Bruce Dickinson’s ‘Skunkworks’: Underrated?

Fernando Souza discusses the qualities that constitute a ‘good album’, and why Bruce Dickinson’s ‘Skunkworks’ is one of the most underrated albums of all time.

How do we define a good album? The Oxford Dictionary of English defines ‘good’ as an adjective to describe something pleasant, enjoyable or satisfying. The definition of ‘album’ is a single collection of recordings on CD, record or cassette.


The Man Who Will Not Die

I never liked Blaze Bayley when he was in Iron Maiden, but I always respected him as a person and as a singer, that’s nothing but the truth. Replace Bruce Dickinson isn’t the easiest thing, you have to agree with me on that and Blaze was brave enough to do it and I’m sure he did his best by not escaping from his own characteristics and trying to put his own style into the songs.

Iron Maiden back in Brazil in March.

As I expected:

Following the huge international success of their spectacular ‘Somewhere Back in Time World Tour 08’ Iron Maiden will be taking to the skies once again in 2009 for a fourth and final leg starting in Dubai on February 13th.

Loaded up with a full complement of band, crew and twelve tons of stage set and equipment, the band’s customised Boeing 757, christened Ed Force One by the fans and flown again by Astraeus Airlines Captain and Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, will once again be circumnavigating 80,000km around the planet for concerts in 19 cities in eleven countries, making it a staggering 37 countries in total visited on this tour, playing to almost two million fans. (more…)

Fansite of the English singer Bruce Dickinson, who is the lead singer in Iron Maiden, an English Heavy Metal band, and also an avid fencer, a radio DJ at BBC6, a screen writer, novelist, and last but not least, a commercial airline pilot.


Last night I lost the opportunity to attend Whitesnake’s gig because of a mobile battery that went down. A friend of mine from São Paulo who is in Rio had free tickets but couldn’t phone me because my number was on her dead phone. This same friend also has free tickets for today’s gig, but not for Whitesnake, today Queensryche will be rocking Rio. All I know about them is that they’re a pretty solid band from the USA and they’ve been rocking since the 80s and they have Geoff Tate as their singer. Geoff is one of the best Rock singers in history, so watching him sing makes the night very worthy. I’ve listened to their material before, it’s good, but I can’t say I’m a fan.

This morning I was thinking about all the gigs I’ve attended in almost thirty years of life. They weren’t many, I’m afraid. I wish I could have watched more gigs, you know? sometimes I missed gigs because I didn’t have money, or because I wasn’t in town, or because I didn’t have anyone to go with me, or simply because I was too lazy to go. I’ll now try to list all the gigs I went to:

Iron Maiden (1996, 1998, 2001 & 2008), Helloween (1998, 2001, 2004, 2006 & 2008), Bruce Dickinson (1995, 1996, 1997 & 1998), Gamma Ray (2003 & 2008), Dream Theater (1997), Blaze (2002), Paul Di’anno (2005), Eric Clapton (2001), Rolling Stones (2006), Tribuzy (2005, 2006 & 2007), REM (2001), Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2001), Guns ‘n’ Roses (2001), Skid Row (1996), Motorhead (1996), Dio (1997), Scorpions (1997), Halford (2001), Foo Fighters (2001), Silverchair (2001), Dave Mathews Band (2001),  Masterplan (2003), Sepultura (2001), Dr. Sin (2006), Jeff Scott Soto (2005) and Queensryche (2008).

As you may see, not an impressive list. I wonder if this list can be improved in the future with some huge names on it. This year I’ve already missed Whitesnake, Ozzy and Deep Purple. Let’s hope I won’t miss any good gigs anymore.

To go or not to go?

Ozzy Osbourne has confirmed his South American dates and he will play here in Rio next month. When I heard rumours about this show I decided that I would not see it. Ozzy? Come on! The guys is dead and he still doesn’t know!

I remember back in 95 when it was the last time he played here in Rio (if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me). It was a hell of a show! I didn’t go at the time (don’t remember why), but I know a few people who went and for what they told me, I really regretted not going! Really did! And this regret is what is trying to convince me to go this time! But I honestly don’t know! I don’t think Ozzy can perform on stage anymore, can he? In what condition is his voice?

