A million years ago back in The Old Metal Days I was penpals with a Metalhead in St. Louis named Trace Rayfield. Besides the usual penpal activities such as tape trading, Trace also contributed to my fanzine Whiplash. Of course, Iron Maiden was one of the bands that Trace and I bonded over. So sit back and enjoy Trace's memories of his adventures following Maiden around the Midwest back in those ancient times!
THE BEAST ON THE ROAD
ADVENTURES WITH MAIDEN FROM KILLERS TO THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
Iron Maiden was one of the first NWOBHM bands that I heard back in the dawn of a new era of 1980. With all the buzz coming from across the Atlantic about Maiden's live performances it was only our true Metalhead duty to witness the band in person ourselves! So it began.
My buddies Wade Brooks, Tim Peplaw, Will and myself all piled into Wade's car for a road trip to Memphis (300 miles from our hometown of St. Louis) to catch the band on their debut tour of the States opening for Judas Priest. The date was July 12, 1981. Now by this time I’d seen Priest 6 times since ’77 so this trip was all about the new British Invasion that was about to take place.
It was a typical Memphis July day; about 107 degrees and humid. We had a tip on where the band was staying but with little time to spare before showtime we headed right to the Dixon-Myers Hall Auditorium because Maiden was kicking off the show before Whitesnake finished warming up the crowd for Priest. It’s fair to say that most in the crowd had no idea who the openers were but it took little convincing them that they were witnessing something special. Of course we did not know this would be our only opportunity to see this incarnation of Maiden; Paul Di’Anno was ousted a short time later. We expected Maiden to deliver the goods and they did! Galloping through a nice blend of tracks from their first two classic albums, they left the audience begging for more instead of wanting the David Coverdale show that they had to sit through next before Priest.
After the conclusion of Priest's 'Living After Midnight / Tyrant' encore, we proceeded to make our way to Maiden's hotel bar, where of course we found all of Maiden tasting the local brews and wondering why we served it so cold! We met and got our coveted autographs and photos from the entire band while engaging in small talk with whatever band member would listen. They could tell by our patch and badge covered denim jackets that we were serious about our addiction to Metal. Most of the band were soft spoken and shy with the exception of the gregarious leader of the pack Steve Harris.
We were the only fans in the bar so Steve joined our table to discuss all things Metal. We asked his opinion on some of the up and coming NWOBHM bands as well as the vets like Priest, Sabbath, and UFO. You could tell that there was something going on with Paul because he wasn’t really socializing with the rest of the band. We had no idea that Steve was already thinking about replacing the vocalist. At one point we even asked Steve if Paul was doing coke and he snapped “He better not be!!" After a couple more beers, each band member drifted back to their rooms with Steve being the last to go (lucky for us!).
The arrival of 1982 would become the year of Iron Maiden for my good friend Wade Brooks and I. We would end up seeing the band 6 times with new vocalist Bruce Dickinson as they supported arguably their finest LP, The Number of the Beast. Although Bruce’s vocals introduced a new level of melody to the group, the dual guitar attack continued to shred our sensibilities as the rhythm section pummeled our insides. We had no intention of waiting for any local concert announcements while the band had already started touring the States. There was only one thing for us to do: ROAD TRIP!!
We had already planned a 2 day trip to see Motörhead on their Iron Fist tour dates in Detroit and Chicago on May 21st and 22nd. However, after finding out that Maiden had a show in Cincinnati the day before on May 20th, it only made sense for a 3-day, mega Metal excursion! As it turned out, this first show of the year for us was the best opportunity that we would have to spend time with the Maiden gang.
We had a knack for finding out the band hotels that would have made most groupies envious. Once we confirmed the band's location, we then checked into the rather unimpressive “motel” in Cincy. It was the type of motel where you parked right outside your room, with all rooms accessible from the parking lot. This trip also included Wade’s girlfriend Polly as well as our good friend Eric Brummett (aka “Natas”). Natas was an aspiring artist (he did some early Shrapnel Records LP covers) and also a Metal bassist. After settling into our room and with our cooler of beer in place, we set off to search for any signs of our Metal heroes.
Not long into our search we find our buddy from Memphis, Steve Harris! After introducing the new members of our entourage and snapping a few pix, we were instructed to meet at the bar across the street after the show for more autographs and alcohol consumption. Since this was our second time meeting Steve, his understanding of our devotion to travel hundreds of miles to see his band made it much easier to ask him if he could put us on the guest list. We had also met manager, and sixth member of the band, Rod Smallwood back in Memphis. This would turn out to be an asset along the way because nothing happens with Maiden without his knowledge or approval.
