“It’s a big, festering, open sewer – it’s nothing to do with music”: Watch Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson eviscerate hair metal in a 1990 interview

Bruce Dickinson in 1990
(Image credit: Hard ’N’ Heavy via YouTube/WV Monster)

The hair metal scene of 1980s Los Angeles gave us a plethora of chart-smashing rock anthems, from Mötley Crüe’s Girls Girls Girls to Warrant’s Heaven. But, let’s be honest: that’s not the only thing people remember that trend for nowadays. Equally as noteworthy as glam’s music was its wildman indulgences, obsessed with sex, drugs and a bit more sex.

It’s an ideology that Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson took vocal issue with as he went solo in 1990. And this is a man with pipes so impressive that he’s been dubbed the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’s “Air Raid Siren”, so said vocals are pretty hard to ignore.

Granted, Bruce never called the likes of W.A.S.P. out by name, but his venom for the scene still oozed from his work regardless. Tattooed Millionaire, the title track of his 1990 debut, raged against “tattooed boys with expensive toys, living in a bubble of sin” who are “out on the strip”. If that wasn’t an open-and-shut enough reference to L.A.’s bad boys, the music video punctuated it by depicting a big-earringed, long-haired, bandana-donning rocker speeding down a runway in a sports car.

Bruce’s campaign against hedonism continued in the 1990 interview embedded below. Talking as part of the Hard ’N’ Heavy VHS series, the vocalist explains the meaning of the Tattooed Millionaire title – and takes fewer prisoners than Megadeth in the process.

“It’s not about having a tattoo or not having a tattoo,” Bruce begins. “Tattooed Millionaire is a whole area that I just see as a big, festering, open sewer on the arsehole of mankind in terms of music.”

Somehow, the singer still gets more outspoken from there.

“The whole vibe about that scene is it’s nothing to do with music. It’s nothing to do with being real; it’s to do with some bullshit attitude that’s down to, ‘Yeah, we wanna ride around in limos. We want to get “chicks”, man’” – finger quotes and all.

“I’ve seen the archetypal tattooed millionaires screwing some ‘chick’ outside a tour bus, on the sidewalk,” Bruce continues, undeterred. “Well, that’s great. […] But, at the same time, what’s this guy trying to prove? That’s not even setting a good example to yourself. It’s just garbage and I don’t respect that.”

Bruce’s comments and music eviscerating glam evidently took root within the scene. Mötley Crüe named their 2000 album New Tattoo, reportedly as a counterattack against the tirades. Although the jabs have dissipated since, we still don’t expect anybody with poofed-up hair and three-inch platforms to be on the Maiden man’s Christmas card list.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.