"Here's what not to do when a bird shits on you."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge almost certainly never imagined such an introduction to his epic poem The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, yet this is how Bruce Dickinson announced his song of the same name to a Long Beach audience some 187 years later.
It's no secret that literary influences run through Iron Maiden's back catalogue like a golden thread, with songs inspired by Frank Herbert's Dune, Alistair Maclean's Where Eagle's Dare and Huxley's Brave New World. Poetry too, has inspired several of Maiden's most iconic songs.
Written in 1798, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is an epic, both in terms of length and its impact on British poetry. At 635 words, the poem is full of curses, bad luck, seas of corpses and slimy things crawling on legs "upon a slimy sea". Perfect imagery for a metal song, if you ask us.
Coming in at 13 minutes, Iron Maiden's version is almost as long. Steve Harris penned the song, changing the perspective of the original poem from first to third person, but keeping the horror and vision of Coleridge's epic. Two quotes from the original tie the final song together: Bruce sings the first as the Mariner's ship is becalmed, the second in the unsettling middle-section where death takes the crew – leaving only the Mariner alive. It's also worth noting that Maiden's epic version preserves much of the structure from Coleridge's poem, showing this was an informed interpretation rather than just mining a classic piece of British literature for a thematic device.