Son of a Gun
Born in '58
Hell on Wheels
Dive! Dive! Dive!
All the Young Dudes
Lickin' the Gun
After Iron Maiden's aptly named 192-date World Slavery Tour, an exhausted Bruce Dickinson succumbed to depression, but it was only when the band began working on their 1986 album Somewhere In Time that the band realised just how much that tour had taken out of the singer.
“The stuff Bruce was coming up with wasn’t us at all,” bassist Steve Harris says. “He was away with the fairies, really.” None of Dickinson’s songs would be included on the album.
With the following album, 1988’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, Dickinson had far greater input, co-writing four songs, and would feel revitalised enough to record a solo album, Tattooed Millionaire, featuring former Gillan guitarist Janick Gers, who would subsequently join Iron Maiden in place of Adrian Smith.
Tattooed Millionaire was released in May 1990. It was originally slated to include a version of Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter, written for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, but it didn't make the final tracklist, and was later a UK #1 single for Iron Maiden themselves.
Even without that future hit, Tattooed Millionaire had plenty of other highlights, including epic opener Son Of A Gun and the anthemic pop-metal of the title track. That inimitable voice aside, it bore little resemblance to his day job – its grab-bag stylistic approach took in everything from the reflective Born In ’58 to the raucous single-entendre rock’n’roll of Dive! Dive! Dive! (“No muff too tough!”).
The quality might have been variable, but it did the job it was designed to do and took Dickinson out of his Maiden-shaped comfort zone.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in May 1990
- Charmed Life - Billy Idol
- When the Storm Comes Down - Flotsam and Jetsam
- The Winding Sheet - Mark Lanegan
- Young Lions - Adrian Belew
- Steelheart - Steelheart
- Lock up the Wolves - Dio
- Ten - Y&T
- Packed! - The Pretenders
- Hell to Pay - Jeff Healey
- Bloodletting - Concrete Blonde
- Pod - The Breeders
- Joe Cocker Live - Joe Cocker
- Manscape - Wire
What they said...
"With this album, Dickinson did what fellow Brit Rob Halford did on some of Judas Priest's more commercial and pop-influenced releases – he showed listeners another side of himself and demonstrated that he wasn't obligated to embrace fantasy metal 100 percent of the time. For Dickinson, coming out with something more pop-minded didn't mean being contrived or unimaginative." (AllMusic)
"The hands-down highlight of the collection is the title track, which features the best utilisation of both Bruce's clean and harsh vocals combined on one track, alongside strong guitars and an axe to grind (supposedly directed at Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe fame)." (Metal Storm)
"Lickin' the Gun seems like a failed attempt to sound like Aerosmith and Dive! Dive! Dive! strives to sound anthemic. Hell on Wheels and Gypsy Road, while catchy and bright at times, still sound typical and Zulu Lulu continues blithely but soon gets boring. Gers delivers some quite interesting guitar melodies here and there, but inside the rather common riffs and instrumentation, they widely go unnoticed." (Sputnik Music)
What you said...
Philip Qvist: Decent and solid album, but he has done much better, both for Maiden and as a solo artist. The songs are fun and many are different to what you would expect from any Iron Maiden album.
I suppose it is no coincidence that his next Maiden album would be the mediocre No Prayer For The Dying, and that he would jump the Maiden Ship within three years - thankfully not for good though.
Decent guitar work from Janick Gers as well. Not a bad album but hardly his best.
Mike Canoe: The lyrics of Tattooed Millionaire, the title track of Bruce Dickinson's first solo album, suggest that the Iron Maiden frontman has come to bury hair metal, not to praise it. Yet almost everything else on the album suggests otherwise. There's even the obligatory retread of a '70s glam chestnut in All the Young Dudes.
The music of the title track is bright and polished with a singalong chorus that Poison would give up their Aqua Net for. See also (original) album closer No Lies. Power ballad Gypsy Road has more than a whiff of Cinderella's later cowboy nomad sound and is equally suitable for lighter waving.
While we learned from the Samson club pick that Dickinson is no stranger to tales of ribaldry in his lyrics, songs like Dive, Dive, Dive and Hell On Wheels could fit in with the post GN'R sleaze rockers. I feel like there's a deeper message behind Lickin' the Gun but it's lost on me. Zulu Lulu not so much.
But is Tattooed Millionaire bad? Not great, but definitely not bad. Dickinson and guitarist Janick Gers seem to have a great time cutting up and cutting loose. The couple of times they stick to their knitting, like opener Son Of A Gun and, especially the beautifully poignant Born in '58, are good too.
While I would rather listen to the excellent Accident of Birth than Tattooed Millionaire, I would also rather listen to Tattooed Millionaire than - and you may want to sit down for this hot take - anything Maiden has recorded since the late ‘80s.
Uli Hassinger: I haven't listened to this album for a long time because I found it very mediocre. That impression has not changed.
The best song by far is the opener, which could easily be released on a Maiden album of this era. Great song. The other songs couldn't hold this standard. The worst song is Lickin' the Gun, with it's embarrassing, juvenile lyrics. The rest of the songs are decent, but nothing that sticks. Born in 58 and Gypsy Road are the two tunes which are slightly better than the rest.
It's an album you can listen to without regret, but I guess it will take a longer time till I put this one on again. 5/10.
