The first time I saw Iron Maiden

0

It’s impossible to forget the first time you faced the Beast! The first live show of one of your favourite bands is a memory that stays on forever in your mind, while in some cases the experience can have a huge impact in a fan’s life. Given the chance of Iron Maiden’s return to Greece at the emblematic OAKA stadium we collected experiences of the first time in a Maiden show… As you can see below the feelings talk by themselves and they cannot be limited by the maximum words we asked for, but the memories that these guys share are personal and sacred for everyone, whether they are musicians, concert promoters, or journalists.

Harry Conklin, Olof Wikstrom, Jarvis Leatherby, Jimmy Kay and the Greeks: Yiannis Papanikolaou, Thanasis Hatziagapis, Tasos Lazaris, Hakos Pervanidis, Dimitris Papandreou and George Papantonis share their stories. Compiled by Yiannis Dolas

“It was at Orange County pavilion the “Peace Of Mind” tour. They opened with “Aces High” It was amazing! I was floored and at that moment I knew this is what I was meant to do for the rest of my life: Sing in a metal band! Bruce was all over the place and his short speeches to the crowd energized the place. The opening band was Fastway then Saxon and Iron Maiden”.

Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin: Jag Panzer, Satan’s Host, Titan Force, The Three Tremors

“First time I saw Iron Maiden I was 15 years old  it was in 1982 at the Verdun Auditorium (capacity about 4000-5000) in Montreal, Canada. Opening act was Anvil who had just released “Metal on Metal”. 

The show was general admission which meant no assigned seating, so we waited outside in a long line up from 12pm to make sure we were close to the stage when the doors opened. Back then the metal crowds were mostly bikers, male and lots of leather and studs so it was kind of intimidating but everyone was friendly.

Keep in mind I was a Huge Di’Anno fan so Bruce coming into the band was a little upsetting at first but after the gig I realized he was a good fit. Also, note before the show as we  waited in line lots of fan talk and they too were divided and skeptical of Bruce coming into the band as there was still a lot of love for Di’anno.

The venue opened the doors at 7pm off the mark. I went running towards the front of the stage, yes front row and I did not leave my post until the show was over (held in my pee).

Standing in the front row I got to witness Dave Murray right in front of me maybe 5 feet away, watching him play,  the whole night, like he was in my living room, it was quite surreal. 

As for the set list itself, Maiden went through most of the Number of the Beast album as well as played all the classic songs from the first two Maiden albums. Cool memories included Bruce smashing his Mic stand at the end of the show and getting to watch Clive Burr drum for the first and last time with the band.

In summary one of the greatest shows I have ever seen in the golden era of Maiden 

Set list: Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wrathchild, Run to the Hills, Children of the Damned
The Number of the Beast, 22 Acacia Avenue, Another Life, Drum Solo, Transylvania, The Prisoner, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Phantom of the Opera, Iron Maiden”

Jimmy Kay: The Metal Voice

“The first time I saw Iron Maiden was actually on April 6, 1996 on the X Factor tour.  I had been a huge Iron Maiden fan during Bruce’s tenure in the band, but I was too young then to be going to concerts.  When Blaze joined the band I had just started high school and began going to a ton of shows.  This show was a very special one in the fact that Maiden was now reduced to playing theater sized venues.  With the likes of Grunge taking over the mainstream, and Maiden having a new singer, this seemed to be the norm for them at this time.  There were under 1,000 people at the gig and the band played a ton of great classics, among stuff from their new album.  I was in the front row and caught a wristband from Dave Murray.  I also remember meeting Lemmy at that show.  Night Demon recently played a festival in Spain with Blaze Bayley, and I got to talk with him backstage and tell him about my experience.  It’s awesome how life comes full circle.  Up the irons!”

Jarvis Leatherby: Iron Grip Management, BANDS: Cirith Ungol – Haunt – Midnight – Night Demon – Satan – Visigoth

“Stockholm stadium 2003! I was 16 and it was the coolest thing in the universe!”

Olaf Wikstrand: Enforcer

“The first time I saw Maiden live was in 2007 at Hellinikon. I was 12 years old back then and this was the first heavy metal gigs in my life. You can imagine how someone can feel when he is ready to live this experience. I really cannot describe the awe I felt when the band got on stage with words. When everybody was chanting “Maiden, Maiden”, but also when the entire audience was singing “happy birthday” to the Chief, since it was his birthday. I will never forget this show. Since then, I’ve seen them five more times and the feeling on the first notes is always the same”.

