industrial metal sound to it.

Meanwhile, in the land of Maiden, the band were bedding new singer Blaze Bayley into proceedings on the new album, which was to be called The X Factor. It's said to be the darkest album Maiden has ever made, definitely not for the younger spectrum of Maiden fans. Blaze mentioned that he said Steve Harris was nearly in tears at some of the offensive things Bruce had said. It seemed almost as if Bruce was dismissive of the past, dismissive of the legendary place he had built in Maiden, almost as if being the singer in Maiden was nothing to be proud of, just like anyone could do it. Blaze also mentions that it was difficult to record and that it took a full year to make, from beginning to end. The songs on that album are very dark in tone and subject. He said that the songs had a strong progressive rock feel to them, stemming from Steve's love of Genesis and prog rock. Also, the content on the album is very dark, very intense, very moody. It's almost very adult-oriented. Blaze would go on to make just two albums with Maiden: 1995's The X Factor and 1998's Virtual XI. Unfortunately, towards the end of the 1990s, plans were being made to reunite with Bruce. After a band meeting, it was decided that Bruce was coming back. Blaze did the kindly, gentlemanly way of exiting the band saying he would not trash the band or insult them the way Bruce did. He made for a very classy exit from the band. Nowadays, Blaze has his own band and does his own music, but will cover Maiden songs from time to time, the ones they didn't necessarily cover a lot.

Blaze Bayley

As 1999 morphed into 2000, Bruce was invited back to the band and had one surprise-he was bringing Adrian Smith back. Both had gone and done their solo work, almost purging themselves of any demons lurking within. They seemed to gotten off all unnecessary steam and came back into the band with a renewed energy. The band was now ready to tackle an album of the new generation. Some people wondered how the three guitar lineup would work, even Janick Gers questioned that. When news of Adrian's return was brought up, he said that if he needed to stand down, he would. Steve said that Janick was going nowhere. He was an essential part of the Maiden machine. The new album was to be titled Brave New World, after the Aldous Huxley book. And it's ironic how some people think that they are just a bunch of ignorant musicians. It's hard to be ignorant when writing music, especially music that becomes popular very quickly and especially a band that takes their song and album titles from very old books, movies and even historical happenings. Pretty good for a bunch of East End London boys. On this new album, Bruce had writing credits on at least two songs, "Out of the Silent Planet" and "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate".

In 2003, the band once again, wrote another album, Dance of Death. It was said to be good, except for a song or two here and there. The song said to be the weaker point on the album is "Gates of Tomorrow". Whoever said this song wasn't great is smoking something, lol. I love this song. It's great. Even drummer Nicko McBrain gets a writing credit on this song, "Journeyman", which is about cloning.

However, big history was going to be made in 2005. Iron Maiden were one of the many bands playing at the 2005 Ozzfest in San Bernadino, California. Apparently Bruce had made some rather disparaging remarks about reality TV onstage, saying that people who do reality TV "need to get off their arses and stop being so voyeuristic. Reality TV is crap". Sharon thought he was talking about her and her family, she said that Bruce was cold to Ozzy, who had kindly wished him luck before the show while he just dismissed it off. And Bruce also suspects that it was a cold, calculated attack on the band. The band was pelted with eggs, lighters, bottle tops during their set. The power to their equipment was cut, someone kept going over the PA system, shouting "Ozzy, Ozzy", a man draped in a US flag ran around the stage during their set. And Sharon even tried to turn Bruce's waving of the Union Jack into a political issue. She said something to the effect of "There you are waving the Union Flag on American soil when both American and English boys are fighting alongside one another overseas. Have a little more consideration and respect".

