For well over 30 years Bruce Dickinson has been the lead singer for Iron Maiden. Bruce solidified himself as a living legend in the world of Heavy Metal and has sung and co-written some of the most iconic metal songs ever. With that being said, it’s always blown me away how few Maiden fans (and metal fans in general) know of the greatness of Bruce Dickinson as a solo artist.
When Bruce put out his debut solo album Tattooed Millionaire in 1990, I remember Iron Maiden fans being really confused. My friends hated the album but I fucking loved it. I loved it because it didn’t sound like Iron Maiden. It was that voice but with a different style of music and some really cool (and in some cases really bad ie. Zulu Lulu & Lickin’ The Gun) songwriting. After releasing the fantastic Balls to Picasso album, I lost touch with his solo material because I had heard he was heading into an “alternative” sound with the album Skunkworks. Bruce put out three fantastic solo albums after that one that I totally ignored only to be re-introduced to it by a good friend many years later. Suddenly I had found this greatness that was always there only to wonder why so many others didn’t know about them.
Bruce Dickinson has made some of the greatest metal albums around and in my opinion he has a slew of songs that should make Steve Harris very nervous. One of the things I love so much about Bruce’s solo stuff is that he isn’t afraid to get personal and let people in to learn a bit about the man and his life. This is something that we don’t get from Iron Maiden so that alone is a very intriguing and awesome dynamic difference.
It was hard for me to just whittle down this list to 10 songs but right off the top of my head I thought of ten fantastically monumental Bruce Dickinson compositions that I feel should be every bit as classic as any Iron Maiden song. How would you change this list? How would you add to this list? Have you even heard any of these songs before? Well, enjoy this rundown.
Son of a Gun
From Tattooed Millionaire
From Bruce’s debut solo album comes this gem. The brilliance of this song escaped me as a teenager but as a grown man living in America and it’s insanity of gun laws and rights this song really hits a nerve. Bruce was seeing this long before I even knew this would grow to be such an issue in this day and age. What a brilliant song.
Tears of the Dragon
From Balls to Picasso
Without a doubt one of the most amazingly beautiful break up songs of all time. “Where I was, I had wings but couldn’t fly. Where I was, I had tears I couldn’t cry.” My fucking god. As we all know, Bruce loved being in Iron Maiden but Bruce was feeling confined and stifled and needed to spread those wings. What a classic song that never gets old.
Back From the Edge
So when I first heard this album, my first thought was, what a brilliant fucking album. Why was I so scared of this album as a kid? Now it is a very different album and it does have experimental elements to it but its Bruce expressing himself and this song is just absolutely outstanding. Lyrically it’s such a masterpiece and it’s sonically just a really great, melodic song. The hook in this song is brilliant and Bruce’s vocal delivery is out of this world.
The intro to this song just really captured me the first time I heard this and my god when that chorus kicks in I just felt the hairs on my neck stand at full attention. This is just another example of Bruce’s strength as a songwriter and a singer outside of the folds of Iron Maiden. Bruce is not afraid to work outside of the confines of his former box and I love that he just tread into new, uncharted waters with this album.
Accident of Birth
From Accident of Birth
With the previous two albums Bruce took a chance and played with experimenting with other styles of music but with Accident of Birth he just was like, “Fuck it. I wanna do metal.” With his old friend and former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith in the fold, Bruce put out this gem of a song that totally crushes my face every time. This somewhat autobiographical song gives us a glimpse inside of Bruce’s own personal life which is something I loved hearing. What a monstrous song.
Book of Thel
From The Chemical Wedding
The Chemical Wedding to many aficionados of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work is thought to be his masterpiece and the more I listen to this album I totally agree with them. This album came out at the same time Iron Maiden had released “Virtual XI” and let me just say that I would’ve loved to have seen Steve Harris’ face if and when he heard this album. Why? Because at this point Bruce had made a better album than Iron Maiden without him. This song is one of Bruce’s fucking most brilliant moments as both a singer and a songwriter.
Trumpets of Jericho
From The Chemical Wedding
What a juggernaut of a song. Can this album get any fucking heavier? What I love so much about this song is that this is heavier than anything Iron Maiden had (or has) ever done. Bruce really dug deep and low on this song really pushed himself as a singer to work in that lower register that he doesn’t usually work in but then… then… that chorus. That sweet ass fucking chorus is so melodic and his voice just sores. This is one of those songs that I can never get enough of.
From The Chemical Wedding
What I love so much about Bruce’s lyrics is that you really get a glimpse into this man’s life and at times they have you picking them apart and trying to decipher them as if they were a code to a much deeper message. This is the case with “Machine Men.” Is this about his former band mates and his observations of them and the reasoning to why he left the band? The intro sounds like a stab at the kind of generic yet signature Iron Maiden song opening only to go into this chunky riff that is so NOT Iron Maiden. This song alone spawned an in-depth conversation with my best friend picking this song apart. Hell, for all I know it could be about society and absolutely nothing to do with Maiden. Knowing Bruce, I find that unlikely but again, just proof of a great, well written song.
Kill Devil Hill
From Tyranny of Souls
Tyranny of Souls was Bruce’s first solo album after rejoining Iron Maiden in 1999 and his last solo album as well. Released in 2005, Tyranny of Souls is just classic Bruce Dickinson but I love that hearing this album really showed me that Steve Harris really opened up to letting Bruce contribute more since returning to the fold. This particular song also has Bruce singing about his other biggest passion: flying. This song is Bruce’s look to the monumental birth of flight at Kill Devil Hills with the Wright Brothers. This is a truly amazing song that very well could’ve been an Iron Maiden classic for the ages.
Tyranny of Souls
From Tyranny of Souls
What a great way to close out this little post. The title track from Tyranny of Souls is one of those songs that just proves to me that Bruce Dickinson still has plenty of sauce in his reserves to write some top notch material that can rival just about anything he can do with Iron Maiden. At this point in the game, Bruce knows that while he may never have the status level of Iron Maiden, he completely has the ability to write songs every bit as convicting and every bit as strong. He knows what he’s capable of and you can hear it in the following two Iron Maiden albums A Matter of Live and Death and The Final Frontier. Bruce is a force to be reckoned with and I can only hope that we will be graced some more solo output from him in the future.