Nicko McBrain has told how he thought Iron Maiden were finished after hearing Bruce Dickinson had cancer – but the thought only lasted a moment.
And the drummer has revealed why he was happy to leave his mistakes in the final version of lead track Speed Of Light.
Maiden recorded 16th album The Book Of Souls last year, while frontman Dickinson suspected he was ill but decided not to seek medical attention until work was finished.
McBrain tells Overdrive: “Do you know that none of us knew he was poorly until after the record was done? He performed that whole album, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with himself – but didn’t get diagnosed till after we’d finished the tracks.
“So The Book of Souls is very special to me and all the rest of the guys. We weren’t aware, and neither was he, that he had the tumour.”
He adds: “I’d be a liar if I didn’t think for a minute, ‘That’s Iron Maiden finished.’ I thought more about the possibility of losing my friend than anything else, to be honest.
“I did question his mortality at one point, and thankfully that didn’t last long. I got down on my knees and said a prayer, picked my thoughts up and got positive, thinking to myself, ‘If anyone can beat this, it’s Bruce!’
“Basically, I prayed for him and my prayers were answered, as well as everybody else that knows and cares for him.”
McBrain says: “We went off and recorded it right then and there. There are a couple of little drum mishaps in it, and I deliberately kept them in.
“There were people moaning about it, saying, ‘Oh, there’s mistakes in there!’ My response was: ‘Bollocks to that – it’s live and it’s a great vibe.’”
Iron Maiden have announced the first dates of their Book Of Souls world tour, with more to follow. They’re the multiple-cover stars of the current edition of Classic Rock, on sale now in print, digital and via TeamRock+.