The Quāālude and Beer Generation's "Let it Bleed."
Spewed forth from the 6 x 9's flush mounted onto the rear decks of countless Chevelles idling in countless 7-11 parking lots, "Drifter" and all else on Maiden's second disc had as much urgency as the Stooges, and way more than anything else its own poor blighted zeitgeist could muster. I mean, British kids had been listening to Ultravox at the time. . . .
If Ultravox were labeled as one of the "New Romantics," Maiden could have in their own way been considered equally so, further refining their romanticism into a New Gothic, recasting "Thatcher's Bloody Britain" as a land of spirits, harlots, prowlers, phantoms, and yes, killers. If the evil Maiden sometimes conjured seemed a worse alternative to the times as they'd been, consider that if the late '70's and early '80's in England were bleak and grey, Maiden's songs never were.
"Drifter" may or may not be about that brighter day. It might actually be about the roamings of a serial killer. But even terror might be preferable to the hopeless.
And certainly Dave Murray's iconic wah-wah solo is. It kicks in at about 3:03, and goes on for 37 frenetic seconds, taking its place by its end at least in my mind as one of the greatest wah solos ever recorded, up there with Clapton's in "Presence of the Lord," and with the many short blasts from Jeff Beck in his version of "I Ain't Superstitious."
Killers was the end of a short era for Maiden. With their next album, The Number of the Beast, they'd change their lead singer, and break big in America. Bruce Dickinson's singing voice--likened by the band to an air raid siren, but just as likely to be labelled by detractors as the keening, annoying wail of a castrato--was to say the least different from predecessor Paul DiAnno's much more guttural style.
The Number of the Beast was the first Maiden album I ever purchased, so if anything, it was DiAnno's voice that seemed odd when, while waiting for Piece of Mind, I went back and bought the first two. Maiden had always been a natural for me, as Steve Harris' busy flatwound bass figures reminded one of nothing less than prog. But as I began to incorporate punk and noise into my listening, I found myself less and less able to relate to the Dickinson portion of the Maiden canon.
While no-one could ever assail the band's musicianship, by Somewhere in Time, probably by Powerslave, really, it had become apparent that, Up the Irons or no, the band had become waylaid in its quest for heaviness. What's with this guitar-synth shit, you know?
Tracing it back, at least for me, led to the inescapable conclusion that it all started going wrong when they sacked DiAnno. These days, I've got ten Maiden songs in my iTunes library, and eight are taken from one of their first two records.
When Maiden began, when they were still just one of a slew of new guard British metal acts like Saxon, and Diamond Head, and Holocaust, what made them different from what had come before was their incorporation of the speed, energy, and dirtiness that punk had brought to the table.
While the superb musicianship never went away, some of the rest of it did. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal will forever be associated with Iron Maiden, but to be sure, Iron Maiden haven't forever since been associated with it.
Iron Maiden - Killers - 11 - Drifter.mp3
This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.
File Under: NWOBHM