Video breakdown: Iron Maiden’s Can I Play With Madness

Released in March 1988, Can I Play With Madness was the first single taken from Iron Maiden’s album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.

Its video was shot on location in Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire and Chislehurst Caves in Bromley, Kent, and featured the late Monty Python star Graham Chapman as a cantankerous teacher in charge of a group of art students. Last year, Metal Hammer readers even voted it as the best heavy metal videos of all time – and for good reason.

It may give a nod to themes of prophecy, the occult and grumpy educators, but what’s it really about? We peel away the layers to get to the heart of this iconic, um, onion.


The opening scene shows Kenny Rogers writing the lyrics to The Gambler with a quill. It was a long time ago, you see.


What the rock history books don’t tell us is that Bruce Dickinson would rehearse next to Kenny Rogers’ shed. See how the American star is snapped out of his lyric trance by the song’s opening line.


A lovely view of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire. Perfect for a school trip. For the road to these particular ruins, take the M4.


Told you. Kids love sitting on damp benches and sketching monastic ruins. They won’t shut up about it on Twitter. Look for #monasticruins. And don’t get us started on Snapchat.


Hang on a minute. It is Graham Chapman, playing a grumpy teacher. It seems pencil chewing is a surefire way to wind him up. It’s the sort of thing that can destroy a young person’s education. And teeth, if you’re not careful.


Were you the sort of student to draw metal album covers in art class? You were, weren’t you? Did the big boys laugh at your attempts at Eddie from the Seventh Son tour programme and say it looked like a dinosaur behind your back? Don’t worry. It was a long time ago. They can’t hurt you now. Apart from sarcastic tweets.


The teacher finds a rolled up magazine called Metal Madness and confiscates it. Not before throwing the pupil’s sketch on the muddy ground. We thought it was a pretty good likeness.


A groteseque cloud appears. That’s something you never hear meteorologists talk about. ‘Cloud types include stratocumulus, stratus, cumulus, cumulonimbus, Eddie…’


Mr. Chapman is getting increasingly annoyed at the metal magazine he’s nicked off one of his pupils. Oh, look. There’s a poster of Iron Maiden enjoying a well-deserved pint. Cheers.


Have you ever been so engrossed in a magazine where you’ve fallen down a massive hole? We have.


Shit! Who’s that? Is that a… medieval hoodie? There’s a gang of them. Broken, um, Bryttania.


He’s probably going to yell at one of them for chewing or something. Even though he’s in a dark underground lair.


In the darkness, the image of Eddie appears to be communicating with Mr. Chapman. It’s a bit like that Book Of Souls cover Metal Hammer did last year.


There’s a pupil who looks like he’s been in detention forever.


The teacher finds a really old book. No Kindles in those days. Didn’t even have the internet. Think about that next time a download “takes ages”


He starts sweating profusely for no apparent reason. Don’t drip on the book, it’ll go all wavy.


There’s Maiden footage from The Number of the Beast playing on a dusty telly. Adrian Smith appears to be playing left-handed. Surely this is some crazy fevered dream?


He’s watched Maiden so long, he’s become covered in cobwebs. It can happen. There’s a clip from Live After Death on now.


There’s a fridge with ‘LIFE’ emblazoned across the door. Never heard of that brand.


Inside, Eddie is giving birth. Didn’t even need gas or air. Look at how cold that hospital room looks. No wonder he looks annoyed.


As Mr. Chapman tries to make a run for it, Kenny Rogers laughs while monitoring his efforts in a crystal ball. Oh, it’s not Kenny Rogers. It’s the prophet from the song. Silly us. He’s a dead ringer though. ‘All this love we feel, needs no conversation, we can ride it together, ah-ha…’


We’ll never know whether the teacher escaped. The video ends with a spoon scooping out Eddie’s custard-like brains. Video ends.

What did we learn from Can I Play With Madness?

Basically, if you go on a field trip to Tintern Abbey and start drawing Eddie, you’re going to invoke all sorts of evil. So don’t do that, really.

Iron Maiden begin their European Book Of Souls tour in April 2017.

The Totally Impossible Iron Maiden Quiz

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.