Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Song #171 of 9999 - The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden

Song #171 of 9999

Title: The Number of the Beast
Artist: Iron Maiden
Year: 1982
Album: The Number of the Beast

Listening to this song for the first time in decades just brings a huge smile to my face. Music was so diverse in the 80s and most people listened to music of a variety of genres. Pop radio stations played a mix of new wave, roots rock, heavy metal—it was pretty wide open. MTV was the same—Michael Jackson one minute, Mötely Crüe the next. I played in a cover band that pretty much subscribed to this philosophy not quite on purpose, but because everyone in the band liked different things and we played just about whatever anyone wanted to play. So on any given night, we'd play a set that went something like this: "Jane" by Jefferson Starship, "YYZ" by Rush, "Reelin' in the Years" by Steely Dan, "Talking in Your Sleep" by The Romantics and "Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden. It was an insane mix but we somehow managed to get gigs and make people happy for the most part.

Iron Maiden astonishes me with their continuing popularity. I see more Iron Maiden t-shirts at the high school where I teach than any other artist. The Number of the Beast was their third album and first with their most well-known (and current) singer Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson's operatic tenor became the trademark of a group already known for excess in their music, lyrics, cover art, etc. Their success was further heightened by the negative attention given to them by socially conservative groups in the United States who were convinced they were satanists. They weren't; just well-read.

I have very fond memories of playing and singing this song. The open riff in 5/4 was tricky to work out with the band. I can't say for sure if I sounded good attempting the amazing scream during the stop-time section that follows the opening verses, but maybe one of my childhood friends can chime in with the answer. It felt good though and it was an enjoyable and challenging song to sing. Great bass-playing by primary songwriter Steve Harris really tested and helped develop my chops. Hmmm....maybe I should re-form that band....

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