SOME people hear the words "heavy metal" and instantly conjure up
aural and visual images of deafening guitars and drums, unbridled
voices screeching incomprehensible or reprehensible lyrics (or
both). And the perpetrators of this chaos are, of course,
undisciplined youths (often nasty little satanists), with no sense
of propriety or decency, let alone personal hygiene!
Okay, so metal has a bad name; there definitely have been some
bands that more or less fit the above description. But the world of
heavy-metal music has its good guys, too.
Enter Bruce Dickinson, vocalist for the classic British metal
band Iron Maiden. Dickinson recently recorded his first solo album,
"Tattooed Millionaire" (Columbia) and was on hand to talk a few days
after a performance at the Ritz, a massive rock emporium here.
In addition to being a singer and songwriter, Dickinson is also a
world-class fencer, a graduate of London University with a degree in
history, the writer of a successful first novel, published in
Britain, and a collector of time-tables from around the world.
Concerning the latter, Dickinson explains, "Whenever I was on the
road with Iron Maiden ... on days off everybody would end up in a
Holiday Inn in the middle of shopping-mall wasteland. So I developed
this fetish for accumulating travel information from all points of
the globe so that wherever I was, when we had a day off, I'd say,
`I'm outta here."' Dickinson would vanish, and turn up in time for
the next gig.
With his long, unruly hair and a fiendish twinkle in his eye,
Dickinson looks like the stereotypical bad boy - part of the metal
image, to be sure. But he's also dead serious about his music and
about changing the poor image heavy metal has, especially in the
Remembering a conversation with the members of the band on his
new album, he says, "...Metal music now - isn't it just another
bunch of people with big hair and makeup spouting all these empty
sentiments, negative stuff? ... When I was listening to bands like
Free and Led Zeppelin and Purple at the beginning of the '70s, I
felt kind of uplifted and constructive; I thought their music was
full of emotion and passion. Where has it gone?"
The harder-edged so-called "thrash" metal and punk music aren't
among Dickinson's favorites.
"The problem I have with the thrash-metal stuff is the absence of
definable songs," he says. "You can only go so far on energy.
It's like having a very fast car that won't go around corners. I
found that (punk music) was all anger.... It had loads and loads of
energy, but it didn't go anywhere, and it kind of strangled itself. …