Of course, the fight extended to management as well. She sent a letter to Maiden manager Rod Smallwood, detailing all the things she thought about Bruce. She thought of him as an arrogant prick, who most likely thought that because he went to public school he was automatically better than everyone else. She also mentioned that it was Bruce and Bruce alone she had the issue with, not the rest of the band, whom she described as "kind, professional and courteous". Rod Smallwood issued a statement saying something to the effect of "I've been in the rock business for over thirty years and I've never seen something so disgusting and unprofessional as this. This was a calculated attack against the bands. And Ozzfest security did nothing to stop it. Almost as if they were supporting it. The fact that it almost seemed as if she were urging the fans to throw things is irresponsible. Them throwing things is vile, dangerous and cowardly". The last thing you want to do, of course, is make Rod Smallwood angry. He is definitely one to tangle with, especially considering he's a pretty big guy. Of course, Sharon sent another letter, signed "The Real Iron Maiden". Funny name, huh? Most who study history (including me) know that the REAL IRON MAIDEN is Margaret Thatcher, who rightly earned and deserves that name for her no nonsense approach to politics and being one of the first people to go behind what was then known as the Iron Curtain. Even bassist Steve Harris had to issue a statement saying that not only but the rest of the band were embarrassed by their singer's actions.

As the 2000s went on, the band would make even more albums, each one getting better. In 2008, they recorded and released A Matter of Life and Death. This one, like all their albums, would have a theme-this one being war. The theme is evident on the front as it shows a tank with battle-weary skeletal soldiers and emblazoned on the front of the tank is Eddie with crossed M-16s below him and donning a military helmet. It was said that this one would one of the more complex albums because of the lyrical content dealing with war, destruction and other adult-type topics. Later that same year, they embarked on their Somewhere Back in Time tour, which was the basis of the documentary Iron Maiden: Flight 666. It showed the band flying around the world on their customized Boeing 747, which was customized to carry twenty tons of stage gear and backline equipment in addition to the various instruments Maiden uses, like all the guitars, the bass guitars and the drums. The documentary interviews the band members, various management along with people who interviewed the band in other countries and also talks to fans, the ones responsible for keeping the band inspired and to keep going along with showing Bruce piloting the plane. In addition, it shows the various band members going sightseeing, doing things to relax, such as Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain taking in a round of golf and Nicko managing to nearly break his hand by a golf ball hit and Rod laughing and saying "I told you golf was a bloody dangerous sport" or the band going to an underground cave in Mexico to perform a spiritual ritual honoring the dead.

In 2010, they recorded and released The Final Frontier. Most would think this is their last album, judging from the name. In actuality, the name stems from something Star Trek-related, since Bruce is a giant sci-fi fan. After that, the band would take some time off. This gave Bruce time to engage in one of his other major interests besides fencing-aviation. He would go to business conferences talking about how he thought that aviation businesses can improve themselves and help others. He would also donate his time and money to charities, which he still does today. One of those noted charities is the Sunflower Jam, a foundation founded by Jacky Paice, wife of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, which supports cancer victims. The foundation put on a concert and Bruce played The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes". It was also said that there would be a special type of ale called Trooper Ale that would be released with special artwork on the bottle. Plans were already being made for another album, which would be released in 2015. It was to be titled The Book of Souls and the theme on this one would be a strong Mayan theme, even extending to the stages, to the point where the stages looked like Mayan ruins, complete with stone pillars with the faces of the band carved into it and the eyes glowing orange, as if possessed by some demon.


Bruce Dickinson on documentary Flying Heavy Metal
But before plans could be made for the album, Bruce had gone to a yearly doctor's checkup and they discovered he had a golf ball-sized lump on the back of his tongue. After taking a biopsy, it turned out he had a very rare cancer of the head and neck. He would go through aggressive radiotherapy and chemotherapy while working on the album. On this album, he has a lot more writing credits, including the eighteen minute album closer "The Empire of the Clouds", which is most likely about, you guessed it, something related to aviation, a matter close to Bruce's heart. The first ten minutes are a piano interlude completed on a Steinway piano, which Bruce is playing. So it's obvious that Bruce is a very talented piano player. On the album, most of the songs are written by either Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers or Bruce Dickinson. The only writing credit penned to Dave Murray is "The Red and the Black". The band would also upgrade their jet. They would go from using a Boeing 757 that they customized and used for the Somewhere Back in Time and Final Frontier tours to using a Boeing 747-400, a gigantic beast of an airplane that allows them to carry more backline equipment and store more crew and staff.

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