Blood, flashbombs, dry ice and confetti: “Iron Maiden & the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal”

By on September 25, 2017

We know some of you Night Flight heavy metal fanatics out there love watching music documentaries about your favorite bands, and so, once again, we’d like to point you to our newly-curated collection of recently-added titles now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel.

One of our most popular recent adds is 2008’s Iron Maiden and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, a nearly two-and-a-half-hour deep dive into the second wave of blue-collar British heavy metal heroes.

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The documentary — which includes live and studio recordings of pivotal tracks, rare footage and seldom-seen photos — features exclusive interviews with many of the major players including Iron Maiden’s Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton, Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler, Tygers of Pan Tang’s Rob Weir, Samson’s legendary drummer Thunderstick, Tino and Chris Troy from Praying Mantis, the current line-up of Girlschool, and many other high profile bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (usually abbreviated to NWOBHM).

Commentary, review and expertise is provided here by Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!, Classic Rock), Jerry Ewing (Metal Hammer, Classic Rock), Geoff Barton, Garry Bushell, Neal Kay (legendary metal DJ from the Soundhouse club) and British metal author and journalist, Joel McIver.

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Read more about Iron Maiden And The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal below.

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UK rock scribe Chris Charlesworth — writing for Melody Maker on February 16, 1974 — may have been the first to come up with the term found in the DVD title when he wrote: There’s a new wave of heavy metal bands on the way up.”

However, credit for its use as a stand-alone neologism is usually given to Sounds editor Alan Lewis, even though NWOBHM wasn’t used in print until May 1979, after it was applied to a gig lineup featuring Samson, Iron Maiden and Angel Witch.

No matter who planted the flag first, NWOBHM has certainly been actively applied to a whole slew of bands since, at least since sometime in the 1970s, usually to differentiate between the first wave of “heavy metal” bands — like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep — and the true second wave of rock’s pantheon acts, bands like the Scorpions, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, UFO, Judas Priest, and Motörhead (we realize not all of those groups were from the UK).

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Below those monolithic rock gods, there’s another layer — so that’s three layers deep now in the heavy rock stratum — where you’ll find bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Samson, Saxon and Praying Mantis, all of whom are discussed at length in this documentary.

In 1975, it was London-based DJ Neal Kay — who managed a club called “Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse,” originally hosted at the Kingsbury Circle, northwest London-area pub Prince of Wales — who first tried to draw attention to some of these newer bands by reaching out to Sounds rock scribe Geoff Barton.

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Neal Kay: “So I phoned up Sounds and I talked to Geoff Barton, and I said, ‘I have got a heavy metal discotheque; we call it a Soundhouse, ’cause the word discotheque sucks.'”

At the time, Sounds was one of the biggest weekly music papers in the UK, influencing lots of readers who picked it up to see what new bands were being talked about.

Barton began coming out to the pub’s back-room venue, known simply as “The Bandwagon,” later writing up a two-page spread (“If You Want Blood (and Flashbombs and Dry Ice and Confetti) You Got It: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal”) for Sounds on May 19, 1979.

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Kay was more interested in this new wave of heavy metal bands continuing on in the tradition of their precursors, and sought to maintain the genre’s prominence and integrity by making sure true metal fans knew which bands were the next in line.

Barton, meanwhile, continued to use the term NWOBHM to discuss his support of the very same bands who were attempting — quite successfully, as it turned out — a more transgressive metal and punk crossover.

Barton continued writing about upstart bands like Iron Maiden or stalwart rockers like Motörhead, who were infusing metal with new life by absorbing some of the elements found in late ’70s-era British punk rock.

He did everything he could to draw attention to their concerts and club shows, and convinced his editors at Sounds to begin publishing a weekly Top 10 Heavy Metal charts, based solely on requests received from regulars at Kay’s heavy metal club.

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Kay, meanwhile, helped some of these bands — including Praying Mantis — record their first demos at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge.

After chronicling the exploits of the NWOBHM bands in Sounds, Barton, in 1981, moved on to create and edit Kerrang!, which became the the highest-circulated rock weekly in the world.

One of the bands that Kay had helped elevate — and who were also profiled by Barton often in both Sounds and Kerrang! — were Iron Maiden.

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Interviewed in late ’79 by Barton for Sounds, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris — one of their founding members and composer of most of their songs — told Barton that he “couldn’t have started a punk band… that would have been against my religion.”

Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno told Barton that he hoped they wouldn’t take themselves too seriously and end up losing contact with their audience.

He also referenced Australian rockers AC/DC, saying that he wanted to make sure Maiden stayed true to their roots like they did (“Like us, they’re down to earth. And I’m going to make sure we stay that way.”).

You’ll just have to watch the documentary to see if Iron Maiden stayed “down to earth” during the rest of their career, or not.

Watch Iron Maiden and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal over on Night Flight Plus !

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.