A Real Dead One 20 Years!

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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.

Click here for our review of the classic Live After Death album!

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

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Eddie tears apart electrical cables and wields Steve Harris’ bass guitar in the Derek Riggs artworks for the A Real Live One album and the Fear Of The Dark single respectively.

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…

Click here for our in-depth feature about the end of Iron Maiden’s classic era in 1988-89!

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.

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Harris and Dickinson in 1993. Bad vibes and bad-mouthing would be the order of the day for the Real Live Tour

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.

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Maiden at Donington prior to their 1992 show at the Monsters Of Rock, the concert that might have been the better choice for a live album to begin with.

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…

Click here for our guide to Iron Maiden’s concert DVDs!

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.

Maiden Revelations will certainly dig deeper into key aspects of Iron Maiden’s controversial 1990s in future in-depth articles which can be located in our Feature Friday and Best & Worst categories.

For now, happy birthday A Real Dead One!

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A Real Dead One, a real swan song (of sorts) for singer Bruce Dickinson and illustrator Derek Riggs. By the end of 1993, Maiden’s future was very uncertain.

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37 thoughts on “A Real Dead One 20 Years!

      • No way. The production is shit, the mix is shit, and some of the performances are subpar for Maiden standards. “En vivo!” (really good live album, but not their best) is miles better than this under-produced product of Steve’s megalomania around that time.

  1. really you wanna compare maiden’s megalomania then and now ? At least then they played the songs faster and with more power than the studio versions..

    • Power is nothing without control…

      To be honest, I’d rather hear any live recording post-reunion than from that era. Nicko had the annoying tendency to speed up songs too much back then, the overall sound suffers significantly from the lack of Adrian Smith, and Bruce sounds much better nowadays. But hey, if you enjoy it, that is fine with me. My copy of this album is collecting dust at home though. 🙂

      • I agree for all you say.
        Even Dinnington Live is sound shit. The mix is poor . And whend the song finish they grow up the volume of the crowd. Too poor. 93-94 era live is poor.

  2. Personally, there’s no way I can hear Steve’s productions reaching anywhere near the quality of Kevin Shirley. The 90s gave us most of their worst-sounding records, in my opinion. Particularly once Martin Birch left the building. From A Real Live One to Virtual XI it was all pretty sad, but I was in denial at the time.

    When it comes to speed, that’s part of why Adrian left the band. He felt they didn’t do justice to their own music by playing too fast in concert. I understand him.

    • Sorry but if it was for maiden to end up sounding like a.s.a.p, I’m with steve… Maiden established themselves as a great live band by playing their great tracks faster and even better live than the studio versions… and i think that it’s a bit of a strange coincidence that the speed issue added to the reasons why adrian left now, that they’re older and couldn’t possibly deal with fast tempos… And bruce even then sounded better than nowadays were he’s “struggling” in almost every song, giving only like 75% cause he wanted to leave.. He’s still great but needs the extra breath, slow tempos offering him to be able to sing good… It’s the first time ever that there are rumors that maiden canceling songs for his benefit, (hallowed be thy name, infinite dreams) and it’s only natural in his age for him to lose a bit of his flare and power, but saying that he sings better than ever nowadays is a bit to much… In my opinion the greatest dickinson performances live are from 1994 – 2008 -9 tops… That being said his still great but not as good as he was, which is natural.
      Also a live album means you can hear the crowd, which in Areal you do, not making 50.000 chileans sounding like 5.000 north america fans in a barnyard festival….

      • First of all, sounding like A.S.A.P. was never the alternative to not playing Hallowed Be Thy Name at the speed they did in Maiden England.

        And Adrian’s issues with Maiden’s live performances in the late 80s have been known since way back, so it’s nothing “convenient” about it. Steve talked about it in 1990. When Bruce and Adrian returned, this was one of the specific things Adrian and Steve had constructive arguments about.

