Martin Popoff has authored 41 books on hard rock, heavy metal and the like, covering bands such as Rush, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and is now releasing 2 Minutes to Midnight: An Iron Maiden Day-by-Day (Backbeat Books), an innovative form of band biography. As the title implies, it is a day-by-day look at the career of the band.
The first chapter is entitled “Ancient Days”, and includes dates such as “May 26, 1987- Archibald Constable and Company publish Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which inspires Iron Maiden’s instrumental ‘Transylvania,’ from the self-titled debut.” We also learn the birth dates and first musical steps of the band members.
Following that, there is a chapter for each decade from the ‘70s on. There are not only notable events specifically regarding band members and eventually the band itself; there are also events such as releases of albums, books, TV shows, movies that inspired the band or were the source of material for specific songs. And of course there are dates of album releases, specific concert runs, and events such as “September 10, 1981- Paul Di’Anno’s last concert as lead singer for Iron Maiden, at the Odd Fellows Mansion in Copenhagen on the Killers tour.”
Popoff uses very descriptive language in his introductions to each chapter; words that seem to flow from his personal love for the music. One example from the intro the chapter on the ‘80s: “And where does Maiden preside through this heady, heavy metal age? Well, first as a characteristic band from that magical UK phalanx and then as an iconoclast, like Motorhead, like AC/DC, as a band that would never bow to the trending pressures of the age, but keep on keeping on, crafting records using their hard-considered signature sound, and generally having a good time through the entire decade.”
The 1990’s were a notoriously tough time for bands such as Iron Maiden, due to the influx of Seattle grunge and this chapter deals with Bruce Dickinson’s solo career and Blaze Bayley taking the lead singer position in the band. The decade ends with both Adrian Smith and Dickinson rejoining the band, on February 10, 1999. In the 2000’s chapter introduction, Popoff states: “Indeed, the band became positioned as heroic ambassadors of metal unafraid to deliver in person their beloved and hard-headed music to any punter thirsty to slake of metal’s charms, no matter where he may be innocently exiled.” Once again, the author’s enthusiasm and love for the band and the music are clear and refreshing to read, as opposed to a primarily “just the facts, ma’am” form of biography.
There is also a short chapter on the 2010’s, as they have happened so far. The book closes as most rock biographies do; with a selected discography. Each of the studio albums is listed with songwriting credits and length of each song.
There is not a single page that does not include high-quality photos of the band and/or band memorabilia, such as album covers, ticket stubs, and even a press release from the release of their Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album. There are also quotes from band members on nearly every page, many gleaned from interviews conducted by the author himself.
This is a great book to have on-hand when you can’t remember when a specific album came out, or when you wonder what Steve Harris has to say about a specific album or the story behind the cover art. Popoff is more than credible as a rock author with his extensive list of titles and writing credits and has done a stellar job with this book.
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