Money is THE big issue! I have just spent loads of money going to see Maiden in São Paulo (plus a mini holiday) a few weeks ago. Helloween has confirmed its gig here in Rio with Gamma Ray as special guests (and this is a MUST GO) next month. So, going to see Helloween probably means not going to see Ozzy. Not necessarily if I withdraw money from my saving accounts. The question is: Is Ozzy still worthy it?

Edit: I just saw this video recorded in Toronto last January. See it! Oh better, don’t see it. It’s a waste of time. Ozzy is totally out shape, he can’t even sing the high notes anymore. It’s sad how he destroyed one of my favourite songs. I could have slept today without watching this video. No way I’m going to waste 200 bucks to see him. That’s very sad indeed. :-/

São Paulo – Day three

Sunday, March 2nd 2008

After having slept only 6 hours in the previous 48 hours I finally managed to get some pretty decent sleeping. I woke up at midday (a 7 hour sleep considering the fact that I went to bed at 5 a.m.).

It was the BIG day and I decided not to go out and stay at home resting the whole afternoon. I watched some TV, browsed the internet and ate the left overs from the previous day.

Alexandre dropped by at the apartment with his girlfriend and went straight to Palestra Itália (Palmeiras Stadium), where he was supposed to pick his special pass for the gig. I decided to stay at the apartment for a little bit more, charging my batteries for the evening. After a while, my two friends from Rio also came to the flat and then we left. First stop was at a bakery to have something to eat and then straight to the stadium. Iron Maiden was about to rock São Paulo in a couple of hours.

The show was AMAZING, I have no words to describe it and that’s why I won’t do it, I won’t succeed. Try to read this post and maybe you will have an idea of what I felt during the whole gig.

After the gig, we all (except for Marise) gathered at the apartment where I was staying, which was only a 10 minutes walk from the stadium. Once everybody was there we left to Chico Hamburger, a traditional and very yummy bar in SP. We left the bar around 1 a.m. because the guys had to work the next morning. But I didn’t! I was on a certain kind of mini holidays, so I went back to the flat in order to get some sleep and prepare myself for the following (and last) day in SP.

São Paulo – Day two

Saturday, March 1st 2008

Despite the fact that I went to bed at almost 3 a.m. the previous night, I woke up at 6:57 a.m. (damn biological clock!). I prepared breakfast, watched some TV and then the phone rang. Two friends of mine had just arrived in SP from Rio and we had agreed that we would do a walking tour through SP historical downtown starting at Praça da República and finishing in Liberdade (the Japanese neighborhood). The tour was great and we passed by Rock Gallery, Viaduto do Chá, Vale do Anhangabaú, Pátio do Colégio, Banespa Building, Mosteiro de São Bento, and Catedral da Sé. Anyway, after arriving in Liberdade and having seen a bit of the Japanese culture we decided to have lunch at Paulista Avenue. And that’s when we decided to go to Starbucks. Can you believe it was my first time in Starbucks? Unbelievable! We don’t have it in Rio and we don’t have Burger King in Rio as well, go figure why! After having lunch we went to MASP and Itaú Cultural. After that we said good-bye, and I went back to the apartment where I was staying. I was so damn tired but I had invited Alexandre and his girlfriend to have dinner there, so I still had to prepare it. I prepared a very simple meal: Fettuccine Alfredo, and we ate that watchin the Live After Death DVD.

After dinner we went to Manifesto Bar, where a Brazilian Maiden cover band called Children of the Beast would perform. We went there mostly because we knew that the guys from the official Maiden TV would be there filming stuff for the documentary to feature on the next Maiden DVD. Anyway, the gig itself was amazing! I was very surprised by the fact that the cover band is so bloody similar to Maiden themselves! Same stage decoration, same instruments, same stage attitude. they seemed Maiden clones! hehe While the gig was happening I looked upstairs several times to see the reaction on the Maiden TV guys’ faces. They were truly enjoying themselves. And that’s when I noticed Lauren Harris (Steve Harris daughter!) was there with her sister! Lauren is hot, her sister is cute. Honestly I preferred her sister! hehe One of the nicest moments of the evening was when the band did a break for a few minutes, the guys from Maiden TV went downstairs. One of them stopped in front of me and started to stare at me! I was wearing a West Ham United t-shirt (on purpose! I knew it would cause some reactions). And we had this brief dialogue:

He: How can you support that shit team?

