On September 3, 1984, Iron Maiden released their fifth album, Powerslave. Kicking off with exhilarating opener Aces High and closing with gargantuan 13-minute prog-metal epic The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, it was the British metal icons’ most ambitious album yet. And it would be accompanied by their grandest tour to date, the eye-popping World Slavery extravaganza.
The World Slavery tour had actually started almost a month earlier, on August 9. And it began in the most unlikely of places: Poland, a country still stuck firmly behind the Iron Curtain. While a handful of Western rock bands had played there, including 70s rockers Budgie, Maiden were the first major metal band to perform in the Eastern Bloc.
They made the most of their time there, playing five dates in six days. Somewhere in between, they found time to gatecrash a local wedding and drunkenly taking the stage to cover Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water in front of 300 dancing guests.
“We’d had a few drinks beforehand and just thought, ‘Oh, why not?’,” bassist Steve Harris later explained. “Everyone was so pissed from the wedding anyway, they didn’t seem to care. It was great fun!”
“Rod [Smallwood, Maiden’s manager] and I disappeared and didn’t come back until 6 or 7 in the morning,” added drummer Nicko McBrain. “We had our arms around each other, shouting, ‘Smoke on the water!’, weaving backwards and forwards across the road.”
Sadly, Maiden’s career as the world’s unlikeliest wedding band was short lived, and they resumed the Worlld Slavery trek. By the time it finished 11 later, they had played 189 shows on five continents. Bruce Dickinson later claimed it was the most gruelling experience of his life, but it served as a major turning point on the band’s journey to superstardom.