Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tribute to Steve Gadd

It's been something of an up and down two weeks for fans of Iron Maiden. On 12 March, just a week before the 10th anniversary of 3 charity gigs at Brixton Academy former drummer Clive Burrdied. That was followed this week by the release of the latest part of the ‘History of Iron Maiden’ series and the UK tour of Steve Harris and his solo project British Lion. The sad news returned last night, however, when it was announced that Steve Gadd has died.

A typical serious picture with Iron Maiden. Gaddsy being touched by Steve Harris. Lucky man
Steve wasn't a member of the band, and probably isn't someone who would be known outside of the more dedicated circles of the Iron Maiden family. As someone who was involved with the band for over 30 years though, his part in Maiden history is indisputable. 

Gadd originally started out as a drummer in his own right, becoming friends with now Maiden tub-abuser Nicko McBrain and attending auditions together. On the first Iron Maiden history DVD Gadd said he knew Nicko would get the job with Maiden, because he always did, but he knew he would get called back 2 weeks later when Nicko got the sack for shouting his mouth off to his band mates. On this occasion the call never came, how different things might have been if it had.

Once he didn't have Nicko getting all the jobs he auditioned for, Gadd had a couple of more bands before joining Maiden’s Killer Krew for the epic World Slavery Tour in 1984 to be Nicko's drum technician. He stayed in that job until the X-Factour in 1996 when he moved to work alongside Dick Bell on the management side of touring, a job he did up to the Final Frontier world tour in 2011. He has apparently been diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and had been receiving treatment in London where he died.

I had the pleasure of meeting Steve twice, on both occasions when I had won the chance to enter the arena first for a Maiden gig (a competition run by the Fanclub called ‘First to the Barrier’). At Cardiff in December 2006 he was standing on the door making sure that we were allowed into the CIA as soon as possible to escape from the freezing temperatures outside.

I was trying to show off to the others in the queue and shouted out “Let us in Steve” (ooooh check that guy out, he’s such a fan he even knows the name of the crew) to which he looked at me and said “It wouldn't matter if you had the sense to dress properly you daft twat.” All in the best possible jest, even if I did get some stick. By the time I met him again at the last gig of that tour at Earls Court I knew better than to say anything, opting just to smile and nod as I walked past.

As you can tell I would be lying if I said I knew Steve Gadd, but ironically I've met him more than any other member of the band or road crew, and I was genuinely shocked and saddened to hear last night that he had died. It’s also saddening (but not shocking) that there is no news of the death on the Maiden website. Obviously as the Maiden family has grown over the years we don’t want to hear every little happening, but Gaddsy was definitely one of the stalwarts of my favourite band.

Arguably the two most important non-band members. Dick Bell and Steve Gadd

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gig review: Steve Harris British Lion

Steve Harris is not content with selling nearly 100 million albums, playing to packed out stadiums around the world and re-releasing just about everything ever made with Iron Maiden written on it to make a few extra quid. So, he has decided to take his solo/side project British Lion on tour around Europe while the rest of us slowly count down the days until the next time we get to see Maiden. 70, since you asked.

Anyway, the tour rolled into the UK and the Islington Academy, which I imagine had a nicer name before it became O2’s bitch. A rare occasion to see Steve Harris in such an intimate venue. For perspective, there were around 250 people in attendance, and I'm seeing Maiden later this year in a 22000 capacity arena and a 60000 football stadium.

There had been a debate, at times pretty heated, on the Iron Maiden Fan Club message board about whether or not it was acceptable to wear a Maiden t-shirt for the gig. Those against argued that as British Lion is a totally different project and out of respect fans shouldn't rub Maiden in the faces of the rest of the group. While those in favour suggested that the no many people would be attending if Steve Harris wasn't there. I could see both sides, but given that unless I wear a Maiden shirt I’d be forced to go topless I decided to tone it down with the latest Fan Club shirt.

Out of respect to musicians, I should say a word about the support band, Zico Chain. There was a support band called Zico Chain.

Then it was time for main event of the evening. In keeping with this being a totally separate project from Iron Maiden, British Lion decided to use the same guitar tech, drum tech and sound engineer (two of whom wore t-shirts from the most recent tour). Steve had his usual bass tech (also from Maiden) but that’s just a nerdy point.

The gig was a slow starter, even though the first song is one of the strongest on the album. The vast majority of the crowd, decked out in their Maiden gig attire seemed content just to watch proceedings. Actually a more accurate description might be that they were happy to watch Steve. For the first few songs the only significant action in the audience was when he went on to the drum riser at which point 100s of phones emerged and started clicking.

Quick, there he is. Get your camera out. Oh you already have.
I found myself being sucked in to the same way of thinking. At one point early on I even thought to myself “I wish this guy would get out of the way, he’s blocking my view of Steve.” Once I got over the fact that I felt slightly like I was committing adultery it was a very enjoyable gig. The musicianship was tight, and the songs sounded better live than they did on the album. Steve was clearly having the time of his life, even if he did look a bit embarrassed when the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for his introduction.

