Piece of Mind
16th May 1983
This commentary was written by Mick Wall for the 1998 re-release of
Iron Maiden's discography. The pictures also come from the CD.
Of Mind, their fourth album, was the one where Iron Maiden finally shed their
New Wave Of British Heavy Metal skin, and emerged as one of the biggest-selling and
most influencial rock bands of the Eighties.
In America, where the album sold more than a million copies (earning Maiden their first
Platinum Disc), many fans had never heard of the NWOBHM; few even now recalled that
the band had once had a different singer (Paul Di'Anno).
"It was the best album we'd done up 'til then, easily," explains bassist Steve Harris,
"and it was our most successful, and the two things just sort of wiped out the past. It was
like the beginning of a new era for the band – musically, and in every other sense."
Of Mind was the beginning of a golden era in the Iron Maiden story, in which
they went from being regarded as brash upstarts to becoming the ruling rock royalty of the day.
As Geoff Barton – founding editor of Kerrang! magazine and the writer who had first
discovered the band in 1979 – says now: "The Eighties belonged to Iron Maiden. There
may have been bands that sold more copies of a particular album at a given time, but there was no
band more consistenly popular year-in, year-out with the hardcore metal fans. As a result, they won
about every section in every Readers' Poll Kerrang! ran from about 1982 to 1988!"
Of Mind was also the fourth Maiden album to feature a new member: drummer
Nicko McBrain. The band had parted company with Clive Burr at the end of the
The Road world tour in 1982. Without dwelling on what was, in truth, a less than amicable
split (Clive still refuses to speak about it), it's fair to say that, from the band's point of view
anyway, the reasons were entirely musical. The pressures and demands of Maiden's
increasingly long tours had simply taken their toll on the young drummer.
Fortunately for Maiden's fans, Clive's replacement, former Pat Travers and Trust drummer,
Nicko McBrain, proved to be an inspired choice. Nicko (real name: Michael Henry) was
– and remains – a larger-than-life character who had played with numerous
outfits in the Seventies, including keyboardist Billy Day, The Blossom Toes, The Streetwalkers
(featuring former Family vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist Charlie Whitney), and the Pat
Maiden had first met Nicko, in 1981, when he was in French socio-political rockers Trust,
who were supporting the band on
"But Nicko's as English as baked beans," guitarist Dave Murray recalls, "so he
spent most of the time hanging around with us. And when Clive left, he was just the first bloke
we thought of."
Good job they did. Like the arrival of vocalist Bruce Dickinson into the line-up on the band's
Number Of The Beast, Nicko's vastly greater range and technique
than his predecessor brought a new and unpredictable dimension to Maiden's music.
"The thing with Nicko is that he's got amazing technique and amazing energy,"
says Steve. "No matter what I ask him to do, I know he'll be right on the money
every time. And that gives you tremendous confidence as songwriter, to try and really
push back the boundaries." As guitarist Adrian Smith say: "Nicko always
had the chops and the technique, we knew that, but in Maiden he really exploded –
to the point where a lot of stuff we did after he joined was then founded on his playing."
As if to underline the point, Piece
Of Mind opens with a tremendous flourish of percussion,
which then ignites into the rip-roaring riff from
Eagles Dare', and the start of one of the greatest Maiden albums ever.
Recorded at Compass Point Studios, on the beautiful Bahamian island of Nassau, in January 1983,
Of Mind was the first album to feature what is now nostalgically regarded as the 'classic'
Harris-Murray-Smith-Dickinson-McBrain line-up of the band.
As usual by now, Martin Birch was again the producer and the backbone of the album
was built around a fistful of Steve Harris-penned songs, including the soaring, aforementioned
Eagles Dare'; the blisteringly brutal
the epic vista-vision
'Quest For Fire'
(inspired by the 1982 movie of the same name); and the misty atmospheric album-closer,
A Land' (replete with lyrics inspired by reading Dune, Frank Herbert's labyrinthine
novel that was later made into an equally incomprehensible movie starring Sting).