Me: And you, what team do you support?

He yelled: Aston Villa!

Me: Well, fair enough!

He: Yeah, well… Fair enough! Fair enough! Nice to meet you mate! cheers!

Then he hugged me and left! Nice chap he was! hehe

We left Manifesto at 4:30 a.m. and I got back at the flat at 5 a.m. That was the end of a great Saturday!

Got yours?

I’ve just got mine, and you? have you got yours? No?? Come on! Hurry up!

Finally available on DVD for the first time, Iron Maiden is proud to announce the eagerly awaited release of the double disc DVD of “Live After Death”, the legendary recording of  four night stand at Long Beach Arena, California, in 1984.
In the stores February 5, 2008, the release will coincide with the start of the band’s Somewhere Back In Time World Tour on which they will recreate many of the aspects of this original and spectacular show.

Disc one contains the recording of this full 90 minute concert. Originally filmed on 35mm, the footage comes alive on DVD resulting in a visually stunning film that far outstrips the usual live video of the ’80s. The disc carries two sound options — the original concert audio specially mixed into 5.1 Surround Sound by Kevin Shirley, MAIDEN‘s producer since 1999, plus the original stereo sound track by Martin Birch, the band’s producer from 1981 to 1993. Originally released on video in 1985, this has been largely unavailable for the past 20 years

Disc two has Part 2 of the “History Of Iron Maiden”, continuing on the MAIDEN story from “The Early Days” DVD, along with rare and unseen bonus footage in the form of “Behind The Iron Curtain”, “Rock In Rio ’85”, and “‘Ello Texas”, all in all giving a total running time of well over three hours. Plus of course the photo galleries, relevant promo videos, artwork galleries, tour dates, tour program and other features which all combine to make MAIDEN DVDs a very special and utterly comprehensive treat for their fans.

Manager Rod Smallwood explained: “The original video of ‘Live After Death’ has not been readily available for a long time so its good that we finally got around to this. lt was one of the first full concerts to be filmed after the advent of video and of course the live album, recorded on a different night to the video, has long been considered to be one of the seminal metal live albums and has sold millions since. Fans have been begging us to do this DVD for some time now but we wanted to wait until we were able to recreate that whole tour to go with it and also to make it part of a series of DVDs that we are putting together around the band’s history. And of course we are making sure that now we have got to it we will be giving the fans everything we can find from that period!!”

Maiden Magic

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,

we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,

we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender…”

I’ve no idea of what (or how) I’m going to feel when I hear this words live for the first time in my life. The stadium will be crowded, people will be screaming, the stage will be dark and certainly the cold will chill up my spine as the first Aces High chords are played and Bruce runs like a crazy man across the stage!

To tell you the truth I hadn’t been excited about this gig since last Sunday, when I put Live After Death to play in the car. And the CD hasn’t left the radio since then! Maybe I hadn’t realized what this show means. Now I have some idea…

A whole generation grew up listening to Live After Death, it was THE album. Everybody wished they were in Long Beach arena for those “magical nights”. Now, after 23 years, Long Beach Arena will be in São Paulo, in Sydney, in Paris… Maiden will bring the magic back to your city! And you may say: “come on, it’s not the same! It’s been 23 years!”. Yeah, well, it definetly won’t be the same. It has everything to be better! Maiden is much more than a simple metal band as they were back in 85, they’re now a sort of “institution”. They’ve established themselves in a certain level that nobody has before. As for the guys in the band: are they old? Of course they are! So what? They are much more confident then they were before and they’re better musicians now than they were before. As for the stage production and stuff like that? Well, they’re a richer band now, so what do you think? 😉

Am I saying that the 2008 tour will be better than the 1985 tour? No, I didn’t say that, did I? Well, I guess I did! The truth is that there’s a 20+ years difference and things have changed (a lot), so they can’t be compared!

Honestly, when I leave the stadium I will still be wondering how would it be if I had been to the Long Beach Arena gigs in 85. And the lucky bastards who went to those gigs 23 years ago, can still go to the 2008 tour. Therefore I’ll still be jealous… :-/

Well, now is the time when I should stop wondering/mumbling/complaining about things and just be happy that I’ll witness this historical event!