The Countertop Chronicles

"Run by a gun zealot who's too blinded by the NRA" - Sam Penney of

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Monday Song Lyric - delayed

Last week, John J. Miller had an excellent review of Iron Maiden's masterpiece, Powerslave on National Review Online.

Like John, I was also a Maiden fan as a youth, and while my musical tastes may have drifted away from time to times, my fondness for their powerful music never faltered. As John so deftly states
In the loud and fast genre of heavy metal, Iron Maiden's music is tough to beat. Listening to the band for the first time after many years — I more or less had stopped by 1987 — I hear lots of strong riffs and melodies as well as impressive levels of musicianship. I don't play the guitar, but I've strummed one before and taking in a Maiden solo now makes me tip my hat to the guy who spent a lot of lonely hours perfecting his craft.

For me, however, what always separated Iron Maiden from other heavy-metal bands were the topics of the songs. Despite those silly album covers and names, the group's lyrical interests were downright mature — and several notches above everything else in the genre. If Iron Maiden ever wrote a song about sex, drugs, or rock and roll, I never heard it. The guys were too busy singing about literature and history. Here's a sampling of song titles: "The Flight of Icarus," "Alexander the Great," "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." Not all of their subjects are so transparent. "The Trooper" is Maiden's version of "The Charge of the Light Brigade," the poem by Tennyson. "To Tame a Land" is based on Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune. "Stranger in a Strange Land" isn't based on the Robert Heinlein book, but something else entirely. (Arctic exploration, if you must know.)
I, of course did play guitar and Maiden was a poweful early force. In my one real outing as a musical god, playing before a pack house at the Morristown Beard talent show, my friends and I (well, friend and I, I didn't realy know the other guys) performed Maiden's "The Trooper" (along with Pink Floyd's Run Like Hell and a Stormtroopers of Death song) before a shocked audience of conservative, button down, prep school parents. We didn't go over well, but we had a blast.

While I wish we put on as good of a show as Maiden, the truth is, few will ever match the elaborate stagings and set changes that were the hallmarks of Maiden's powerful shows.

In honor of Maiden and of Powerslave, I present today's Song Lyric.

"Aces High," is about as perfect a heavy-metal tune as there is. It's about the Battle of Britain, told from the perspective of a British pilot. On tour in support of Powerslave two decades ago, Iron Maiden would begin its concerts by playing snippet from Winston Churchill's "Never Surrender" speech — and then launch into this rocker.

You can watch a video of its performance here.

Aces High
Steve Harris

There goes the siren that warns of the air raid
Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak
Out for the scramble we’ve got to get airborne
Got to get up for the coming attack.

Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines
Remove all the wheelblocks there’s no time to waste
Gathering speed as we head down the runway
Gotta get airborne before it’s too late.

Running, scrambling, flying
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live. aces high.

Move in to fire at the mainstream of bombers
Let off a sharp burst and then turn away
Roll over, spin round and come in behind them
Move to their blindsides and firing again.

Bandits at 8 o’clock move in behind us
Ten me-109’s out of the sun
Ascending and turning our spitfires to face them
Heading straight for them I press down my guns

Rolling, turning, diving
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live, aces high.


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