Bruce Dickinson Recalls His Struggle To Mimic Ian Anderson’s Voice
Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson gave an interview to Bravewords during which he remembered the time he struggled while trying to mimic Ian Anderson‘s voice.
Back when he was just 13 years old, Bruce Dickinson went to Oundle, a public school in Northamptonshire. Dickinson started getting interested in hard rock and early heavy metal during his time at Oundle, specifically after hearing some songs being played in students’ rooms. He then bought albums like Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock,’ Black Sabbath’s debut, and Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung.’
So, as those albums introduced him to rock and metal music, Bruce Dickinson’s primary influences were those bands, but he was especially inspired by Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. During his tenure in Iron Maiden, Dickinson had a chance to cover a Jethro Tull song from ‘Aqualung,’ named ‘Cross-Eyed Mary.’
Featured in Jethro Tull’s 1971 album ‘Aqualung,’ ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ is one of the band’s most successful hits. After covering the song, Iron Maiden included it in the 1995 reissue bonus disc of the ‘Peace Of Mind’ album and the single ‘The Trooper’s B-side. Following its release, the cover became a US radio hit.
In an interview with Bravewords, Bruce Dickinson recalled the problems he encountered while recording ‘Cross-Eyed Mary.’ He said Ian Anderson’s voice is a low baritone, and he’s a high tenor, so he struggled to get down to a low baritone or to sing it as a high tenor. According to Dickinson, Anderson said in an interview that he thought Dickinson was in pain while singing the song.
During the conversation, Bruce Dickinson said about ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ the following:
“The crazy thing about that is that a lot of the time, people think that we sit there and we plan things out. Sometimes we do, but sometimes we don’t. And that was one of the songs where we didn’t, because Steve Harris and I are both Jethro Tull fans, and he said, ‘Why don’t we do ‘Cross-Eyed Mary?’ I went, ‘Yeah, why not?’ and didn’t think any more about it.
We didn’t rehearse it or do anything until they went into the studio and did the backing track. Then I went in, and I went, ‘Oh, wow.’ Ian Anderson’s voice is a kind of a low baritone, and I’m a high tenor, so I can’t get down to a low baritone without it sounding a bit weak, but if I want to sing it as a high tenor, I’ve got to sing it a whole octave above where it was. You know, it was just like ‘Let’s find a dominatrix who has wires attached to both of my testicles.’
I did some work with Ian, and it was brilliant. I did two songs with him in Canterbury Cathedral, ‘Revelations’ and ‘Jerusalem.’ So, he was interviewed about it, and he said, ‘Yeah, I was aware that they were big fans of Jethro Tull.’ But he went, ‘I was puzzled when I heard the cover of ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ because it sounds like the singer was in pain,‘ and I went, ‘I was!'”
You can watch the full interview and listen to the Iron Maiden cover of ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ below.