In Microtones, our newsletter-first column. (Photo by Brad McIlwee.)
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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher
Madison-based jazz saxophonist Anders Svanoe has always been pretty up-front about his love for Iron Maiden—a track on his 2016 album State Of The Baritone, “Eddie The Monster,” uses Svanoe’s instrument of choice, the baritone sax, to playfully re-purpose the enduring British metal band’s galloping attack. Svanoe went and saw the band twice on its current U.S. tour and was wearing a Maiden shirt when he introduced the August installment of the Sunday-afternoon music series he organizes at Arts + Literature Laboratory. Naturally we got to talking about it, and Svanoe told me about the experience that turned him from a casual to a devoted fan.
Svanoe was a senior at Waunakee High School in March 1987 when Iron Maiden was touring the States behind its 1986 album Somewhere In Time. The band had made it known through ads in music magazines that they wanted a chance to get some exercise on tour, and invited fans who wanted to play soccer with band and crew members to send in a postcard with their information.
Apparently this is a pretty routine thing Iron Maiden does on the road, even today—bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris is an avid fan and player, and the Toronto Star reported in August about Maiden’s match-up with players from FC Edmonton, with the enviable headline “Hallowed be thy game.”
So back in 1987, the captain of Waunaukee High’s team sent a postcard to band management, inviting Maiden to stop by between shows at Milwaukee’s MECCA Arena and Madison’s Dane County Coliseum. A letter came back from the promoter telling the team to expect a visit. Svanoe wasn’t on the soccer team, but he was getting into metal and prog at the time, and decided to go see what would happen. (He also didn’t get to go to the show that night.)
“It was really sunny, I remember. It was kind of one of those weird days where you could wear shorts,” Svanoe says. “I was there, just why not, to check it out, but I certainly wasn’t a passionate die-hard fan at that point.”
The Waunakee soccer team and other onlookers waited at the high school’s soccer field at the appointed time, but an hour or so passed and it began to seem that Iron Maiden wasn’t going to show.
“We were about to take off and then, lo and behold, this slow-moving tour bus going about two miles per hour at the far end of the field starts creeping towards us, so we’re like, ‘Holy shit, is this gonna happen?'” Svanoe recalls. “The hydraulics lowered the bus, they opened the door, and these guys were already suited up with their striped jerseys, headbands, shinguards, and cleats. [Maiden vocalist] Bruce Dickinson said, ‘Come on man, let’s go!'”
What followed, Svanoe says, was “almost like a backyard soccer game between neighbors,” but the musicians and roadies were serious about the game. “I know our guys played well, but they were kind of getting tossed around a bit,” Svanoe says. He adds that Dickinson actually apologized at the end of the game for “playing dirty,” apparently to make up for not being as good of a player as the rest of the band. The band did give out some tickets and backstage passes and posed for a photo with the players, but otherwise it was more of a workout than a fan meetup, as Svanoe recalls. He still remembers the band and crew being friendly, and it was a thrilling encounter for a high-school kid.
Svanoe and his classmates still have some photos of that day, and a clipping from the local newspaper. There’s also a discussion about it on the Facebook page for MadCity Music, where Svanoe stopped in recently on the hunt for more Maiden records.
“It just seemed bigger than life, because now you’ve got Twitter accounts and Instagram accounts for everybody, and you can see what they’re doing every day,” Svanoe says. But in the ’80s, fans were mostly limited to music magazines and the occasional music video if they wanted to get a glimpse into the life of a major touring band, especially a band like Maiden that, in the way of a lot of metal bands, is both massive and far from a household name as far as most people are concerned. “That was about as close as you got to these musicians.”
New this week:
Arts + Literature Laboratory is planning a major move to a large city-owned space near The Sylvee.
Emily Mills reports on the conflicts that drove workers at the Willy Street Co-op to unionize.
Author Kristen Arnett joins John McCracken for an in-depth conversation on our podcast.
Grant Phipps explores what four vegan activists are doing to make their mark in Dane County.
Scott Gordon catches up with Madison drone duo Woodman/Earhart.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Madison365 explores a new mural at MATC’s South Campus. You can help tune up UW-Madison’s new music facility. “We Are Dead!!” Madison band Glassmen releases a new live recording.
This week’s Madison calendar: Les Filles de Illighadad at the Madison World Music Festival. Experimental filmmaker Larry Gottheim at UW Cinematheque. And more.
Upcoming Tone Madison Events!
September 14 and 15: Half-Stack Sessions and Tone Madison Stage at the 2019 Willy Street Fair, featuring Dash Hounds, Teenage Moods, KASE, and more!
September 20 through 22: Infamous Local Fest at The Winnebago and Communication.
December, date TBD: Tone Madison Best of 2019 Listening Party