What–ho said a ting! We here at Adrenochrome Music would like start today’s post by pointing out and revering just how much of a legend Nicko McBrain is.
Real name Michael Henry McBrain, he was born on June 5, 1952 in Hackney. His stage name ‘Nicko’ has roots in his childhood, where his favourite stuffed animal was named ‘Nicholas the bear’. He apparently carried the bear around so much his parents also called him ‘Nicky’. Years later, when Michael was meeting a manager from CBS Records with the keyboard player Billy Day, Billy introduced him as ‘My Italian drummer – His name’s “Nicko”’. Reminding him as it did of his childhood, Michael liked the moniker and decided to use it as a stage name.
McBrain has stated on recordings for the Paiste website while promoting his signature drum sticks, that he first wanted to learn drums at a young age after watching a performance of Joe Morello, which immediately led him to play drums with kitchen utensils and pots, to the dislike of his father. He then got his first drumkit and started taking drum lessons from John Ghanem. After studying engineering at City & Guilds (which his father had wanted him to complete), he was able to pursue drumming at a professional level.
In the 1970s, he appeared on some Pat Travers albums, and also played for Streetwalkers from 1975 to 1976; he also appeared in the band McKitty in the early 1980s. It was during a McKitty gig in Belgium that he first met Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris. He joined Iron Maiden in 1983 for the Piece of Mind album, replacing Clive Burr, after his previous band Trust had supported Iron Maiden on the road during 1982. He has been with Iron Maiden ever since. He uses Premier drums and Paiste cymbals, switching from Sonor drums in the late 1990s having used them for many years.
He has been cited as a major influence of many modern drummers over a wide range of styles, and often holds drum clinics for fans and would-be drummers alike. Strangely, unlike most heavy metal drummers, McBrain has refused to use a double bass drum pedal, since he considers it to be “too complicated”, and “un-drummerish”. Instead, he has developed an incredibly fast technique on the single bass drum pedal, following Steve Harris’ gallops with no problem whatsoever. The first (and last) song Nicko recorded using a double bass drum was “Face in the Sand,” on the Dance of Death album, 2003. He subsequently announced that it had been one of the hardest things he had ever had to play and that, for that reason, the number would not be included in the set list of the Dance of Death World Tour. On this album Nicko McBrain also contributed, for the first time in Iron Maiden history, to the songwriting, writing the bass line for the song “New Frontier.”
Also famous for several appearances on ‘The Sooty And Sweep Show’, a trademark of Nicko’s drum clinics is an introduction by sooty himself. Outside of Iron Maiden, Nicko is a keen golfer and continues to play live during Maiden downtime both in his drum clinics and his McBrain Damage band, and also currently manages the New York metal quartet Voices of Extreme (or V.O.X).
But back to the point:
Having been around for 10 years Maiden released a box set sensibly titled ‘The First Ten Years’, a series of 10 CDs and double 12″ singles released between February 24 and April 28 1990, with each part in the series including a special voucher, all ten of which could be exchanged by mail order for a limited edition storage box. They also released ‘The First Ten Years: The Videos’ on VHS videotape and laserdisc, containing all 16 promotional music videos which the band had made up to that point.
Each CD/double 12″ contained two singles, complete with original B-sides and artwork, as well as an edition of “Listen With Nicko”, or as he often describes it ‘Not A Lot Of People Know That..’, a spoken-word track in which drummer Nicko McBrain would recount the history behind each song specific to that release, interspersed by a great deal of amusing rambling.
A collector sets go, this particular one has to be up there amongst the best. Not only does it either give a crash course in or a fantastic summary of early Maiden, of which many tunes are still played today, most notably ‘Running Free’, the first single rarely left out of a show even now, but also provides a huge amount of fanboy–tastic info presented in an easily listenable and massively entertaining patter of the hilarious man that is Nicko McBrain.
Any Maiden fan who’s not had a listen, hurry up! Pt. 1 below, you lucky lot! And those who have, too ‘king bad eh? Listen to it again!