Ben Avecilla 619.708.6624 email@example.com
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I try to fill the void in my life by buying things. Whenever I think of something new I want, I get really excited for when I will get to buy it. And once I do, I am fairly pleased for a short while. The novelty soon wears off, though, and I’m empty again.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy distractions. I’m still unfulfilled, but at least I have things to play with.
Oh well. Could be worse, I guess. I’m not starving to death, so that’s a plus.
I’m not too ashamed that once I got home from work tonight, I started to get a little choked up about the end of the school year. All day I’ve been mostly unperturbed about the kids leaving, but at the end of it all I do feel a bit sad. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing most these kids again next year, but I won’t be interacting with them on the same day-to-day basis. And there are a few that I know won’t be there, and that bummed me out.
There was one kid in particular that really got to me. He was kind of a pain in the ass and I had a lot of problems with him, but I really did like him. He’s a good kid, he just didn’t always make the right decisions. We said goodbye, I gave him a hug, and he walked away. But halfway to the door he turned around and said “I’ll miss you, Mr. Ben.” Even thinking about it now I still get a lump in my throat. For all the complaining that I would do about these kids getting on my nerves, I really did make a connection with them. They were my first class, and I must have learned just as much from them as them from me. Probably more.
You meant a lot to me, Little Soldiers. I hope you don’t soon forget me, because I’ll always remember you.
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A little known fact about Iron Maiden shows is that they always end with Always Look on the Bright Side by Monty Python. After the band leaves the stage and the venue lights turn back on, they play this song over the PA system. Die-hard fans know it’s coming and will tend to sing along as they’re on the way out. You’re riding on a euphoric high after an amazing concert and this up-beat tune is the perfect way to cap it off.
So that’s the end of Iron May-den. It’s been a challenge keeping up with it, but it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure I would make it through the whole month, but I never missed a day (even if a few posts went up after midnight). I wish I could redo a few entries that I didn’t feel I did proper justice, but oh well. There are a few songs I wish I’d gotten to, but I stand by all of my picks. If you’ve been reading along all month, thanks for sticking around and I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. If I’ve turned even one person into a Maiden fan, I feel accomplished. It’s a little silly, but this band is an important part of my life and I always love talking about it. Thanks for indulging me.
Remember, a playlist of all of my picks is available for streaming on Spotify. But those 31 songs are just the tip of the ice berg. Explore the rest of their back catalog and find your own favorites. Maybe you’ll find something you like.
Until next time, my friends… Up the irons!
We’ve reached the end of the month, and the best way I can think to close out this exercise is by focusing on the self-titled track from the self-titled album; Iron Maiden, on Iron Maiden, by Iron Maiden. Kind of a ridiculous naming convention, but so be it.
As it’s from the first album, it fits the description I’ve use for most of these early songs. It’s simple and repetitive, but fast and high-energy. There are only three unique verses and the lyrics are sort of pointlessly violent (with a heavy emphasis on blood).
But even so, the song remains a perennial classic and is almost always at the end of live setlists (before the encore), during which some manner of Eddie (be is a walking suit or a giant prop) comes onstage.
When the first album came out in 1980, the band couldn’t have possibly known just how true these lyrics would end up being. “Oh well, wherever, wherever you are. Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, no matter how far.” Fast forward over 30 years and Iron Maiden is one of the most iconic names in heavy metal with fans of all ages all over the world and shows no sign of stopping.
Iron Maiden’s gonna get all of you.
As the month draws to a close, it’s important to not only reflect on the past, but also consider the future. I can think of no song better for that than Wasted Years. As someone who feels like he’s wasted a lot of time in his life, this track sticks with me in a meaningful way. It’s a reminder not to dwell on things past, but to always keep looking forward.
Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years.
Face up, make your stand.
And realize you’re living in the golden years.
No matter where you are in your life, it’s never too late to turn things around. People often lament that their golden years are behind them, but that’s the wrong way of looking at it. As long as there is air in your lungs, you have the power to take control. We all have our regrets, but there’s no use getting hung up on them. We might wish we had done things different, but time only moves in one direction. There’s nothing we can do about the past, but we can always take an active role in affecting the future. Accept your mistakes as a learning experience and remember those lessons going forward.
Of course, also remember the old saying: Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. If you had fun, the venture wasn’t a complete loss. Consider the good that came out of your experience and take that to heart. Very few things in life are consummately negative so take whatever positives from it that you can.
If you’re not a die-hard fan of Iron Maiden, here’s something you might not know: Bruce is a commercial airline pilot. In fact, he even flies the band’s personal 757, Ed Force One. Coming Home is a song he wrote to describe his feelings flying back to England after a long tour. It’s a touching that expresses both his love of flying and his homeland.
