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Iron Maiden- The Early Days - 100%

ThePerun, June 8th, 2005

This is the first part of a DVD Series entitled "The History Of Iron Maiden". It features live footage from four concerts, a documentary about the history of Iron Maiden from the foundation until the end of the World Piece Tour in 1983, as well as various little extras from the days between 1975 and 1983. As the documentary is the actual centrepiece of the set, I will comment on it first.

The story of Iron Maiden is not untold, there is a biography out called "Run To The Hills" which tells the complete history in much greater detail, there is the "Twelve Wasted Years" video which traces the history from 1975 to 1986, we have Nicko McBrains rants on the "First Ten Years" set, a DVD about the recording and history of the album "The Number Of The Beast" is widely available, and the band members (Steve Harris in particular) are fond of telling anecdotes of the bands history in interviews from here to eternity.
So, what is so special about this documentary, and do we really need it?
Of course there is no necessity as such, but there never really is, as the main focus on a band should always be the music. Being a very big fan of Iron Maiden, however, I can only say that to anyone who is interested in Heavy Metal, the music, the roots and the development, this 90-minute documentary is a valuable and informative watch. And to Iron Maiden fans, this is a treasure of pure gold.
The history of the band is elaborated with so much care, so much love and so much passion that it is totally irrelevant to ask if this is necessary- it is just a wonderful and entertaining film. Any question you might have about the band, and if it is only "What the heck did they need a keyboarder for in 1977?" is answered straight from the horse's mouth. The whole narration is made up of interviews with people who have been in and around the band at that time. Of course, most of it is made up by Steve Harris, but people like Doug Sampson, Dennis Stratton, and even more obscure characters such as Dennis Wilcock get the appropriate amount of time to recollect their respective memories of Iron Maiden. The only major flaw in this documentary is the fact that Derek Riggs, who is responsible for Eddie as we know him, gets so little time. In fact, there is no exclusive interview at all with him, only some old footage in which he explains how he came up with "the concept of Eddie". It would have been very nice to hear some of his anecdotes about working with Iron Maiden, but considering the ice age that exists since the "Brave New World"-fiasco, that is most probably too much to ask for.
Nevertheless, the documentary is absolutely amazing in, and a worthwhile watch for any fan.

Most of the double DVD set is made up of concert footage from the era between 1980 and 1983. There is much never-before-seen material in shape of the gig at Ruskin Arms, the "Beast Over Hammersmith" video and the 1983 Dortmund gig which has been broadcasted all over Europe in 1983, but has not been officially available since. The set also features the bands first concert video, known as "Live At The Rainbow", which has not been available on DVD before.
"Live At The Rainbow", "Beast Over Hammersmith" and "Live In Dortmund" make up the first DVD. All three are edited and are not complete concerts.
The 30-minute long "Live At The Rainbow" was shot in 1981, before the release of "Killers". In fact, the album had not been recorded yet, and the title track of the album lacked lyrics at that point. What Paul Di'Anno sings on the video are words he made up shortly before the gig and which are different to those on the album.
It is a great gig with a lot of power, and a great showcase for the Di'Anno-era Maiden. Particular highlights of this show are "Transsylvania" and "Phantom Of The Opera".
My particular favourite of this disk is the 45-minute long "Beast Over Hammersmith" video. The video itself is just a part of the show, which was a full-length headlining performance during the "Beast On The Road" tour, released on CD as part of the "Eddie's Archvie" box set in 2003.
The video features mostly songs from the "Number Of The Beast" album. As we are treated with the Di'Anno-era material on "Live At The Rainbow" and "Live At Ruskin Arms" on this set, this does not really matter.
The video was shot before the album was released, and therefore, there is very little crowd interaction whithin the songs. Bruce's famous "Scream For Me" has not yet appeared, and the songs are mostly played slower than on later live releases due to the different rhythm given by Clive Burr. Of the "new" songs, only "Run To The Hills", which had been released as a major hit single the week before, spawns some crowd reaction. This is actually a benefit of this video. If it is thrilling to hear a crowd of 150,000 people chanting a phrase from the Book of Revelations on "Rock In Rio", the spoken intro to "The Number Of The Beast" echoing in the darkness of a packed, yet silent Hammersmith Odeon is truly haunting.
My favourite from this video is "Children Of The Damned", which is a true highlight from the show, both visually and in terms of performance.
"Live In Dortmund" is footage from the last show of the "World Piece Tour" in 1983, the bands first headlining world tour. Sadly, only three tracks from the "Piece Of Mind Album" are included in this particular video, and the rest of the set is made up of songs already available on the other concert videos. Still, the show is a delight for eyes and ears, and we learn that Bruce's trademark "Scream For Me" must have evolved during this tour (bootleg owners, of course, know more). "Revelations" is one of the highlights of this video.
The seond Disk contains footage from Ruskin Arms, shot in 1980, just after the release of the first album. Perfectionists will criticize the poor sound and picture quality of this video, but, to be honest, what can you expect from a pub gig shot by a mate of the bands'? The video is a very thrilling watch, particularly for NWOBHM enthusiasts, but also for those who like to go to pub and club gigs. You really do get the feeling that you are *there* in the midst of the crowd. Apart from that, watching Paul bursting out in laughter onstage is priceless! This video contains the only officially released live version of "Charlotte The Harlot" and many other forgotten classics from that time- only "Strange World" is missing, to my dismay.
The rest of Disk 2 is made up of bonus material, including a 20-minute clip from an old British TV Show called "20th Century Box" about Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM movement in general, broadcasted in 1980. At times, it seems like a documentary on the hunting and mating habits of the small desert scorpion, and, needless to say, very entertaining to watch, if only for its naive cheesiness.
The disk also includes entries in Steve's diary from that age, images from tickets, posters, bills and all that kind of stuff you'd expect in an Iron Maiden scrap book, as well as a discography (1980-1983) as well as the promotional videos of that era (All of which are also included on the "Visions Of The Beast" double DVD) and the Top Of The Pops appearances, which are particularly hilarious to watch for the contrast of a real rock band playing to an audience of dancing trend kids. As usual, there is also a photo gallery, and some easter eggs in shape of interview snippets.
All in all, this is a great double-DVD set, essential for any Iron Maiden fan, and worthwhile for anybody interested in Heavy Metal. Despite the minor flaws, inevitable if you tell a story that is twenty-five years in the past, there is no way imaginable that this could have been done any better.