For our start-the-week, Monday morning back-to-work blues, we here at WMMCM are always looking for ways to brighten up your day in a manner that at least might make you think you’re a god. Before pushing your luck and crashing to the ground.
Sounds like most Mondays to me.
So now that we are slowly climbing Mt. Olympus, spreading our tales of ancient wonder, tales that are the Cheese of the Gods, it’s time for a constant theme in mythology and quite often, in songs about mythology: hubris.
Iron Maiden was fresh off the success of 1982′s The Number of the Beast , which had gone to number one in their native England and had received enough attention in the States to make it up to the 33rd spot. Iron Maiden was on to something good.
For their follow up to The Number of the Beast, primary songwriter Steve Harris used an assortment of classic books and stories as his inspiration for the songs on what would become Iron Maiden’s second major album, Piece of Mind.
Things like Alistair MacLean’s “Where Eagles Dare,” Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” and even the story of legendary Japanese Samurai Musashi were covered by Iron Maiden in a way — no doubt — never conceived by the authors. In fact, the song “To Tame a Land” was originally titled “Dune” until author Frank Herbert refused permission for use of his book’s title since he didn’t like heavy metal music.
In this eclectic mix of stories and ideas was also the classic story of Icarus and his father, Daedalus.
“Flight of Icarus” was released as the lead single for 1983′s Piece of Mind and would be Iron Maiden’s first top ten single in the U.S. It also helped to make them a major touring act, which they remain to this day.
Opening with guitar and drums that sound like some kind of evil freight train going by, “Flight of Icarus” is classic Iron Maiden. Bassist Steve Harris’ huge and intricate bass parts are, as usual, the real drive of the song, with guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray and drummer Nicko McBrain holding everything together in anticipation of Bruce Dickenson’s vocals.
Dickenson has such an interesting vocal style, alternating from a very English-sounding vibrato to a tortured scream from one line to the next. He’s also always been one of the best heavy metal singers around. And he needs to be, as the level of musicianship required by Harris and the blazing fast and complicated songs Iron Maiden specialize in are not for just anyone to bang out.
Murray takes on the first guitar solo, with its slow build from a low moan to some hyperfast hammer-ons, until he hands it off to Smith, with his more bluesy picking and string bending. One of those great moments when two really terrific guitarists know how to work with each other, complementing one another’s styles.
All that said, “Flight of Icarus” is actually a pretty simple tune, by Maiden standards.
Harris and co-writer Dickenson don’t really stay with the original story of the imprisoned master craftsman Daedalus and his escape from Crete with his overly ambitious son, Icarus.
Now the crowd breaks and a young boy appears
Looks the old man in the eye
As he spreads his wings and shouts at the crowd
In the name of God my father I’ll fly
His eyes seem so glazed
As he flies on the wings of a dream
Now he knows his father betrayed
Now his wings turn to ashes to ashes his grave
This is more in line with teen rebellion (as Dickenson later related.)
The resulting death of Icarus, basically from being an idiot, remains the same, however.
“Flight of Icarus” closes with Murray and Smith playing harmony lines until Murray checks out once more with a solo that makes it easy to envision Icarus as he spirals closer and closer to earth.
Fly, on your way, like an eagle
Fly as high as the Sun
On your way, like an eagle
Fly, touch the Sun