Bruce Dickinson: I Knew I'd Joined A Great Band. I Knew I Could Make It Better

Iron Maiden live in 1982
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s been 35 years since Bruce Dickinson left Samson to join Iron Maiden and over 30 since his landmark debut with the band, 1982’s The Number Of The Beast, the record that helped usher in a new era for metal. Here he picks three of his favourites from their decades-spanning, world-straddling catalogue.


“I knew that I had joined a great band. I also knew I could make it even better. I had a vision for The Number Of The Beast: my voice glued on to Maiden equals something much bigger. We did it fast – four or five weeks. We’d be in the studio till five or six in the morning. The one mistake we made was putting Gangland on the album instead of Total Eclipse. We picked Gangland because it was the first thing we ever recorded together properly. But the rest of the album was fantastic. Hallowed Be Thy Name was a precursor to Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. That song, and the whole album, took Maiden to a different level.”


“It was a real statement, a live double, like the ones we all loved when we were growing up. My favourite live album is Deep Purple’s Made In Japan. But I recall reading Ian Gillan saying, ‘I thought it was a piece of shit, I sounded crap on it.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, no – you’re wrong!’ The funny thing is, I’m the same with Live After Death. When Maiden fans tell me it’s our best live album, I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that.’ But just recently I listened to Live After Death and it sounded pretty good. And “Scream for me, Long Beach!” has become a part of Maiden folklore.

“That said, the whole thing should’ve been from Hammersmith. The performances there were better than the ones in Los Angeles, but the lighting engineer, Dave Lights, was at war with the video guys and consequently the whole thing was too dark. So we had great audio footage, but a lot of the concert footage was unusable.”


“There’s a lot of great stuff on this album. A lot of strange time signatures. It was a very brave move for us on that tour – to play the album from end to end: ‘We’re going to play the whole fucking album for the people who are about the here and now, the people who are interested in the band going forward.’ You’ve got to keep on making new music, and great new music, because without it you’re just the world’s biggest karaoke band.

“The band acquired an emotional depth to our playing with that record. It’s always been there but it’s almost like in the past we’d been a bit too rigid to actually admit it. It’s was out in the open then. And people loved it. We added lots more colours to the palette with that record.”

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Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”