The following is from Getcha Rocks Off, my new book, just out this week. If you know a bad daddy and want to make him feel good. Show it to him. This bit comes from 1984, about six months after I’d started writing for Kerrang!, and recalls how I came to review Powerslave by Iron Maiden.
I was given the weekend to turn the review around. I knew I’d never get away with playing the record at Maria’s place, so I camped out at the flat of Kerrang!’s in-house designer in Rotherhithe. His name was Steve but everyone called him ‘Krusher’. Another devout follower of the left-hand path, Krusher would become my spiritual guide in all matters metal for the next few years, beginning with this new Maiden album.
‘You can’t just give it a good review,’ he said.
‘What? Why not?’
‘You have to give it a fucking good review.’ He looked at me, his raggedy Jesus-beard rippling.
I gave him the album to put on his record player. He lined it up with the care of a matron handling a newborn baby. Before we could begin, though, we had to prepare properly, he said. ‘We must first anoint ourselves,’ he declared. I looked again. No sign of mirth.
Krusher shuffled off to his bedroom. We were in his Southwark Park council flat, on the seventeenth floor of a tower block he told me the locals referred to as Terror Tower. He was joking, though. Wasn’t he?
He returned clutching several items. One was a jolly green giant bong, another a plastic carrier bag full of weed. Weed was harder to get back then than old-fashioned dope. I was suitably impressed. He told me to ‘load her up’ while he went into the kitchen for something else. He came back with two bottles, one of Old Granddad bourbon, the other of Mescal tequila.
‘First,’ he said, ‘we have to do some of this,’ pointing to the bong. ‘Then some of that,’ nodding towards the bottles. ‘We’ll also need some of this…’
He pulled out a couple of tiny pills from his jeans pocket. ‘Acid,’ he said. ‘Not the weak-as-shit kind. The good stuff.’
‘Wait,’ I said, nervous suddenly. ‘I haven’t done acid for years.’
‘Well, it’s a good time to get back into it, then, isn’t it?’
I looked at him again, wondering. His glowing eyes looked back at me. ‘What’s the matter?’ he said. ‘Afraid to play with the big boys?’
Fuck it. I took one of the pills and washed it down with a glug from the whiskey bottle. He followed me. Then we settled down to smoke the bong.
For the first hour or so we simply sat there stoking up the green giant and pouring the Granddad down our necks. It went down like Lucozade. I had never tasted whiskey so sweet and thirst quenching. Then it was gone and we were on to the Mescal. Krusher showed me the worm floating at the bottom of the bottle. The acid was now kicking in and the worm appeared to wink at me.
‘We share the worm,’ he explained patiently. ‘But to get to it we’ll have to drink the bottle first.’
Seemed reasonable. I ignored the giant worm that was now in the room, writhing on the floor – I wasn’t that easily fooled – and urged him to put the fucking record on.
Finally, at what now felt like some distant point in space and time, he did so. The needle found the groove and the world suddenly tilted on its axis and began to fall away.
HOLY JESUS CHRIST!! SHIT!!!
I reached out to try to stop myself from sliding off the edge of the cliff but it was too late. I was already on my way. The abyss below opened its jaws and swallowed me whole. Me and Krusher both.
The next thing I knew he was standing on the couch holding a tennis racket in his hands, playing it like a guitar. He leaned over towards the lounge windows, the view of London below spectacular.
‘LONDON!’ he screamed. ‘For one night only! We present you! THE NEW IRON MAIDEN ALBUM!’ He began riffing with a vengeance on the tennis racket.
The music was so loud I wondered vaguely where the cops were, who would stop us, how it would end. Then I didn’t care any more and jumped up on the coffee table. I stared down at the minions below, thousands of miles below, and I began to wave my arms and scream too.
‘LONDON! LONDON!! FUCK!!! LONDON!!!!’
What happened after that would only come back to me, in flashes, the next day. We must have done the whole gig then done it again and possibly again. Each time to bigger and bigger crowds. Each time to greater and greater acclaim. Each time falling off a mountain only to land on the backs of giant eagles that whisked us straight back to the top of the mountain. Finally, after about four hours, we sat down and started thinking things through. We looked at the album cover, which was all Egyptian sphinxes and ancient symbols, all now dancing in 3D before our whirring eyes. After that… more and… nothing… and…
It was a turning point for me, in ways that went beyond any trip I’d ever been on. When, late on the Sunday evening, the smoke still trickling from my ears, I sat down to type the review, I made sure what I wrote wasn’t just a good review but, as Krusher had wisely advised, a fucking good review.
It began, ‘We are now flying at 28,000 feet…’
But it wasn’t just the new Iron Maiden album I was reviewing, splendid though that was. It is clear to me now I was writing up my own make-believe future. I knew it even as my shaky hands tapped out the words. The only really good rock writers who had ever written seriously about Iron Maiden had been the snotty cunts on the NME. And all they’d done was take the piss. Obviously. Those were the rules. At the same time, the only writers who had ever given Maiden sincerely great reviews were the kind of well-meaning metal maniacs who wrote for Sounds and now Kerrang!. Genuine fans at heart, all about the music. But what good was that to me?
I would lavish something on Maiden they’d never had before, I decided. Praise from on high. Top-drawer material, not taking the piss, nor fawning at their feet, but something that flew as high as they did when they were tripping out in the studio on those blood-rushing rhythms and gurgling solos. Something that gave them a reason to hold their heads high and take themselves even more seriously.
That’s what I told myself anyway as I sat there drained of blood and spunk, pecking away at the typewriter in Krusher’s tiny council-flat kitchen as he slept on the floor, the album still spinning away in the background, more quietly now but no less haughtily.
I would write my review and they would read it and want to meet me, and that would be it: I would be in with the biggest heavy metal band in the world and so the adventure would begin.
I really did think like that. More ridiculous still, as I found out, they did too.