IRON MAIDEN: A CINEMETALLIC HISTORY
Here’s a weird realization I had recently: Iron Maiden have never made a good video. Not that it really matters — it’s ultimately all about the music, after all — but it does seem kinda weird.
‘Cause I think it’s impossible to say the words “Iron Maiden” and not immediately get a visual in your head. A visual of your favorite version of Eddie, or a visual of Eddie doing battle with Janick Gers or Dave Murray or Adrian Smith (or all three) on-stage, or a visual of Steve Harris holding his bass like a gun, or a visual of Bruce Dickinson being in better shape than you are. This is a band whose success has been inextricably tied to an image for thirty years… and yet they have never made a visually arresting, or even satisfying, music video.
The first clip the band ever made, for “Women in Uniform,” is really just a performance video, in which the band seems to be playing an arena, with a full-light show and everything… even though there’s no audience to listen to them play. Oddly enough, I think this concept ended up really influential on future glam bands like Bon Jovi and Poison, who made a whole bunch of videos that took place in crowd-less arenas.
“Women in Uniform”
After Bruce Dickinson joined the band for The Number of the Beast, the group filmed a clip for “Run to the Hills.” This is basically the prototype for 95% of all Maiden videos ever made: performance footage is intercut with old movie footage, and, uh, that’s about it. Maiden has repeated this winning formula many, many times since, for clips such as “Number of the Beast,” “The Trooper,” “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter,” and “Aces High,” the latter of which really changes things up by intercutting old newsreel footage from WWII instead of footage from movies with fictional story lines.
“Run to the Hills”
Then the band got really ambitious for their “Flight of Icarus” video. Instead of using performance footage, they used in-studio footage, and instead of intercutting that footage with old movie footage, they intercut it with cheap shots of some dude who I assume is supposed to be Daedalus, and some druggy shots that look like leftovers from 2001: A Space Odyssey, only without all the baggage of being awesome.
“Flight of Icarus”
Apparently feeling emboldened by the success of the “Icarus” clip, for “2 Minutes to Midnight,” Maiden actually hired actors, and attempted to tell a story. The video feels dated and cheap, which is kind of forgivable in that it was the 80s and everyone came out of that decade looking pretty bad, but isn’t at all forgivable when you consider that other bands actually did manage to make cool videos during the same time period.
“2 Minutes to Midnight”
I’m fairly certain whomever directed “Wasted Years” was actually having a laugh at Maiden’s expense. It’s basically the old “performance footage intercut with movie footage” formula, except the performance footage is in black and white, and the movie footage is actually shots of Maiden on the road, interacting with fans, playing soccer (!), and just generally being the super-successful rock gods that we all know and love. Now, why would you show Maiden being happy, prosperous dudes in a video for a song called “Wasted Years?” It seems as though the makers of this video are suggesting that Maiden have wasted all their years being Maiden! That’s how little thought went into this video. Sheesh.
I actually kind of like the video for “From Here to Eternity.” The band is performing on a set, which is a nice change from seeing them perform in an arena or a recording studio, and there’s a slutty biker chick with big jugs, and explosions. Hey, wait a minute… was this thing directed by a young Michael Bay or what?
“From Here to Eternity”
The video for “Wasting Love,” on the other hand, looks like it was made for Slaughter, except at the last minute, someone took out Mark Slaughter and company and stuck in Maiden instead. Silhouettes and wind machines abound. This clip seems to have about as much to do with Iron Maiden as a Rip Taylor concert.
I guess Bruce Dickinson was pretty offended by the awfulness of the “Wasting Love” video, too, ’cause after Fear of the Dark, he quit the band. Thus began the embarrassing Blaze Bayley period. “Man on the Edge” is an awful fucking song, and I’m not sure that Steven Spielberg could have made a good video out of it. I guess you could argue that it influenced Lex Halaby’s video for Killswitch Engage’s “Arms of Sorrow,” because they both have, like, dudes falling and stuff. But you’d be wrong.
“Man on the Edge”
After some time passed and Bruce Dickinson felt that Maiden had suffered for long enough at Bayley’s hands, he forgave the band for “Wasting Love” and returned for 2000’s Brave New World, which, I’d argue, was their last really great record. They subsequently released a video for the track “Wicker Man,” which I think is pretty much the best clip they’ve ever made. For one thing, it pays tribute to the awesome 1973 horror movie of the same name (and not the 2006 Nicolas Cage remake, which isn’t even bad in, like, a funny kinda way); for another thing — and I can’t believe it took someone this long to think of this — it’s the first time where Maiden actually dressed up a dude like Eddie and put him in the video, the same way some dude dressed like Eddie comes out on-stage at all their concerts. Now, is it a convincing looking Eddie? Of course. It looks ridiculous. Does it matter? Of course not. IT’S FUCKIN’ EDDIE, DUDE.
This is the only video the band has ever made that successfully accomplishes what any good music video ought to: it conveys the spirit of both the song and the band in question. This clip does not take itself too seriously, is kinda silly, and is all sorts of epic. Just like Iron Maiden.
Also, the song kicks all kinds of ass. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately, Maiden were unable to follow-up “Wicker Man” with anything nearly as cool. The video for “Wildest Dreams,” from the album Dance of the Dead, seems to have been made by the same shitty computer animator who made that album’s unbelievably terrible cover art. The clip looks like it was created with the best available computer animation technology of 1987, y’know?
I’ve honestly never gotten past the first twelve seconds of the video for “Rainmaker,” from the same album. A half-naked bird chick comes out, lays an egg, and I turn it right the fuck off. If there’s any reason I need to watch the rest, someone feel free to let me know in the comments section. Otherwise I’m going to assume that the rest of the clip is just as misguided as those opening shots.
To promote A Matter of Life and Death, their most boring album ever, Maiden decided to release a video just that’s just as soporific as the accompanying music. “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” seems to be heavily influenced by the 1968 Steve McQueen/Faye Dunaway caper The Thomas Crown Affair (not the 1999 remake where Rene Russo gets naked and makes every other 45 year old woman on the planet feel bad about her body), which also often split the screen into quadrants… although what purpose this serves in the video is completely beyond me. But sometimes I watch this one when I’m having a hard time falling asleep.
“The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”
And then, for the second single from Life and Death, “Different World,” the band apparently re-hired the same Pixar reject who made the “Wildest Dreams” video. Seriously, it has to be Bruce Dickinson’s nephew or something, right? There’s no other explanation for this drek.
Most recently, the band released a video for the title track from The Final Frontier. I’ve already discussed that clip here, but having just re-watched it, I can safely say I now dislike it even more. I guess the band get points for having CG that’s ever-so-slightly superior to that of “Dreams” and “World,” but seriously: WHOSE FUCKING IDEA WAS IT TO PUT LASER GUN SOUND EFFECTS OVER THE FUCKING MUSIC?!?!
As a fan of music videos, I sincerely hope that Iron Maiden someday get their act together to make a really awesome visualization of one of their songs. As a student of human behavior, though, I know this probably won’t happen. (In the words of David Mamet: “A man who beats his first wife will beat his second wife. Wanna know why? ‘Cause he’s a wife beater.“) Oh well. At least we’ll always have Derek Riggs’ awesome art. And, oh yeah… the music!