Somewhere In Time is in some ways the forgotten Maiden classic, the most underplayed of Maiden’s most popular records. Why has there never been a real retro focus on the Somewhere In Time record? In this article, American fan Adam Hansen wonders what could have been…
Maiden reached the top of the world with the 1984 release of Powerslave and the ensuing world tour and 1985 document Live After Death. Their effort to follow up this monumental worldwide success has been hotly debated within the band, but is at the same time a highly regarded album and tour for many fans. Could history and history tours have been different, if Somewhere In Time held a different meaning for the band? Our guest writer Adam Hansen discusses the tantilizing “what it?” of 1986-87!
LOST SOMEWHERE IN TIME
by Adam Hansen
IMOC nick: Drumhedd
Fraught with turbulence brought about after the strain of the gargantuan 187–date World Slavery Tour, Maiden were self-admittedly not quite firing on all cylinders when it came time to write their 6th studio album. With Adrian picking up the compositional slack, Somewhere In Time (1986) was edgier, icier, and yet more commercial and melodic than its predecessors. The heavy crunch of solid state amps and digital production made the band’s dual-lead sound even more scathing than before.
Clothed in kitschy sci-fi imagery, the album was an instant goldmine of merchandising and stage design elements that would pop up again and again throughout Maiden’s next two and a half decades of touring… but even so, one by one, the number of songs from Somewhere In Time in Maiden’s concert setlist would begin to dwindle down to almost nothing.
(Click picture for BIG version!)
Decades after Iron Maiden’s “black sheep” album was birthed, the question still burns in the minds of die-hard fans: What about the tour made it so unworthy of being committed to film? With perhaps some of the strongest, most cohesive visual/lyrical themes ever to grace a Maiden album and stage show, surely this quasi-cinematic experience deserved a treatment equal to or better than Live After Death!
In addition, as if they knew fans could tell they didn’t quite believe in Somewhere In Time, Maiden’s 1986-87 Somewhere On Tour trek was a rather confusing affair. Dropping Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner after one single performance, cutting Sea of Madness in North America and eschewing altogether the newly-minted historical epic Alexander The Great for yet another two years of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the band didn’t really fully utilize all the pomp, circumstance and scenery (and inflatable Eddies) to celebrate their dark sci-fi masterpiece. By the time 1987 rolled around, they were performing just 4 tracks from Somewhere In Time, alongside an equal amount from The Number of the Beast (1982).
What if the band had believed in themselves a little bit more? What if Adrian hadn’t “forgotten” his solo in Alexander The Great, and Bruce had overcome his “creative envy” to be more comfortable and at home with Somewhere In Time, the album that sold two million copies in the United States alone?
A live video would have complimented Somewhere On Tour perfectly, and would surely have sold well on the heels of Live After Death. In fact, based on bootleg recordings from 1986 (Paris, in particular), Bruce’s voice was significantly less strained than on the World Slavery Tour, as the entire band had learned several valuable lessons when it came to pacing themselves after the near-disastrous consequences of their previous tour.
Maiden’s post-2000 retrospective tours would certainly be different if Somewhere In Time had an official concert film release, like Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988) did.
Despite naming 2008’s Somewhere Back In Time World Tour thusly and including cyborg Eddie, Wasted Years, Heaven Can Wait, and modeling the lighting rig after Somewhere On Tour, there really wasn’t much attention paid to 1986. Perhaps we would have been treated to a more balanced setlist, with less Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son material, or even a fourth history tour sandwiched in between Somewhere Back In Time and Maiden England.
Another option would be to let the 2008 History tour focus on Live After Death and pre-1985 music only, there was plenty left over in the end, while the current Maiden England tour could focus on the 1986 and 1988 records.
Either way you slice it, it would’ve been a great way for Somewhere In Time fans to have their cake and eat it too. With Somewhere Back In Time’s previously noted offenses and subsequent incidents (Nicko speaking of fans who “hadn’t been born when Somewhere In Time or Seventh Son came out” and Maiden England as “the middle years of Iron Maiden”, and Steve’s assertion of “an ’86-’88 vibe”), plus the continued usage of Somewhere In Time imagery to promote tours that largely ignore its place in Maiden history, it comes across as lazy or a tease for the band to even mention the album.
What could have been?
Complete with sleek black/grey scenery, a bit of scaffolding a la the Brave New World Tour, futuristic backdrops and an appropriate amount of neon lights, Somewhere In Time would be excellent retro tour fodder. Perhaps the inflatable Eddie and spaceships, proving too temperamental (and “Spinal Tap”) to withstand the rigors of the road, would be left off or modified.
Reinterpretations of classic Maiden artwork, involving futuristic cyborg Eddie and other such scenery, would also be possible, similar the frozen landscapes of the Maiden England World Tour backdrops.
Providing Maiden with another excuse to go out and relive the past might be tempting fate, because as we’ve seen with the Maiden England tour, their song selection isn’t always the most admirable. But it would provide them with an additional palette of songs to select from, and it wouldn’t all be deep cuts either. From both a die-hard fan as well as a greatest hits perspective, it would be nearly impossible to fault something like this:
1. Caught Somewhere In Time
2. Two Minutes To Midnight
3. Sea Of Madness
4. Children Of The Damned
6. Wasted Years
7. Stranger In A Strange Land
8. The Number Of The Beast
9. Alexander The Great
10. Heaven Can Wait
11. Phantom Of The Opera
12. Hallowed Be Thy Name
13. Iron Maiden
14. Where Eagles Dare
15. Flight Of Icarus
16. Run To The Hills
Sadly, we can only dream. As it appears the history tour cycle is drawing to a close (it’s very unlikely that the band want to focus on their artistically and commercially less successful 1990s), the chances of hearing any more than one or two tracks off Somewhere In Time are increasingly dismal.
It’s a shame that such a fantastically grandiose album and tour have been allowed to fall by the wayside while the same twelve or so classics from the same era are so overplayed.
By way of consolation, here is the potential template for such a modern day re-imagining, which now seems to be lost somewhere in time:
EDIT: And then, ten years after Adam wrote this lament, it is finally going to happen. In 2023, Iron Maiden will hit the road with The Future Past Tour, putting a focus on their most recent album Senjutsu alongside the long-ignored Somewhere In Time.
See you all somewhere on tour.