Bruce Dickinson once described Clive, who died from MS in 2013, as the best drummer Maiden ever had. “That’s not taking anything away from Nicko,” he said in the Run To The Hills biography. “Technically, Nicko’s probably a far more competent drummer than Clive. It’s just that Clive had this incredible feel, and you can’t learn that, and I regret that he wasn’t given more time to try to sort himself out.”
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Yet as Maiden looked to expand their sound and progress, it was just Nicko’s technical ability and octopus-armed improvisational skill that they needed. For many Maiden aficionados the line-up that went into next album Piece Of Mind – bassist and undisputed band leader Steve Harris, foghorn vocalist Bruce Dickinson, psychically linked guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, with new recruit Nicko McBrain on drums – remains the classic Maiden line-up.
The first of the four albums that this quintet would go on to record is also regarded by many as their best.
“For me, Piece Of Mind was the best album we’d done up to then, easily,” said Steve. “And I carried on thinking that right up until the Seventh Son… album. I’m not saying the two albums we did in between weren’t good – but Piece Of Mind was just special. It was Nicko’s first album, we felt like we were on a high and you can hear that mood on the album.”
It opened in a flurry of drums as Where Eagles Dare introduced the band’s newest member. It contained what would become an all-time Maiden standard in The Trooper, but it also had the love-it-or-hate-it melodic sweep of Flight Of Icarus and a taste of the more epic things to come in the seven-and-a-half-minute closer To Tame A Land. The Bruce-penned Revelations provided more fuel for the religious right, who’d railed against The Number Of The Beast and were unable to read between the lyrical lines. But it was the presence of a backwards message on Still Life that really got them frothing.