Name acts didn’t put out singles in January. Whether this wisdom was cause or effect of the month’s traditionally low record sales I’m not sure. But the start of the year was a time for rewarding the stoicism of singles that had hung around unfestively through December and hit the top as the tinsel tide receded. Either that, or it was a moment for complete flukes. What Iron Maiden realised was that flukes could be engineered: a canny Christmas Eve release date and a well-informed fanbase could almost guarantee a number one. Within a few years – helped by first-week discounting, alternate CDs, and all the other tricks in the 90s chart-manipulator’s bag – this would become the norm every week of every month. In 1991, it was still a delightful shock.
Or at least that’s how I remember it. Looking at the list of Maiden hits, though, it seems obvious that their audience had firmed up while the rest of pop weakened – this was their sixth top ten single in three years, well-marketed for sure but not really a freak occurrence. Of course it suited the band to play to the gallery a bit – framing this triumph not as a just reward after a string of hits, but as a cheeky goblin raid on pop propriety. Fittingly the song is the band at their most pantomime, from that comic ellipsis on down. Bruce Dickinson hams his verses up with hoarse, cackling relish before launching into that villainous flourish of a chorus, and the rest of the group attack the song with similar gusto. If anything, they’re enjoying themselves a little too much, with all the soloing and menacing build-ups stretching the track a tiny bit thin.
But perhaps I’m only judging this from a pop perspective. I have no ear for metal at all – of the major styles of pop music it’s the one I feel least affinity with. This isn’t dislike exactly – I like a bunch of metal tracks, though perhaps not often for their metallic elements. But I’ve never learned to discriminate, to get a handle on what makes one solo good and another bad, puts one group in the pantheon and another in the bargain bin, or marks the viciously contested boundaries between metal and everything else. So I’m at a loss to assess “Bring Your Daughter” on any terms other than an aggressive, theatrical rock track with a joyful heart beating beneath its Freddy gloves and zombified flesh. And as one of those, it works really rather well.