October 1993 saw the release of that year’s second Iron Maiden live album, A Real Dead One. The dreadful title said more than intended about the state of Maiden, for it was in many ways a dark time for band and fans…
Maiden had recently released their first live album since 1985’s Live After Death, the rather cleverly titled A Real Live One. The name was obviously meant to signify the uncompromising live aesthetic of the record, and it was released in March 1993 during a break from the band’s Fear Of The Dark world tour. The title also seemed to imply a confession about the studio fixes that were done to Live After Death, fixes that band leader Steve Harris has never really owned up to in public, claiming in the Maiden biography by author Mick Wall that there was “no overdubs or anything” done at the time.
But by the time A Real Live One hit record stores, the bomb had gone off: Singer Bruce Dickinson was leaving the band after the Real Live Tour in 1993. In light of this, and the generally diminishing popularity of the band at the time, it’s hard to understand the thinking behind naming the second live record of the year A Real Dead One…
(Continues below the pic!)
A Real Live One had been recorded throughout Europe on the 1992 Fear Of The Dark tour. For the first time in the band’s history, Steve Harris took the producer’s chair and spearheaded a sound that many fans and critics found painfully under-produced and unpleasant. Combined with the absence of Adrian Smith’s depth of sound and clarity of playing, this made for a decidedly “garage” type of style.
But it’s probably debatable whether this was a conscious stylistic change, or at least partially a result of Harris’ relative inexperience as record producer. Dickinson was certainly critical of Harris producing Maiden records by himself in his home studio, believing that the band’s working conditions were not conducive to developing Maiden’s firepower in their second decade.
Indeed, the early 1990s saw Maiden facing a series of challenges as they struggled to maintain the status they enjoyed in the late 1980s. The sound of the 1993 live albums certainly came in for harsh criticism, and some fans will consider themselves lucky that the 1993 live version of Wasted Years, a bonafide 1980s Smith classic, was ultimately relegated to single B-side status for this project…
In an effort not to force fans into re-purchasing songs that were already available on the previous live album, Harris only included post-1985 non-Live After Death material on A Real Live One. (Yeah, imagine that philosophy these days…) The pre-1985 material would be issued on the subsequent A Real Dead One, which Harris was mixing in the spring of 1993 for an immediate post-tour release.
(Continues below the pic!)
With Dickinson’s exit imminent, the band decided to shake up the setlist and record more shows for a then delayed A Real Dead One. Which begs the question, what kind of album had Harris mixed prior to that? Of the 1992 setlist, the only tracks not included on A Real Live One were The Number Of The Beast, Wrathchild, Run To The Hills, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Trooper, Sanctuary, and Running Free. Where they seriously planning on releasing a 9-song Maiden live album at the time…?
In any case, the re-worked Real Live Tour went ahead and the band recorded rare gems like Prowler, Remember Tomorrow and Where Eagles Dare for inclusion on A Real Dead One. Unfortunately, the performances and production fell way short of the standard many Maiden fans felt they had become accustomed to in the 1980s. And the deteriorating relationships within the band could not be contained, as exemplified by a Kerrang! interview where Nicko McBrain opened up about all his disappointment and anger with Dickinson’s departure.
For fans who were there, it’s impossible not to perceive A Real Dead One as tainted by the negativity that surrounded Maiden in 1993. But at the same time, it’s obvious that many young people became Maiden fans at that very time, through the albums Fear Of The Dark, A Real Live One and A Real Dead One.
(Continues below the pic!)
As live album fatigue was already setting in, Maiden decided to release their 1992 Donington Park performance as Live At Donington in November 1993. It was issued alongside a concert video title Donington Live 1992, which has the dubious distinction of being Maiden Revelation’s least favorite of all the available Maiden concert features…
The production of Live At Donington, once again by Steve Harris, bears the same hallmarks as the other two 1993 live albums. But it could be argued that presenting a complete show from start to finish, recorded at just one venue, gives the album more cohesion and energy, and that the band would have been better off choosing this strategy to begin with.
Live At Donington was initially a limited edition release in selected markets, but it became regularly available with the release of the 1998 remasters on CD. At the same time, A Real Live One and A Real Dead One got repackaged as the ridiculously titled A Real Live Dead One.
In late 1993 an era came to an end. A Real Dead One served as Dickinson’s Iron Maiden swan song, for the time being. And the band faced the daunting task of replacing him.
The album is also notable for being the last time an illustration by artist Derek Riggs was used as an album cover. Well, he did play a minor role in the creation of the artwork for 2000’s comeback album Brave New World, but the 1993 live records was the last time proper Derek Riggs paintings were employed for album front covers.
For now, happy birthday A Real Dead One!