The History Of Iron Maiden - Part 1: The Early Days (2004)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/28/04
Cast: Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Clive Burr, Martin Birch, Rod Smallwood, Nicko McBrain

Iron Maiden fans rejoice! This comprehensive 2-DVD package chronicles the band's history up through their 1983 album "Piece Of Mind," and pulls together all the old video footage that the band could find. The real gems are seeing "Live At The Rainbow" (1981), "Beast Over Hammersmith" (1982), and "Live At Dortmund" (1983) in their entirety. "Live At The Rainbow" is an excellent outing for singer Paul Di'Anno, and the most curious thing about the show is that he sings completely different lyrics for "Killers." Having seen bits and pieces of the classic Hammersmith Odeon show on other compilations, I was utterly thrilled to see the show in its entirety. The video quality varies radically throughout, and "Total Eclipse" looks considerably better than the rest of the show. Curiously, they hardly focus on guitarist Adrian Smith at all during the show, and more often than not his solos are paired with footage of guitarist Dave Murray. Frustrating and odd. Due to lighting and technical problems, the band found the original footage unwatchable, but I found it mesmerizing. It's a fascinating slice of transitional history that really put the band on the map and took them to a whole new level. "Live At Dortmund" captures the band's last show on their "World Piece Tour" where they unceremoniously killed off their long-time mascot, Eddie. Originally filmed for German TV, they censored Eddie's demise for being too violent, but fortunately those clips can be found elsewhere on the disc (and on other Maiden videos as well). The Dortmund show is interesting in two ways: First, singer Bruce Dickinson seems completely out of his mind during the show. Second, and more importantly, comparing this show to the Hammersmith Odeon show reveals just how much the band had matured in that year, both as musicians and as performers. Again, the video quality and editing isn't very good, but the focus here is on content.

The second disc in the collection is full of miscellaneous goodies, including a brand new documentary featuring interviews with many of the members from the pre-1980 line-up. Singer Dennis Wilcox is suspiciously absent, but nobody had anything really nice to say about him in the first place. The constant revolving door of musicians in the band's early history makes bassist Steve Harris appear like a monster for sacking so many people, but it's clear that Maiden was, and still is, HIS band. It's interesting to see and hear the various emotions from ex-Maiden members regarding their time in the band, and drummer Clive Burr's dismissal was heartwrenching for me. Current drummer Nicko McBrain is a great drummer and certainly adds a welcome character to the band, but Clive's playing was truly inspirational to me. Other goodies on the disc include live performances on "Top Of The Pops," a really crappy home video shot at The Ruskin Arms, all of their promo videos up through 1983, and a bizarre episode of "20th Century Box" that documents the band's early pub-gigging days. Definitely a mainstream show, it sets out to mock and ridicule the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal more than anything else, poking fun at fans and giving WAY too much attention to the infamous air-guitarist, Ron Loonhouse. Much like watching "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II - The Metal Years" (1988), the whole thing is rather embarrassing to watch. The disc also contains a photo gallery and a collection of tour programs, but the images are too small to appreciate.

Not surprisingly, the bottom line is that die-hard Iron Maiden fans must own this DVD, and I'm already excited by the prospect of part 2, which will no doubt feature the superlative concert video, "Live After Death" (1985). Fans of 80's metal and music documentaries may find some interesting bits of nostalgia here and there, but would be better served by "12 Wasted Years" (1987) or "The Number Of The Beast" (2001).