The first thing to say about No Prayer For The Dying is the departure of Adrian Smith and his replacement with Janick Gers. It was sad to see Smith go, for both his playing skill and song-writing talent. However, the show must go on, and it does.
Many fans dislike this album, and I can understand many of the reasons why. With a few exceptions, the song-writing is a bit weaker and the lyrics are somewhat shallower than on previous albums. The sound quality is excellent (the album was digitally recorded), but many of the songs are missing that intangible quality that creates a deep and compelling mood.
In addition, Dickinson appears to be experimenting with a different singing style which is rougher and raspier than before. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but I still prefer the clear and powerful style of the past.
The song mentions here one of the most infamous and most controversial bombings of World War II. Dresden , that had been left unharmed until then because of its lack of military value, was indeed glowing on the night of 13th14th February 1945 . Although the damage inflicted on the town wer less extensive than, for example, in Battle of Hamburg, the apparent uselessness of such a murderous action has left a lasting trace in the history of all-out warfare.
In the black above by the cruel searchlight
Men will die men will fight
After dealing with the horrors of a bombing on the ground, we are taken here to the suffering of the airmen, who also risked their lives during such campaigns. The huge losses of bomber crews during the 194245 carpet-bombing of Germany (which began with a massive attack on Cologne, also mentioned in the song) gave Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, head of Bomber Command at that time and initiator of the switch to the destruction of civilian targets instead of military and industrial ones, the nickname of "Butcher" Harris among the RAF crewmen. Post-war, the man was considered a hero by some the man who brought Nazi Germany to her knees and forced her to surrender, thus putting an end to the horrors that were taking place there and a mass-murderer by others because of the killing of thousands of innocent civilians that his strategy implied.
No radar lock on skin and bone
The difference between air warfare during WWII and today's "push-button" combat is highlighted in this sentence. Those who fought in those days needed "guts" to do what they did. This does not diminish the courage of the airmen who fight today with the help of a more advanced technology, but it should make us realise the extent of self-sacrifice and boldness of those who contributed to end the atrocities of an evil regime.
Nail that Fokker, kill that son
Now, this line always makes me cringe a bit like the mention of dinosaurs in 'Quest For Fire' as the Germans never flew any Fokker planes during World War II (although they did in World War I, Manfred Von Richtofen, a.k.a. "The Red Baron", being the most famous example of a German ace flying a Fokker). Only the Dutch air force flew this type of plane at the beginning the conflict. However, The Netherlands were defeated in five days of war in May 1940. During that time there were 36 Fokker D.XXIs operational. Losses were heavy, but they did manage to shoot down almost 40 Junkers Ju 52 transports planes and a couple of Messerschmitt bf 109s fighters before they ran out of ammo (!). The Dutch government had tried to maintain its neutrality, like during World War I, and there was therefore a kind of short-sightedness concerning their armed forces, which resulted in a shortage of ammo. After the 5 days of war, there were still 8 aircraft operational, which were destroyed deliberately just before the surrender to Germany . The others either had been shot down, or destroyed on the ground. It is therefore obvious that the name "Fokker" has just been printed in the lyrics as crude way to get around saying "Fucker".
Tail-end Charlie in the boiling sky
It is an interesting piece of trivia to know that the common nickname for tailgunners originates from a certain Charles Cooper. He was the first commissioned rear-gunner in the RAF during the Second World War, and was subsequently nicknamed "Tail-End Charlie" by his crew. That name rapidly became adopted for all rear-gunners in the RAF. Cooper was blinded by a German bomb which fell outside his billet in 1941.
