Maiden thrive on tension
Era of the Beast: Harris with Dickinson and Maiden's 1982 lineup
Steve Harris discovered that Iron Maiden work best under pressure when the band rushed to prepare for groundbreaking 1982 album The Number Of The Beast.
Unlike their previous outings, the NWOBHM giants had no material written in advance of starting work, meaning all eight songs had to be written in the three weeks ahead of recording sessions.
And Maiden faced another challenge: introducing new singer Bruce Dickinson to an audience who had enjoyed the performances of previous frontman Paul Di’Anno.
Harris tells Ultimate Classic Rock: “It was a scary time period – very traumatic. We were worrying about how people would take to the new singer. We knew we had a really great singer in Bruce, but you just never know how people are going to react.”
He continues: “We didn’t have any material; we’d used everything up that we had form the periods before that – before we were signed and the first two albums.
“On the second album, Killers, there’s only three or four totally new songs. The rest of the stuff was all from earlier periods.
“So the pressure really was on, big time. All of that material was written in a two or three-week period, because that’s all the time we had.
“It put us under so much pressure – but that dictated the way we’ve recorded ever since. We thought, ‘We work well under pressure, obviously.’”
The Number Of The Beast was released 30 years ago and set Maiden on their way to the big time. Referring to Dickinson’s debut, Harris says: “Take to him they did, in a big way, so we didn’t need to be worried. Everyone liked him and obviously it went on from there.”
The bassist recently released his solo album British Lion, to mixed reviews. He’d already said he wanted to allow fans time to get used to the record before deciding whether the project has a future.
Now he adds: “I definitely would like to play around the world with it. I think the songs will be great live. But first and foremost we’ll work in Europe.”
Despite the album bearing his name in big letters, he says: “I think what I would like it to evolve into is a band. It was the right thing to do it like this, but it does feel more like a band with time. I think in the future it will be pushed more in that direction.”