Former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno served two months of a nine-month sentence for disability fraud this year. British government officials investigated Di’Anno when they learned that he had been collecting disability benefits since 2002, yet could be seen and heard belting Maiden evergreens in recent YouTube videos shot in clubs from Katowice to Lima. Her Majesty doesn’t play that shit, so the cops hauled Di’Anno’s sizable ass off to “gaol.”
Di’Anno—born Paul Andrews—was not Iron Maiden’s first singer, but he was their best. Celtic Frost leader Tom Gabriel Fischer has credited Di’Anno’s singing on the first two Maiden albums as the major influence on his own vocal style, which gave the world the storied “death grunt.” Di’Anno joined Iron Maiden in 1978 and was a large part of the band’s appeal in the days when it first attracted notice. He wore a leather cycle jacket and punkish short hair, and aside from the guitar harmonies, Di’Anno’s pained prole holler was what set Iron Maiden apart on the best early recordings: “Sanctuary,” “Running Free,” “Women in Uniform,” “Strange World,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Iron Maiden,” “Wratchchild,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “Killers.”
In the Iron Maiden documentary The Early Years, English music journalist Malcolm Dome, who seems to have been hard at work on a romance novel set in 19th century Hertfordshire when he spoke to the film crew, claims that Di’Anno “had the charm of a rough-hewn stable boy.” But Di’Anno was modern to a fault, and Maiden kicked him out in 1981 for abusing substances that did not include PCP, STP, MDMA, jenkem, and whippets. His replacement, Samson’s Bruce Dickinson, is a formidable pro of the worst kind, a man whose inexhaustible enthusiasm, stamina, and ambition are tiring even to read about. Dickinson personally flies the band to every gig in Maiden’s 757, Ed Force One. As soon as they land Bruce is clad in one or another of his clown costumes, leaping about on a flimsy stage in some banana republic. Yet again, he delivers a technically masterful two-and-a-half-hour performance that is punctuated by jump-kicks, cries of “Scream for me, [municipality]!” and a powerful reading of “Revelations.” Dickinson’s athleticism and prostate-stimulating chops can only be admired, but decent people find it easier to identify with the paroled fuckup than the invulnerable expert.
Di’Anno says in his 2002 memoir, The Beast, that he did time in US prison in 1991 for “nearly killing a woman” and “being busted for possession of an Uzi and a pile of cocaine by the LAPD.” It’s hard to see why he’d lie about it, but nonetheless, Di’Anno has some credibility issues. “This is all true—I know, because I lived it,” Di’Anno personally guarantees in the blurb on the back cover of The Beast. “That book is bullshit!” Di’Anno declared in a 2010 interview with Guitar International. “It’s an old chapter in my life when I was a lunatic[…] I had a ghost writer who tried to make it sound like it was me talking and I gave him a little too much artistic license. He took things a bit too far.” In other news, Iron Maiden mascot Eddie is now a space alien.
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