Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Dubious Claims To Fame – 19 (c)

Of the three singers who have fronted Iron Maiden – Di’Anno, Dickinson, and Bayley – Blaze Bayley is the one who has most impressed me. He had just joined them when I first got into them, and so my burgeoning love of the band was tied to the period during which he recorded with them. Those two much-maligned studio albums hold a lot of memories for me, and “The X Factor” is still one of my favourite of their fifteen LPs – its darker style and lyrical content appealing to my then teenage angst, creating a bond that has been hard to break. Blaze was fronting the band when I first saw them, which was also my first ever music gig, at the Barrowlands in 1998.

I remember vividly (and still have the magazine clippings) when Bruce came back, denying the rumours one week and confirming them the next. I felt a bit sorry for Blaze, whose job of filling those shoes was never going to be easy for any singer, and he admits now that he should have maintained a more visible public presence afterwards rather than going to ground and burying his head. It meant that he had a harder job when it came to promoting his first solo album, the excellent melodic-thrash masterpiece “Silicon Messiah.” I saw him on that tour, and then waited years for him to come back to Glasgow. When he did, I was up north and missed the gig, but I finally saw him again nine years later, in 2010.

Back in January 2001, my admiration for and obsession with Maiden was still growing. I saw Blaze in the middle of the month, and then made my first ever trip to London at the end of it, alone, to see Maiden play two Rock In Rio warm-up shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Blaze’s gig was intense – the energy in the Cathouse was intense, and I remember him getting right in amongst the crowd, standing on the barrier with one hand on the ceiling to steady himself as his band ripped through the fast, melodic, and beautiful songs. At the end of the gig, the whole band came out to the merch stall to meet the fans. When the security guys kicked everybody out, to set up for the club night, the band joined us outside the front door of the venue. They were surrounded by fans, of Maiden, Blaze, and Wolfsbane, and dutifully signed everything they were asked to. It was a freezing winter night, but the band stood there and signed everything for everyone until there was nothing left to sign.

I got my CD sleeve signed, as well as setlist I’d got from the stage. I discovered their drummer, Jeff Singer, had previously played for Kill II This – another favourite band of mine, with whom I would later have far greater involvement when I arranged to help them with load-ins and load-outs on their Scottish dates. I regretted not having any K2T stuff with me to get him to sign, and haven’t seen him since. He later joined Paradise Lost, but has now left them.

I lost interest in metal for a few years, and by chance found out that Blaze had put a new album out – I downloaded it, not expecting much, but I have come to love “The Man Who Would Not Die” and have since purchased the CD. In the interim, I later discovered, Blaze had suffered a number of setbacks – the band line-up had changed a lot, and often, they left their record label, had issues with management and finances. and his wife died just over a year after they married. Through it all, though, Blaze continued making music, playing live, and drawing strength from the loyalty of his fans. That’s what impressed me about him, as much as the great music he has made and which has soundtracked a lot of my life – that he managed to find the will to struggle on, and continues to persevere despite the personal tragedies. I have a lot of respect for him.

I saw him a couple of years ago, and dug out a few more CD covers for him to sign. He sat at the merch booth from the time the doors opened until five minutes before he went on stage, happily chatting to anyone who approached him, with a supply of pens to hand for autographing everything he was asked to. I spoke to him briefly, as he appended his signature to various rare and promo items, and then stood at the barrier for the duration of his set. I was a little disappointed that there was so little material from the debut album in the set, but aware that there had been ten years and four more albums since that time.

As much as this has been a companion piece to the other Maiden stories – and even then the only real ‘story’ as such is the Di’Anno one – Blaze is one of the people I most admire, for embodying the true spirit of the trooper. Every time he has been knocked down he has dusted himself off and come back stronger and more determined. I respect that.

Above: Inside of the “Silicon Messiah” booklet, signed by the band.

 

 

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