Going Solo: Iron Maiden “Caught Somewhere In Time”
I discovered Iron Maiden totally by accident. Up until that time I was listening to bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard and that was as "heavy" as I was getting as a preteen. No heavy petting or heavy metal quite yet. I was still usurping my older brother's music collection and whatever I could forage on local rock stations. Pyromania and 1984 were played to death in our bedroom. I remember Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry and Quiet Riot's Condition Critical vibrating the stereo speakers often and somehow our parents were "able to take it"---that being when Dee Snider aurally materialized as an uninvited house guest. Perhaps the fact that our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house as theirs had something to do with it. When we moved to a bigger house after I entered 7th grade, I began working out in the basement and had just a bare stereo on our second freezer along with my workout albums. Old school Rocky Balboa approved. Okay, it did look nicer than Clubber Lang's apartment. But I was having a hankering for heavier stuff to get the Eye Of The Tiger amidst the sound of Leppards.
Back then, Judas Priest was the only "really" Metal band that actually got airplay on the Classic Rock radio stations I listened to where I grew up. It seemed if you had two guitarists, it was "too heavy" for a standard Classic Rock station. It's as if there was an "Elevator Weight Capacity" for bands not to exceed a set number of pounds---4 band members: okay, 5 band members: Holy Crap, it's Metal! Of course there were exceptions. Bands that had 5 members (and 2 guitarists) and passed through the Rock Radio Checkpoint Charlie were The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bon Jovi, and .38 Special, all of which were never considered Metal. The subject matter of a band's songs was a deciding factor in if they were considered Metal or not. Because if you're Metal, you don't write whiny ass songs about relationships. At least that's the way it used to be before Hair Spray and Metal met in a Paul Mitchell salon somewhere west of the San Andreas Fault in southern California. I see a children's book in the making right there.
Back to my Maiden voyage. For someone who didn't have a learner's permit yet, I was at the mercy of other people who knew how to drive. And with that, used to go to backyard parties with my older brother and his friends or some of my older friends. It was at one of these backyard evening parties standing around a fire where the serendipity of discovering Iron Maiden happened. I wish I could say Eddie appeared and we roasted marshmallows by the fire from his long scrawny fingers, but this was more towards the Pabst Blue Ribbon spectrum of soirees than Burning Man peyote fest.
Somehow several adult beverages landed in my hand and my new friend buzz and I were digging all the rock tunes playing on the stereo blasting raccoons back to the nosebleed seats at the edge of the woods. I remember hearing the words "Deja Vu" on one of the songs. That was all my brain cells bathed in Bud or some other cheap beer could recollect the next day anyway. And with the finest Sh*tfaced Sherlock Holmes determination for solving "The Case Of The Mystery Song" in someone's back yard I didn't know and cannot remember, I set out asking "Hey, who sings a song called 'Deja Vu.?'" I got a lead on this band called Iron Maiden. I then set out to canvas some stores and look for what album the song was on. With the sobriety of Sergeant Joe Friday, a few Iron Maiden albums later (or so I thought), I found it---Somewhere In Time had a track listing of "Deja Vu." It also had amazing Science Fiction cover art (inspired by Blade Runner from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and since I was a huge fan of Star Wars growing up, that sealed the deal. I took Somewhere In Time to the register and with that, owned my first Iron Maiden album. And to this day it's still my favorite.
The opening track "Caught Somewhere In Time" just blew me away---Bruce Dickinson's vocals were crazy good, like one of his parents had sex with an amplifier good. I kept having "Holy Crap" moments---this was the first Metal album I actually owned and knew I was hooked for life. I was so blown away by all the songs I'd heard before "Deja Vu" (the second to last track) that I didn't even care it WASN'T the song my drunken ears heard at that party mentioned earlier. Turns out, I found out later the lyrics were actually "Danger---" and it was the the song "Danger" by Motley Crue off Shout At The Devil. The sustain and vocal effects when Vince Neil sings the word "Danger" sounded like "Danger....ooooh" which my slurried braincells misheard as "Deja Vu":
You're in danger
When the boys are around Danger
You're in danger
And this is my town
This is Hollywood
"Caught Somewhere In Time" for me was one of those solos that makes you want to become a guitarist. It shows how much fun you can have on a guitar, how freely you can launch energies from your fingertips and dance across the fretboard like a Whirling Dervish. I was just starting to play guitar and "Caught Somewhere In Time" blew my (back then) short hair back like the famous Maxell "Blown Away Guy" ad of the dude sitting in an easy chair listening to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" which conveniently blows a glass of wine to him:
The "Blown Away Guy" moment I had was hearing solo #2 by Adrian Smith which begins at the 4:05 mark continuing to the 4:50 mark:
The solo ends with a recapitulation of the opening fast tempo riff heard first at the :53 mark. Iron Maiden switches keys often in songs and the solo baton passing between the two guitarists is no exception.