Speaking of the quality of the tracks, my highlight was Karma Killer (as it is on the album) closely followed by A World Without Heaven and Us Against The World. An honourable mention also for Lost Worlds, particularly the very moody bit at the end. Not all of the songs would immediately jump out as being Maiden-esque, but when you pay attention to the bass sections the comparisons are pretty clear (shocking, I know).

Richard Taylor did a pretty good job as the frontman, even is his command at the start of most songs to “put your flipping (ish) hands in the air” is a bit cliché. The older blonde guitarist reminded me of a kind of Nicko McBrain/Janick Gers love child  the other guitarist looked a complete twit in his woolly hat and comedy glasses and the drummer was almost unnoticeable (I think that’s a good sign, a bit like a referee).

The overall impression of the gig was definitely that it was acting as a warm up/time filler for Maiden fans. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but the songs probably deserve to be better. In fact, a few of them deserved to be on the next Maiden record, if they can ever stop releasing their back catalogue. It was a little like eating a vegetarian meal you would usually have with meat, once you realise there is no meat it is possible to enjoy it, just probably not as much.


This Is My God
Lost Worlds
Karma Killer
Father Lucifer
The Chosen Ones
These Are The Hands
Guineas And Crowns
The Burning
Last Chance
Us Against The World
World Without Heaven
Do You Want It
Let it Roll
Eyes Of The Young

Friday, March 15, 2013

English football, where did it all go wrong?

Most people don't really follow a competition once whoever they follow closest has had their interest ended. I couldn't really tell you what happened in the World Snooker Championships after Jimmy White was knocked out, and the end of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 are pretty much a blur. Many casual British football fans will feel the same way about the Champions League this year after British interest was ended this week. For the first time in 15 years there are no team from the Premier League in the latter stages of the competition, a long fall from the days when England provided 3 of the 4 semi-finalists.

We had five teams in the competition, each of them have their own reasons for having been knocked out, but there are also a few other general points which, though have been made before, are worth repeating.

The Premier League isn't as good as we all think

Like the best myths in life (Santa Claus, the moon landing) no one really knows how it started and not many people are brave enough to speak out against it. The Premier League isn't that great in terms of competitiveness as you can pretty much say who the top 4 will be every season. While this may be true of other leagues (in fact nearly every other league in Europe) the quality in the middle and lower sections of the Premiership is pretty dire. The number of games the top sides are playing against similar quality opposition probably numbers no more than 8 a year as they spend the rest of their matches either trying to break down sides who simply park the bus or scoring for fun against QPR, either way not the best preparation for European games. The style of football we play also doesn't help. While the mad kick-and-rush of a Saturday afternoon makes it more exciting to watch it’s no substitute for a well organised defence and decent midfield with a bit of width. Just look at Ronaldo and Messi. Then there is the organisation of the game in Britain around Sky. No one really seems to care until Manchester United had to play Real Madrid with 48 hours less rest. As long as our top teams are being forced to play on Sunday for TV purposes while the rest of the continent are flexible enough to allow games on Saturday, Friday and even Thursday we will continue to come up against fresher and fitter opposition.

We don’t have European style managers

Sir Alex Ferguson isn't a great manager. There, I said it. He’s an above average manager who has been gifted with some of the best players of their generation, most of whom he has either sold or fallen out with. IN the transfer market he has made some shocking buys too (Eric Djemba-Djemba, Jordi Cryuff). He’s done all right in the Champions League given how long he has been at Manchester United, but he isn't a European Manager. The best days for the Premiership clubs were enjoyed with Rafa Benitez in charge of Liverpool and Jose Mourinho in charge of Chelsea. Arsene Wenger, despite all his obvious Europeaness and incredibly poor eye-sight has made only a couple of medium-sized waves in the competition. Roberto Mancini always looks like a tiger in the Arctic whenever he tries to make his sow’s ear of a team into a silk purse. We need to either train British managers how to be successful in Europe by encouraging them to go and play/manage/coach on the continent or get back to attracting the best coaches to come here. When Tottenham play in the Champions League next year they’ll do well, because they have a decent European coach who will set them up to play a good European game, and unlike when he was at Chelsea he’ll have a few decent plays to put the plans into action.

But that’s enough about the issues, what about the individual teams who qualified:


Had they not defended like a primary school 3 XI in the first half against Munich, who knows what would have happened. But a fair guess would be that they at best draw the first leg and then lose 2-0 in Munich. The fact that Bayern were in such control of the tie actually hindered them in the second leg, for some reason they couldn't decide whether or not to attack or defend the lead. Even then Arsenal couldn't get the job done, despite what their supporters might tell you this is another season of abject failure. The probably need to strip the team down to the bare bones and start again, first out of the door should be Wenger. I'm not sure how many players they have who would get into any of the remaining eight sides in the competition?