Backstage at the Cincinnati Gardens had a strange ambiance with security being tighter than we were used to back then. After asking some local groupies what all the fuss was about they reminded us that things were never the same here after The Who concert back in December of ’79 when 11 people were killed in a pre-concert stampede. They warned us that if you even lit a cigarette in the building you would be tossed out on your ass. Besides all of that, the lineup for this tour had us on edge, with the Dio-less Rainbow co-headlining with southern boogie band .38 Special! We were thinking about just watching Maiden and then getting out of there, but we did stick around to see some of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar antics. Unfortunately the band was a shell of itself without Dio.
This was our first opportunity to see the “new” Iron Maiden and what a new level of energy Bruce brought to the stage! He whipped the crowd into a frenzy that D'anno could of only have dreamed of doing. Steve Harris had a look on his face like he knew he made the right decision when replacing his previous singer with the more energetic ex-Samson vocalist.
After the show as promised we were able to meet up with some of Maiden back at the local bar. One memory from this encounter was Adrian having trouble getting served alcohol. He had to go back to his room to get his passport if my memory serves me! It’s funny to realize how Maiden were still very young back in ‘82. More autographs were collected with our new LP and 12” EP’s purchased since our last meeting. We even brought our Samson albums for Bruce to autograph, although there was no sign of Bruce in the bar yet. Here's one of the only photos from that night:
It was taken outside of the band's Cincinnati hotel. That's Steve Harris second from the right with Polly (Wade's girlfriend), myself, and our buddy Natas (aka Eric).
We made our way back to our room instead of drinking in the bar since our cooler of beer was already paid for and put on a tape of some NWOBHM on Wade’s shitty little tape player. We then proceeded to dig into the cooler. It was a warm spring night in Cincinnati so we left our door open as we began our After Party - Part 2. We hadn’t really thought that a stray band member might hear our music and stumble by to see where the familiar sounds were coming from. You can imagine the look on our faces when Bruce Dickinson poked his head into the door to check out the party!
After seeing our stocked cooler of beer and stack of albums to be autographed, he felt right at home. We were pretty pumped to have Bruce right there in our room, all to ourselves. The look of surprise when we whipped out our Sampson LP’s to get signed spoke volumes. He knew we were not novice fans and he seemed to enjoy the company (and brew). Bruce hung out and listened to tunes and drank beer with his new found friends for close to 2 hours. We really lucked out this night as Bruce was in a talkative mood and was so cool hanging out with us and we took advantage of the opportunity to get to know the new guy in the band. It was a great way to end our first trip to Cincinnati and then we were off to Detroit in the morning for our next adventures with Motörhead.
Later that year in July we planned another monster metal road trip to see more Maiden. By now, the band had moved up the bill and was sandwiched between Scorpions and another NWOBHM favorite of our's Girlschool. This leg of the tour hit Chicago and then moved 100 miles across the border into Wisconsin to play the Alpine Valley ski resort/amphitheater (made famous for ending Stevie Ray Vaughn’s life as his helicopter flew into the side of a ski hill in a bank of fog after a show 8 years later). Not to compare to Stevie’s misfortune but we also had a bunch of bad luck on this trip.
We would start off in Chicago at the Chicago Circle Pavilion (later Rosemont Horizon and now Allstate Arena) on a Friday night and drove up to Alpine Valley for a Saturday night show featuring another of our NWOBHM faves Saxon opening for Krokus and headliners Cheap Trick with a 4th of July spectacular repeating the Friday night Scorps / Maiden show.
This trip saw our buddy Natas left behind as we recruited friends Ken Dallas (Scorch) and Bob Monko for this adventure. Now, the interesting thing about our travel companions on this trip was that Scorch was on leave from the Navy and was due to report back that weekend. In other words, he went AWOL to go on this metal rendezvous! Not the smartest thing to do, but a testament to his dedication to the music that we all loved!
Things were dicey from the beginning with Polly’s brother Mike traveling down from Wisconsin to meet us for the show. This made 6 in our entourage, which was a tall order for any guest list-seekers. It was a struggle and most of us ended up buying tickets at the last minute causing us to miss a couple of Girlschool's songs. The rest of the show was a blast and was by far the biggest Maiden set we had witnessed thus far. More sound, lights, and stage props including much more Eddie, which the fans really ate up. The Scorpions left the crowd drained after a blistering set.
As we left the venue a light rain began to fall, which was an ominous sign of things to come. Wade made the decision that Bob and I should join Polly’s brother in his car for the trip to Alpine Valley. I was not really pleased by this but it was Wade’s car after all. Then when I saw the dude's beater of a car, I knew our fate had been sealed. Well, we decided to the make the most of it as we popped some beers and agreed to follow Wade to the Wisconsin venue. Of course, we had no map and only vague travel instructions but it’s okay, we will simply follow Wade. Anyone reading this who has been to Alpine Valley knows that it’s a bitch to find on a sunny afternoon (do you see where I’m going with this?). By now I’m comatose, as we’ve been drinking for several hours and was just looking forward to catching a few Z’s on the ride. There is a series of tollbooths between Chicago and Wisconsin along the toll way for those of you unfamiliar with the area. All of a sudden I was awakened by a large "bang" and as I looked out my passenger side window I was blinded by a police officer’s flashlight! I think he hit the side of the car with the flashlight to get the driver’s attention. “Pull over there-and everybody get out!!” the officer roared. Meanwhile, Wade and crew in the lead car had pulled over and waited on the shoulder of the highway after realizing they had lost us. The were oblivious to the predicament we found ourselves in back at the rainy toll crossing.
Meanwhile, I did what any half conscious underage punk would do: I rolled my half full beer under the seat creating a Busch beer river. Oops! That was not a great idea as the cop pointed out. We all piled out of the car on the side of the Illinois toll way as the rain intensity picked up.
"Where you boys headed??" asked cop.
(Of course, I’m now the spokesman since my partners in crime are having a hard time putting a sentence together.)
"Alpine Valley.." I confidently replied.
"Well you might not being going anywhere tonight, son. And you might be spending the night in the shit house if you don’t have bail money." the cop responded with as he stared me down.
My confidence took a hit in the nuts right about that time. Open container appeared to be the infraction at hand until the officer discovered none of us were 21 years old! Also, understand that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the Midwest. I was 2 months shy of my 21st birthday and the oldest in the car, so I would take the hit. The cop told me $50 was the fine and I should expect to receive a summons to appear in court later. I gave the cop the cash and off we went but with no paperwork in hand! I guess we actually had been lucky but I didn’t feel lucky as we realized we had lost Wade in the lead car in the rainy night.
It wasn’t until we exited the highway in Wisconsin did I realize our chariot's real deficiencies: poor headlights and bad wipers. And we had no directions to Alpine Valley! I knew what exit to take and that was about it. I had hoped that our driver Mike, being a Wisconsin native, would help us but he was from upstate and unfamiliar with this area. We stopped for directions at a couple of shit-kicker bars and the only other store we could find open, but it seemed like an eternity before we found the large gated entrance to Alpine Valley. Thank God!
We found our hotel and I couldn’t wait to hit that pillow. Thrilled to enter the lobby, we made our way to the check-in counter looking like we just swam from Chicago. "I need the room number for Wade Brooks.. Please!!" I demanded. Tired, wet, somewhere between drunk and hungover I was in no mood for anymore drama. "Well sir, we can’t give you another guest’s room number but we can call them for you." We got very suspicious looks from behind the counter as they were expecting a crazy weekend of sold out concerts and they knew what kind of people these shows drew into this quiet part of the country.
Wade finally answered the phone half asleep and warned us that we can’t come to the room because the front desk already knows they’ve already got a full room! He told us to go around the side of the hotel and he'd sneak us in that way. I listened to this and tried not to use any foul language as I digested what Wade was trying to say. At the same time I was trying to keep a poker face as the curious stares continued from the lovely staff.
I’ve been in better moods as we began to trudge through the rivers of rain water and mud making our way to the hotel's side entrances. Of course, it took 3 attempts before we found a familiar face ready to let us in. At last, I had a pillow to help relieve the pain! However, it might have been 5 minutes before we were startled by a banging at the door. "SECURITY!!" someone yells from the other side. The door opened, lights went on, bodies were everywhere. Quite a scene I’m sure. "Four guests is the maximum for this room!", the muscle headed security declared. Two volunteers left the room to go hide out for awhile, but I wasn’t going anywhere. They would have had to drag my ass away from that pillow! Unfortunately, we were now on the hotel security's radar for the rest of the weekend.
The rain finally stopped and the sun rose in the morning to end the nightmare experience of the hell ride from Chicago. I told the others about our journey as I explained how an Illinois police officer now had my share of hotel money. Oops. However, we could now relax and enjoy 2 nights of headbangin’ music and not have to leave the premises as the hotel was on the same grounds as the venue.
We met up with our mates from Saxon who still remembered us from our party with them back in St. Louis earlier that year. Guitarist Graham Oliver invited us back to his room to hang out for a while during the afternoon. One of the highlights of the weekend was driving around the beautiful resort while playing Graham the new Judas Priest album Screaming For Vengeance on Wade’s car stereo. Graham is one of the coolest guys in the business and hung out with us for the duration of the album.
PAUSE STORY: While I was in the middle of writing this story, Wade made contact with Graham Oliver on Facebook. He remembers this weekend vividly and recalled we slid a note under his hotel room door with our room number so that we could make contact. AWESOME!!
Saxon went on to steal the show that night although Krokus was always entertaining as well. A full day of no drama and we actually got some sleep, which would come in handy later as you will see.
The next day turned out to be one of the most special shows that we would see Maiden perform that year. Being the 4th of July, plus this was the only outdoor venue we would see the band at on this tour, made this show unique. Ironically, we were celebrating our independence from the British tyrants while being entertained by 2 new British bands in Girlschool and Iron Maiden! Great atmosphere, great lineup once again, and Maiden was on top of their game for this show. I'm sure that any Cheeseheads in attendance who didn't know about Maiden already probably visited their local record stores after this show! The Scorpions again closed the show with a bang as the exhausted Metal throng filed out into the Wisconsin night. Great day, killer show, what could possibly go wrong now (I told you to stay tuned)?!
We got back to our overflowing room for one last party before hitting the road home the next morning. We just needed no drama and a few hours of shut-eye to cap off the weekend of madness.
For any non-believers of the next part of this story, the events were actually documented in an interview with the musician in question some years later in an international publication.
It wasn’t unusual to hear people running up and down the hallways during the night but what really annoyed us was when we heard people running on the roof of the hotel. We were getting pretty wasted by now and in fact were near the end of our party. After awhile we opened our sliding balcony door to see if we could figure out what buffoon would be stupid enough to be climbing on the roof of the hotel.
As we opened the balcony door we saw a white leather boot coming over the edge feeling for the balcony rail to balance himself before jumping onto our balcony! As we begin to reprimand this idiot, we were shocked when we realized it was none other than Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions! Rudolf had a crazed look on his face like he had just seen a UFO (pun intended). As we attempted to compose ourselves, we realized that we had one of the biggest Rock Stars of the weekend in our room.
However, before we could say anything, Rudolf bolted for the door and simultaneously we heard a bang at the door just as Rudolf attempted to make his getaway. Rudy opened the door and darted past the suits in the hallway just as they yelled “SECURITY!! EVERYBODY OUT!!" Oh no, not again! It was the same Security Guard who we had encountered on our first night and he was pissed off this time. Of course, they assumed we were the ones climbing on the roof as they had gotten several complaints from the adjacent rooms.
We attempted to reason and explain that it was a drunken, crazed, German guitarist and not us that was at fault. I wouldn’t have believed us either. By then it didn’t matter anyway, we were toast. We actually found another member of the Scorpions entourage who returned Rudy to the scene of the crime, but by now the Pope couldn’t have saved us. The next couple of hours were really ugly as we threw our stuff together and argued with the hotel front desk staff as we declared our innocence. Wade did most of the arguing since the rest of us retreated to the lobby attempting to ease the pain. This was not something you want to experience just as you are preparing to hit the sack after a long day of Metal and alcohol. Wade even remembers a futile attempt by us to crash in Iron Maiden's tour bus but manager Rod Smallwood would have none of it (can you blame him). "This is how this weekend is gonna end?!" I asked myself.
We finally ended up in our cars in the parking lot waiting for the sun to rise and tried to get some sleep in the July heat. We bid farewell to Polly’s brother (and his piece of shit car) and the remaining 5 of us piled into Wade’s Plymouth for the uncomfortable 7 hour ride home. Oh, there was one last task: We had to drop off Scorch at the Naval base in Chicago so that he could turn himself in after going AWOL for the weekend. I still remember the look on the military guards’ faces as this motley crew pulled up and an exhausted Scorch peeled himself out of the car to accept his punishment.
We would go on to see the great Iron Maiden three more times that summer. The same Scorpions bill later that month in St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois (I could never look at Rudolf Schenker the same after the Alpine Valley escapade). Once more in September in St. Louis opening for Judas Priest rounded out an incredible tour that we will remember forever.
"I left alone, my mind was blank. I needed time to get the memories from my mind..."