Tasos Lazaris: Fortress Under Siege, Steel Arctus, Iron Beast (Iron Maiden Tribute band)

“September 1988. The psychological but also stylistical preparation begun months before. My “Prisoner” t-shirt arrived from England. Grey, without the logo, very cool, special and one of my favourites (the same goes for the song). So, I put it on and head to Nea Philadelphia. My first job (since then) to visit the merch booth where a “Seventh Son” baseball t-shirt was winking at me. The vintage logo, the “painted” and not printed stamp… the entire ‘80s on a t-shirt! Which… guess what? I never wore in my life! The next morning my mum and our washing machine at the time managed that this awesome shirt became grey-blue from black and white and shrink to small size from… large! What a shock! Obviously, it wasn’t wearable from then on, for any season and with any outfit, but still I never threw it away. Thankfully, at some point, several years later, the fitting girlfriend with the fitting body and attitude was found to make good use of it. Unfortunately, she kept it to “remember me” (you know how this goes).

Thank God, 34 years later, I still have the images alive in my brain and I can still feel Goosebumps. Oh! The poster of the show is also framed in my office. Probably, torn from a wall in Athens, but in perfect condition!

P.S.1: Never put on shirts from a concert before you wash them (with cold water) first

P.S.2: Never buy clothes on a Tuesday 13 (of September 1988)

P.S.3: Whoever shared my passion for merch (and clothes in general) can feel my pain

P.S.4: Those who know me can realize the depth of the trauma

P.S.5: I still have the “Prisoner” tee”

Dimitris Papandreou: Live Music Enthusiast, Promoter and Artistic Director of Gimme Shelter Film Festival (among many others)

“Tuesday 13 September 1988… first Maiden concert in Greece, the first heavy metal show in general. What else a 16-year who thinks of them as gods, like the entire planet, who lived the building of the empire through the ‘80s with the back to back masterpieces, could ask? The rumors about an Iron Maiden concert in Greece were raging since ’83 when Bruce and Andrian visited our country to promote “Piece Of Mind” making a stop at the legendary club, Victoria. They had to release the magical “Seventh Son…” five years later so we could live the absolute fan’s dream: our favourite band live, during their most fruitful period, at its artistic peak; in an age when experiences as such leave their mark forever.

I remember that the announcement for the show had created an earthquake of enthusiasm, since Iron Maiden was the synonym to heavy metal, a global musical phenomenon unlike any other with their popularity having surpassed the frontiers of the hard sound, being famous to the audience of every genre of music.

So, for such a huge event, skipping school that day was the only way – we didn’t even have to talk about it with my buddy Stefanos. So, we took the bus from Ilioupoli to the city center, walked to Omonia square to take the subway train for our final destination. However, getting to Nea Philadlephia at 4:30 (the doors wouldn’t open until 6:30) there were already hordes of devoted fans coming from all directions. Metalheads most of them, but also rockers, punks, skinheads etc. Everyone with their intense, extreme, definitive trademark clothing, that declared clearly where they were coming from musically. Despite all that, their presence was a proof of how highly appreciated Maiden were from all rock tribes in the planet… a very intimidating sight and so typical of that era.

The presence of the police was exaggerated on one hand, with their familiar arrogance, sense of power and attitude against long hair, spikes, patches, leather jackets, pins, boots, make-up, hairdos that equals: bums, anarchists, enemies of the state! This was primitive times my dear friends when the uneducated Greek exposed to Greek folk music and bouzouki (not only the police forces) was dealing with everything different and especially coming from abroad skeptically, racist even with hate. Even more a rock concert of a British band, generally seen as “yeah-yeahs”… 

On the other hand, in those years hooligans and metal always came together, football fans always caused trouble they were involved in illegal activities, used to trash public property, so for those reasons police squads presence was reasonable.

Getting over the scenes of decay that we experienced outside the stadium when the doors opened we run to reach the other side of the pitch where the stage was set up. The turf was covered with a protective carpet. Groups of fans were sitting drinking beers, tsipouro and whatever you can think of… warming up. Some of those were “burned out” before even the band got on stage, they were drunk and were doing stupid things. But, who could tell them off, since they’d pull a knife on you at any time. There you have a realistic image of the supposedly “romantic”, mythical ‘80s in Greece.

