It was just a question of time, Bruce Dickinson would make a solo album. And Iron Maiden’s year off provided the opportunity.
Produced by Chris Tsangarides
Released 8 May 1990
Bruce Dickinson had no masterplan behind his first solo adventure, and did not see it as a way out of Iron Maiden. But his first album was also the first Maiden-related release of the new and challenging decade, the 1990s.
It all started with a song which is not on the album, Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter. Dickinson delivered the track for the A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child soundtrack, and everybody loved it. Steve Harris wanted the song for Maiden’s next album, and the powers that be wanted Dickinson to record a whole album of such stuff. With Maiden on hiatus, the singer jumped at the chance.
Click here to read about the end of Maiden’s classic era in 1988-89!
Tattooed Millionaire sounds better and more playful than Adrian Smith’s lacklustre ASAP album Silver And Gold (1989), which was recorded at about the same time. Dickinson found the perfect partner in crime when he hooked up with ex-Gillan guitarist Janick Gers to write and record, and a relationship was established that would very soon impact Maiden in a big way.
Dickinson and Gers formed a band with bassist Andy Carr and drummer Fabio Del Rio, and entered London’s Battery Studios (where Maiden had worked in the early 1980s) with producer Chris Tsangarides and engineer Nigel Green. The latter had been Maiden’s engineer on Killers (1981) and The Number Of The Beast (1982), and would later be their go-to engineer and co-producer in the mid-1990s.
The album is off to a flying start with Son Of A Gun, a tune that showcases two things right off the bat: Dickinson’s vocal approach has changed radically since the end of the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son tour in 1988, becoming throatier and raspier in a way he would continue for some years. And Gers is a very capable guitarist, sounding better and more restrained here than he would on many subsequent Maiden recordings.
Click here for a review of Maiden’s next, No Prayer For The Dying!
Other good songs on the album include the title track, the conventional ballad Gypsy Road, and in particular the quite revealing Born In 58. The latter provided a bit of a breakthrough for Dickinson, pointing him in the direction of more personal lyrics and themes. It also features career-high guitar work from co-author Gers:
There is also a decent cover version of the Mott The Hoople classic All The Young Dudes, written by David Bowie, a track that would become one of two minor hits off the Tattooed Millionaire album along with the title track. The video features drummer Dicki Fliszar, who would replace Del Rio for Dickinson’s summer tour in 1990:
Then again, who’s life would have been poorer without Hell On Wheels, Lickin’ The Gun or Zulu Lulu? The fact that the album was written in about one week is frankly quite obvious from the very uneven quality of the material. There was no artistically ambitious intention behind the record, it was done for fun and it sounds like it.
The 2005 expanded edition of the album, available as a double CD plus streaming and downloads, adds a bunch of b-sides and associated recordings from the era. This ranges from the essential original soundtrack version of Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter to fiery live renditions of Son Of A Gun and Tattooed Millionaire, with a sprinkling of throw-away acoustic tracks and live cover songs like AC/DC’s Sin City and Deep Purple’s Black Night.
Again, it’s uneven, but Dickinson and his solo band seem to have a lot of fun whether they are on stage or in the studio.
Dickinson was thought by many to want out of Maiden at the time, but nothing was further from the truth. He still claims that he was very happy when he returned to his day job to make their first 1990s album. It was in fact his old partner Adrian Smith that would soon find himself out of the band, and Janick Gers who would be called in to replace him.
Click here for an in-depth look at the making of No Prayer For The Dying, the album project that saw Smith leave Maiden and Gers join!
It’s difficult to take Tattooed Millionaire as a truly meaningful first solo step. The opening three songs – Son Of A Gun, Tattooed Millionaire and Born In 58 – are great, while others range from decent (Dive! Dive! Dive! and No Lies have their moments) to poor. It’s a fun but patchy record, and not at all indicative of where Dickinson would go when he got really serious about it.
Click here for a review of Balls To Picasso!
But fair enough, it was 1990. Dickinson was not yet ready for the big leap that would take him out of Maiden and into a soul-searching solo career.
Christer’s verdict: 3/6
25 thoughts on “Review: Bruce Dickinson – Tattooed Millionaire (1990)”
What good album and what surprise . Nothing to do with what Bruce did in Maiden, and the truth is that this ” Tattooed Millionaire” is a good album of hard rock , no doubt, with a good selection of songs.
