Where Eagles Dare (Book review)
Published: 2019, PowerChord Press
Reviewed: October, 2019
Is there such thing as ‘Metal Fatigue’? The True Metal warrior in me shouts….NEVER! However, even I must admit even I had a very slight (very slight) amount of trepidation in tackling reading and reviewing yet another book about Iron Maiden. A quick check of my bookshelf and the Metal-Rules.com Library Of Loudness review archive shows me that I own 15 books about Iron Maiden and I have also reviewed 15 books about Iron Maiden. Add another dozen (at least) books about the NWOBHM or the history of Heavy Metal in general, so it is not unreasonable to think that a mere mortal might be inclined to ask, “What else could possibly be said about the band that has not been said”?
Enter Canuck Maiden maniac Martin Popoff. He even says in his own introduction, this is his third book about the band, overkill perhaps, but he makes a convincing case that WHERE EAGLES DARE is a valuable and necessary work in that, aside from his other Maiden stuff being out of print, this is a full narrative, with lots of insight and analysis. That is where this book soars where only eagles dare. With a sub title of ‘IRON MAIDEN IN THE 80’s’ you know which decade is coming next as his 4th book about the band…in fact I think it has already been announced as HOLY SMOKE-IRON MAIDEN IN THE 90’s’.
WHERE EAGLES DARE is his familiar PowerChord press, an indie paperback publication, small print run, niche market, cool layout and design…a book for collectors and librarians for sure. The nice cover art and yellow-blue colour scheme and font is reminiscent of the Powerslave era and that ain’t no mistake.
Yes, for long standing Iron Maiden fans, the first 50+ page chapter of the 70’s might feel a bit redundant. I’m pretty tired hearing about and reading about The Soundhouse Tapes, the Cart & Horses Pub, and Tommy Vance and Neal Kay and The Friday Night Rock Show and the cardboard air guitars and the punters and the stories of a dozen nameless guys who were in the band for 10 minutes while Steve Harris played his Wishbone Ash record to death in his bedroom in the East-End while planning his global domination. It’s ancient history. Despite my tough slog through Chapter One, Popoff makes it slightly more palatable with tons of cool quotes and the occasional rare insight from various interviews from his vast archives. Besides, what is Popoff supposed to do, ignore the critical development years from 1974/75-1980? The story has to be told (again) for context and it is well provided.
So we are finally set up for a journey through the 1980’s and despite higher record sales, higher chart positions, bigger tours, bigger airplanes, more merchandise, more guitarists and more money in the past couple of decades, (say post-Bruce’s return circa 2000) the 80’s still have that cache and undeniable hold on many Iron Maiden fans as ‘the glory years’. This is the book to tell the tale.
Chapter by chapter, album by album, tour by tour we go; adventures in the tropics, interviews, anecdotes, quotes and more. On some albums some members are more involved, other albums others are more involved, depending on everyones mood at the time. This was all steered under the iron fist (in a velvet glove) of the Sherriff Of Huddersfield, who apparently took some ribbing by the lads in the band for moving to the Hollywood Hills once the money starting rolling in. I’m sure it was for tax purposes and not the climate and bikini scenery.
Many classic Maiden stories are told, including the legendary story of how Bruce Dickinson, who was at his wits end with the band to begin with, one day heard a copy Queensryche’s, OPERATION MINDCRIME. This was right at the time when the band was finishing their own conceptual ‘masterpiece’, THE SEVENTH OF A SEVENTH SON and he painfully realizes IRON MAIDEN had come in a distant second with the race with Queensryche and is crushed.
For the record, in Popoff’s Top 500 HEAVY METAL ALBUMS OF ALL TIME book, OPERATION MINDCRIME comes in at #7 and SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON comes in at #56! For you trivia hounds the other big concept album of 1988 was King Diamond’s THEM clocking in at #111. Was Iron Maiden-on-crack counter-parts, Helloween’s KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS-PART II (coming at # 36) a true concept album? I’m not convinced…
Each album gets equal and fair exposure across the board, although you can tell it is PIECE OF MIND that is nearest and dearest to Popoff’s heart. However, he does admit that he understands why on any given day it could be POWERSLAVE as #1 in the mind of many fans. Most of the quotes are pulled from Popoff’s own deep archives of interviews firsthand with all of the boys at one point or another, so it is all first hand and first-rate information.
Sure bands like Sabbath, Metallica, Priest and of course Iron Maiden have tons of books written about them but if you dig deep there is real treasure to be unearthed for the true fans. WHERE EAGLES DARE is exactly one of those books loaded with that same treasure.