“It was all a bit Jethro Tull-y and witchy-woo”: the iconic Bruce Dickinson solo song that began life as an idea for an ‘acoustic’ Iron Maiden album that was never made

Bruce Dickinson with long hair in 1994
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

History is littered with potentially brilliant albums that have never seen the light of day, from Slipknot’s semi-mythical Look Outside Your Window, Korn’s equally mysterious Korn Kovers collection, Ghost frontman Tobias Forge’s recently unearthed solo record. Some were recorded and shelved, others were abandoned halfway through for reasons known only to the participants, many never really made beyond the ‘wouldn’t this be a fantastic idea?’ stage.

Bruce Dickinson’s idea for the follow-up to Iron Maiden’s mighty 1984 album Powerslave falls squarely into the latter category. Burnt out after the gruelling 13-month long World Slavery Tour, Bruce suggested the band rip up the rulebook and write something completely different next time around.

“If I had my way, [Powerslave follow-up] Somewhere In Time would have sounded very different,” he said in the liner notes for the latter album’s 1998 reissue, adding that he envisaged more of an ‘acoustic’ album.

Bruce actually started writing songs for this potentially mould-breaking record. “It was all a bit Jethro Tull-y and a bit witchy-woo,” he says, referring to the venerable British folk-prog band also beloved of Maiden bassist Steve Harris. There was just one obstacle. Harris wasn’t so keen on this new musical direction for his own band.

“Maiden occupies such a unique space in the pantheon of rock bands, because it’s not just about music, it’s almost like a social phenomenon,” said Bruce. “Steve sees the identity of Maiden as really important. To me, the identity of Maiden is, ‘If we do different kinds of music, it’s still Iron Maiden, cos we’re doing it.’ Which is probably naive.”

However, it wasn’t a complete waste of time for Bruce. Those initial song ideas produced the seeds of a track that would go on to be one of his most iconic solo antjems.

“There was one idea that I had, which actually turned into Tears Of The Dragon,” the singer told Hammer. “That was one of the rejects.”

A finished version of Tears Of The Dragon appeared on Bruce’s second solo album, 1994’s Balls To Picasso, released the year after he quit Iron Maiden.

The singer recently said that Tears Of The Dragon is the song he’s proudest of writing.

“I would say Tears Of The Dragon, ’cause I don’t know what it means,” he told Revolver. “But it means something. That song really affects people. It affects me.

“I do know what it’s about. It’s about abandonment, not being abandoned, but abandoning yourself to the universe, to whatever is gonna come next. But I still don’t know why it is ‘the tears of the dragon’. I’ve never figured that out. It works and it means something, but I don’t know what it is. And that’s why it’s great.”

Bruce recently released his new solo album, the acclaimed The Mandrake Project, accompanied by an epic 12-part comic book series. He begins a solo world tour in April in the USA, followed by shows in South America and Europe.

Bruce Dickinson: The Mandrake Project tour dates 2024

Apr 15: The Observatory Santa Ana, USA
Apr 18: Diana Theater, Guadalajara, Mexico
Apr 20: Pepsi Theatre, Mexico City, Mexico
Apr 24: Live Curitiba, Curitiba, Brazil
Apr 25: Pepsi On Stage, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Apr 27: Opera Hall, Brasilia, Brazil
Apr 28: Arena Hall, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Apr 30: Qualistage, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
May 02: Quinta Linda, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil
May 04: Vibra, Sao Paulo, Brazil
May 18: Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom, UK
May 19: Manchester O2 Academy, UK
May 21: Swansea Arena, UK
May 23: Nottingham Rock City, UK
May 24: London O2 Forum Kentish Town, UK
May 26: Paris L’Olympia, France
May 28: Tilburg 013, Netherlands
May 29: Groningen De Oosterport, Netherlands
Jun 01: Budapest Barba Negra, Hungary
Jun 03: Bucharest Arenale Romane, Romania
Jun 05-08: Gdansk Mystic Festival, Poland
Jun 05-08: Solvesborg Sweden Rock Festival, Sweden
Jun 09: Oslo Rockefeller, Norway
Jun 16: Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt, Norway
Jun 17: Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36, Germany
Jun 19-22: Copenhagen Copenhell, Denmark
Jun 24: Mannheim Zeltfestival Rhein-Neckar, Germany
Jun 25: Munich Circus Krone, Germany
Jun 27-30: Clisson Hellfest, France
Jun 30: Esch-Sur-Alzette Rockhal, Luxembourg
Jul 03-06: Ballenstedt Rockharz Open Air, Germany
Jul 05: Rome Ippodrome Delle Capannelle, Italy
Jul 06: Vincenza Bassano Del Grappa Metal Park, Italy
Jul 09: Koln E-Werk, Germany
Jul 13: Zagreb Hala, Croatia
Jul 16: Sofia Kolodrum Arena, Bulgaria
Jul 19: Istanbul Kucukciftlik Park, Turkey

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