The Enola Gay was my last try
The Enola Gay is the name of the bomber flown by Paul Tibbets that dropped an atomic bomb, lovingly nicknamed the "Little Boy", on Hiroshima , on 6th August 1945 (closely followed by another atomic bombing, this time performed by another B-29 called Bock's Car which dropped the "Fat Man" on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945 ). The name of the bomber derives from the inversion of the word "alone", associated with the pilot's mother's name, Gay (and has therefore nothing to do with male homosexuality as some misinformed people may think). Like the attack on Dresden , the unleashing of nuclear power on Japan was deemed an unnecessary massacre by some, while others consider that it was the only way to end the war. The "last tailgunner", Staff Sgt. George Caron, was the only crew member on board the Enola Gay to witness the explosion, whereas Tibbets only felt a tingling in his teeth, as the bomb's radioactive forces were interacting with his fillings.
On a concluding note, it would be useful to the few individuals who have suggested that 'Tailgunner' is actually not about war at all, but is instead a 'gay' song to re-read the lyrics, as well as this commentary. The lyrics are as clear and unambiguous as they can be, and there is just no way that they can be anything other than what they seem to be any other interpretation is pure fantasy. The song's title may come from a porn film, but that's about the only link to any sexual innuendo.
Like some other Maiden songs that deal with a rather serious topic, it has that pesky 'happy' sound which creates a mood that doesn't quite match the lyrics. After listening to it many times it is possible to appreciate it more, but it would be over-reacting to call it a wonderful song.
The title came from a porno movie, about anal sex, then I thought, well I can't write the lyrics about that! So I wrote it about real tailgunners. I had some words which began "Trace your way back fifty years, to the glow of Dresden , blood and tears". I know we shouldn't mention the war but it's about the attitude of bombing people. It was real death in the skies back then. But there aren't any tailgunners on planes anymore, it's all done by computers using missiles. At least it used to be man-on-man, but now it's machine-on-machine. Who uses bullets anymore?
Holy Smoke' is a religion-mocking song, in the same vein as Metallica's 'Leper Messiah' and 'The God That Failed'. The song focuses on the greed and hypocrisy of T.V. preachers and the lyrics are actually very sharp and intelligent.
Believe in me Send no money
I died on the cross and that ain't funny
The first verse is obviously looking at the preachers from Jesus's point of view (whether or not he has really existed seems to remain open to speculation and some links provided may help to gain further insight into this matter). Basically, he's not impressed to realise that some unscrupulous characters are making money out of what was originally a free charity and a message of love and tolerance. Many preachers are more interested in "Saving your souls by taking your money" than in anything else and it's obvious that "They ain't religious but they ain't no fools". Those who want to get rich out of others' gullibility are probably in the best trade to become millionaires.
I've lived in filth, I've lived in sin
And I still smell cleaner than the shit you're in
This is a sharp and ironic statement that reminds us of the truth behind whatever "Jimmy Reptile and all his friends" are saying. Incidentally, this "Jimmy Reptile" mentioned in the song is in fact Jimmy Swaggart, a homophobic Bible-thumper who was advocating the utter respect of family values, but was caught with prostitutes in a cheap motel at the time. That rat apologised publicly on air, cunningly shedding a few crocodile tears, asking for the forgiveness of God and his flock, which earned him even more followers. As Voltaire is supposed to have said, "Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool"...
I've got a book by Jimmy Swaggart at home, Music: The New Pornography, with a big picture of Steve on the front! It was sent to me by a Bible-basher and a quite sincere letter came with it, very sincere. She sent me a copy of the Holy Bible, which was good because I didn't have one and I needed one to research for some songs.
Unfortunately the lyrics of 'Holy Smoke' are not enough to save this song, which lacks that elusive deep and compelling mood. Maiden don't seem to be at their best with political or contemporary subjects instead their strength resides more in History, films, and literature.
This is about TV preachers and all the various lies they tell and I just had this big image of all those ovens in the death camps with the preachers' feet sticking out and holy smoke going up.