The album has some good songs, but by and large I agree with Christer. “Son of a gun” has a riff more or less stolen from Deep Purple/Rainbow ( but then again, “everybody” is influced by 70’s hard rock..Rival Sons anyone?) and it cleary shows that Richie Blackmore was Janick Gers’ hero. Noentheless a good track. So is the title track, Born in 58 and Gypsy Road.
One question arises when revisiting this album, as Christer also touches upon: What the hell happend to Janick Gers’ guitarplaying? From beeing excellent on this album (and on the Gillan album earlier) to be- in my humble opinion- just horrible on pretty much every solo (with a few exeptions) he has ever done in Maiden (his solos on for instance Revelations and Hallowed live just makes me sour). Why he didnt continue with the same quality of work when moving on to Maiden is beyond me.
Don’t get me wrong- I have nothing against Janick, he seems like a perfectly good gentleman and a stand up guy, but when it comes to his guitarplaying, I just dont get it why he is a member of Iron Maiden. But ‘Arry has made one other strange decisions with Maiden (I.i.e Blaze Bayley) but that’s another cup of tea.
But the album itself still made me happy when it was released, as I was thrilled to hear that Bruce’s voice was back in full after 5 years of struggling. I am probably gonna be thrown out of this forum after the sentence to come but… Live after death is to me a highly overrated album as Bruce’s voice is so strained on pretty much every song. A great document of that time, but when it comes til liive performances, I always end up with either Beast on the road or Live at Ullevi 2005 as everything is right there…expet Janicks’s solos on the old stuff as mentioned before. Again, thats a different discussion.
All in all “Tattooed millionaire” showed an energetic (as always) Bruce with his range back vocalwise- which is always magic.
I agree with you about Bruce’s singing in 1985. In my opinion Live After Death is saved by the studio overdubs that were done to the vocals in certain songs, and is thus great.
When it comes to Janick’s guitar work, I could probably mention a few solos I love (Lord Of The Flies and Blood Brothers come to mind), but I agree with you about Revelations. I don’t think Janick has a clue what he’s doing there.
Everyone agrees that Janick is a great guy, and a lot of people also seem to agree that his best work was done on Tattooed Millionaire. Could it be like Bruce said in 1996 … “I don’t think anybody knows how to get the best out of Janick in the studio in Iron Maiden” …?
Overdubbed or not (and although there are some overdubs in “Live after death” there are many less than in seminal classics like Thin Lizzy’s “Studio and dangerous”, Judas Priest’s “Unleashed in the Eastudio” and the series of studio albums titled “Alive!” from Kiss 😆 ), “Live after death” is an all-time live album classic. The whole package (gatefold sleeve, collection of pictures, material recorded) captures the heyday of 80s Maiden and sets the staple of what a hard rock/heavy metal live album should be. We can only fantasise how great it would have been had they used the Hammersmith recordings for the whole album and not only for side 4!
That being said, if you combine “Flight 666” with “Live at Ullevi 2005” you get an amazing summary of Maiden’s 80s output sung (and arguably played too, probably with the exception of some of Dave’s and Janick’s guitar solos) in a much better way. I am proud and grateful of having been able to enjoy the reunion as much as I have.
I never thought Janick was a guitarist up to Adrian Smith, even to Davey. Janick is comfortable, nothing ventured, constantly repeated schemes in the solos, and I’m also convinced that it is unable to reproduce many who have recorded; moreover, he destroys each note recorded by Smith. But he is a nice guy, friendly, do not get into trouble, and supports touring pace; also fulfilled his role with the difficulty of the march of Adrian in 1989 .
I agree. His book of tricks is very short indeed. But I’ve met him, and it just confirmed what I had heard – Janick’s a great guy. I think Adrian said it when he claimed that the key to Maiden’s reunion success is actually having Janick in the band, because it’s a new band and not back to the old band, which according to Adrian would have meant a lot of baggage.
Wait a second … Are YOU Adrian???
I always found son of a gon’s intro similar to the slow part of wasting love witch was also written by dickinson/ gers … Coincidence ?
