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Music

Bruce Dickinson reveals his favourite Iron Maiden song

As most Iron Maiden fans know, Bruce Dickinson did not sing on their first album. Nor did he sing on their third. Indeed, it wasn’t until The Number of the Beast that he let out that infamous “wail” his dissenters likened to an “air-raid siren”. 

Where Paul Di’Anno sang it straight, Dickinson allowed for some theatre to punctuate the anthems, which only added to the cascading drama. Dickinson briefly left the band during the 1990s, although he would return more committed than ever for Brave New World. The band made the brave decision to incorporate Adrian Smith into the mix, which gave them a three-guitar lineup, compared to the duelling lead guitar focus of past works. 

During an interview with Eddie Trunk, Dickinson said he greatly admires the band’s first two records. Asked to nominate his favourite song to perform live, Dickinson gave a reflective answer: “One of the songs I really enjoyed doing – and in fact, because in lockdown, I was just trying to improve my Iron Maiden pinball score, and, of course, we’ve got some really cool tracks on the pinball machine, including ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ which we haven’t done for ages.”

“And I just love doing that song,” he continued. “The storytelling element of it is genius, and then the breakdown, the moody bit, then into ‘the curse it lives on in their eyes’ bit – oh, it gives me goosebumps just listening to it.”

“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, we’re going to do that again one day, that’s just awesome,'” he surmised. “So stuff like that. I’d love to do one or two rarities, I’d love to do ‘The Prisoner’ again, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ stuff like that. I like things that have a little bit of groove to them.”

Singers belong on the stage, especially one as animated as Dickinson. Bassist Steve Harris must prefer the studio because it gives him an outlet to put his ideas to tape. As musical director and primary songwriter, Harris has led every configuration of Iron Maiden through their 40-year journey. “You have a couple of covers in your set here or there, and as soon as you get a new song, you bin the covers,” Harris recalled. “It’s great, cos we went straight into the studio to record them, and we didn’t have to rehearse them.” 

The only irreplaceable member in Iron Maiden, Harris is so entrenched in the band’s sound, it’s unlikely that any will ever match his record. It doesn’t hurt that his bass licks are soaked in invention, and the plunging, probing bass notes are seeped in melody. 

But Dickinson has brought the band to greater heights, and although Harris is the brains behind Iron Maiden, for many Dickinson is the face of Iron Maiden. He holds himself like a leopard, racing across the frontlines of the stage, his energy and sheer will pulling him along. Only David Lee Roth of metal frontmen has delivered a comparable exhibition of performance craft, but Dickinson is more nuanced, delving between the more pompous to the smaller scale tunes in everything he delivers. 

But while he waits to get back on stage, he’s getting ready to release a solo album.  “When I get to the end of the one-man show thing at the end of March, then the idea is I’ve got about three weeks cooling my heels somewhere,” Dickinson reveals. “I’ll lie down in a darkened room for a couple of days and recover from the tour and then put my singing head on and go and have a chat with Roy, because we’ve already got a bunch of material, but we need to organise it a little bit.”

“Obviously, I’m gonna be going out on tour with Maiden [later in the year], but we made ‘Tyranny Of Souls’ that way, ” Dickinson elaborated. “‘Tyranny Of Souls’ was done not exactly remotely – well, kind of remotely in that I wasn’t physically present when some of the backing tracks were done but he sent me the backtracks and I listened to them and went, ‘These are cool.’ And some of them I wrote the words to the backtracks, and the tunes and everything.”

Looks like Iron Maiden fans are in for a special kind of treat!