There’s something to be said about good art. It endures. Part of the reason it endures is people can find multiple interpretations and meanings within the art. Iron Maiden? They’re fucking art.
I was TODAY old when I finally put two and fucking two together regarding a pair of albums I’ve listened to in tandem for decades. Iron Maiden’s first releases, the self-titled album, and their sophomore effort, Killers. Both albums feature the band’s original line up, including vocalist Paul Di’Anno. The songs on these albums are very different from the songs that followed on The Number of the Beast and after. And today? I finally realized they are a two-part conceptual story. A supernatural rock opera if I dare say. Or maybe Operation Mindcrime, the punk version.
“You’re high, Tom!”
That may be so, but it doesn’t change the facts, and the first two Iron Maiden Steve Harris penned albums do indeed tell a story. Was this intentional? I wouldn’t be so brash as to think it was. Steve wrote songs and each had their own inspirations. This is full of serial killing, wannabe vampires, and drug-inspired dreams. Hammer movies, hookers, and hallucinogenics make up the rest.
The first two Iron Maiden albums tell the story of Eddie (What else would his name be?), a serial killer who fancies himself to be a vampire (The theme of retaining your youth is prevalent through the songs on both albums). Eddie believes he can stay young forever through his murders, by torturing his victims. He likes taking them down on city streets. His weapon of choice is a hatchet. Then he takes them back to his lair… for some private fun and ritual torture.
Let’s look at the track listings, and go into more depth with each. Much of it is cursory. I’m providing only a bit of logic and interpretation of the songs. I’m sure more connections int he story can be built from what I present.
Iron Maiden, boasting Eddie under a street light. This is how Eddie perceives himself to be, a strung-out, drug-addicted teenager, emaciated and wraithlike. “Prowler” opens the album, and with it, we get our cold open. We don’t know Eddie is a killer, yet. But we do know he likes to stalk women and girls at night. His dreams are filled with fantasies, fueled by the drugs he takes, and “Remember Tomorrow” exemplifies this. The album’s anthem is “Running Free”, it is Eddie’s ballad of liberation and leads to his first kill (“Pulled her (killed her?) at the bottle top” “Now all the boys are after me, that’s the way it’s gotta be”).
As it turns out, Eddie is a HUGE fan of Hammer horror films. In the epic “Phantom of the Opera”, Eddie sees his next victim through the eyes of a Hammer Horror character. He’s turned on by the screams of his victims (“You know I’m helpless from your mesmerizing catcall.”) and it alludes to Eddie’s secret torture room with its last verse, “You haunt me you taunt me you torture me back at your lair”, which is told from his victim’s POV. “Transylvania” keeps us in Hammer-land, as Eddie visualizes himself as the Prince of Darkness, Count Dracula himself.
“Strange World” tells of Eddie’s drug-induced dream state. The police are on his trail in “Sanctuary” But he hides out with his girlfriend, “Charlotte the Harlot” a local prostitute. She can’t believe he would do these things. Then he tries to kill her in his torture room, which features, you guessed it, an “Iron Maiden”, among other devices of torture. Think SAW but he’s having a grand old time administrating the pain. The album ends, open-ended…
Killers, the cover to which features Eddie using his ax, doesn’t fuck around bringing us back into things. It opens with another dream sequence, Eddie on the run as the “Ides of March” loom over him. He’s a “Wrathchild”, on the run from English authorities. He lands in France, and can’t stop his murdering ways. “Murders in the Rue Morgue” He kills in a much-publicized case he again sees through the eyes of Hammer Horror film… and goes on the lam again. He starts to feel regret in “Another Life” wherein he fights with the urge to kill. But his mania has made him think he’s a God, as evident with “Genghis Khan”.
In “Innocent Exile”, this one really gets you, as Eddie is trying to blame his sickness on the murders. He’s on the run, far from home, scared and hungry to murder without the worry of capture. But things really get crazy when he starts seeing the ghosts of his victims following him around in Twilight Zone. This builds to the epic “Killers”, the anthemic opus of the story, where Eddie goes on a killing spree as he makes his way back to England. In “Prodigal Son”, he dreams of Charlotte and sees her as both a mother figure and a demoness. He prays to the Devil’s wife to give him guidance, on what he should do. He finally returns to England in “Purgatory”, but his actions have damned him. He was on the run for 3 years… and always will be as the closer, “Drifter”, indicates. The story ends with Eddie being upbeat, accepting who and what he is. He’s on the run, once again… but that’s the way it’s got to be.
What other connections do you see? Comment below!