Tapped to replace Clive Burr in 1982 after touring activities for "Number Of The Beast" concluded, drummer Nicko McBrain brought a degree of finesse and technicality that was largely missing from IRON MAIDEN's early output. Whereas Burr was often lauded for his heavy-handed, punk-oriented style, McBrain was largely the opposite, playing with a degree of dexterity and flair that helped primary songwriter Steve Harris take MAIDEN down more adventurous paths. He is now the third longest-tenured member of MAIDEN, behind Harris and guitarist Dave Murray.
McBrain spent his early drumming years playing for the likes of Pat Travers and French rockers TRUST, eventually falling onto the radar of Harris and MAIDEN during the group's initial European tour.
"My actual association goes back prior to my joining of the band," he told Washington D.C. radio station WTOP. "[In] 1979, they did their very first European date in Belgium. I was playing in a band MCKITTY and we were on the same bill with them. I got to see IRON MAIDEN's very first European show out of England. That was the night when I really got to know the band. That was the beginning, that day we played the show in Belgium with IRON MAIDEN and NAZARETH were the headline band. Steve saw I did an impromptu drum solo and a bass solo, because the guitar player's rig went down. Steve remembered my solo and said it was one of the best solos he'd ever seen, and he's not a solo guy, as you know. You'd very rarely hear Steve do a solo and you don't get a drum solo anymore. But that set me up to be the drummer when Clive started — he wasn't playing too well, and his heart wasn't in it anymore. The first drummer that came to mind was myself. I was in the right place at the right time."
Accounts vary on the reasoning behind Burr's 1982 dismissal. Burr — who passed away in 2013 due to complications from multiple sclerosis — disputed the long-held accounts of his instability due to alcohol abuse. Things unraveled when Burr temporarily left MAIDEN's "Beast On The Road" world tour to attend his father's funeral, with McBrain serving as his fill-in. By the time Burr returned, McBrain was already anointed as his permanent replacement.
"The late Clive Burr was a great mate and a fantastic drummer," he said. "He just lost the heart for it. I took his drum stool. The funny thing is, I was playing in a band in 1980 for a couple of years, a band called TRUST. When I left TRUST to join MAIDEN, and Clive actually went and did an album with TRUST that next year. We kind of swapped drum stools. It's quite a weird story. Not a lot of people know that, and now they do. I went off and I'm the second-longest surviving member of IRON MAIDEN. It's Steve, Dave, then me. Not Bruce [Dickinson, vocals]. Not Adrian [Smith, guitar]. Because both of them had a hiatus from the band. It's been an absolutely incredible, insane wonderful, glorious, biting fingernails, journey. There's never really been bad times with the guys, except when we lost a couple of engines on a very expensive airplane a few years ago. [Laughs]"
MAIDEN's "Legacy Of The Beast" tour kicked off on July 18 in Sunrise, Florida and will hit 33 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Support on the trek comes from THE RAVEN AGE. Additionally, FOZZY will be guests for the Banc Of California Stadium show in Los Angeles.
MAIDEN's 2019 North, South and Central America trek comprises 44 shows in six countries, which, combined with the band's 2018 European dates, means that by the end of this tour, the group will have taken the "Legacy Of The Beast" show to over one and three quarter of a million fans around the globe.