Killer Gig With Dickinson (Zodiac 165)
Palalido Milan, Italy – October 30, 1981
Disc 1 (60:30) The Ides Of March, Sanctuary, Purgatory, Wrathchild, Twilight Zone, Remember Tomorrow, Genghis Khan, Killers, Another Life (incl. Drums Solo), Innocent Exile, Running Free, Murders In The Rue Morgue, Phantom Of The Opera, Iron Maiden
Disc 2 (34:22) Transylvania, Guitar Solo, Drifter, Prowler, I’ve Got The Fire. Bonus Tracks – Bruce Dickinson’s Audition Tapes; Twilight Zone, Wrathchild, Killers
The exorcism of Paul Di’Anno from Iron Maiden had been coming for some time. Once Steve Harris found the bands popularity stretching from the London base, he knew that to be successful long term they would have to find a singer who could compete with the likes of Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio. Di’Anno was no doubt an excellent front man for the band, yet he adopted the rock n roll lifestyle that would wreak havoc on his voice and his street wise onstage banter, while perfect for the UK, would be difficult for other audiences to understand. In a curious twist of fate, singer Bruce Dickinson who was fronting Samson who was also on the NWOBHM circuit and who shared many of the same bills as Maiden, was starting to think he would be perfect for the group. At the same time, he was added to Steve Harris’ short list of possible singers, he and manager Rod Smallwood even went to see Samson play at the Reading Fest where according to legend, he was asked to audition. The rest is history shall we say, but there is always more. Once an offer was made and accepted, Iron Maiden embarked on a short 5 date tour of Italy to “Break in Bruce”. Far from the UK rock press the band would put the singer through the mill so to speak. For me the first exposure from these dates was as the b-side to The Number Of The Beast single from the next year, for me it was like Maiden on steroids and was much superior to the version from the Maiden Japan EP.
Getting back on track, the short 5 day trek would be covered by the tapers as well as recordings for all five dates circulate, by far the best of them in terms of sound quality being the final date and the one featured on this new release from Zodiac. Early on there was a vinyl release that was mislabel as being from Manchester 1982, Live Concert (Unknown label LPIM 1/2/3/4) black and blue cover, yellow and black cover. I own the latter version and is pressed at the wrong speed as it runs too fast. A more recent release of the concert is Killers In Milan (Pig On The Groove POTG20). On CD-R it was part of the Definitive Years IV (Power Gate 210) multi disc set, and Innocent Exile Parts 1 & 2 (Lizard LZCD 018), while on silver CD has only The Number Of The Killers (Shout To The Top STTP 011) as its sole title. For this new release a better generation tape of the whole concert has been used, the sound is easily comparable to the Lizard title, if not a bit better. The audience source is clean and atmospheric albeit a bit flat, and falls in the very good range. The guitars and vocals can be clearly heard yet the drums are a bit lower in the mix, there is little interference by the taper and there is a small amount of hiss present but does not detract from this recording. Needless to say my STTP tile will not be getting listened to anymore and my CD-R copy of the Lizard title can get thrown in the garbage.
What makes these dates, as well as the last couple recordings that circulate from the tail end of 1981 is you get to hear Bruce singing a full Killers set, filled with tasty treats the band has not played since. The Ides Of March is the traditional intro music, the crowd “sings” along with it, they will be a vocal and passionate audience making for an incredible ambience. The beginning of Sanctuary is not as clear but after the first pregnant pause, the clarity increases, thankfully cause I got this one cranked up. The crowd is into it from the first notes, they cheer and clap along as the memory of Paul Di’anno has been washed away. The brilliant Purgatory quickly follows, played at break neck speed with the guitars in complete precision with each other. Wrathchild is next, these versions are superb, lots of leads to fill the song out and the backing vocals during the chorus make for a fuller sound, Bruce lets a hell of a wail out at the midway point, why? Because he can. The crowd chants after the song, Bruce introduces Twilight Zone and does his raps in English, he would eventually speak to many audiences in the native languages. Love Twilight Zone, first single from Killers, played on this tour and never again catchy as hell riff with lots of twists and turns, together with Purgatory easily my favorites from the set.