While I’m neither a pilot nor British, the song is still relevant to me and I would wager most of you as well. It becomes less about the specifics of flying a plane and more about the yearning to be back in a familiar place. Deep inside, all of us just want to go back home, whatever that means to you. Home can be a literal place, or an abstract state of mind. Wherever you find that inner serenity and comfort, that’s home.
Today is Memorial Day and I can’t think of a better song than These Colours Don’t Run. It explores the experience of serving in the military and what’s it’s like to be a soldier. Sometimes it seems hopeless and you may end up paying the ultimate price, but you do what you’re told in order to protect your homeland.
While you might expect this song to come off as nationalistic, it actually reminds us of how we are all the same. The message is that no matter what country you are from or what side you’re fighting on, it’s the same for everyone. We may make the mistake of dehumanizing our enemies, but they’re going through the same feelings and emotions. For the most part, nobody wants to kill another person, but you do what you have to do when duty calls.
My favorite thing about this song is that it takes into consideration to number of different motivations people have for enlisting. People tend to get this false idea that everyone who signs up does so for purely noble and patriotic reasons. That’s definitely the case sometimes, but some people sign up for the benefits, or to travel, or to get an education, or simply because they have nowhere else to go. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. “You’re a soldier, for your country. What’s the difference? All the same.” You become part of something bigger than yourself and that original reason isn’t important anymore.
Remember the men and women who have given their lives to defend your country, wherever that may be. Not just on Memorial Day, but every day. There’s nothing jingoistic about it. They died in service of your nation and don’t deserve to be forgotten. Even if you disagree with the reason they’re fighting, we must remember that wars are orchestrated by governments but fought by people and that every fallen soldier leaves behind a wake of people that will miss him.
While Brave New World shares the title and themes of the Aldous Huxley novel, it doesn’t follow the story exactly. The motif of the futuristic dystopia is there, but many of the images are original to the song. The opening lyric of the dying swan, for example, is made up. Bruce Dickinson himself had this to say:
I don’t recall there being any dying swans in Brave New World the book. But I wanted an image that represented the tragedy and sadness of what Brave New World had done. Dying swans, twisted wings, you know, the agony, the death. Brave New World doesn’t want to see that. It has no use for either the life or the death.
Brave New World is my favorite book about a dystopian society simply because it’s different. In every other book about a failed future, society is in shambles and everything is ruined. But in Brave New World, the world is superficially perfect. The world is at peace and people are happy, if not sedated; they’re blissfully ignorant. Instead, the tragedy comes from the idea that they don’t experience true feelings. It takes away what it truly means to be human. Love, hate, sorrow, and joy. Those are what make us who we are and when we lose those we’re just empty vessels. I’ve always appreciated that idea more than a simple apocalypse. Also it ends in a giant orgy, and that’s always fun.
I remember when I first bought this CD, I made a copy for a friend and he was telling me about what he thought the next day. He referred specifically to this song: “I liked it, but man it gets kind of repetitive. I thought, ‘I swear, if he says brave new world one more time I’m going to turn it off.’ And he did, so I did.” While he’s definitely right, he did eventually grow to love the song with time.
I’ve mentioned a few times how Maiden’s first two albums with Paul Di’anno tend to come across as less mature than their future catalog. Songs like Prowler, Running Free, Wrathchild, and even the eponymous Iron Maiden have a different kind of vibe without as much emotional depth. They’re simple and aggressive, while later songs would become more lyrical and introspective. Of course, there are still a few songs that hint at what was to come. I already talked about Remember Tomorrow, and today we’re going to look at Phantom of the Opera.
Based on the novel of the same name, Phantom of the Opera would be the first of many Iron Maiden songs to be based on classical literature. The first half is told from the perspective of Erik, the Phantom, there’s a brief third person verse, and the last bit is from Christine’s point of view. It doesn’t follow the plot exactly, but covers the general theme and feelings of the characters.
Phantom of the Opera might be one of the few Iron Maiden songs that I would say actually works better with Paul than Bruce. Of course I will always love Bruce’s versions of any of those early songs, but Paul’s voice just has something here that Bruce was missing. He doesn’t have the range of his successor, which you would think would be crucial in a song about opera, but Paul wins this one for me.
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I’m a huge sucker for songs that follow a narrative instead of the typical verse/chorus composition. Iron Maiden has a number of these and I’ve covered a few already (Rime of the Ancient Mariner, When the Wild Wind Blows). I like feeling that I’m listening to more than just a song, but a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Dance of Death fits this bill perfect. It is about a man who happens upon a Voodoo ritual one night while camping in the Everglades. He is invited to take part in the ceremony, during which he is overwhelmed by their influence and has an out of body experience. He feels his soul leave his body, enraptured by the ritual and becoming one of the “undead.” But he has a moment of sudden clarity and is able to escape, being terrified of everything that just happened.