This is a very introspective song, which combines soft acoustic verses with powerful choruses and instrumentals. Although its title may have been inspired by the 1987 film, the lyrics do not deal at all with the story line. Its topic is the familiar questions about the meaning of life, which the song doesn't attempt to answer. Instead, there is an uncharacteristic appeal to God for answers. However, it is difficult to see a link between the lyrics and the song's title. In any case, this is a very good song, possibly one of the best on the entire album.
This song has Steve's lyrics and for me it has the best vocals on the album the one I like best, even though it's like just two lines. It's one of the best "quiet beginning"-type songs I've ever done with Maiden and I really like the melody line.
Public Enema Number One' is another politically motivated song, which seems to be pointing out the "enema" that the public is getting from the current state of the world. For those who are not familiar with medical terms, an enema is, according to the dictionary, "the injection of liquid into the rectum through the anus for cleansing, for stimulating evacuation of the bowels, or for other therapeutic or diagnostic purposes." Basically and crudely speaking, it's about "getting it up the arse". Even though it's political, it is a stronger song than 'Holy Smoke', with great but too short guitar solos. It's one of the better songs on the album.
It's actually about... green hypocrites. It's about a big guy with his fast car, and he's leaving the city in a cloud of smoke leaving the children crying in fear. He's got a one-way ticket out of here. Fine, see ya. Because he can afford it, he's left everyone else behind and in the cities there is over crowding, guns and riots and it seems like everything is gonna snap. The politicians just lie to save their own skins, gamble that they are gonna do the right thing, and they give the press scapegoats all the time. The whole thing is based on a cross between New York and LA and I just hope the kids of today have more brains than the frazzled remains of the Sixties and the Seventies generations... California dreaming as the earth dies screaming! That's what it's about, people talking about the environment and not doing anything.
Fates Warning' is a fairly standard song whose subject is the finality and unavoidability of fate. This topic is still open to discussion: are our experiences simply a string of coincidences, or are our lives already laid out for us? A pre-destined life seems to me at least quite unlikely, though...
The best feature of this song is the good instrumental and the guitar solos. To my knowledge, 'Fates Warning' has never been played live in concert.
Steve's words again. This is about feeling secure when everyone's life can hang by a thread. You can go anytime and who knows why or how?
This song is lyrically very similar to 'Killers', describing the perspective of a hit-man as he prepares for the assassination. The feeling of the song matches perfectly what a real hit-man once said to a psychologist:
"I have a special power. It takes a special power to kill a fellow man and it gives you a secret something a force, a confidence, afterwards. [...] There is a something which I feel as I do the job. It is a private thing, but you know when you fly, at take-off, you feel a strange feeling in your body, not explicable, but strange. A sort of revolution in your belly. That's the way I feel when I kill. It's no mystery."
The music successfully manages to create a mysterious James Bond-ish type of mood, but unfortunately never rises to any type of climax. It is still a very good song, though.
Here we are trying to get into the head of a hired killer. He doesn't do it for money, but because he likes it and he's cool, calculating, cold and sadistic. These are Steve's lyrics again.
Based on the classic novel by Edward L. Beach (19182002) and the 1958 film starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, this song is about WWII submarine warfare in the Pacific. It's a brilliant song, which does a good job of recreating the mood of suspense and excitement of the film.
For those who are not familiar with the English language and who wonder who Davy Jones may be, just know that "Davy Jones's locker" is a common name give to the bottom of the sea, and especially the grave of those who died at sea. Apparently, the term was first recorded in 1726, and alludes to Davy Jones, a name given to the evil spirit of the sea. The real origin of both "Davy" and "Jones" is disputed. A logical theory is that Jones referred to the biblical Jonah, who, according to the legend, was swallowed by a whale and spent 3 day inside, and that Davy was a corruption of a West Indian word for "devil". Alternatively, Jones may have been a real character a 16th century publican (mentioned in the ballad Jones Ale Is Newe) who owned a locker, much feared by sailors, where he stored his beer. The first mention of Davy Jones his locker came later is to be found in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, written by Tobias Smollett in 1751. Lastly, Davy Jones may have taken his surname from Jonah, but first name from Saint David, the patron saint of Wales and guardian of Welsh sailors.