        Maiden dropping songs for Bruce’s benefit happened in the 80s. One example, Where Eagles Dare being dropped from the SIT tour clearly had something to do with Bruce’s vocals. And the only non-debatable instance these days is the dropping of Hallowed Be Thy Name, because he noticably struggled with it in 2011.

      • You like the fast and raw unpolished Maiden from “A real dead one”, while I’d rather have the tight sounding prog-metal machine that we have now. A matter of taste, I suppose (A matter of life and taste… 😆 ).

        However, I would like to point out that Adrian had issues with how the songs were played live when he left, and Bruce mentioned the same thing in interviews in 1997 (e.g. with the French fanzine “The neighbour of the beast”, where Herve started drawing great Eddies), complaining that by playing the songs that fast he was really struggling to sing what already were pretty difficult songs with convoluted lyrics in the first place. Bruce needed the extra breath in the 80s, but back then they were not prepared to give them that and he struggled a lot due to that issue and the relentless touring. He might not be sounding as great live nowadays as he did from 1997 to 2001 or from 2005 to 2009, but the way he sounds in 2013 pisses all over the way he sounded live from 1985 to 1993…

  3. 1st I never said anything about that sounding like a.s.a.p was the alternative but, If they wanted to keep adrian happy that’s what would’ve been the “solution” back then, concidering what he left Maiden to do..
    2nd I’ve only heard that adrian left cause he was fed up with the touring and the direction the band took for “no prayer” and also wanted to do softer more “commercial” songs that never would’ve made a Maiden record… He was not enthusiast about writing or argue with steve as well so, he was out… Also the only term I heard of for him and bruce to return, was to record in a better studio than steve’s. Even Adrian said that the intro of 2 minutes was given to Janick because he played it faster and sounded better…
    3rd you may be right about the dropping of songs since in my opinion bruce’s live performances dropped from 86-90 and then again in 93, but it could also be a decision of the band…
    Also I’d like an opinion about mixing the crowd way to low in cases like en vivo and rock in rio-dvd.. I don’t like it and think that the live essence is missing a lot by that..
    Anyways it’s all about taste… (and in some cases facing the truth objectively, pessimistically or waaaay optimistically :P)…. Anything maiden did no matter how controversial brought them being great and active, still, in 2013 so it doesn’t really matter… UP THE IRONS once again…

    • It’s what you get for pulling a straw man, buddy. “If it was for Maiden to end up sounding like A.S.A.P.” … No, that was not the point. According to Adrian himself, he was absolutely not done with metal. But because of A.S.A.P. a lot of people got that idea. Adrian wanted to contribute to Maiden, but he wanted Maiden to keep going in the direction they picked with SIT and SSOASS.

      And once Adrian left, Steve immediately talked about Adrian being unhappy on tour, and he also does so in the official bio. Adrian now says that had something to do with the band “choking the life out of” material he really loved, the SIT and SSOASS era. Either this is true, or Adrian is lying to cover for the band’s inability to play too fast these days. Come on…

      Bruce has stated that live tempos were a point of discussions when he and Adrian had returned, also in the bio. I didn’t say it was a term imposed on Steve for their return.

      I really prefer Shirley’s work to the 90s live records, and also to Live After Death to be honest. Yeah, that’s probably a controversial statement! 😀

      • I also prefer the Shirley sound to the Birch or Harris sounds… Thicker, heavier guitar, the bass is audible but doesn’t sound like knitting needles. To take a detour into production, I get the sense that Martin Birch got better performances out of the band, and may have helped with arrangements and keeping songs punchy (shorter!). But Kevin has the better sound.

        As for ARLO and ARDO, these need to be put in the file marked “Not Canon”!

      • I love Shirley’s mixes for “Flight 666”. I think I am going to listen to that album now. 🙂

      • I decided to give “A real dead one” another go. Oh dear, this is going to be painful… 😆 😆

  4. Because I’m curious: Has anyone compared the tempo of Aces High on LAD to the tempo of Aces High on the current tour? Do they really play it slower now? Or have some people just gotten way too caught up in Nicko’s half-joking comment that they couldn’t play as fast as in the 80s anymore…?

