10 Jul 2008 - Rod's Diary - Twickenham Pt 1

TWICKENHAM STADIUM JULY 5 - part 1

Sorry no diary for a few days but as you can imagine it was insane last week leading up to Twickenham and as I am still buzzing from the incredible atmosphere of this show I am going to skip and cover this first while still fresh then very soon backtrack to Italy, Spain and Paris.

I have sneaked off for a few days with my family for a short break (its my only chance!!) missing the festivals in Portugal and Spain but heading back for Stockholm and what promises to be an equally incredible tour of the Nordic countries.

We flew back from Paris after the show on Wednesday and I stayed in town at Andy's flat to get into the office early on Thursday to go through a myriad of final arrangements for Twickenham and other outstanding issues. The guest list alone was a nightmare of organisational nuances. Every friend the band ever had wanted to be there and we always like to ensure all our guests are looked after well backstage in true Maiden manner. Also you have label, media, suppliers, everyone wants to be there. We ended up with 3 hospitality areas, one for band guests only, one for mine and Andy's plus EMI, media, etc and one for all those we couldn't fit in to the first two. Val, Sharon and Hannah did a terrific job organising all this with Mark Fuller and the Embassy team who did all the catering for us.

On Friday I took my eldest son Tom to the University of East Anglia near Norwich as it looks like being a high choice of where he may wish to study Natural Sciences in a couple of years. They select their choices before taking A levels which he does next year having taken his AS Levels this summer. Whoever in this tawdry government came up with the bright idea of even more exams should be made to sit them every day for 10 years. In my view a total waste of time and an exam too many when kids should be learning, not learning by rote to pass an unnecessary exam. But lets not get into this. Its 4 hours each way by train but well worth it. The campus and the courses were excellent and the open day was very well organised. Tom was pleased and it was great to spend that much time together. It also took my mind off Twickenham though the Blackberry never stopped buzzing, especially with ticket requests .....sorry, a tad late!!!

Now this story, Twickenham story, goes back some way, back to almost a year ago when we were planning the tour. Where were we going to play in the UK on this monumental tour? I wanted to us to do our own show, not a festival this time. We have recently played Donington and Reading/Leeds and it was time to make a statement. But where to make it? Steve fancied Upton Park, home of West Ham, but it's a bit small (about 30,000 for a concert) and a bit out of the way, although we do hope to play there some day before we finish. Wembley is ludicrously expensive for some reason didn't seem to me that special, many people have played there, along with a lot cynically extending their careers at charity shows there. I do accept many weren't cynical and were being altruistic but you could spot the ones after the main chance from a mile away, Embarrassing!. Milton Keynes, no. I rather fancied Hyde Park but there are overly severe sound restrictions and we just couldn't take a chance, though to see the Maiden army in force around central London would have been a joy to behold and I think many fans would agree with me. But sadly not to be.

As will have been obvious to anyone reading these diaries I am a major rugby fan and must have attended seventy or eighty matches at Twickenham and have had debentures for 12 years. The bands who played there these last few years were the elite, the Stones, U2, Eagles (yes I know but credit where it is due) and only a handful of concerts there ever starting about 5 years ago. And, now fully completed, it is a truly magnificent stadium rebuilt largely (at the beginning) by an amateur sport and more or less on budget, unlike some places I could name!! I have had some of my most enjoyable and memorable times (and some of the worst!) times in that stadium. It has a wonderful atmosphere and a great view from all the seats as it sort of goes straight up, not banked, so you are generally closer to the stage than at many other stadiums. And of course we could use the England dressing room!!

But I never thought the local residents would ever allow a Metal band, let alone Maiden, play there as they would be concerned about noise levels and, clichéd as this may seen, our Metal fans. To some extent the suburbs and middle classes still see us as the great unwashed, drunks with a penchant for violence and pissing on the lawns (like rugby fans generally then!!) So when Andy Copping, our Live Nation promoter, and our exceptional agent John Jackson of K2 (and our agent since the very beginning) suggested it I thought they were mad. But it appears times have changed and they had already checked and we would be allowed. For any concert in a residential area, which Twickenham certainly is, you have to get residents permission no matter who you are, so....

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH THE RESIDENTS OF TWICKENHAM!!

What a result. I just could not believe we would be playing there and I just knew it would be fantastic but I immediately started feeling the pressure. This is it, Maiden at Twickenham, combining 2 of my greatest joys. But then "what if..." creeps in to the back of the mind and to be honest stayed there till about 10.15 pm Saturday night. All our team, on and off the road, slaved over every detail to ensure this was a memorable event for band and fans alike. Nothing was too much. Playing "at home" is always tough as you really do want it to be great to show off to friends, family, colleagues and the like, not just the fans, but its only natural I guess.

It is worth briefly mentioning what happened when, in 2001, we applied to play at Earls Court Arena for the first time and the residents were up in arms. ("we are not having this type of person soiling our sidewalks!!") Believe it or not it was the Met Police who eased their worries stating that Maiden and Metal fans were there for the music, not trouble, and in fact behaved like 16,000 long lost friends at concerts, all in it together for the sheer thrill of the experience. Or something like that anyway. We got permission and after we played our fans got great plaudits from the residents and businesses. So after that when we played a couple of nights there in 2006 it was not an issue. In some ways I think these central London shows set the tone for us being able to play Twickenham as you guys had proved to everyone that it is about the music, not the bullshit. In many ways it is our fans attitude at our concerts that made Twickenham possible.

As I said I am on hols -- I have to get out with the kids as it's the only few days I will really get with them for a few weeks so please bear with me as I close for now but will continue tomorrow -- this was such a big deal for us all it may take a while to tell the full story so be patient pls.

- Rod

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