Back to the music, the huge imposing stage of the Seventh Son tour was waiting and it was one of the main topics of discussion among the fans, as well as the band’s playlist, which was a mystery. Note that back in 1988, we didn’t have internet, or any other way of information about that, so that veil of mystery made the waiting even more intriguing. Finally, from the PA the intro of “Moonchild” is playing… and at the finale there are fireworks and Maiden is in front of us. I am very close to the stage an I am experiencing the absolute magic… Bruce, at his 30s back then, is super fit, all over the place with his foot on the monitor, doing all his theatrics, living every lyric and pointing at the crowd who is roaring with cheers, cries, screams in an ecstasy of enthusiasm and insanity. At some point, the “Chief” moves towards me and “shoots” with his bass and looks at me straight in the eyes smiling for a few seconds (yes, this happened to me!). I think that’s where I reached the peak of joy. No words can describe the amazing experience feeling your idols so close to you, like you own them. You are just grateful to the universe for this happening. From then on, the band’s performance in at deep red, you see them in awe, the songs is a mystagogia, the audience reaction hysterical, the stage with the icebergs the absolute ceremony. Heavy Metal in the flesh for two hours was in front of our eyes. The most important band, during its best period, and us in our prime, music at its best. Everything was magical and dreamlike, like a fairytale. Everything was bigger than reality in the mind of a still innocent teenager.

On the funny side of the evening, from pushing and the incredible pressure, somewhere in the middle of the stage I realized that me and my friend were at the middle of the stadium and we watched the last songs exhausted sitting under the roof of Nea Philadelphias’ stadium seats.

All of the above were so intense, but happened so fast that I think that most of us didn’t realize when the show was over and we were on the road to go back home talking about our incredible experiences from a night that changed the life for a lot of us.

So, if you’ve been there you have the right to exaggerate when you talk about Iron Maiden and ask for the understanding of those listening to you. On the other side, today, 34 years later, having watched them several times since then, while they enjoy their status as Kings in the throne room of heavy metal, you can appreciate that the importance of their first ever show in Greece is even greater. And that because you weren’t just a witness of a random leisure event of your careless puberty, but you proudly feel a part of their history, their myth, that was building up, and purely, romantically and unsuspectingly, YOU were there!

So, let’s enjoy this emblematic myth of this music, because time wins always, for as long as it’s alive and creative, let’s enjoy it today before it becomes a memory.

P.S.: As a simple fan, songwriter, music lover and servant of this Art with my insignificant course, I declare to everyone… #monomaiden Thank you!”

Yiannis Papanikolaou: Diviner, Rock’n’Roll Children (DIO Tribute)

“The first time I saw them in October `95 at Peristeri basketball court and what was incredible was that I cut off from my friends finding myself on the front row and during the first 40-50 seconds of “Man On The Edge” I managed to touch with my right hand the “Captain’s” bass… when I went back to the others I told the others (jokingly) that I wouldn’t ever wash my hand again!”

George Papantonis: Illusory

“On Monday, September 12, 1988 the schools were opening for the new academic season. No one cared! The only thing in our mind was the Iron Maiden show that was going to take place at AEK stadium the following day. The fact that we were living in a city in the country side 680 km far from Athens was just a little detail. Everything was planned months ahead anyway. The 1800 drachmas tickets were already in our hands from the day that went on sale and friends and relatives that were living in Athens were informed for our arrival, since our parents had no choice but to let us go on a “flash” trip to see the band that we’ve been listening in full volume day and nights in out teenage bedrooms.

So, a gang of four 15-year olds took the night bus and after a 10-hour trip got to Athens. Actually, I remember more things before and after the show, rather about the show itself. The subway train from Omonia to Pefkakia was packed with metalheads and when we got off we listened to a loud “grhhaaaannnnn” from the sound check and started running towards the stadium excited, thinking that the show had already started… early in the afternoon we entered the field from the side of “skepasti”, the legendary roof over Nea Philadelphias’ stadium seats, and we were waiting with the enthusiasm running over our every cell. The show was the better thing I lived in my life until then and for several years to come, even though I don’t remember much as this was an out-of-body experience. Of course I lost my buddies during the concert and we reunited the next day at the bus station for the trip home. Nothing was ever going to be the same again!”

Hakos Pervanidis: Metal Hammer, Tv War

“The first time I watched Iron Maiden live was the first time they played in our country, on September 13th 1988 at AEK Stadium. The were at their creative peak, since a few months earlier the amazing “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” was released! It was announced that the show would start at 8:30 and at 8:30 sharp the lights are out and the intro of the album is heard playing on the PA. A few seconds later there is an explosion (just like “Maiden England”) and here they are in front of our eyes our 5 beloved heroes giving all they got on stage! The sound was good, the stage show was awesome –for those times- and Dickinson had the audience in the palm of his hand (there should have been arount 15,000).

Several visits of the band followed the upcoming years, but the first one was –in my opinion- the best. Maiden are still masters when it comes to live shows, but back then they weren’t touched by the wear of time, the changes in the lineup, the decay in discography. And as it was written in big magazine in 1999 (comparing that show with that from 1988) there was no excess member on stage then.”

Thanasis Hatziagapis: Sorrowful Winds, Maidenance