    I know that tracks like Phantom Of The Opera are played slower than in the 80s, but that’s obviously by choice. When it comes to the faster songs, I’m not sure I can hear any difference.

    • The tempo of ‘Aces high’ is quite similar, although a tad bit slower in 2013. I have checked some live versions from this year and the song was 5-8 seconds longer than the “LIve after death” version.

      If I am not mistaken, they added a few bars to the quiet bit of ‘Seventh son of a seventh son’.

      • By the way, the tempo for ‘Aces high’ in 2013 was the same than in 2008, if that is something you were also wondering.

      • You’ve clocked them, from Nicko’s first snare hit (that’s when the band comes in live)? To where? The ending can have different durations from night to night. If 5-8 seconds is the outcome, I’d say it’s within the margin of several errors and does not constitute a significant change in tempo.

      • It is from Nicko’s first snare hit to the end, but I have also played two of them at the same time (Paris 2013 and LAD). The recent version is a tad bit (but just a tad) slower. Not different to the 2008 version though.

  5. Hi! Personally I’m the kind of fan that can see or hear no wrong from the band. A Real Dead One is a statement of the band at that time – Steve finding his way in production, Bruce leaving – and I ENJOY it as such. Also, I agree with Christer Bakker, the tempo these days is not much slower than the early 90s. And, a slower tempo isn’t a bad thing necessarily. ‘Hallowed…” was played ridiculously fast sometimes. Also, I hate the comments about strained vocals. It’s a LIVE experience, of course they’re strained, it’s part of the magic. Live shows, real live shows, are great with their flaws. So, is ARDO their best live effort? Not by a long shot. Is it actually crap? No.Fucking.Way.

    • I agree completely that Hallowed was played way too fast in the late 80s! Bruce also commented once that there was “blood, and pieces of tongue…” when he tried to get the lyrics out. 😀

  6. Yay, we got too much time on our hands! Aces High from first snare to first note of the ending*, LAD version – 03:53,21. Flight 666 version: 03:58,92. Less than 6 seconds longer in 2008 than in 1985. No cause for drama.

    *Thought it was important to stop when that ending part begins, because it can vary quite a bit from one version to the next.

    And this is of course completely ignoring that the current tempos of songs are often closer to the original versions, which I’m sure a lot of fans are pleased with. But in the case of Aces High not even the LAD version is as quick as the original – 03:48,58 in the same interval as described above.

  7. It is difficult to compare, as I did not time the others, but from Nicko´s first snare hit to his snare hit that is the beginning of the end of the song, it is roughly 3:44…

  8. Pingback: BEST & WORST: Dickinson’s Live Performances | maidenrevelations

  9. I always wanted to pick this one up for the cover artwork alone. I always thought DJ Eddie in Hell was one of the coolest Maiden covers Riggs ever made. Never do see the CD in any stores, though. In fact, Live After Death is the only pre-reunion live album that ever seems to get sold in stores. Seems like their track record with live albums doesn’t seem to be very good.

    • Well, even when it is in stores you don’t see the cover, because it’s sold as A Real Live Dead One, and the Live One cover is the one they use. 🙂

      • Don’t see that one either, though. Pretty much the only live albums (other than, of course, Live After Death) it seems that sell are all post-reunion, since I’ve seen everything from Rock in Rio onwards.

        Well, actually, now that I think of it, I have seen the Maiden England ’88 re-release, both on DVD and CD. Makes sense cause it’s newer and from a far more popular time in their history.

  10. @Andre: Yeah, it doesn’t seem strange to me that the worst-selling Maiden live albums (by far) aren’t as visible in stores as the others. It’s as obvious as why Powerslave gets more shelf displays than Virtual XI. 😉

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