Sunday Old School: Bruce Dickinson
It’s usually a risk when the singer of a big name band decides to leave and go solo. Many doubted whether or not Ozzy Osbourne would be able to move on from Black Sabbath, though he went on to prove the naysayers wrong, while Judas Priest singer Rob Halford and Deep Purple’s, Ian Gillan found varying degrees of success after separating from their respective bands. Another metal legend who took the gamble was Bruce Dickinson, who made a name for himself as Paul Di'anno's successful replacement in Iron Maiden. The seeds of Dickinson’s foray into a solo career began in 1989 when he was approached to write a song for the movie, Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child, an offer which he accepted and called upon the services of former Gillan and White Spirit guitarist, Janick Gers.
The duo composed the song, "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter," which would later be included on the Iron Maiden album, "No Prayer For the Dying" and become the band’s first number one single in Britain. Given the popularity of the song, Dickinson and the same lineup returned to the studio to work on a full length album, which was completed in only two weeks and released in 1990 as a Bruce Dickinson solo album entitled, "Tattooed Millionaire." The album received positive reviews from many fans and critics and a tour in support of the record soon followed.
While still a member of Iron Maiden, Dickinson found himself recording a few covers separately from the band, including a cover of the Alice Cooper hit, "Elected," as a charity single in 1992, the video for which featured Rowan Atkinson as his famous, Mr. Bean character running for office. A year later, he confirmed his departure from Iron Maiden after touring in support of "Fear of the Dark" and began pursuing a solo career. He initially teamed up with producer, Keith Olsen but found resulting sessions to be unsatisfactory and so recruited guitarist Roy Z instead. This collaboration proved to be considerably more fruitful and eventually the team, which also consisted of the other members of Roy Z's band, Tribe of Gypsies, released the second Bruce Dickinson album, "Balls to Picasso" in 1994. It received mixed reviews, perhaps in part to the pressure the group were under not to make the album too heavy. The album did spawn two relatively successful singles however in the forms of "Shoot All the Clowns" and "Tears of the Dragon," the latter of which was considered by many to the record’s best track.
Another cover track was also released in 1994, this time seeing Dickinson uniting with Godspeed for a contribution to the Black Sabbath tribute album, "Nativity in Black," for which they recorded a version of, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath." Another new lineup was then recruited by the singer, initially intended to be a new band called Skunkworks, however Castle Records refused to release the album without Bruce Dickinson’s name on it and so "Skunkworks" was released as the name of Dickinson’s third solo album. It marked a huge departure from the style the vocalist was associated with, being more in the vein of alternative rock and grunge, which was backed up by the recruitment of Nirvana producer, Jack Endino. The ensuing reception and results of the album are considered by Dickinson to be one of the most disappointing in his career, given how hard he had worked on it. Following a tour in support of the album, the "Skunkworks" project finished and he once again called for Roy Z’s help.
Shades of Iron Maiden were present on their next outing in more ways than one, perhaps most notably being the recruitment of another then former member of the band, guitarist Adrian Smith, as well cover art for the new album, "Accident of Birth" being drawn by Derek Riggs, who was responsible for Iron Maiden’s artwork through the eighties. The record was a return to form for Dickinson, who along with his band not only created a stellar album, but one which was also regarded as one of the best metal albums on the 1990s, garnering more praise than the efforts of Iron Maiden, who by now were moving forward with Wolfsbane vocalist, Blaze Bayley.
The band wasted no time in writing a successor to "Accident of Birth," which surfaced in 1998, only a year after the release of their previous album, under the title, "The Chemical Wedding." It was something of a concept record, taking much inspiration from alchemy and the writings of William Blake. Once again, critics and fans were very welcoming of the album, though some felt it didn’t quite match up to quality of "Accident of Birth." It was nevertheless a success, charting in the United Kingdom, as well as in Germany, Finland, Sweden and Japan. Touring for the record was also successful and led to the first live Bruce Dickinson album, “Scream for Me Brazil,” which hit the shelves in 1999. Later that year, both Dickinson and Smith returned to Iron Maiden and recorded the album, "Brave New World," which was released in 2000.
It would be another five years but Bruce Dickinson did return to the studio with Roy Z to record a new solo album, which surfaced in 2005 as, "Tyranny of Souls." The album included the single, "Abduction," which was a minor hit in the United Kingdom, receiving significant airplay on music video channels. It was another chart success, appearing in charts all over the globe, including the United States, where it peaked at 180. Since then, with the exception of a three DVD box set entitled, "Anthology," Dickinson has focused his energy on Iron Maiden and there still remains no news on whether or not he will record another solo album, though whether he does or not, he can be satisfied with his efforts, which while not always successful, were always interesting.
Bruce Dickinson - "Tattooed Millionaire"
Bruce Dickinson - "Elected"
Bruce Dickinson - "Tears of the Dragon"
Bruce Dickinson - "Back From the Edge"
Bruce Dickinson - "Accident of Birth"
Bruce Dickinson - "Gates of Urizen"
Bruce Dickinson - "Abduction"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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