Piece Of Mind is my favourite Iron Maiden album, although The Number Of The Beast and Powerslave are incredibly close. It was my first Maiden album, and was very influential in guiding the evolution of my musical tastes.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more Death.
Neither sorrow, nor crying.
Neither shall there be any more Brain;
for the former things are passed away.
Revelations ch. xxi v. 1. (Quoted inside the Piece Of Mind sleeve)
What does it mean? It might be alluding to the eastern concept of nirvana, which when achieved features the extinction of individual consciousness and desire (hence, no 'Brain'). It could also be referring to Christianity, implying that it is for brainless morons. But it is most probably referring to the lobotomisation of Eddie... you can see on the album cover that he has had is brain removed and his skull is now screwed shut.
The original idea for the cover was to kill Eddie, but the band thought that it was too extreme. The trepanation is, according to a Bruce Dickinson interview, an allusion to an old Aztec ritual during human sacrifices. The album was originally going to be called Food For Thought, but they finally decided to give it a more subtle name.
Commercially Piece Of Mind was a huge success, and was even voted the number one metal LP of all time in a KERRANG! magazine poll. It was also the first album with drummer Nicko McBrain, completing a line-up which would last through four studio albums the longest stable line-up in Maiden history.
The comments by Steve Harris were taken from an interview with John Stix in July 1983.
Beginning with a brief but brilliant drum intro, this is another excellent album opener. Steve mentioned to Nicko that they needed some kind of drum intro. Nicko was still kind of nervous, being the new kid on the block and all, but he stayed in working almost all day on a drum intro for the song. At the end of the day, he had a little 67-second thing that entailed hitting basically every piece of his kit, going from small tom to big tom, like a kind of ending to a song and then jumped into the chorus. The next day, Nicko played it for Steve and Steve went "no... no... no... nothing like that... just something simple like rat-tat-tat-tat... rat-tat-tat-tat (you get the idea)". Steve tried to play something on Nicko's kit, but he's about as good as that as his grandmother would be... Nicko said "oh... you mean like this?" and played it. "That's it!" replied Steve. And "it" became this brilliant technical piece we all know.
The song is based on an Alistair Maclean (1922-1987) novel, published in 1967, and that was also made into a film (1968) starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, about a WWII covert rescue of an American general from a Nazi stronghold in the Bavarian Alps. Burton is absolutely fantastic in the role of Major John Smith. Who really is this character? Could he be a double agent spying for both Britain and Germany? And why is this American general so important? Read the book and/or watch the film, you'll love every minute of it!
[The instrumental section] is supposed to sound like a machine gun. It's not very loud in the mix, but we wanted it that way so people who listened to it a couple of times would say "What's that?" This song was done in two takes.
The drum track is great and makes a good introduction to Nicko's skill and style. There's also a machine-gun sound that can be heard near the beginning of the instrumental section, highlighting the reference to the war story. It was difficult to hear it in the original release on LP and cassette, but it seems to be much more apparent on the CD.
'Revelations' is a song with a double meaning. Of course, it refers to the christian mythology, but at the same time, it is possible to reverse the basic idea and it takes an entirely different meaning if you look a bit further.
The works of Aleister Crowley (18751947) influenced the writing of this song (as it is also the case, and in a more obvious way, with 'Moonchild' on the 1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album). As an atheist philosopher, he thought that, by concentrating all his energy only into his brain, man could influence and change the way things were. He was describing religions as deceitful, useless and promoting passivity, and to him religion lead directly to the brain of thoughts. According to Crowley , man was supposed to struggle against nature in order to exercise his brain and the powers that it contains, and attain by this means supreme felicity.
Bruce Dickinson wrote 'Revelations' in reference to this theory. Beyond the biblical meaning, there is the principle that man can reveal himself to himself. There is therefore a pun here because there is the christian theory on the one hand, and something religion wants to keep quiet on the other.
The first verse is an excerpt of an English hymnal, written by G. K. Chesterton (18741936), that Bruce learned at school. The song itself is in three parts.
The first part is made of this hymnal that Bruce chose because he thought that there was some sort of vision in it. Although the text was written in the 19th Century, the description it contains corresponds eerily to what is happening nowadays. Bruce also states that, "there's a lot of money going around in our society, but, in fact, the more money you have and least likely you are to be really happy." The last verse, "Take away our pride", is the central piece of the mystical universe. The main hindrance to communication and happiness is made of selfishness and misplaced self-esteem that divide people among themselves..
The Hanged Man The next two verses refer to the Hindu philosophy. "Just a babe in a black abyss" alludes to Aleister Crowley, the word "babe" corresponds to the human being and "black abyss" means a hopeless world. "No reason for a place like this" shows the nonsense of man's existence on Earth if hope doesn't exist anymore.
Then we come to the "secret of the hanged man". In popular Hindu beliefs, the hanged man is a sign of good luck. This is why the song states that he has "a smile on his lips": this is what his secret is.
In the third verse, the most important line is: "The venom that tears my spine". In Yoga, there is a snake called Kundalini (see also here) who is supposed to live at the base of the spinal cord of every person. During orgasm or intense meditation, a spiritual entity is created, the "Samadhi", symbolising the transcendental union with God. At that point, the Kundalini is set free and crawls up the spine up to the brain where he releases his venom. The union between the venom and the brain substance then promotes a union with God.
The next verse, "The Eyes of the Nile are opening" imply then that a whole universe of possibilities is open as soon as the venom makes its way into the individual. Whereas the Bible considers the serpent to be evil incarnate, the Hindu philosophy associates it with creation and extasy. The serpent has therefore here a positive and constructive aspect.
Pauline Lim Serpent's Kiss (Oil and acrylic on board 5" x 5", 2002) The "Serpent's kiss" has also been the topic of many of Crowley 's philosophical discussions. Then, "The Eye of the Sun" is mentioned, as the sun is the symbol of creation, representing the masculine side of life. The feminine side appears a bit further in the word "Moonlight", the moon being the symbol of feminity. The complete sentence, "Moonlight catches silver tears I cry", closes the full circle, as silver is the colour of the sun. We find therefore here both male and female entities, and they cannot be separated.
In fact, this philosophy considers the universe to be a dual, binary world where everything only exists because of its opposite. In other words, there is no manichean dichotomy like in the christian school of thoughts where Good and Evil are kept apart and Evil should be eliminated. Only the christian system of values is monolithic, whereas all the other great philosophies are based on a duality of notions, like the Ying and the Yang in China , or the Jewish Kaballah. Bruce handles all these concepts efficiently and with caution because of their complexity.
'Revelations' is quite a cryptic song a first sight, but it shouldn't prevent us from admiring also its musical value that makes it a little masterpiece and a great classic of Maiden.
To me it's sort of a heavy version of the Wishbone Ash feel. 'Revelations' comes together more live. That tends to be like that with us. Usually the numbers are better live than on record. That has to do with the feel of the songs. Most of them were written to be played on the stage. They're not really for the recording studio.
'Flight Of Icarus' is very loosely based on the ancient Greek myth of D?dalus who was imprisoned by king Minos of Crete. He and his son Icarus fashioned wings from feathers and wax and made their escape, but Icarus flew too near the sun, melting the wax that held the feathers, and he fell to his death in the sea.
The purists in Greek mythology always have had a problem with this song. Of course, there was no crowd in the original tale, as D?dalus and Icarus were discreetly escaping the labyrinth where they were held prisoners (and that ironically D?dalus had designed himself!). Besides, Icarus was not the only one to fly with the make-shift wings: his father was flying beside him and warning him about the dangers of flying too close to the sun (which is nowadays known to be complete nonsense, as we all know that the temperature decreases with altitude but let us not forget that this is ancient myth and some sort of parable).
It's a really good song but we much prefer it live. We tend to play it a little bit faster live. Looking back on it now we feel we could have played it at the faster speed on the album. This little extra touch gives it a bit more fire. If you're counting solos, this is Dave.
One last question I would like to raise is this one: in the verse "Now he knows his father betrayed", is it the father that betrays his son or has he been betrayed himself? This seems open to interpretation, as both possibilities are equally plausible. In the case of the father being betrayed, that could mean that the wings he designed for his son have been made with some external help, and that the helper(s) betrayed him, thus causing his son's death. The other interpretation could imply that the son believes that the old man has betrayed him (although what kind of a father would betray his son?) as the wings melt and he falls to his death. Many young people do not heed their elders' advice, but still manage to blame them if things go wrong. This is not unusual. I just thought I would mention this apparent ambiguity and let the reader think about it.
Flight Of Icarus single Bruce admitted himself that he had slightly twisted the original tale to make it an allegory of teenage rebellion against adult authority a rebellion that lead to disaster in the case of Icarus! This is then the opportunity to re-read the original story and discover what it is all about, whereas we can enjoy this song in itself and grant the somehow strange lyrics to artistic license.
Its catchy tune and chorus gives this song its place as a Maiden classic, although it could have had a much longer instrumental section rather than just the short guitar solos.
This song is about the legendary Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi (1584?1645), considered by some to have been the greatest samurai who ever lived. He is said to have won his first duel at the age of 13, devoting subsequently the rest of his life to perfecting his swordsmanship. Spending most of his time travelling and pondering, he was also a painter who specialised in self-portraits and landscapes. In his later years he authored the Book Of Five Rings which details the art of sword combat, and is alluded to in the song. This is another song that is disliked by many Maiden fans and, along with 'Quest For Fire', it has never been played live in concert.
Bruce wrote the lyrics to that. It's basically about a Japanese guy who builds himself up to a peak of fitness and wants to kill himself hara-kiri style. I think it would be a good live song but we have never played it on stage as of yet.
Not much has been written about this song, which focuses on facing an apocalyptic future, and might also be implying something about the self-fulfilment of prophecy. The song was written at the time of the Cold War and many thought that a nuclear holocaust was on the verge to happen. Although the world's political situation has changed since and that the threat of a global conflict between the USA and the USSR (and their respective allied nations) has gone away, many governments still play the card of fear to get their ways, "international terrorism" being the new enemy (this reminds me of George Orwell's 1984 where the enemy is never the same, but there is always one to fuel the people's fears).
Nothing has changed, and the advice given in the song to "die with your boots on" is also still valid. It is not advocating an armed struggle, but more probably the resistance to this fear that the leaders of the planet are using so well to control the masses. After all, people in fear cannot think straight and see what their governments are really like!
The Frenchman mentioned in the second verse is most likely Michel de Notre-Dame (15031566), otherwise known as Nostradamus. His prophecies are always referred to whenever a major sinister event occurs, and the wackiest interpretations appear, doubling the fear of the actual or potential danger to that of esoterism and the occult.
Anyway, "Die With Your Boots On" may not be the best song on the album, but it isn't bad either. Like many Maiden songs, it is more enjoyable when played live than on the studio album.
Adrian and Bruce came up with the main riff. Bruce came up with the lyrics. I came up with the chord sequence behind the verse and the cross section that goes into the main chorus. This is another personal favourite of mine. It has more chords than riffs, which I suppose might make it strange as to why I really like it so much. It's a very powerful number live. I get off on the aggression of it.
'The Trooper' is perhaps the most famous and recognisable of Maiden's songs, along with 'Run To The Hills'. It describes a British cavalry charge against the Russian army during the Crimean War (18531856) at Balaclava on 25th October 1854. This action was a major blunder of the Crimean War, useless bloodsheds being a theme that Iron Maiden approached again with the song 'Paschendale' on the 2003 Dance Of Death album. Thin Lizzy's 1976 song 'Massacre', that was covered by Maiden on their 1988 single Can I Play With Madness, was also inspired by this battle.
The Charge of the Light Brigade was led by Lord Cardigan and his light cavalry. The Russians had taken outposts and redoubts heavily-armed, well-defended, strategic positions and had began to make off with the naval guns and ammunition which had been used in these redoubts previously occupied by the Turks (then allied of the British). The loss of guns was a clear sign of defeat which Lord Raglan, then in charge of the sector, could not allow. When he saw what the Russians were doing, he ordered that the guns should be retaken. However, the order was very vague and hastily scribbled, not mentioning which guns, or where they were. Although Raglan on the heights and having an overview of the area thought it was obvious, the cavalry in the valley could not see the Russians with the British naval guns because they were over the top of the ridge. Consequently the cavalry was baffled: the only guns they could see were those before Sebastopol, two miles away, where there were gun emplacements down both sides of the valley and across the end.
Based on the Crimean war with the British against the Russians. The opening is meant to try and recreate the galloping horses in the charge of the light brigade. It's an atmospheric song.
Cardigan assumed that his brigade was to take the guns at the end of the valley. No commander should ever order cavalry to attack heavy artillery. Still, orders were to be obeyed. The Light Brigade, comprising 670 men, set off down the valley at a canter with Cardigan fifty yards in front of them. When the messenger who had brought the order realised that Cardigan was going in the wrong direction and tried to stop him, Cardigan simply refused to listen. The soldiers in the first Russian batteries did not believe their eyes so they did not fire right away. But then the massacre began. When the charge was over, 195 men were left. Cardigan was the first in and first out, and he was unscathed; he left his men to find their own way back. The charge was a massive blunder and caused irrecoverable loss most of the light cavalry was gone.
