Antarctica is often called the loneliest place on earth, but I know lonelier. It’s the studio of a 100-watt college-radio station at 3 a.m. During summer break.
I’m reminded of this because I’ve just come into possession of Live After Death, a new two-DVD set featuring Iron Maiden‘s 1984-85 Powerslave tour in all its spandexed, Aqua Netted, testicle-crushingly high-pitched glory. Between Bruce Dickinson‘s skull-head belt-buckle, Nicko McBrain‘s 500,000-piece drum kit, and the doofy Stonehenge-y stage set, you could successfully convince an uninitiate that the video is lost Spinal Tap footage. But the music’s a hoot. I wish I knew of a way to get hold of the Man With No Clocks, so I could let him know about it.
The Man With No Clocks called me some years ago, back when I was DJing the 2 a.m.-6 a.m. slot at WHPK, the University of Chicago’s radio station. I wasn’t completely alone—I worked with a friend, but we were both aware of how nobody was listening, and we were pretty much free to entertain ourselves. We did live traffic remotes (ha ha, there’s no traffic at 3 a.m.). We attempted to invent the mashup in 1995 by spinning Madonna and Diamanda Galas LPs at the same time. (It doesn’t work). We played that Gear Daddies song about wanting to drive the Zamboni way too many times. All of which is to say that when the request-line phone rang, I looked at it quizzically in my half-awake state, as if a kitten had suddenly appeared on the mixing board. I can’t swear to the accuracy of the quotes that follow, but this is about the shape of it…
The guy sounded baffled. “Uh, hey, what time is it?”
It was around 4 a.m., I think.
“Whoa….whoa. I think all the clocks here broke down or something. What time is it?”
I’d already told him that.
“Oh. Did the power go down?”
Not that I’m aware of.
The man processed this for a moment. Then: “Hey, can you play some Maiden?”
“You’re shitting me!” Awake now. “You guys don’t play Maiden.”
Busted. We sure did love our Sea and Cake over at ‘HPK back then. But I told him he was probably the only guy listening right now, so…
“Awesome. Fucking awesome. Hey, can you play ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’?”
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” on the Live After Death album, is 14 minutes, 6 seconds long. But a promise is a promise.
“Seriously? For real? That would be fucking awesome.”
I hung up. I put on the record.
Fourteen minutes and six seconds later, the phone rings again.
“Fucking awesome, man.”
It was the only phone request I got all summer.
What? You thought that was a lame-ass story? Fine: here’s video of Iron Maiden playing “Powerslave” on the Live After Death tour: