Bruce Dickinson Recalls Terror of First Iron Maiden Show
Bruce Dickinson discussed how intimidated he was before his first show with Iron Maiden, admitting that he couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes during the early stages of the performance.
By that time, however, he’d already endured the uncomfortable experience of auditioning for the band before Paul Di’Anno, who fronted Iron Maiden for their first two albums, was fired in 1981.
“The first day when I went to do the tryout, for auditioning for them, it was in a rehearsal place,” Dickinson told RTBF (via Blabbermouth). “The old singer was still with them; they still had two more shows to do with him. So I thought, 'Well, the atmosphere's gonna be a little bit strange.' 'Cause, obviously, he didn't know, but everybody else did know that he was gonna be fired. I wasn't terribly comfortable with it.”
He continued, “But I turned up. And Steve [Harris], the bass player, he didn't turn up 'til later. I knew Clive [Burr], the drummer, and Dave [Murray] I knew, and Adrian [Smith] I knew. And so we just started playing old Deep Purple songs, which we all knew. Suddenly we discovered that we all liked the same music. The atmosphere was fantastic. And then Steve turned up. And we went, 'Hey, we've been buzzing away. What should we do?’”
Dickinson was helped along by the fact that he'd learned every song from Iron Maiden and Killers, although he’d only been asked familiarize himself with four of them. “We basically almost played both albums back to back," Dickinson said. "And Steve was, like, 'Wow! When do we start?' So, there was no problem at all.”
Their newly installed frontman faced a steeper problem after Iron Maiden confirmed his membership and decided to book some low-key shows to make the settling process easier. He went out on stage with them for the first time in October 1981. “I couldn't even open my eyes for the first five songs, I was so terrified to look at the audience,” Dickinson admitted. “I was just, like, 'I know they're out there somewhere.' But I was the singer, and therefore you're gonna take it on; that's it. That's your job. … You have a very steep learning curve. But I was lucky I learned pretty quickly, and then rapidly made a nuisance of myself.”
Dickinson added: “Joining Iron Maiden was the world's biggest roller coaster. Except that most roller coasters, you go down, then you go up, then you go down. This one just went down for five years. I mean, non-stop, one big adrenaline rush for five years. [It was] quite something.”