FEATURE FRIDAY: Maiden England ’88 Preview

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Maiden Revelations are excited to launch a series of features to celebrate Iron Maiden’s glorious 1986-89 era! To kick it off we share our thoughts about the forthcoming Maiden England DVD set.

The late classic period is finally getting its due attention! Over the next couple of months, Iron Maiden are delivering some great 1980s action. Coming out of their mid classic era, which we discussed in this previous feature, the band had plenty of ammunition left for the late 1980s.

First up is the February picture disc re-releases of the seminal albums Somewhere In Time (1986) and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988). And then, of course, the long-anticipated March release of the 1988 concert film Maiden England on DVD, part 3 of Maiden’s ongoing History series. In addition, that concert will be made available as a double CD album and picture disc vinyl. Rejoice!

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Gonna get ya! The late 1980s version of Iron Maiden is going to be everywhere in the months ahead, with a host of re-releases from their glorious heyday flooding the metal market.

Maiden Revelations will follow this activity keenly! First up, in this feature we share some thoughts on the contents of the upcoming DVD, as announced by Maiden and EMI. We will then do a retro review of Somewhere In Time and publish a couple of features about the greatness of that album and tour, often overlooked by the band themselves in DVDs and setlists alike.

We’ll then finish off this late classic period phase with a retro review of  Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, reviews of the new DVD, and features about the end of Maiden’s classic era. By then, in the spring, we’ll be ready to head out on the road to follow the 2013 Maiden England World Tour.

It’s all excitement at Maiden Revelations these days, you bet!

MAIDEN ENGLAND… OR IS IT?
This article is about first impressions of content, but what precedes that is first impressions of packaging. Maiden used to be undisputed masters of this, just check out our ongoing retro reviews of their 1980s catalog.

Not so anymore, unfortunately…

The DVD release has been retitled Maiden England ’88, obviously to clear up confusion that wouldn’t have existed if the band had used the original Derek Riggs illustration and not the one designed for the current tour. After all, if they used the new artwork without changing the title slightly they would be in danger of tricking people into believing that this is a brand new concert film from the 2012-13 Maiden England World Tour.

Using the original artwork? Way too easy. Let's give the fans something to talk about!

Using the original artwork? Way too easy. Let’s do something that will make the fans groan and tear their hair out!

In all honesty, back in 1989 fans might well have been disappointed with the Riggs painting, which completely ignored the imagery of the previous year’s album as well as the tour production featured in the video. Sure, Live After Death didn’t riff on the Egyptian Powerslave motif either, but it kept a thematic thread going, pointing back to Eddie’s fate in the Powerslave artwork.

Maiden England is not one of Riggs’ great Maiden artworks, but then he didn’t have a great title like Live After Death to work with. What do you do with a title like Maiden England? In any case, all of this signaled the end of the incredible 1980s run and the coming of the age of dubious Iron Maiden packaging.

(Check out our reviews section, and look up Powerslave and Live After Death for more praise of Riggs’ amazing classic era artworks!)

As it turns out, now we have a The Trooper-inspired cover artwork for a release that only has that song at the very end of one of its disc 2 bonus features… Why do Maiden and management insist on complicating things like this when the original artwork would have worked just fine, like with the Live After Death DVD?

But okay, on to the content. Most important thing, after all!

THE SHOW WE’VE WAITED FOR
It’s been more than 8 years since Maiden started their History project with the release of The Early Days (2004) and all of 5 years since the last instalment, Live After Death (2008). Fans have been eagerly awaiting Maiden England ever since. In fact, it was originally announced for release in late 2008 as a book-end to the Somewhere Back In Time tour, but the band changed their minds and saved it for the 2012-13 History tour. Now, it’s here!

Adrian and Steve, delivering the goods on the tour that would ultimately be captured for Maiden England.

“Check out this cool lick, ‘Arry!” “Too busy keeping the gallop going, H!”      Adrian and Steve, delivering the goods on the 1988 tour that would be immortalized with Maiden England.

As we all know, Maiden England was filmed and recorded over two nights at the Birmingham NEC in England at the end of the 1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son world tour. It was Maiden’s follow-up to 1985’s Live After Death in concert video terms. These videos were a much rarer thing in those days, and probably also a bigger event for the fans.

Yours truly got the Maiden England VHS for Christmas in 1989, and I remember spending Christmas Day watching it twice. It was very different from Live After Death, both visually and in its setlist, which made the two videos great companions as documents of Maiden’s classic era live shows. Now, I can finally retire my VHS tape!

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Maiden are daring any band to follow them on stage in 1988.

The picture clean-up on Live After Death was probably as good as could be expected. The original Maiden England had a better picture quality than its predecessor, so it will be exciting to see this show in higher definition. The audio gives us the best of both worlds – Martin Birch’s original stereo mix for old-schoolers, and Kevin Shirley’s 5.1 remix for the rest. Personally, I was never that thrilled with Birch’s work on this one (I rank it alongside No Prayer For The Dying as his worst Maiden production work…), so I’m curious to hear what difference the Shirley mix makes to the overall experience.

As expected, and as teased in the trailer, the encores have been restored to the video. Which means that instead of ending with Iron Maiden, the show concludes with Run To The Hills, Running Free, and Sanctuary. About time this show was completed, 25 years down the road!

NOWHERE IN TIME
For fans of 1980s classic era Iron Maiden, there are two tragedies of conservation. In those days, it was not common for bands to document every tour, like it is today. Which is why, alas, Maiden didn’t film two of their best ever shows. The 1983 World Piece Tour only left us a TV recording of the Dortmund show, which was drastically shortened and reduced from its regular format when it was finally released as part of The Early Days.

