Music Machine, Camden, London, England
(45:28) Introduction, Wrathchild, Sanctuary, Prowler, Remember Tomorrow, Running Free, Transylvania, Invasion, Charlotte The Harlot, Phantom Of The Opera, Iron Maiden
There are precious few documents of Iron Maiden pre 1980 live recordings, only two are known to circulate, although Steve Harris has said on many occasions he has many recordings dating back to 1976. Recently snippets of recordings from 1977 have been leaked online as several early members have been trying to gain momentum in getting unaccredited songwriting credits. I was rather surprised when I saw this title on the new release page, I knew of only one Music Machine recording, September 10, 1979 that I have had on CD-r for some time, I was intrigued and bought it.
So what is this recording and is it legit? I scoured the intraweb and found a website that has already done a bit of leg work, knowing where to look, let’s see if they are right. First off the tape source comes from Eddie7679 who lent several tapes to the SMORES collective for transfer. The sound quality compared to the known September 10 concert is significantly better, this new title is bright, clean, and clear with much better higher frequencies, the older recording, while clear, is flat. To make sure, I dug out the Ruskin Arms October 5, 1979 for reference as well.
First off the 1979 versions of Wrathchild are a bit slower and heavier than latter versions, the song is the same but the tempo being slower makes it less aggressive. This new version shares this characteristic. In the article one of the first songs referenced is Sanctuary. On this recording Paul does a slightly different introduction to the song and there is a bit of feedback as well, while the introductions are similar, they are drastically different. There is a section of Sanctuary where they do a pregnant pause, this recording is longer and Paul speaks, again nothing on the September 10 version, and completely different to the Ruskin Arms show.
Remember Tomorrow has a different introduction and the guitars sounds total different, the article makes note of a slight mistake Steve makes, I did not detect it. The early versions of Remember Tomorrow are still growing and are not as dynamic as the coming years. You do get a good feel of the power of Paul’s early vocal prowess though, even at this early stage Dave Murray’s solo’s are incredible, just tear your head off. Running Free’s ending had the band playing the final note twice and there is a longer time between the next song Transylvania. Iron Maiden is the last of the differences noted in the article, Dave gets into some Hendrix flavored feedback leading into the song, nothing close on either of the 1979 tapes.
As stated in the article this is obviously a different recording from both of the 1979 live tapes and for a die hard Maiden fan, a significant find. The variation of song structures, rare live versions of songs like Invasion and to a lesser extent Charlotte The Harlot and certainly the best sounding of the 1979 recordings all equate to an essential recording.
Let’s dig into this new release then. First off the tape source is sadly incomplete, the recording is just under 45 minutes long and there are a couple tape cuts that are filled with the sonically similar Ruskin Arms October 5, 1979 recording, during Running Free from 1:46 to 2:05 and 1:56 to 3:20 in Iron Maiden. The Encore consisting of a Dave Murray guitar solo and Drifter is missing as well. The sound is very good with a nice frequency range in the mid and high ranges, the bottom end is a bit muddy and there is distortion present. The guitar and voice are cleanest in the mix while the drums and bass are the muddiest, Paul’s vocals are clean and well defined. For probably an average recording device in a small club, a nice capture that sounds best at medium loud sound levels.
The performance is what we would hope it would be, as a long time Maiden fan one could only read of the power of these early live performances, the band winning new fans every night, conquering London one gig at a time. The line up was Paul Di’Anno on vocals, Steve Harris on Bass, Dave Murray on Lead Guitar, Tony Parsons on second Guitar, and Doug Samson on Drums. Parson’s short tenure in the band was supposedly due to him not having the chops to keep up with Dave Murray, while it is certain his contribution was minimal, asking for a player to be able to learn 15 original songs, many with fairly complex timing was a lot to ask. Doug Sampson was competent enough, his drumming is solid but lacks the bombastic style of both Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain.
The song structures are all there, the only major thing that would really change is tempos and certain timings, the amount of music writing in these early days reminds me of Van Halen’s early days. Highlights of this tape is the early version of Remember Tomorrow being almost Hawkwindish, Transylvania ending with a snippet of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner (The Sept 10, 1979 Music Machine gig has it as well), the band hitting a stride during Charlotte The Harlot and a blistering fast rendition of Phantom Of The Opera. Those are just a couple of standouts for me. This recording is very enjoyable and for those Maiden fans who feel well versed in their live output, hold on to your socks.
The packaging is standard fare for Zodiac, full color and live shots of the late 79 line up of Iron Maiden using a Soundhouse Tapes template. Picture CD, numbered sticker, mine is number 109. This is an excellent release documenting an early, raw Iron Maiden performance and should appeal to Maiden fans.