Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sex, drugs and...Samuel Taylor Coleridge??

I was lucky enough recently to get to go to a concert by Iron Maiden, who rarely tour in my neck of the woods. (Yes, I admit it, I’m a child of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and I still LOVES me some head-bangin’. The very first album I bought with my own money was AC/DC’s Back in Black.) Iron Maiden’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson is quite the showman. In fact, even if you’re not that into heavy rock music, their live act is worth seeing just for the sheer theatrical scale of it. They recently beat out several much younger and ‘cooler’ bands to win the 2009 Brit Award for Best Live Act.

Now, Iron Maiden (or ‘Maiden’ as the hardcore fans call them) are surprisingly literate as far as 80s head bangers go. Quite a few of their songs are based on classic books or poems, and such a one is their take on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. At the start of this particular song, a set slowly appears from the darkness of the stage, featuring as a backdrop the tattered sails and rigging of a ghostly wooden sailing ship. Dickinson appears, dressed in a ragged overcoat and swinging a staff, and starts stalking the faux decks. In ominous tones, he introduces the song, saying he is about to tell a famous, dreadful tale by -- Samuel – Taylor – Coleridge! Ha! I never would have believed it, but this swarming mass of long-haired weed-smoking black-jeans-clad head-bangers lets out a huge roar of approval. Coleridge gets the ultimate metal fan’s accolade - the Devil’s horns - and I hear a few drunken shouts of “yeah, Coleridge!”.

It was truly a moment of culture clash on a grand and bizarre scale. Although Coleridge himself may not have felt entirely out of place in this anti-Establishment, drug-smoking crowd.


Anonymous said...

I missed this post the first time round somehow! Hurrah for literate metallers (though they may of course have been reacting to the promise of the song rather than the renown of the poet). It sounds as if you might enjoy Bruce Dickinson's solo Blake concept album, Chemical Wedding, if you haven't met it already.

Also, if you've ever heard `Slip Inside this House' by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, which you may well not have (different style of music!), you may not have realised, as I didn't till the Internet showed me, that it is in effect an acid manifesto filked to the rhythm of Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'. He gets around, the long-haired dope-fiend.

Bavardess said...

I haven't heard Chemical Wedding, but I have wondered in the past whether Bruce & co. ever used Blake for inspiration. Iron Maiden and William Blake seem like the perfect combination. I wonder if teachers of 18th-19thC English literature ever use music like this as teaching aids? Though maybe the school boards wouldn't be so keen on the whole acid trip theme.