John Davidson: It suffers from the same problems as No Prayer for the Dying. It's a bit dull , has a couple of listenable tracks and is generally inessential.
Bill Griffin: Bruce succeeded with what he set out to do here, something as different from his regular gig as the lead singer can do. Nothing high brow here, it's all for fun and, with that in mind, it works.
Roland Bearne: I bought this in a lather of excitement when it came out and played it... a few times! At the time I liked the title track. Listening after many years, it's (sorry to damn with faint praise), interesting. The cut and thrust of the opening tracks raise hopes and a real smile, with Bruce ragging on the bouffanted Sunset Strip-pers (Crue perhaps in the cross hairs?) and nailing his true metal colours to the mast.
Skip a couple because not much to say then we have Gypsy Road, a really good, possibly MTV-friendly number which had my head nodding in Tesco and the sublimely silly Dive Dive Dive, tapping into Bruce's well known mile-wide daft streak, made me laugh! All The Young Dudes was clearly done because... well he wanted to, I guess. It's his record after all, but adds little to the original.
Lickin' the Gun: It's hard to know if this a homage (and I use the term advisedly) to Tyler-esque dumbassed-ness or is taking the raging pee. Gawd forbid it didn't have its tongue superglued to its cheek. Then things sort of taper off, really.
Overall, I guess the objects of the exercise were to, a) do something as far from Maiden as possible and b) work up some songs which Maiden rejected. Either way, it's a sort of oddity which one could either be a bit sneery about or regard with a sort of eyebrow-raised affection. As we all know, having got it out of his system, Bruce smacked us round the chops with future releases and created a legendary solo canon.
Nigel Taylor: It was a bit shit really, especially when you look back on the absolutely amazing solo albums he made later on, which are still the best things he has done since the classic Maiden albums.
Adam McCann: Not that good to be honest. Yes, it was a solid outing as a first solo album, but it just lacked something overall. Much like the Maiden albums at the time. It would take a few years of bouncing around with different sounds for Bruce to get to arguably his best two albums in the late 90s. Bruce has done significantly better, he's done significantly worse, but as far as dipping his toes in the pool for a solo artist, yeah, it's alright.
James Doughty: A solid effort. Bruce sounds like he's enjoying the process, something entirely missing from Iron Maiden's No Prayer for the Dying, released later that year. He's not reinventing the wheel here, just venturing out of the wheelhouse with a collection of lightweight, fun songs. And it turns out that Bruce's voice, removed from the sturm und drang of Maiden's arrangements, is a much more versatile instrument than most suspected.
Clive Bromley: A weak effort. Not what I was expecting. Then everything from Balls To Picasso to Tyranny Of Souls is incredible. Yes, even Skunkworks.
Shomik Guha: Son Of A Gun has endured time to retain a place in my playlist. The album's not as cool as Balls to Picasso, but close
Leslie Moyes: Great album, but Skunkworks is his defining solo work
Scott Ferguson: Keep Son Of A Gun and the title track. The rest are filler. Thankfully he hit his stride with later releases.
Chris Elliott: It's mediocre. Another bargain bin find that justified its 99p price There's a few tracks with potential but on the whole it's pretty weak - any cover of Mott the Hoople is always a danger sign (great track with an infinite number of awful covers). I'd play Samson again before this. It's probably his weakest career studio record.
Greg Schwepe: I almost skipped this week’s review party after I saw the artist and album. While Bruce Dickinson is in my personal Top 3 Metal Vocalists list (along with Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford), this selection initially hit me as yet another solo album (a long list) by a hard rock/metal vocalist who a) got fired by his previous band b) left his previous band on his own volition c) is still in his current band but had a “lot of material that I needed to make sure was heard” (which sometimes means a bunch of weird crap) or d) any combination of a, b, and c, depending on who you ask.
So, we get to the opening track Son Of A Gun, and if you had just put this on and told me it was Iron Maiden, I would’ve believed you. You have the obvious same vocalist, but the mood and vibe is very “Maiden-y." That same vibe kind of carries over to the title track, Tattooed Millionaire. Lots of dual guitar going on there. Now, at some point listening to this album, I’d have finally have figured out it's not Iron Maiden and there’s no “gallop” and there’s none of Steve Harris’s “bing, bing, bing, bing” rapid fire ringing bass which we all love.
As we get deeper into the album, it starts to lose it “Maiden-ess” and it’s just a fun hard rock album with Dickinson spitting out the lyrics in his distinctive style. Nothing here to make me skip any songs or turn it off.
Did I tell you we get two covers? Mott’s All The Young Dudes and AC/DC’s Sin City. Great versions and and how can you not sing along to All The Young Dudes?
Overall, label me pleasantly surprised by this collection of tunes. Fun, hard rock that keeps you interested and for me, nothing cringe-worthy. Well maybe, Lickin’ the Gun, but what the heck. 8 out 10 on this one for me. But to be honest, had I bought it back when it came out, I probably would’ve gone nuts playing it over and over for a few weeks, then it might have headed back to the Used CD/Bookstore to be sold to buy yet another solo album by, well, go read the first paragraph again!
Final score: 6.63 (186 votes cast, total score 1,235)
Join the Album Of The Week Club on Facebook to join in. The history of rock, one album at a time.