These are some words I wrote for the Somewhere In Time album. That particular song never made it but I kept the words, and when Steve came up with something, I said: 'You know what will fit brilliantly there these words'. It's a song about submarines, actually the first song about submarines. 'Dive, Dive, Dive' came later. This is a slightly more serious version. The title comes from one of my favourite war movies. We do use a lot of film and book titles because they always inspire good material for us. But then books crop up a lot on films! This is about the dog eat dog, no mercy world of life and death at sea during the Second World War, and it was as rough for the guys below as it was for the guys up top. They both engaged in this evil struggle without any mercy. And the sea didn't have any mercy.
'Hooks In You' represents Adrian Smith's last song writing contribution to Iron Maiden until the Brave New World album. Some people argue that this song is a continuation of the 'Charlotte The Harlot' saga, and perhaps the strongest evidence for this is the reference to "number 22". Like 'Charlotte The Harlot' and '22, Acacia Avenue ', this song speaks of a relationship with a woman who is unable or unwilling to reciprocate. However, the mood of the song is very unlike the other " Charlotte " songs, and has that "happy" sound. Because of this, I generally do not consider it to be part of the series.
'Hooks In You' is a slightly tongue-in-cheek thing. Me and Paddy went to look at a house to buy and it was lived in by three gay guys. We looked around and it had all these beams, and one of the guys was obviously into S&M and leather and stuff, and in one room there were these enormous industrial hooks screwed into the beams. My mind boggled at what they could be used for. I went home and wrote 'Hooks In You' with the line 'All the hooks in the ceiling, that well hung feeling'. I couldn't write it about gay guys, but what if you went round to the house of Mr. and Mrs. Average you found all these hooks in the ceiling? What do THEY get up to? (Did Bruce buy the house?) No we didn't! At the end of the song the guy thinks his wife has been unfaithful and sets her in concrete in the foundations.
The original version of this song was written by Bruce Dickinson for the Nightmare On Elm Street 5 soundtrack and featured Janick Gers on guitar (before he had joined Iron Maiden). According to the Iron Maiden FAQ, this song is based on the poem To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell (16211678). After reading the poem several times, I am a bit skeptical that it has much to do with this song. To His Coy Mistress is a love poem, where the poet is urging his lady to abandon her coyness. On the other hand, the song seems to be coarsely sexual ('slaughter' is just a metaphor). Perhaps it parallels the poem in some extremely distant way, but shares in little of the poem's depth and introspectiveness. However the song is quite good musically, especially in the instrumental and excellent guitar solos, and was part of the standard concert setlist until the departure of Bruce Dickinson. But taken at face value, many people mostly those who have daughters! may be offended by the title and apparent subject of this song.
Here I tried to sum up what I thought Nightmare On Elm Street movies are really about, and it's all about adolescent fear of period pains. That's what I think it is deep down. When a young girl first gets her period she bleeds and it happens at night, and so she is afraid to go to sleep and it's a very terrifying time for her, sexually as well, and Nightmare On Elm Street targets that fear. The real slaughter in the Freddie movies is when she loses her virginity. That is the rather nasty thought behind it all, but that's what makes those kind of movies frightening.
'Mother Russia' is a tribute to Russia and the Russian people, inspired by the imminent collapse of soviet communism at that time. However, many Russians don't like this song, as they consider it somehow patronising. It is the epic song of the album in the Steve Harris tradition, and while not quite in the same league with others such as 'Phantom Of The Opera' or 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', it is still a decent song. You can really hear those synths on this one, and anyone who thinks that there are no synths on this album should give this another listen.
'Mother Russia' is about the tragedy of a great land which has an incredible history of being overrun and people being massacred, for centuries, and this song says: wouldn't it be great if Russia could finally get itself together now and live in peace?