Remember Tomorrow by this time is heavy and dramatic, I used to listen (air guitar and ‘ead bang that is) to the Number Of The Beast b-side version that was culled from previous nights Oct 29, 1981 gig in Padua, and after all these years consider it the definitive version of the song. The version from this show is close to that one, Bruce takes his time and really does a wonderful job accentuating the lyrics, this is the bands Child In Time, Dave Murray’s leads just flow from his guitar, intense and morose. Genghis Khan follows, easily the groups most underrated instrumental, Clive frickin Burr at his best, listen to the time he is keeping and the rolls he does, the song brilliantly fades into Steve’s bass and the intro to Killers. Another Life features Clive’s drum solo, the enthusiastic crowd cheers him on as he puts on a drum seminar in front of 5,000 fans. The tape cut / flip is at the tale end of Innocent Exile between Running Free, the edit is very smooth and little is lost. Running Free sounds almost rudimentary, a simply structures song but is rocks, the dual leads of Adrian and Dave are perfect and Clive throws in a bunch of little fills and the song sounds a bit different with no sing along. A 1981 version of the trilogy of terror begins with Murders In The Rue Morgue, great version and a punter is going mental afterwards, screaming his head off. A song from Iron Maiden’s greatest hits volume 38 follows, an incredible version of Phantom Of The Opera, played at a fast tempo. Back in these days the band had little in the means of a visual show, so the focus was on the music proficiency, this song is a result of that and hones by years of playing it. What you are listening to is embryonic speed metal at its best. The symbiotic playing of Dave and Adrian is perfect, the musicians go through many time changes, melodic to fast in a blink of an eye, most pleasing. Finally Iron Maiden brings the main set to its proper conclusion.
After a bit of cheering the group is back onstage, Transylvania is the first encore. The bands earliest and for me, best instrumental turns into a showcase for Dave Murray’s guitar talents, one part Hendrix, one part Blackmore, the blond bomber keeps it short and sweet and leads into Clive’s drum beat and the Drifter is underway amid the audience stomping along. Of course the song includes a sing along, as with tradition the Yo Yo Yo is used in true Di’Anno fashion. Prowler follows hot on its heels, Bruce growls the lyrics for full effect, and the band finishes the concert with their cover of Montrose’s I’ve Got The Fire, Bruce tries to introduce the song but doesn’t quite seems to know how. It starts a bit off but the band quickly get it together and let it rip, Adrian even gets into the mix a bit. The bands affection for the song is so great they would record it in the studio during the Piece Of Mind sessions and release it as a b-side. A brilliant concert, blessed with a great recording. Maiden would never be the same after 1981, new singer and new material would wash away the “early years” as Iron Maiden would leave their NWOBHM roots and rise to the largest stages in music. This early Maiden has a lot of charm, its music is dominated by Steve Harris and Dave Murray, the stalwarts of the band. In coming years Adrian and Bruce would contribute greatly to the bands catalog and sound.
With the running time of the Milan show being 80 plus minutes, the folks at Zodiac elect to throw in some bonus tracks, it is common material but relevant to the era, Bruce’s audition tapes. From what has been written Bruce did a bunch of songs live with the band, after that he went intro a studio and sang over a few studio cuts, this is the source for these tracks. There have been at least two releases of this material, The Metal Years (Kobra Records KRHM 003) and Paris Brule-t-il? (Olympus Records OR004/5). The quality is a bit better than these two releases, but just a bit. The recordings are soundboard but they lack dynamics, have a layer of hiss as well. Twilight Zone is average, Bruce really opens it up for Wrathchild and Killers though, while the sound is merely average the historical significance more than makes up for it. Even with the bonus tracks the disc time is short, there was plenty of room for more, perhaps a bit of the of the other dates from this tour, the Rainbow show from November or the Ruskin Arms December show would have been much welcomed.
The packaging is simple full color shots both live and posed of the band and, of course, Eddie. You get picture CD’s and a sticker. Plain and simple this is a great title, the longest version of the tape is best yet quality, given the rarity of these shows and the ever dwindling of silver pressings, this can be considered the definitive edition of this concert.