The 1986-87 Somewhere On Tour left us nothing. Which bloody hurts.

Somewhere On Tour. With the recent Maiden England '88 content announcement, we know for sure that it will remain in the shadows.

Somewhere On Tour. With the recent Maiden England ’88 content announcement, we know for sure that it will remain in the shadows.

It was probably only a foolish fan’s hope (mine), but there could have been a Somewhere In Time show on this release. Band and management could have tracked down a decent bootleg, or a decent TV recording, and given it the clean-up treatment as far is it could go. Just anything to make the official historical record as complete as possible!

As it stands, the only official footage from the 1986-87 tour is the Stranger In A Strange Land promo video.

It’s hard to accept this omission when one considers the way a band like KISS has been able to retrieve and clean up old and sub-standard recordings and offer their fans the impressive Kissology DVD series. Sadly, Somewhere On Tour will forever be a gaping hole in the official history of Iron Maiden that we can only lament…

Here’s some comfort:

Well, at least we have some time to dull our disappointment until the DVD hits the shelfs and we have to forever accept this tragedy.

The other item that fans have speculated would be included in this package is the Donington 1988 performance. The show was filmed for the video screens in the park, but I don’t personally know if this recording exists anymore.

Apart from that, it is not unlikely that the band feels that the tragic deaths of 2 young fans early in the day has tinged the Donington triumph with meaningless tragedy, and that a restoration of any such footage (if it exists) does not merit the effort.

12 WASTED YEARS AND BEYOND
When it comes to completion, at least the new DVD includes the first Maiden documentary release: 12 Wasted Years from 1987. This 90-minute feature doesn’t make up for the lack of a Somewhere In Time show, and it frankly holds little interest today, but at least it completes the set of 1980s releases.

So what could be the hidden jewel in this package?

Maiden in 1986, the subject of a hopefully interesting and revealing discussion in the third part of the History documentary.

Iron Maiden in 1986, hopefully the subject of an interesting and revealing discussion in the third part of the History of Iron Maiden documentary.

Maiden fans are well aware of the inter-band controversy surrounding Somewhere In Time. Bruce Dickinson was not happy with the direction, wanting to make a more acoustic-based and folksy album that diverted from the Maiden formula. In the official Run To The Hills biography he admits to feeling swatted like a fly when his songs and suggestions were ditched.

Maiden Revelations will dig into this issue in-depth in the weeks to come, but for now it’s enough to state that the discussion of this in part 3 of the History of Iron Maiden documentary is something we look forward to. Maybe the band will dispense with it rather quickly, but the trailer for the DVD does indicate that Dickinson has a different take on it now, citing something to the effect of being “creatively done” when addressing his feelings about his non-involvement in the Somewhere In Time songwriting.

2013 TOUR
This is a great primer for the 2013 live action! No matter what we will think of the product when it’s finally out, it’s high time that the official release of Maiden England ties in with the ongoing Maiden England World Tour.

Many fans wonder whether this release will make it more likely that rarely heard Maiden England gems like Infinite Dreams, Killers, or Still Life will finally find their way back into the set.

Both Steve and Bruce have been open to the idea of setlist changes in recent interviews, and we know for sure that both Infinite Dreams and Hallowed Be Thy Name were rehearsed for the 2012 leg and dropped.

The band recreated the Maiden England stage show in North America in 2012, coming to Europe and South America in 2013.

The band recreated the Maiden England stage show in North America in 2012, and Bruce has promised the same show “with a twist” in Europe and South America in 2013.

HISTORY COMING TO AN END?
We know that the Maiden England tour ends in Rio this September. At the time of writing, the band are scheduled to perform in Europe from late May through July. The Rock in Rio show is set for September 22, and it’s likely that there will be other South American dates that month. The rest of the world? We don’t know, but Maiden are in the habit of going on Ed Force One adventures. Anyway, it’s over in September, and what then?

The tour could go to other places of the world in 2014, but it would be a Maiden first to bring a tour concept into a third calendar year. Nicko has stated that the tour ends in September, so we’ll presume that is the end of Maiden England.

Are Maiden intending to follow through with a version of the 2008 plan they originally had for Live After Death and Maiden England? That would mean bringing out the last piece of the History puzzle, Donington Live 1992, in late 2013 or early 2014. Could that be the basis for a tour in 2014?

Donington Live 1992 is the History DVD set to follow Maiden England at some point in the near future.

Donington Live 1992 is the History DVD set to follow Maiden England at some point in the near future.

It seems extremely unlikely that a broad audience is eagerly awaiting that DVD release, and equally unlikely that a tour based on it would be a selling point. Besides, most of the songs in that set have been performed over the past few tours anyway. The cornerstones Afraid To Shoot Strangers and Fear Of The Dark are even in the current Maiden England set.

Would the masses line up to hear Be Quick Or Be Dead and Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter the way they have lined up to hear Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son? Or are the Iron Maiden nostalgia concepts at an end with the late 1980s?

If Maiden had started to experience a dip in popularity at the time of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son in 1988, the period in focus on the current tour, commercial reality was even more downbeat in 1992, particularly in North America. The cycle of History tours seems to indicate that the late 80s Maiden England concept is the final card Maiden can play.

And what a card! Maiden Revelations will return to the issue of Maiden’s future later this year. But for now, let’s look ahead to the Maiden England ’88 DVD release, drooling in anticipation! 2013 will be an incredible year for Maiden fans, and particularly those of us who cherish the 1980s classic era more than anything.

Click here for our review of the Maiden England ’88 DVD!

Watch this space for a bunch of reviews and features on Iron Maiden’s 1986-89 era over the coming weeks!

As always, up the Irons!

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