Phantom Of The Rainbow (Eat A Peach EAT 63)
Rainbow Theater, London, UK – December 21, 1980
(77:24) Introduction / Ides Of March, Sanctuary, Wrathchild, Remember Tomorrow, Charlotte The Harlot, Killers, Another Life, Drums Solo, Transylvania, Strange World, Prowler, Innocent Exile, Phantom Of The Opera, Iron Maiden, Running Free, Drifter
The year of 1980 was a total success for Iron Maiden, they released their debut record in April, had a couple songs on the Metal For Muthas compilation and played dates supporting KISS on their European tour and played as support to boyhood heroes UFO at the prestigious Reading Festival. At the conclusion of the KISS tour, the band let guitarist Dennis Stratton go, citing the typical “musical differences”. While this sounds cliché it was the truth, Stratton was a few years older than the others and had more hard AOR rock styling’s, Bad Company and the sorts, this came to a head during the KISS tour as the alienated guitarist took to traveling with the KISS road crew, his last stand with the band was the video shoot for their latest single, Women In Uniform. The mighty Maiden were no stranger to line up changes, Steve Harris’ vision was clear in wanting the best players possible. In a twist of fate, the band would once again approach one of guitarist Dave Murray’s boyhood chums, Adrian Smith. They had actually tried to get him in the band in 1979 but he wanted to keep the course with his band of several years, Urchin. Now with that band defunct, Adrian was ready to go all in, the history with Dave made for an easy transition, his musical taste was similar to the others and when one considers what he would bring to the table throughout the next decade, it was perhaps the defining moment of the year.
Nonsense aside, the band had live dates already booked and Adrian’s first live gig with the band was on November 21 at Brunel University in Uxbridge. The culmination of the tour would be special, a headlining date at London’s prestigious Rainbow Theater that would be filmed and become their first home video, Live At The Rainbow just a scant month later! Speaking of his first days with the band Adrian had this to say, “We broke off to do a tour, about a dozen gigs in December, which culminated at the Rainbow, which was amazing experience on a personal level. I grew up going to see gigs at the Rainbow. I saw The Who there, Rory Gallagher, Nazareth…Now for me to actually be standing there…it almost didn’t seem real. But the show that night was filmed and when I watched it, sure enough, there I was. We rehearsed for the tour at what’s now the Brixton Academy, a huge place down in south London and I remember walking in and seeing this fucking great big lighting rig set up and I thought, “I can’t fucking believe this! This is big time!” (The 30 minutes that made up that home video release have since been released on the Early Days DVD).
While all that has surfaced from the professional recording is the short 30 minutes found on the Live At The Rainbow video, thankfully someone smuggled in a recorder to document the event and is the source for this new release. For an audience source it is very good, near excellent and captures the ambience perfectly, it has an in your face sound yet focuses on the middle and upper frequencies and is a bit thin sounding, there is some upper end distortion as a result. The balance is perfect with all instruments and vocals being well defined and the audience noise near the taper is just enough to capture the vibe without becoming intrusive. This recording has been released before as …Before The Exile (Robespierre Recxords RBCD 003) that is incomplete, missing Transylvania and Strange World and adds a Women In Uniform from Top Of The Pops ands an incredible, yet un-dated, version of Montrose’ I’ve Got The Fire.
The recording begins with the Ides Of March intro, I would like to hear the original recording of this music as this is not the version found on Killers, same structure but with no leads added in, hopefully someday it will appear on a box set or something. Sanctuary is the opener. The band engages the audience instantly and they respond vocally and by clapping along, the twin guitar work from Dave and Adrian is spot on. The band gets the desired reaction as evident from Paul’s opening remarks, “F*cking amazing!”. Wrathchild follows and while the song wouldn’t see official release on a Maiden till the following years Killers LP, the song was in the set list early on and was part of the Metal For Muthas compilation LP. The band slows it down with a typically brilliant version of Remember Tomorrow, while the version found on the first record is somewhat tame, live versions never fail to impress (just listen to the versions on Maiden Japan or on the B-side to The Number Of The Beast single recorded live in Italy…incredible!), Adrian’s solo is not as precise as later versions as he has only been playing it for a month. Paul is also in great shape vocally, he wails like some old school Ian Gillan.
