When Monty Python met Iron Maiden: The story behind Graham Chapman's Can I Play With Madness video cameo

A screenshot from Iron Maiden's Can I Play With Madness video, featuring Graham Chapman
(Image credit: YouTube)

Given their age and the recent behaviour of some of their members, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see the ensemble that made up Monty Python grace a stage together again. Their last run of shows came in 2014, but even then the Python rabble were already missing a key man. 

Graham Chapman, who often served as the group’s charismatically daft frontman and took the lead in both Monty Python And The Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, died in 1989. One of his other roles, though, is a tad more surprising: amongst the actor and comedian’s final performances was the video for the Iron Maiden single Can I Play With Madness, the lead track from the metal giants’ 1988 album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. It was a surrealist clip that you imagine appealed to the psychedelically inclined humour of the Monty Python man: Chapman played an art teacher who falls down a hole in the ground into a cave and ends up finding himself trapped in a freezer. 

It was directed by Julian Doyle, a British filmmaker who had worked on the Monty Python films and had previously helmed the video for Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting. He told Classic Rock how the Maiden collaboration came about. “Maiden asked me to direct the video,” he remembered. “They asked me to come up with an idea. So I asked Graham if he fancied doing it. He was a fan of pop and rock music – he was a friend of Keith Moon. I’m not sure if Iron Maiden were on his radar at that point.” 

Filming took place at Tintern Abbey, near Monmouth in Wales, and then in Chislehurst Caves in south London, although the band themselves only appear briefly. “They didn’t meet Graham on the day,” said Doyle, “though I know Bruce Dickinson met him and the other Pythons afterwards.” Indeed, in 2009 the Iron Maiden frontman spoke of his love for all things Python. “Monty Python is in your childhood DNA,” he said. “If somebody says: ‘Upper Class Twit Of The Year’, it takes me right back.” 

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.