Thursday, June 17, 2010

Iron Maiden - Kiss with a "guise" of integrity?

In some ways, Iron Maiden represents the ideals of any aspiring musician. They do what they like, with no regard for trends but with total regard for their longtime fans. But in this blog I want to poke a little bit of a hole in the "myth" that is perpetuated with the Iron Maiden fanbase.

Don't get me wrong, Iron Maiden has been and is still one of the inspirations for me being into metal in the first place. But often on message boards, in conversations, and so on, Iron Maiden is regarded as the Vanguard of Heavy Metal as far as integrity goes. Fans and peers alike testify to the fact that the band "never sold out", they "never compromised" and with this comes the idea that the band almost is an altruistic band still in touch with their "working class roots" and with no regard for profit...but...

While not wanting to bash who is probably my favorite band, have you ever noticed the glut of Iron Maiden merchandise in recent years? Also notice that they continue to release live albums, reissue their albums every five years or so, and do other (admittedly wise) astute business decisions?

The idea that Iron Maiden is the "anti-Kiss" or the "anti Corporate band that made it" is basically a load of bullshit.

I recall an article in Guitar For the Practicing Musician circa 1999 or so, where they discuss the reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. Maiden had admittedly suffered through the Nineties, being relegated to club shows and to an "uncool" status (more on the metal deficit of the Nineties in future blogs I may add). The reunion was seen as a blessing, and not only in a musical sense. The article went to state that around 10 Million dollars had been "invested" into making Maiden an enterprising entity "again". Maiden went on in the 2000's and have thrived since then (arguably they are bigger now more than ever), but without catering to musical trends. This is fine and dandy, but at the same time, there is a bill of goods being sold to the fan.

A Maiden fan's belief that Maiden has no monetary objective is in many ways, erroneous.

I am only stating this in part because I was once of the same cloth as this "average" Maiden fan.

The fact remains that though they are often placed above bands like Kiss as far as musical integrity goes, there is a deception going on.

And this is no mere "conspiracy theory" this is simply an acknowledgement that Iron Maiden are a gigantic band with a huge sphere of influence, and also one of affluence.

Iron Maiden packs arenas nowadays. They sell millions of T-Shirts that are made in third world countries. They still sell (relatively) a lot of albums.

And behind this empire are two people who may seem to be somewhat different- the calm and reserved "source of integrity" Steve Harris (bass and main songwriter) and their shrewd manager, Rod Smallwood.

It is often the case that on metal blogs, Blabbermouth and the like that Iron Maiden is talked about in reverence for their "still being in touch with their working class roots", or that "they never sold out", etc, etc.

But the fact of the matter is, while they may have not changed their musical style, in a way they remain on the same level as a Kiss or Metallica in their "corporatism". Maiden shirts are sold by the bucketload to Hot Topics across America. You see Iron Maiden songs in video games, in movies, and their shirts on Lindsay Lohan.

Mainstream rock stars and actors sing their praises.

What is my point with this? Well I just wanted to insert a bit of perspective. Iron Maiden is one of the best selling Heavy Metal bands of all time. In a way, their dedication to their "Values" (i.e not changing much with the times) is just as much of a "sell out" as Metallica cutting their hair or Gene Simmons selling "Kiss" caskets.

Its not really a sell out though, its more of a case where the band did what they want and made it, but want to keep their financial empire afloat. But the point is, when anyone tries to pit Sharon Osbourne as some kind of devil and Rod Smallwood the saint (a couple years ago with the Ozzfest debacle) or Iron Maiden as some underground rooted band, just remember that they still do a lot of the stuff that other bands are criticized about as far as "for money". They wouldn't be playing nostalgia tours if they weren't concerned with the bottom line, or selling a lot of the merchandise for that matter.

Rod Smallwood is a shrewd businessman who has kept Iron Maiden ltd lucrative, but Steve Harris has kept the other foot in the "working class roots" of playing music with integrity.

Its a delicate balance, but a lot of people don't acknowledge the "corporate side" of Iron Maiden.


Anonymous said...

true that!!@
besides, they sucked after 7th son. How did they manage to stay afloat after their prime, pure marketing and persistance...

Mattowarrior said...

I don't think they sucked after 7th Son. I really liked the X Factor in particular - I was just trying to make a point that they are regarded as cut from a different cloth than Kiss or Ozzy or Metallica and this isn't necessarily true. I mean, the integrity is there above all those bands, with regards to music- but they are definitely a commercial entity as well as a terrific band.