Included purely for comedy value. Everyone was amazed they managed to qualify from their group and when they drew Juventus the writing was already very much on the wall and despite the various moans and whines from their fans about what the referee did or didn't do they were soundly beaten. They will of course be back next year owing to the fact that the Scottish Premier League is a total joke, but don’t expect them to make it out of the group, if they reach that far.

Manchester United

Arguably the unluckiest of the sides to get knocked out, with the sending off of Nani in the second leg against Madrid which could have easily been a booking. Although it undoubtedly changed the game I'm not certain that it wouldn't have ultimately be the same outcome. United have been shaky at the back for a few years, but given the weakness of the Premier League all too often are allowed to get away with it. When it comes to the business end of European football though it’s harder to hide the deficiencies.  


Without a doubt one of the luckiest winners of a competition ever when they somehow managed to beat Bayern Munich last year, it was never going to be the same again this time round. Missing Drogba and failing to manage to remove the squatter that is Fernando Torres was never going to make this an easy season, but the problems were only exacerbated by changing their manager 7 times during the groups stages. Ultimately it was the loss against Juventus that did for them, a game they should have at least got a point from. They need to do a pretty severe rebuilding job if they are to venture into the latter stages again.

Manchester City

I had to use Wikipedia to even remind myself that Manchester City were in the Champions League this year. Obviously I didn't  but they left so quickly and with such a small mark that it would be easy to forget. They didn't even ended up in the Europa League, which we all thought at the time would help them catch Manchester United in the league, not sure how that one is going to work out at this stage. City’s biggest problem this year, as with last, is the fact that they really aren't very good. Sure they’re made to look good in the Premier League but when they come up against a little quality they’re beaten before they start. Sure they had Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in their group, but the familiar problem of drawing too many games (all three they played at home) saw their interest in the competition end as prematurely as [suitable metaphor to be added later].

There are few signs that any of the above will change any time soon, which means that next year we'll probably be looking at a similar quarter final line up as the teams from Germany, Spain and Catalonia continue to dominate.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tribute to Clive Burr

I was working from home on Wednesday while I waited for the gas man to come and fix a leak which the man from the National Grid said should have blown our house halfway to the sky. Not sure what that means, but anyway. While working (just as hard as I would do in the office) I was able to follow twitter perhaps a little more closely than would otherwise be the case, so it meant that I found out the sad news about the death of Clive Burr almost as soon as it broke.

It wasn't entirely unexpected, Clive had been ill for some time with MS and recent rumours and stories on the Iron Maiden Fan Club message boards had indicated that this day wouldn't be too far away. None of that takes away from the sadness felt by not only all Iron Maiden fans, myself included.

Clive Burr joined Maiden in 1980 when then drummer Doug Samson quit due to ill health. They had just managed to record their first EP The Soundhouse Tapes and establish themselves as a pretty decent live band in the UK. The band’s debut self-titled album was recorded and released in the same year and the band made their UK festival debut at Reading.

The next two years saw two more albums released two world tours and the arrival of Bruce Dickinson into the band. By the time the band had played the last of the 172 gigs on the Beast on the Road tour in 1982, which included the wonder of Reading festival on Saturday followed by the next show being in California on the Wednesday, Clive was done in. According to documentaries on the time he wasn’t able to cope with living his life and performing, and was asked to leave the band to be replaced by Nicko McBrain.

When the band found out that Clive had been diagnosed with MS, they quickly established the Clive Burr MS Fund to give him support and make life more comfortable. Three charity gigs were played in Brixton in March 2003. It was the first time I got to see Bruce back in Maiden (and the second and third) and the first night remains the single best show I have ever seen. Bruce’s introduction of Bloodbrothers where he said that Clive was still very much part of the Iron Maiden family, as we all are, had big hulks of men in tears, and a few scrawny teenagers too.

Clive at the Brixton show in 2003

At Hammersmith in 2005

Back at Brixton in 2007
When Clive came onto stage each of the three nights at Brixton he got the biggest cheer of the evening. He was able to stand, walk around a little and even throw some drumsticks into the audience. In 2005 the charity gig was at the Hammersmith Odeon and a rather more fragile figure appeared on stage pushed by his daughter, and when they returned to Brixton for the final MS Fund gig in 2007 Clive was again only able to come out in a wheelchair and had visibly deteriorated.

There are few people I know who love and revere Iron Maiden more than me, and Nicko is easily one of the most charismatic and likeable members of the band. Add to that he’s a phenomenal drummer too. 
However, most people (Nicko included) agree that Clive Burr is the best drummer that Iron Maiden ever had. Just listen to the drumming on Running Free and Run to the Hills. Also look at the very first song which Nicko drummed on when he joined Maiden after Clive left. Where Eagles Dare leaves you in no doubt as to the size of the shoes he had to fill.

Although he hadn't been seen in public for a few years and hadn't been in the band for over three decades, it’s still sad to lose the first member of the Iron Maiden family.