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Friday, March 12, 2010

Iron Maiden and Memories of Brighter Days

It's strange how our senses define our perceptions. That seems like a statement of the obvious: senses defining perception, but it's not. I'm saying it's odd how our five senses--sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste--really define the way we think about the world and the choices we make in our lives, the memories we have. We take it for granted all too often, I think. Perception determines reality, but senses determine perception.

Or something like that.

I was driving home from work yesterday, and it was an absolutely beautiful afternoon--sunny, in the 60's, the kind of day where you just put your windows down and drive. Of course, you need driving music to do that. Everyone's got their own definition of "driving music," and for me it's Iron Maiden's seventh studio album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I put it on yesterday without even thinking about it, and suddenly found myself wondering why I always go to that album. It hit me: it stirs a certain feeling in me when I listen to it under the right weather conditions. A feeling in my gut, and of my heart beating just a bit faster in my chest.

A feeling I had back in eighth, ninth and tenth grade when the entire world was at my feet and my whole life was ahead of me.

I don't mean to sound depressive--I'm not saying everything sucks right now. Though I'm not exactly happy with my current state, things could be far, far worse. No, that's not the point. Nor do I mean to approach this in a "grass is greener" way. Things were not all roses back then, either. Indeed, in many ways my tenth grade year was the worst year of my life. I was starting to lose focus in school, lost a lot of friends for no good reason, I could go on and on. But that's a story for another blog.

What I want to talk about is the way that album makes me feel when I listen to it under the right circumstances. There's a reason it's my favorite album. I always, when I put on that album during a nice, spring day, recall a specific incident in my youth, when I was walking through the streets of Mt. Lebanon with Darren Straw and Scott Boyles. The weather was perfect, and we were walking to a used record store called Mook's in Dormont,which is no longer there. Mook's was a great place because they sold imports and *gasp* bootlegs! These days kids don't even know what it's like to walk into a used record store, video store, comic store, whatever, and be able to buy a bootleg. Now they just download that shit. I'm here to tell you, kids: I've done the download thing, and the feeling just ain't the same.

Back then I was a total long-haired metalhead. I had on my denim jacket with Iron Maiden (seventh son, of course) back patch, my hair went down to the middle of my back, and I was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. Can you guess who my favorite band has been since I was about 12? I didn't give two shits what the world thought about me. That last part, at least, hasn't changed a whole lot. I still don't care what people think of me as a general rule.

There was absolutely nothing special about that day. Nothing major happened to make it stand out. There were no life-altering or even really memorable events that took place. It was just another day, after school. Three friends walking to a local record store, then maybe to Subway for food after. I don't even remember if it was spring or early fall--the weather spoke to either or both. Absolutely nothing particularly stand out about it--just a nice spring (or fall) day.

But if you've seen the extended version of Return of the King, you'll recall a specific scene wherein Boromir has just won back Osgiliath for Gondor. He hands Faramir a foaming tankard of ale and says, "Remember today, little brother, for today life is good."

That's the feeling I had that day. The entire world was open to us and rife with possibility. Nothing was out of our grasp, and we didn't really care if it was. It seems when I was a kid I had that feeling a lot, and these days it comes rarer and rarer, as it tends to when you're an adult facing reality every day. Indeed, there are things that happen in stark contrast to that. Darren died in the mid-90's after a 4-wheeler flipped over on him. I have no idea whatever happened to Scotty. We just kind of lost touch after I moved to Canonsburg at the age of 17. He was a good guy, though--hope he's out there and happy somewhere.

But on certain days, when the weather is just right, the breeze just perfect, the sky the right shade of blue, and the proper scent in the air (anyone who has actually taken the time to stop, close their eyes, and pay attention to the world around them knows what I mean), and I put on that album and just go, I get that feeling again. It sweeps me back, a warm and comforting ghost of my past. It's like getting a shot of adrenaline, better than any energy drink because it hits my spirit and mind as well as my body.

And all seems right with the world.

People wonder what it is we see in metal music? Well, that's what Iron Maiden does for me.

How about you? What song, album, image, even smell does it for you? Share!


  1. You know, almost anytime I look at the Holmes D&D book, I get that exact sense.

  2. It's funny, but I get a similar, though not exact, feeling when looking through my 5th print OD&D set, even though before two years ago I never even saw an OD&D set. I started playing with AD&D in 79. But there's a somehow inspiring sense of history there when handling actual (not PDF-made, mind you) copies of those games.

  3. Lately I've been revisitng all my old cassette tapes from the high school and college, because my new used car has a tape deck, and I've been flooded with nostalgia by lots of older myusic I hadn't listened to in years, and it brought back those days more or less as you describe above (although I'm pretty cool with the present too).
    Anyway I was all Black Sabbath, all the time from about 8th to 11th grade, and listening to some of my old tapes brought back those times.

    For driving, my ultimate album used to be King Crimson's Red, but then I got a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania once while that was playing and can't stand to have it on in the car any more :(


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