40 Years Ago, Iron Maiden Unleashed Piece of Mind

Iron Maiden’s 1982 album The Number of the Beast was a massive triumph, as it exceeded its two predecessors critically and commercially — earning them their first No. 1 spot on the UK Albums chart and proving that singer Bruce Dickinson was the ideal replacement for Paul Di’Anno.

The legendary metal act kept the momentum going with their next LP, the exceptionally diverse, challenging, and rewarding Piece of Mind. Released on May 16th, 1983, it elevated their compositional and production prowess amidst introducing a lineup in which all the members still remain in the band to this day.

Forty years later, it still stands as one of Iron Maiden’s best albums and a highlight of classic heavy metal.

Perhaps most significant, the album marked the introduction of ex-Trust drummer Nicko McBrain. In his book Iron Maiden Running Free, Garry Bushell clarified that former stickman Clive Burr cordially “quit just after Christmas [1982]” for “personal reasons” (the group even included a brief message to Burr — “good luck mate” — in Piece of Mind’s liner notes).

According to his 2011 chat with Classic Rock magazine, however, Burr was unexpectedly fired after returning from a trip home to mourn his newly deceased father. Logically, touring substitute McBrain got the permanent seat. “I knew Nicko. He loved the band, loved being part of it all. And the rest of the band liked him,” Burr reflected while refuting rumors that he was sacked due to drug and alcohol abuse.

Indeed, McBrain fit in perfectly. Speaking to Artist Magazine in 1983, bassist/songwriter Steve Harris boasted that McBrain’s “drumming is some of the best rock drumming there is. . . . [He’s] given us a different dimension.” For sure, McBrain’s fluidity and versatility are a big part of the record’s evolution.

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