We all know that the influence of The Beatles is unavoidable. As a band, the Fab Four illuminated the world as an uncompromising force for good, pushing the boundaries of musical genre as we knew and pioneered a new element of popular culture. Given the foundations they built for future musicians, it should perhaps come as little surprise to discover that the material of The Beatles directly led to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson picking up a microphone for the first time.
Iron Maiden have enjoyed stratospheric scales of success ever since they recruited Dickinson in 1981 and have authenticated themselves as more than just a rock band, but a way of life. They have amassed millions of fully-fledged Maidenheads across the globe and pack out stadiums wherever they go.
Their astronomical success and pioneering impact is where the similarities lie between Iron Maiden and The Beatles. Maiden helped lay down a blueprint that made it possible for groups like Metallica to prosper. Every single metal band on the planet has been influenced consciously or subconsciously by their work.
Whereas The Beatles’ influence is scatter gunned all across different genres, Maiden’s is clustered in the area of music they frequent. If you’re not a connoisseur of heavy metal, then it’s likely that the gravitas of their pioneering spirit is incomprehensible.
When Dickinson joined Iron Maiden, he did so with aplomb, and the timing was perfect as the band clicked into gear at the optimum time. Before joining the group, the singer enjoyed moderate success with heavy metal band Samson, but Maiden found the perfect vehicle for his talents. Samson wasn’t the start of his musical journey; that began when he was at school, and ‘Let It Be’ allowed him to realise his extraordinary gift. Although one assumes Dickinson didn’t bellow out a metal version of The Beatles classic.
“‘Let It Be’ was how I first started to sing,” he told ABC. “My mate Mike at school made himself a bass guitar in the school woodwork workshop. So we decided we’d enlist a couple of guitar players and try and start a band. The only song we could even get halfway through was ‘Let It Be’.
“Mike was the singer because he was in the school choir. I was designated in the school choir as a non-singer. You had to do a test; the guy played a note on the piano and you had to sing that note. If you got in the school choir, it was death; the only day we ever got off at boarding school was Sunday. That was when you’d have to go and sing in the choir. ‘I’m not having that,’ I thought.”
He continued: “But Mike was a bass voice, so it was a bit odd. Very nice, but not really very rock’n’roll. And the high notes were a bit of a struggle. So they told me to shut up on the bongos and give him a hand. I let rip on the high notes and they went ‘Oh, you’re the singer’.”
Things didn’t quite go according to plan for the group, however, with Dickinson sarcastically concluding, “We split up shortly afterwards due to artistic differences. And the fact that it was teatime.”
From that moment on, Dickinson developed his voice and started styling it into the mould of Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan. When Dickinson was expelled from boarding school, all he wanted to do was sing, and it was his sole focus in life.
If it wasn’t for ‘Let It Be’, his life could have slipped down a more conventional route, and Iron Maiden might have never grown into the cultural behemoth they stand as today. Love them or loathe them; they have made the universe a richer place.