TV review: Iron Maiden – Behind the Beast

Sam Wollaston gets on Ed Force One with Iron Maiden and their ... airies?

I was once on a flight to Morocco, off on holiday. Taxi-ing for takeoff, there was suddenly a cheer in the cabin from a bunch of denim-wearing, long-haired men. The pilot had just introduced the crew, and himself. He was Captain Bruce Dickinson. The long-haired travellers were being flown to Marrakech by one of their heroes – the singer of Iron Maiden.

It seemed very un-rock'n'roll to be ferrying holidaymakers, on an airline called Astraeus (now defunct), to the sunshine. But I guess a pilot has to keep up his hours somehow.

Dickinson's doing it in more style here in Iron Maiden: Behind the Beast (BBC4), in the cockpit of Ed Force One, Iron Maiden's own Boeing 757.

Actually, a few of the people in the plane look similar to the ones who cheered on my flight. But these aren't fans; this is the band themselves. And the crew – production managers, lighting people, sound people, plus a whole bunch of kit. Not an on-the-road-with-Iron-Maiden documentary, so much as an in-the-air one. Does that make all the crew airies?

We find out about the logistical problems of taking a heavy-metal band on tour by air. There are issues with weight (the metal can't be too heavy) and the size of the equipment: it doesn't fit through the door of the aeroplane. Some stuff has to be hired on location – in Russia, Asia, South America – but they don't always have the right stuff, so things need to be rethought ...

You know what, it's not that interesting. Well, if you're a die-hard Maiden freak, then you're probably in heaven. To the rest of us, it's like watching a programme about air freight, and cabling, and the problems of finding layer scaffolding in Indonesia. With a soundtrack that gives you a headache.

Where's the bad behaviour, the drugs, the groupies? In Jakarta, not only do they fail to throw TVs out of the window, they don't even leave the hotel. Too scared. Plus, one of them needs his sleep because he has to fly the plane the next morning, of course. Rock on!


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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