Waxing Nostalgic: METAL MAYHEM! with Iron Maiden

Published on May 27th, 2013 in: Music, Waxing Nostalgic |

By Jeffery X Martin


Are the Metal Kids still a thing? I don’t know, because I’m not in high school. My son listens to metal, but there are so many different kinds of metal now, I can’t tell what he’s into from week to week. Bands like Aversion’s Crown or Sutekh Hexen with unreadable logos that look like lightning blood and vocals all growls and squeals, like a Deliverance fan convention.

In 1986, I had to take a home economics class. It had the potential to be bad. We were divided into groups of four, all seated at the same table. I was the new wave/punk/goth kid (because you could be all of those things at the same time in the Eighties) and I was placed with the Metal Kids. I was terrified. These were the pothead kids, the ones who got into fights after school, the ones that probably carried switchblades. They also listened to Metallica, a band I had never listened to because their name sound like a terrible factory where babies were crushed into a fine powdery substance called cocaine.

I knew they listened to Metallica because they had the logo copied perfectly onto their Trapper Keepers and notebooks. They also had the Judas Priest logo, transcribed exactly. How did they do that? Were the Metal Kids draftsmen on the side? And why do they all listen to this band called Iron Maiden?

Named after a medieval torture device and with a logo so sharp, you could prick your finger on it and do a quick sugar test, Iron Maiden was the tell. If you knew an Iron Maiden song, you were a Metal Kid. I spent a lot of time making fun of Iron Maiden and their skeletal avatar, Eddie. “Nice album cover,” I told the Metal Kids. “Is that Eddie holding the devil by marionette strings? That’s hilarious. How Jonathan Edwards. How metaphysical. Don’t you guys ever listen to New Order?”

It was not until later that I realized the error of my ways. Those Metal Kids were far smarter than I. So many Iron Maiden songs were steeped in history and classic literature. Do you know The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Maiden fans do. They’ll sing you the entire nine minute long song. How about The Murders in the Rue Morgue? What do you know about what it was like to fight in World War I (or World War II, for that matter)? Have you ever seriously pondered what it was like for an Egyptian pharaoh, on the brink of death, coming to final grips with your mortality? Of course not! Why would you, unless you were an Iron Maiden fan?

This was not your cool sex and drugs band. This was Cliff Notes with dueling guitars. This was like having someone sing you your homework. It was brilliant. Iron Maiden didn’t care if they made the top ten. They weren’t going to write the perfect three minute and thirty-three second pop song, with a prerequisite amount of “ooh baby baby.” They were about epics.

Each Iron Maiden album is its own Götterdämmerung, a terrifying chronicle of a world falling in on itself, while simultaneously attempting to redeem itself by reminding its citizens of art and beauty and truth. Things are bad, and there are terrible people out there who are willing to spill your blood over trivial things, but we were valiant once, and beautiful, and our art reflected it. Iron Maiden is our dark mirror, a masterclass in sociology, history and kick-ass rock and roll.

I thought I was smart in high school, but the Metal Kids knew a lot more than I. They had better backgrounds in history and literature than I, and I was college-bound, with a stellar future. They had an innate understanding of musical structure, movements, and crescendo, than I, and my grandmother was a music teacher. It isn’t much of a stretch to say that Iron Maiden set many people on the path to fulfilling the Renaissance ideal of being well-rounded and educated on many things. It was sure more spiritually edifying than “Unskinny Bop.” What the hell was that, anyway?

I send thanks and a hearty “Up the Irons” into the past to Sue, Eddie, and David, the Metal Kids who ended up putting me right. As for the rest of you, I don’t care how old you are now. Even if you’ve heard Iron Maiden, take a real listen to Iron Maiden. Their reputation for evil is undeserved, their songwriting is underrated and, to put it mildly, they rock balls.

2 Responses to “Waxing Nostalgic: METAL MAYHEM! with Iron Maiden”

  1. K-MAN:
    May 27th, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I’m a die-hard Maiden fan and I’m 23. I’ve loved them since I was about 5 and next week I’ll be seeing them for my 14th time in Paris. This article rocks balls. Don’t worry heavy metal is still alive and well in the younger generations too.


  2. Patrick S Clarke:
    May 27th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I was a Metal kid in ’86. I won’t even get into my IM Purgatory t-shirt causing fits at my youth summer camp. I was a heathen. Great article. I feel like I’m back in shop trying to get my teacher to allow me to make a Van Halen logo out of wood. \m/

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