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.
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.
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.
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.
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