Dave Murray leads off with his slippery bluesy frolic in B flat then Adrian Smith punches it into orbit with this masculine metallic montage in G. The driving ascending staccato triplets across the neck and legato two handed tapping are the solos highpoints for me. You can almost hear the Silverback gorilla.
At times I reflect how long I've come since buying that album and listening to it in my bedroom as a teenager. If someone were to have told that teenage me that I would someday see all the places I would, I probably would have thought they were talking about someone else. Like "Wasted Years", I saw those cities go by in the night, went from coast to coast of the United States, flown over a few of those "seven seas." On whatever journey, I was always packing Metal, packing Somewhere In Time to listen to. Towards the end of the final track on Somewhere In Time, "Alexander The Great," there's the verse lyric:
The battle weary marching side by side
Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India
Tired of the combat, pain and the glory
As if the Somewhere In Time album were a personal prophecy or subliminal travel itinerary, I even visited India and got my Indiana Jones on. Years before going to to other side of the planet (which is brutal jetlag), I had tickets for John Williams Night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox Massachusetts. It's been a Tanglewood tradition where Williams guest conducts a program of his greatest hits: Jaws, E.T., Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. At one point, Chewbacca and Darth Vader got on stage with Maestro Williams, but unfortunately you cannot conduct an orchestra with a Light Sabre. It was called the Electric Light Orchestra not the Electric Light Sabre Orchestra there Darth.
So there I was, visiting ancient temples all over southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu, which actually sounds like a planet in a Star Wars movie. I was even in a tiger preserve in the mountains and walked out a Survivor. And as for "Jedis", Tamil Nadu is famous for producing more Saints and Realized Masters (Advanced Yogis) than any other location on Earth. On the other hand, Gary Indiana is famous for producing more serial killers (which happens to be a Maiden song and earlier album) than any other location and also The Jacksons for some Thrilling reason. In India, my eyes met the sacred Mt. Arunachala (pictured on the package of some Organic India products), the mountain where Carl Jung spent over a month traveling on steamships just to see in his lifetime. Jung pioneered the concept of Synchronicity which was the title and inspiration for the incredible final album by The Police, which has the tracks "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" (the tune where Sting is yelling in the intro).
So sometimes mishearing lyrics can be a good thing. People mishear lyrics sober so accidentally discovering Iron Maiden was either some jolly good luck or Divine intervention of the Metal Gods. These days the Pope drinks more than I do (My Metal collection is WAY better than the Pope's though). But "Caught Somewhere In Time" is still one of my favorite Metal solos of all time---it's even among my favorite solos of all time. I've since listened to this album on 4 continents, numerous times at 30,000+ feet, watching mountains, plains, oceans and coastlines below me; In and through several countries, dozens of states, countless miles of Interstates, slicing across the country in the night; and also countless nights peacefully lying down in bed falling asleep to it. Somewhere In Time is like a companion I've taken with me in life on the leash of my iPod.
Some people don't "mellow with age" as far as their musical palette and tastes go. We just expand in both directions of harder and softer to integrate more of the whole. I still love Metal and know I could listen to it in my 80's, 90's and past 100. I'll never outgrow it and will definitely look better than Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, who at some point I'm betting will look better than Keith Richards (heroin will steal your youth, health and possibly your life folks---it's taken too many musicians far too early). I just know wherever in time I'll be, I'll want Metal beside me within earshot. I've come to realize I exist "Somewhere In Time" and with music, I'll always have a portable home. And YO ADRIAN!!!
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