Dave Murray’s Charlotte The Harlot follows hot on its heels, I was listening to this while driving the other day and was thinking about how much the middle of this song and its follow up 22 Acacia Avenue sound alike, it must have been on purpose, although 22 was written by Adrian. Charlotte would be dropped in favour of the newer material but in these early shows it was a superb start of the set with is catchy chorus made it easy to sing along, as evident here. Another great early version of Killers follows, the music is together yet the lyrics are not quite finished, but are getting closer as evident by the latter chorus, Dave rips a blistering solo and the song is very aggressive (Note, your stereo should be turned up LOUD by this point). Another Life is introduced as being from the second record, yet is another that has been in the set list for sometime, the audience is familiar with it and clap along as it starts. The song’s place in the set has been fairly standard as it is a vehicle for the drum solo, the late great Clive Burr takes a short but extremely enjoyable solo that makes the most of his large kit.
Paul takes a minute to introduce Adrian Smith, to a nice ovation, and tells the audience he will shown them what he can do and again to a loud ovation, introduces Transylvania. Their earliest and beloved instrumental piece, by this time live it is a powerhouse, the playing is superb and the band play tight and very focused, the twin harmony playing by the two guitarists is unmatched and sorry Dennis, you are not missed. Just like on the first LP, the song is followed by Strange World. Slow with a bit of ambient playing by Dave, his guitar mourns in a most sorrowful way. This is one of four songs recorded in late 1978 at Spaceward Studios of what would eventually become The Soundhouse Tapes, to hear this early version look for the out of print Best Of The Beast Castle Records set from 1995. Paul asks the crowd to move back, their response was a rather non empathetic NO, Paul tells them there are some ladies down front who will be flat chested as they are getting squished, typical Cockney charm. A blistering version of Prowler follows, perhaps my favorite of the band debut record largely due to Dave’s solos just fly from his fret boards, the years of playing it has honed the melodic yet very metal leads to perfection, the audience, and me, eat it up completely.
Maiden’s early attitude of being at the fans level make for an intimate feeling between audience and performer are evident while Paul and Steve banter back and forth with the Rivet Heads. Steve asks the audience if its loud enough, their response is of course a very loud NO! A nice early version of Innocent Exile is next, very much like the official version, it has the Purple like swagger to it and is a superb version. Paul asks the crowd who bought their latest single, then asks who bought the 12 inch, the single was of course Women In Uniform and the 12 inch contains an incredible live version of Phantom Of The Opera recorded live at the Marquee Club in July 1980, an equally as brilliant version is featured here. This song is a superb example of prototype speed or thrash metal, the speed and intricate time changes found within the songs 8 minute structure are mind blowing and are the definitive versions of this song. The band’s signature song, Iron Maiden, is the culmination of the set, but again Paul has to ask the audience to move back to help with the punters down front. The song is a pure metal celebration, the audience sings in unison with the band, and I have to again acknowledge the wonderful playing of Clive, his drumming all night has been great but he really gives it 1000 percent on this song….incredible!
The encores are standard beginning with Running Free, by this time there is a fever pitch in the Rainbow, the audience is ready as soon as Clive starts the drums and again sing on the chorus, definitely one of the best versions of the song I have heard. Drifter is another song that would find its official release the following year on the Killers record yet was in the band’s sets as early as 1979, usually in the encore slot. This is the song that Paul pinched the Yo, Yo Yo Yo from The Police and transformed it into a great and crowd pleasing sing along. At the songs conclusion Paul tells the audience of some technical difficulties with the recording and that they are taking a beer break and will be back to replay a few songs, according to legend not a single fan left, sadly the recording does not contain these songs. After listening to concerts like this it is no wonder why the band rose to the top of the NWOBHM scene, they had no real peers who could compete with them on this level.
The packaging is the mini LP style adorned with wonderful black and white live shots of the band from the era. There is an insert with liner notes and a couple of color posed shots where the band looks very young. The CD has the cover of the Metal For Muthas record on it making for a very cohesive looking set. A great release from the Eat A Peach folks, an excellent early performance by Iron Maiden makes for a Killer release.