Observant listeners will notice parallels to the classic Number of the Beast. Both are the title tracks of the album on which they appear and deal with a similar theme. Both narrators are witnesses to supernatural rituals and are mesmerized into joining. The key difference though is that while the narrator of Number of the Beast was entranced against his will, the narrator in Dance of Death was entirely complicit (albeit against his own better judgment). Also, the narrator in Dance of Death escapes, while Number of the Beast’s doesn’t come out so lucky.
I immediately liked the imagery of Powerslave because I’ve always been interested in ancient Egypt. My class studied the subject extensively when I was in the sixth grade and ever since then I’ve been fascinated by mummies, pyramids, Egyptian gods, and all that stuff. Whenever I visit a history museum, my favorite exhibits are always the dinosaur fossils and Egyptian artifacts (which FYI, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has a great selection of both).
Another reason I like this song is because the narrator, a dying Pharaoh, is an unrepentant asshole. Compared to the narrator of Hallowed Be Thy Name, who is reflective at the time of his death, the Pharaoh regrets only that he wasn’t even more powerful. He ruled with tyranny and fear, taking pleasure in it all. In his own mind he is a god, and the people will be hopeless without him. But he encourages his successor to be just as egomaniacal as he was before he meets the same fate.
Here’s another song from the early Maiden catalog that is screams of their youth. Wrathchild is about being young, restless, and angry. Like I said about Running Free last week, it comes off as juvenile when put next to some of their later work. But I don’t mean that as a pejorative in the least. That kind of exuberance and pent up frustration only really exists during a certain age range and these kinds of songs capture it. And once again, comparing them to future songs shows an interesting thematic dichotomy and progression over time.
Musically though, Maiden of the past and present are very much the same. It features the same catchy bass hooks and screeching guitar solos that the band would be famous for. It’s still a fan favorite and continues to see life on modern set lists and compilations.
Because I’m such a Bruce Dickinson fanboy, I was ecstatic to find out there was a studio recording of Wrathchild with Bruce singing instead of Paul. It was only released on the US version of the Ed Hunter video game soundtrack and as a promotional single though, so it’s a bit rare and took me a while to find a good copy. But I eventually did and I love it so much. One could argue that Paul’s punky style fits the vibe of the song better, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with you, but Bruce’s vocal superiority wins me over.
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Seven deadly sins
Seven ways to win
Seven holy paths to hell
And your trip begins
Seven downward slopes
Seven bloodied hopes
Seven are your burning fires
Seven your desires…
So begins Iron Maiden’s only proper concept album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. While many of their albums focus on a recurring theme, this one is the only one to follow a linear narrative. In mystic folklore, the seventh son born to a man that was also a seventh son is said to have powerful occult gifts, and that is the basis of this album. The first half of the album is about the prophecy and circumstances of his birth, while the second half follows his rise, struggle between good and evil, and eventual death. Moonchild begins the story, with the Devil addressing the parents and warning them that resistance is futile. It’s a very lyrically complex song, rife with dark imagery. Bruce takes on a biting tone with his vocals, evoking the character of a mocking Devil.
There is one thing about this song (and the album in general) that I’m not entirely fond of, however: synthesizers. While they’re not terribly done, they do stand out from anything Maiden had done before. I suppose I can’t blame them, it was the 80’s after all, but they come off a bit cheesy. Thankfully though, they’re only really prominent in the intro and after that you don’t notice as much.
The Native Americans sure did get a crap deal throughout history. They’re just minding their own business when these uppity Europeans come over and start screwing with everything. It was bad enough that they (mostly accidentally) brought foreign germs and diseases with them, but then they turned into huge assholes and starting killing them on purpose too. Operating under some ill-conceived notion of manifest destiny, they figured they could just take the natives’ land and resources all for themselves. Early American settlers were jerks, and that’s the premise of this all-time Maiden classic, Run to the Hills.
Run to the Hills showcases both sides of the conflict, starting with the Natives then switching to the Colonists. I recall this confusing me the first few times I heard the song, but I figured it out pretty quick.
If you approach any long-haired guy in a black band t-shirt and screamed, “Run tooooo the hiiiiiiiiiiills!” in a high-pitched falsetto, odds are quite high that he’ll come back at you with “Run fooooooor your liiiiiiiiiiives!” You can’t like heavy metal and not know this song, which makes it a bit curious that I’ve waited this long to highlight it on the blog. But it is easily one of my favorites, so here it is now.
I’ve always thought the music video was oddly inappropriate though. Amid scenes of the band performing, they’ve cut in black and white stock footage from some old movie. For such a serious topic, the clips are whimsical and slapstick. But maybe that’s the point. A heavy “crying Indian” type video would have been cheesy, so the band probably decided to go in the opposite direction.
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