The Trooper single This charge, symbol of the bravery of men and of the mindlessness of some officers, was immortalised by Lord Tennyson's (18091892) poem The Charge Of The Light Brigade (first published on 9th December, 1854 and reprinted in 1855). This poem was one of the most popular of the Victorian period and one critic of the time said: "The poem has become almost too popular for discussion; it is the one stirring, galloping piece of energy which all shades of mind and sympathy seem to admire alike." The same comment is also valid for the Iron Maiden song, which is a perfect example of Harris' riff-based style of music. The power and emotion of this song make it an all-time classic, and one of the best Maiden songs ever.
This is one of the best songs on the album, and indeed one of Maiden's best songs of all time. It is about someone who is obsessed with the spirits in a pool of water, and eventually joins them, taking his partner with him. It has been suggested that 'Still Life' is based on a short story called "The Inhabitant Of The Lake", featured in a collection of novellas, Cold Print (1969), by Ramsey Campbell. However, the album credits do not mention him and it's hard to be sure. Although Steve Harris said that the song was about the fear of drowning, it has always reminded me of the Dead Marshes in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings:
'I don't know,' said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. 'But I have seen them too. In the pools when the candles were lit. They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water. I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad. Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them.'
Quoted from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Regardless of the source, this is an extremely powerful and compelling song, and it undoubtedly represents the climax of the Piece Of Mind album. If you're interested in the backward message that appears at the beginning of 'Still Life', including RealAudio samples, go here. At the end of the song, you can also hear Nicko say: "Yeah, that was fucking great!"
It's basically a story of a guy who is drawn like a magnet to a pool of water. He sees faces in the lake. He has nightmares about it and in the end he jumps in and takes his lady with him. It's a very enjoyable number to play because there's a lot going on. Again we're creating a mood and coming in with a very heavy guitar sound. Adrian takes the first solo. After the solo there is a really tight bass and drums staccato part which goes right across the top of the riff. I like that part a lot.
Inspired by French-Canadian director Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1981 movie Quest For Fire (a cinematographic adaptation of the novel of the same name by J.-H. Rosny aine  published in 1909), this song tells of the struggle of a prehistoric tribe to regain the fire that had been lost. The story of the book and of the film depicts the loss of the precious fire by a tribe of early hominids after a fight. They become once again lost in the middle of the land where great predators roam. One of them volunteers to go and find another fire: Quest For Fire relates his adventures.
The dawn of Mankind was no bed of roses for this poor creature that didn't have the strength, the claws or the swiftness of movement that the other animals had. The mastery of fire was his only asset and its loss was a catastrophe. The story highlights that Man's intelligence and craft allowed him to face the most difficult situations successfully. The "hero" defeats various enemies, learning each time a bit more. A nice example of Mankind's progress. In the book, the theme of decadence also appears with the mammoths, then at the heights of their power, being slower to progress than the young human species.
Many people consider this song to be the worst on the album, and they might be right, but being the worst track on an album of this calibre doesn't say much. It is rather acceptable, although it's hard to understand why dinosaurs are mentioned. There are none in the book or in the film, and according to current evolutionary understanding, humans and dinosaurs never co-existed. Perhaps we can attribute it to poetic license, since it isn't a very serious song to begin with.
To Tame A Land' is another of Harris' great epic songs, in the same vein as 'Phantom Of The Opera', 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', and 'Alexander The Great'. It is based on Frank Herbert's (19201986) novel Dune, one of the greatest science fiction epics of all time and first in a series of books. Like the movie, the song's lyrics won't make much sense unless you are familiar with the book.
The reason why the song was not called 'Dune', as anyone would have expected, was explained during the subsequent tour in support of the album. Bruce gave his view on the matter at a concert during the World Piece Tour:
Next song is all about a gentleman who wrote a science-fiction book called Dune, this one (...). He's an American called Mr. Frank Herbert, this particular gentleman, alright? And Mr. Herbert, as it turns out, is a bit of a cunt actually, because he... among other things he said that if we called this track that we wrote on the album 'Dune', that he'd sue us and stop the album coming out, and all kinds of very unpleasant things... So we had to re-title the track which is on the new album, and we had to call it 'To Tame A Land'.
Bruce Dickinson Stockholm , Sweden , 5th June 1983
Musically however, it is a brilliant masterpiece that begins slowly, breaks into a powerful driving rhythm, and ends with a long and interesting instrumental section inspired by the famous classical piece 'Asturias' by Spanish composer Isaak Albeniz (18601909), and which slowly retreats back to the original opening softness. A perfect ending to a near perfect album.
This is the best song I've ever written. I was really pleased with 'Phantom', but now I have to say that this is the best.