Fifty-eight years ago today, a true metal god was born. Stephen Percy “Steve” Harris was born on March 12, 1956 in Leytonstone, England (a suburb of London), where he had dreams of playing (non-American) football professionally. In his early teens, Harris began to become interested in rock music, and soon his desire to play professional football was replaced by a desire to play music. He wanted to play drums, but was unable to afford a drum kit, so he chose bass guitar instead. Lucky us.
Harris onstage, in a familiar pose.
Ten months after buying his first bass, Harris joined a band called Influence, which later changed its name to Gypsy’s Kiss (Cockney rhyming slang for “piss”). After a few gigs, the band split up, and Harris joined a band called Smiler. He left Smiler when the band found the songs he was writing too complicated to play, and formed the first version of Iron Maiden on Christmas Day 1975.
Today, Harris remains the sole original member of Iron Maiden, and has been the band’s chief composer and lyricist, in addition to directing and editing many of their live videos and music videos. There’s not much time left in his birthday, so I recommend stopping everything right now and jamming the Iron Maiden album(s) of your choice. You really can’t go wrong. You should probably also take some time to watch some live footage, either on YouTube, or, if you own any, on one of the band’s numerous live DVDs or VHS tapes.
Here are a few of my favorite Steve Harris-penned Iron Maiden songs, in order of their original release.
“Phantom of the Opera” (from Live at the Rainbow – 1980) (originally appeared on Iron Maiden – 1980) – Iron Maiden was the first of two albums to feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals. Bruce Dickinson joined the band after the tour for 1981’s Killers, and made his recording debut with the band on 1982’s Number of the Beast.
“To Tame a Land” (from Piece of Mind – 1983) – This is the last song on my personal favorite Iron Maiden album. The lyrics are based on Frank Herbert’s magnificent 1965 novel Dune, and this awesome fan-made video features footage of David Lynch’s 1984 film version of the story
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (from Live After Death – 1985) (originally appeared on Powerslave -1984) – Watch Steve’s fingers move like a hummingbird when he plays this song. The lyrics are based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem of the same name.
“Caught Somewhere in Time” (from Somewhere in Time – 1986) – The band introduced synthesized guitars on this album, and brought in full-on keyboards on the follow-up, 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (which, along with a few other albums, is not featured here, because regardless of what the song says, time is not, in fact, always on my side). Many people were angry with the addition of synthesizers. Those people are chumps, because this shit is obviously the shit.
“Fear of the Dark” (from Flight 666 – 2009) (originally appeared on Fear of the Dark – 1992) – I featured a more recent live version of this song because this crowd is fucking amazing. Fear of the Dark was the last album to feature Bruce Dickinson on vocals until 2000’s Brave New World. He was replaced by Blaze Bayley for two much-maligned (but still pretty good) albums.
“The Clansman” (from Virtual IX – 1998) – This was the second and final album with Bayley on vocals. It’s not as strong overall as the first (1995’s The X Factor), but I think this is the best Harris-penned song from either album. It is lyrically inspired by the same stuff that inspired Braveheart.
“When the Wild Wind Blows” (from The Final Frontier – 2010) – This is the last song on the band’s most recent album. The lyrics are amazing, and sometimes they make me cry.
That’s all for today. Happy birthday Steve Harris!
UP THE IRONS!
Stay heavy, y’all.