Steve had also had a hand in both
a tasty piece of teen angst he and Davey concocted together, and the all-guns-blazing
With Your Boots On', which was a rollicking good idea Bruce and Adrian had been working on
and which Steve then helped them finish off.
one of the strongest tracks, however, was all Bruce's work. Destined to become an immense song
when played live, the lyrics, he says, were written "as a dig at all the loony 'moral majority'
nut cases in America that accused Maiden of being satanists."
Just to really ram the point home, the band even converted a quote from the Bible
(Revelations, Chapter 14, Verse 1), which reads: 'And God shall wipe away all the tears
from their eyes; and there shall be no more Death. Neither sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall
there be any more pain; for the former things are passed.' Except they had inserted the word
'Brain' for 'pain', as a pun on the title of the album.
Also, listen out for the joke 'backwards masking'
between the tracks
and 'Still Life'
– another prank for the religious freaks to get wound up about; it was, in reality,
nothing more sinister than Nicko spouting gobbledegook! "We thought, right,
you want to take the piss, we'll show ya how to take the piss!" laughs Nicko now. Of the
two remaining tracks – the catchy, surprisingly rock-steady
'Flight Of Icarus'
and the more up tempo but equally groovacious,
'Sun And Steel'
– both were numbers that Bruce and Adrian had teamed up to write together. Not only were
they both great tracks, but their inclusion marked the beginning of a song-writing partnership that
would blossom as the years went by.
"Steve seemed to prefer writing on his own," Adrian explains. "I suppose
because he always knew exactly what he wanted to go for and what Maiden should sound like.
Whereas, with me and Bruce, we just started writing off the top of our heads, and the combination
of the two seemed to work really well together."
As if to confirm that view,
'Flight Of Icarus'
not only became Maiden's latest hit single in the UK – where it reached No. 11, in
April 1983 – but it also became a sizeable 'turntable hit' on the radio, another first
for the band.
That said, it was undoubtedly the take-no-prisoners follow-up single,
Trooper, which most Maiden fans recall best from those days. As Steve points out:
"Hit singles are alright, but they're not really what Maiden's about.
which no normal radio station would play because it's too fast and heavy or whatever, that's what
we're really all about and I didn't want the fans to forget that." Released in Britain on
May 16, 1983,
Of Mind roared like a lion straight into the UK chart at No. 3. Though Michael Jackson's
Thriller would actually prevent them from going on to No. 1,
Of Mind was Maiden's most successful album yet, eventually selling more than two million
And of course, there was another stupendous version of Eddie on the album sleeve.
Straight-jacketed and bound by chains, the top of his hairless skull clearly padlocked
down, we are greeted by a lobotomised fiend who appears to have quite literally flipped
his lid. "The original title for the album had been Food For Thought,"
Steve explains. "It was only when we came up with the idea of this lobotomised
Eddie that we decided to change the title to Piece Of Mind."
On tour, Eddie became the brain-damaged mascot for a new generation of sense-overloaded
rock fans as Maiden embarked on their longest tour yet: 10 months and twice as many
countries that quickly became dubbed, the
But the highlight of their near-year on the road had to be when, against the advice of
supposedly better informed music business heads, Maiden went out, in the Summer
of 1983, and headlined their own US tour for the first time. "Everybody told us
we were mad to do it," Bruce recalls. "They said it was too soon and
that we'd never sell enough tickets. But we went out and did it anyway and proved
them all wrong."
Greeted by packed arenas wherever they went, that first headline tour in 1983 was
the making of Iron Maiden in America. "It was amazing," Steve says,
"we knew it was a bit of a risk but we thought, to hell with it, let's just go for
it." Their reward was their first American Top 20 hit, the
Of Mind album eventually settling at No. 14, and selling more than a million
copies for the band, thereby earning them their first US Platinum Disc. From the
earliest days of Cream and the Jeff Beck Group, through to those of Seventies
Goliaths like Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Purple, on up to early Eighties superstars
like Judas Priest, UFO and Def Leppard, America has always demonstrated an
enormous appetite for British hard rock and heavy metal.
Now, it seemed, it was Iron Maiden's turn to command the Platinum spotlight.
The World Piece Tour pictures: