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Iron Maiden: 23 Gigs. 50,000 Miles. Five Continents, In 46 Days

The film Flight 666 shows the inner workings of Iron Maiden’s touring machine, but what makes the six band members tick? In 2009, Classic Rock found out.

For Iron Maiden fans, the Somewhere Back In Time world tour was the motherlode. The stage imagery and the songs were the same ones that have come to define heavy metal: Eddie in all his Egyptian Powerslave glory, Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind... The list goes on: Spitfires, Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall never surrender!’ speech, fluttering Union Jacks, Rolls-Royce engines rumbling over the PA – it’s heavy metal’s finest pageantry on display. Not only was it the biggest tour a rock band had ever undertaken – 50,000 miles, 23 gigs, five continents and all in a heart-stopping 46 days – but the band had leased and converted an Airbus 757 into their very own “magic carpet” so that the logistics of touring on such an ambitious schedule could be achieved. To top that, lead singer Bruce Dickinson could often be found piloting the plane on various different routes between gigs. Sing in a rock band? Easy! Sing on stage then fly the plane to Mumbai, you say? Even better...

But a tour of this size took on a significance all of its own. Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood took seriously an approach by two Canadian filmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen who had recently finished work on their acclaimed indie film A Headbanger’s Journey. Sam and Scot wanted to get under Maiden’s skin to not only provide the band with the ultimate live DVD of their performance, but go one further and find a way of explaining the world of Iron Maiden. The resulting ‘rockumentary’ captured hearts and minds at indie film festivals and on the international stage.

Yet for all the pomp and glory, the on-screen interviews with the band members never quite hit home in a way you might expect, only the ever verbose Dickinson really manages to articulate just what the band had achieved as they found themselves being adopted as national icons. So Classic Rock was determined to find out more about what made Maiden 2009 tick. Remember this was a plane-wielding, stadium-filling, Brit Award-winning, film-making, box office-busting Iron Maiden: the biggest heavy metal band in the world.

Bruce Dickinson is the most complex personality in Maiden to unravel. Just what is he? Singer and frontman certainly, but there was a lot more going on in his life that defined him. For starters, he was a part-time pilot for Astraeus Airlines. When Maiden rested between tours, Bruce did not. Within a day of two of returning he'd again take to the skies as a pilot of a 757 for Astraeus.

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