Do you think it is? 😉
I agree with the review. It was a fun, playful, but thoughtful project that lacked any kind of real bite. However, I did see Bruce and Janick live during the supporting tour (which is when I met them) and I will tell you, they *owned* that stage! It was Bruce, Janick and…who? Incredible show that made that dull material shine like patent leather pumps on a $5,000 a night hooker. Just incredible.
It’s very interesting, though; When Janick is performing as lead, he is truly a genuine star. Yet, when I saw him perform with Maiden years later, he looks like the crazy old guy dancing by himself in the corner of the club. It’s quite a testament to the legends when a huge talent like that is dwarfed so…
Cool! You were there for one of the most low-key and yet one of the most important tours in Maiden history. 🙂
Indeed! And I got to enjoy the company of one of my heroes, to boot. It was a great day!
I enjoy the album but it is certainly my least favourite of Bruce’s solo albums. I quite agree with Christer’s review, but there are some gems there (‘Tattooed millionaire’ and ‘Born in ’58’ are really great).
Regarding Janick, although I’d rather have Adrian playing his solos, I think he is an outstanding songwriter (some of the best Iron Maiden material post-1992 is his) and a really good guitar player. I sometimes wished he concentrated more on the mellow side of his playing, which is superb, though.
Good point about Janick’s songwriting. He doesn’t really get enough credit for it.
‘Be quick or be dead’, ‘The talisman’, ‘The legacy’, ‘Ghost of the navigator’, ‘Dance of death’, ‘Montsegur’, ‘Lord of the flies’… All of them top drawer material for me and arguably much better than most of what Dave Murray has ever written.
Well, it is true that Davey has not written many songs… but their contribution to Maiden transcends this… Dave Murray is one of the biggest culprits of sound and essence of Iron Maiden. It can not be said of Janick Gers, who has contributed more to a dirty sound and inelegant Maiden. And this despite, yes, Gers has co-written good songs: “Be Quick or Be Dead ” , “The Talisman”, “Montsegur “, “The Legacy”, “Dance of Death”… But the fact is that Iron Maiden were leaders of heavy metal when Gers joined them … and that success is due largely to Murray.
@Ghost: You make a great point there! I do think Gers has been part of writing too many of Maiden’s worst ever tracks, but he has also written some of my favourites of the past couple of decades, or of all time for that matter.
Murray’s best: Still Life, Deja-Vu, The Prophecy, Fates Warning, Judas Be My Guide, Brave New World, Rainmaker.
Gers’ best: Be Quick Or Be Dead, Lord Of The Flies, Ghost Of The Navigator, Montsegur, Dance Of Death, The Pilgrim, The Legacy, The Talisman.
I love it that you included Judas Be My Guide as one of the strong maiden songs… I couldn’t agree more …
Oh, it made our list! 🙂
I would include ‘The thin line between love and hate’ as one of Davey’s best songs. IMHO it is much better than ‘Deja-Vu’ or ‘Fates warning’ (both of these would fall into the fillers category for me).
Don’t get me wrong, Murray has written some really good songs, but I think Janick is an overall better songwriter.
The more I think about this, the more I think there’s no argument when it comes to songwriting – Gers have written more great songs than Murray, and Gers is actually putting in a LOT of songwriting on every album, while Murray isn’t too bothered it seems…
On that note, what’s the story behind Gers only having ONE writing credit on Virtual XI? If they ever needed his songwriting, that’s the album…
@Christer: I guess we will never really know what went on during the writing and recording sessions of such lacklustre album…
@Ghost: Well, we do have Blaze’s account, but I’ll get to that when the time is right. 😉
Regarding the album-i loved it back i1990 and i love it stil. It sounds to me as a great fun i would say . Born in58 and Tattooed Millionaire are my favs .
And about Janick i have to say only one thing , i thinks him to be an amazung songwriter
since someone mentioned the lack of janicks writing on viritual xi album. i have always wondered who that guy is whos “playing” instead of janick on this clip from swedish tv. btw, this must be one of the worst songs anyone has ever recorded.. 🙂
I honestly don’t remember who he is, but I think it was a bit of a stunt that was done when Janick had to fly home for personal reasons. And personally I would definitely say it’s one of the worst songs Maiden ever recorded, at least…