Iron Maiden’s Live After Death – 34 Years Old

Text by Phil Ashdown.

Throughout the 60s and 70s the live album was an important way to document the sound of a band at their peak and being the only way to bring the concert experience into the home to be re-lived as often as you like. Before the days of video, classic live rock albums included Cream – Wheels Of Fire, The Who – Live At Leeds, Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More For The Road, Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive, Kiss – Alive and Deep Purple – Made In Japan. Some of these albums are hailed as the artists best records, even eclipsing their studio releases. Some of them, including Kiss and Peter Frampton’s efforts resurrected their entire careers. Canadian band Rush released live albums to bring to a close certain distinct eras of the band’s development before a new studio sound was developed in the studio. During this period the live album’s importance cannot be underestimated.

After constant bouts of touring and releasing five excellent albums Iron Maiden reached that point in their career during their global trek in support of their Powerslave album in 1984.

Their colossal ‘World Slavery Tour’ began in Warsaw, Poland on 9th August 1984 and lasted for 322 days, through 24 countries and 187 blistering stage performances. They toured with a stunning Egyptian themed stage set to tie in with Powerslave’s cover artwork and featured sarcophagi, hieroglyphs and even a huge golden Egyptian god-like mask featuring the band’s mascot, Eddie that split apart to reveal a towering mummified corpse shooting sparks from it’s eyes during the song Iron Maiden. The sheer scale and theatricality of this tour meant it would become their most acclaimed outings and the perfect time to document it on record and on film.

The album was preceded by a single, Running Free, released on 13 September on both 7” and 12” vinyl. Interestingly this was the first release by the band not to feature a cover by artist Derek Riggs and instead had a live photo of the band on stage (see below) The B-sides were live recordings of Murders In The Rue Morgue and Sanctuary that were not included on the album.

Released on 14 October 1985, the album itself was recorded at Long Beach Arena, California and London’s legendary Hammersmith Odeon mainly because as producer Martin Birch says in the liner notes “..it helps if the band are able to play multiple dates at the hall, so you can set up on the first day and leave everything. Therefore, Maiden’s four-night engagements at both Hammersmith and Long Beach were ideal.”

Tour manager Tony Wigens states in the booklet that come with the album… “We travelled nearly 100,000 miles, used 7,778 hotel rooms, used 6,392 guitar strings, 3,760 drumsticks, 3,008 guitar picks and consumed about 50,00 cans of beer, 30,000 soft drinks, 6,000 pints of milk, 2,500 pints of orange juice and literally tons of food.”

The band travelled in two custom built busses with the crew in three more and all forty tons of equipment transported in six forty-five foot artic trucks.

Although no specific details of dates were given on the album’s notes, the double release has the first three sides recorded at Long Beach and side four from Hammersmith. During the song Running Free singer Bruce Dickinson refers it to being the fourth concert which would mean it was recorded on Sunday 17th March in Long Beach. Band leader Steve Harris has stated that even if they had had the time, they wouldn’t have added any studio overdubs, stating “we were really anti all that, anyway. We were very much, like, ‘This has got to be totally live,’ you know?”

The cover art (slight variation above) was done by Derek Riggs, and pictures Eddie, rising from what appears to be his grave as the headstone has his name engraved along with a quote from fantasy and horror author H P Lovecraft’s The Nameless City

“That is not dead which can eternal lie
Yet with strange aeons even death may die.”

The back cover depicts the rest of the graveyard and a city being destroyed by lightning, which Riggs states was inspired by John Martin’s painting, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Other details include Death’s silhouette in the clouds above the destroyed city, a black cat with a halo, a tombstone engraved with “Here lies Derek Riggs”. The artist also included gravestones which state “Live With Pride”, added at the band’s request to show opposition to lip-synched performances, “Here Lis Faust In Body Only”, the German legend who sold his soul to the Devil (hence “in body only”), and a stone which simply reads “Thank You”, representing the Grateful Dead.

The rest of the package has over 200 photographs on the inner sleeves, the centre spread and an eight-page booklet, all taken during the tour both on and off stage. Also all tour dates, a list of all equipment used, daily tour schedule, tour personnel, song lyrics, notes from Tour Manager Tony Wigens and producer Martin Birch.

In his review for Kerrang! magazine (see below)Mick Wall says “The whole Live After Death package is quite, quite stunning in every respect. It’s a masterpiece wrought on splendid and intricate detail; the original artwork, the design, the enthusiasm and the humour, and most of all THE MUSIC, collide into a glorious cacophony of sound and vision.” He continues “I think it’s the nearest that any person could get to being on an Iron Maiden world tour without actually leaving town.

Live After Death has been highly rated by critics since its release, some calling it “possibly the greatest live album of all time or “easily one of heavy metal’s best live albums”.

Sputnikmusic concludes that “Iron Maiden’s 1985 release has everything you could ask for. With, exciting renditions of classic songs, and brilliant performances, Live After Death is quite a fun listen.” The album has also been described by Classic Rock as “the last great live album of the vinyl era.”

Tracklist

  1. “Intro: Churchill Speech”
  2. “Aces High”
  3. “2 Minutes to Midnight”
  4. “The Trooper”
  5. “Revelations”
  6. “Flight of Icarus”
  7. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
  8. “Powerslave”
  9. “The Number of the Beast”
  10. “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  11. “Iron Maiden”
  12. “Run to the Hills”
  13. “Running Free”
  14. “Wrathchild”
  15. “22 Acacia Avenue”
  16. “Children Of The Damned”
  17. “Die With Your Boots On”
  18. “Phantom Of The Opera”

For the Live After Death video, the band hired director Jim Yukich to film two shows of their four night run at Long Beach.

Video tracklist

  1. Intro: Church Speech
  2. Aces High
  3. 2 Minutes To Midnight
  4. The Trooper
  5. Revelations
  6. Flight Of Icarus
  7. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
  8. Powerslave
  9. The Number Of The Beast
  10. Hallowed Be Thy Name
  11. Iron Maiden
  12. Run To The Hills
  13. Running Free
  14. Sanctuary

A further single was released on 2 December that featuring a live version of Phantom Of The Opera recorded at Long Beach Arena along with Phantom Of The Opera and Losfer Words recorded live at Hammersmith Odeon. These particular versions were not on the album. This time the picture sleeve had a great Riggs rendering of Phantom Eddie playing an organ on the top of a mountain.

I was fortunate to attend the first of the four sell-out shows at Hammersmith (see ticket stub and flyer below) so I like to think I was amongst the crowd recorded and used on side four. “Scream For Me Hammersmith!!” The support band for this tour was Waysted that was formed by former UFO bassist Pete Way. As all fans of Maiden know, UFO’s track Doctor Doctor has been played over the speakers at every gig, to this date, just prior to the venue lights going out before the band hit the stage.

Whilst the classic era of the double live album has gone, due in part to the proliferation of live performance videos and DVDs throughout the eighties and nineties this release must surely remain at the top of any list of rock’s greatest testaments of concert recordings along with Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous, Judas Priest’s Unleashed In The East and the aforementioned Made In Japan from Deep Purple.

Explore eil.com & 991.com sister – the world’s best online store for rare, collectable & out of print Vinyl Records, CDs & Music memorabilia since 1987.

EIL.COM Favourite Music Update Rare CDs, CD Singles, Rare Records, Vinyl Records, Albums and Music

Sign up for Blog.eil.com Record Collecting News

* = required field

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply