Monday, August 26, 2013

When Metal Ruled The World!


 By - Stephen Mezo

Back in 1981 I was walking through the music section of the then local BRADLEES and I had seen a familiar name OZZY OSBOURNE on the cover of his album "Blizzard of Ozz". 

I put it on my turntable put on my headphones and lost my mind when I heard "I don't know" for the first time. I already had "Paranoid" and "Masters of Reality" from Black Sabbath from my cousin Louie and just about played them until they were smooth. 
But my eleven year old mind was completely blown by Ozzy's solo album. And it sent me on my quest to find out about all things METAL!!!

It was great having friends that had older brothers that were Metal Heads that thought it was killer that we were all about the metal, and they just about wrote list of what albums we should own. And the place to buy those albums was a small record store in the Airport Plaza in Hazlet New Jersey called "Gary's Now and Then Records". 

Gary was the Grand Master of All Things Metal. I mean he knew all about other styles too, but he knew we needed his guidence. And he made sure we had all of the classics. Everything from Saxon to Judas Priest to Motorhead filled my shelves in my bedroom. 

And then two album covers stuck with me forever... 

One is Quiet Riot's "Metal Health"

And "Jeff Wickedbeard Cochran" made a custom metal mask of it for me years later.

And Just when I thought this was the coolest thing I could ever own in my collection, Professional Mask Maker Ray Charland went and made a mask that I could have only dreamed of owning back in 1982. 

Because this was the first time I had ever seen EDDIE on the cover of Iron Maiden's "KILLERS"!

Ray doing the original sculpt

 And me with my new Eddie mask after all of Ray's work!

If you would have told me back in 1985 (When the intro picture was taken) that I would be married to my wife who broke up with me two years before that picture was taken, and I would own The Metal Health Mask and a Eddie Killers mask I would have said "Stop Drinking The Bong Water". And then if I would have seen it I would have fallen over. 

I've drawn and painted Eddie in his "Killers" pose so many times that I could probably do it with my eyes closed. And it really surprises me now how in the course of two albums he was almost completely lost to me. 

I know how a lot of people think that if you're a fan of a band you're supposed to support them and follow them no matter what.

But if the change is a big one, I tend to part ways with following them. A couple examples would be Motley Crue doing "Theater of Pain", Celtic Frost doing "Cherry Orchards", W.A.S.P. with the "Electric Circus" and Blackie changing from bass to guitar and Judas Priest with "TURBO".

Don't get me wrong I didn't suddenly hate them, it's just they went a direction that I wasn't following and just kept with their earlier recordings. 

Which brings me back to Eddie and Iron Maiden...
The last album I bought from them was "The Number of The Beast"
I liked all of the tracks on it and artist (as well as Eddie's Portrait Creator) Derek Riggs made Eddie bigger than life and Satan himself. I missed hearing Paul Di'Anno's vocals, but Bruce did a damn good job on the album.

But then a year later the band broke my heart.

I walked into Gary's store and he told me that there was a new Maiden album out and pointed to the rack it was in. I ran over just to see this...

What the hell did they do to him?! First of all they shaved his head and then there was the picture of the band getting ready to have Eddie's brain for dinner! And when I heard the tracks from a friend that bought the album I knew my time as newer Maiden fan was over.

I hate to say it but seeing Eddie bald was a big deal to me. I mean here I was fighting with my father to let me grow my hair, and Eddie just lost his. Then I read an article not long after titled "Eddie is dead" (If I remember right) where someone came out wearing the Eddie Piece of Mind Costume and the band attacked Eddie. It said Bruce pulled his brain out (For the last time) and the band pretty much brought down and attacked him on Brazilian TV at their concert. I was devastated...

Then really wasn't happy with "Powerslave" or "Somewhere in Time". I'm all about Mummies, Sci Fi and The Terminator, but I wasn't into the new sound or Arena band that they had become. 
Once again I'm not saying it's bad, it just wasn't for me. 

Then in 1985 "Live After Death" came out and for me it was a little too late. I loved the graphic of Eddie being restored to his former glory, but it was still the Arena style music...

But even through all that "Killers" never lost it's place in my heart and sent me on a quest that took me as far as Hungary to get everything I could of the Di'Anno lineup and sound. 

When I was there I was able to buy singles that were banned in the U.K. and U.S. because of their covers alone. 

There was Sanctuary
Women in uniform

and one of my all time favorite songs 
Running Free

I was so happy bringing these back to the states that you would have thought that I found hand fulls of gold! Now the only thing I needed was a Eddie mask.

And who would have thought it would be so hard to get just the right one?! I had seen them in Iron Maiden videos and photo shoots, but I couldn't get my hands on a decent one. 

The ones I did find were paper thin that would just rot apart with horrible hair (Made in China), mass produced knock offs that were just different enough to avoid infringement for making thousands of them, or the Piece of Mind one's and you know my thoughts on them. 

Phillip Ross Griffith had done a great sculpt with the upper left, but it was out of his hands once the manufactures went cheap on the production...

Then one day Ray Charland decided to make a few as a very limited run for his friends. And now I get to see Eddie in all his glory and smile to myself every day. 

Thank You Ray