New releases in New Zealand, 5 February 1989
Iron Maiden – The Clairvoyant
I have never liked Iron Maiden but I pretended to. Iron Maiden were pretty cool in the 80s in Kāpiti. One of my best friends (front left in the photo above) was a great guitar player. He spent a lot of time listening to metal and to Iron Maiden in particular. An Iron Maiden t-shirt or poster were very desirable items when I was a teenager. Later in teenage boy life it would be some facial hair and a second hand car.
Aside from natural talent my friend’s skill also rested on the fact that he played his guitar a lot. He was often in his room, which always had the curtains pulled, listening to music and playing his guitar. He could figure out songs by ear and had a natural sense of rhythm (our guitar teacher said so). I don’t know where he got his music from but he was always lending me tapes. Somehow he got hold of Guns’n’Roses months before they were on the charts. He gave me Motley Crue, AC/DC, Man o’ War and WASP. I still have a soft spot for Man o’ War even though their music is absurd. Even back then before the metal scene had splintered into a hundred sub groups there was a clear divide between hard rock and metal. AC/DC and Motley Crue were on one side and Man o’ War and Iron Maiden were on the other.
There were two reasons I didn’t get into Iron Maiden. Firstly, they seemed a bit silly. The things they sang about and the delivery of the vocalist seemed to be dancing near satire almost constantly. Secondly, they were very technical. Lots of high energy rapid solos and a whirring bass – often in tandem with each other – felt a little soulless to me. Listening to Seventh Son now I can see the fun of it. Can I Play With Madness and The Evil That Men Do are highlights. Actually the whole album cracks along.
On the other hand I often find myself laughing at the lyrics. I find the whole evil/devil/Satan stuff silly. If you write about Satan a lot doesn’t it make you a Christian band? It must do. Following from that satanic motif we get blackness, darkness, night and shadows, not to mention dreams, nightmares, lakes of fire and souls. There is mystical power, prophecy and the threat of madness. Not madness as in mental health issues but as in theatrical eye popping and cult ceremonies. It’s silly. Sometimes I can just enjoy it, but sometimes the lines are so dumb, and the vocal so high and full of vibrato it feels like it would only be ok as a camp rock opera.
This is my favourite couple of lines:
Living on a razor’s edge / Balancing on a ledge.
It’s not that funny, but I do think of the words literally: what are you doing on that ledge, Bruce? Come down, and get off that razor. You’re going to bloody hurt yourself.
Straight after that genius edge/ledge refrain comes the chorus though and the whole thing sounds awesome. The Clairvoyant is also good and has a bit in it that suddenly sounds quite a lot like a disco beat. I think it might be the most danceable metal song I’ve ever heard. In fact, turn this album up really loud, dial down your brain a bit, and this album is really good. There are also, to be fair to Iron Maiden, a lot of songs about a lot worse things.
So I guess I should say sorry to my mate from 1989 who played me a lot of Iron Maiden that didn’t really take. He even taught me a lead riff from one of their songs that I can still sort of remember (it was very simple: just the open E string, and single notes going back and forward down the fret board). Not much has stuck really from that era. I do like Man o’ War but something about them makes me uncomfortable now. Heavy metal bands singing about holy wars align uneasily with white supremacist stuff. Guns’n’Roses I loved and then didn’t. WASP and Motley Crue are silly (but have their moments). AC/DC I guess I still quite like; the earlier stuff with Bon Scott. Actually, my mate also taught me the riff for Highway to Hell which is a great riff, and the opening salvo from Back in Black is so crisp it sounds like rap music.
Learning Highway to Hell was one of the first things I did on the guitar. I remember how hard it was to get my fingers and hands into the right shapes and then to move them at the right speed. But I also remember how exciting it was to be able to make my guitar sound almost like the music on the record. That was a flare of joy in me that carried me through decades of mucking around on guitars. My decades never went anywhere, and I never became a good lead guitarist, but I got a lot of pleasure out of my poorly constructed rough and ready songs. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll.
Also a long way to the middle.
And to nowhere if you’re tenacious.
It strikes me as a get a wee way into doing this pointless chart review of 1989 that the charts were significantly more diverse than they are now. The meaningless pop fluff, and sappy ballads that are always a component of the charts were there, but so too were guitar bands, rock and hard rock, as well as hip hop, rap and club music.
Quite a solid week really. Most songs released this week were fine. I know some people like Yello but I can’t stand them. Everything they do sounds – to me – like a novelty song for children. Schnell Fenster were a band I had completely forgotten about. Another Split Enz related project that was short-lived but fairly good.
- Yazz – Stand Up For Your Love Rights (5/10)
- Bon Jovi – Born To Be My Baby (5/10)
- Yello – The Race (2/10)
- Cheap Trick – Ghost Town (5/10)
- Iron Maiden – The Clairvoyant (8/10)
- Schnell Fenster – Love / Hate Relationship (5/10)
- Jellybean feat. Richard Darbyshire – Coming Back For More (6/10)