As a rock n roll historian – I’ve long heard a rumor that Iron Maiden played a one-off gig – in regional Australia – on their 1982 Australian tour. Have you ever heard this story ? What makes this rock n roll rumor more interesting is that the gig supposedly took place at a small local club (as in Bowls or Golf – not the larger RSL/ Leagues/ Workers type places). The thought of Maiden blasting into ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ and ‘Wrathchild’ to an unsuspecting audience – compiled of elderly bingo players and thirsty farmers – has had me captivated for quite some time. I just love these stories. Iron Maiden playing a bowling club in Wagga ? or Albury Country club ? Surely not ! Recently, with some spare time up my sleeve, I decided to finish up this article I commenced a year ago. It’s time to pin the ‘rock n roll detective’ badge to my denim jacket and start researching……
Firstly, this particular gig in question is mentioned by guitarist Dave Murray on ‘The History of Iron Maiden – Part 1: The Early Days’ DVD, when he recalls that 1982 Australian visit:
Dave Murray: ‘We traveled all over the place – and there was one place, it was kind of in the outback, in the middle of nowhere and it was a bit like Bob’s Country Bunker (kind of Blues Brothers sort of thing), not quite the chicken wire but there was a tiny backstage – a little room and then when we went there, there was all these like tables set up, and people were like eating dinner and stuff – and it was like ‘’oh ok, maybe they’re gonna take the tables away y’know later on – and we’ll go on, but no they didn’t, they were there the whole night’ and it was funny like in between songs you’d hear y’know ‘table number 76, your steak’s ready’.
There is also commentary on the documentary from John Jackson (booker) who recalls: ‘I did get a phone call from him (Steve Harris) at 4 in the morning – when he was complaining in his usual emphatic manner about my booking them into what appeared to be a bingo club in the middle of Wagga Wagga, complete with chicken in a basket on the menu and *twin sets in the audience – I can’t take the blame for that because that was Andy Taylor (Maiden’s co-manager) telling me to put extra shows in to keep the money up on their first Australian Tour”.
(*a twinset by the way – is a British term for a matching set of women’s clothes – in particular a cardigan and short-sleeved sweater).
OK, so according to Dave and the booker John Jackson, this added-on gig did in fact occur. But where ?!
First thing to start looking at were the official tour dates – seen here in the tour program:
Take a good look at the dates listed here in the band’s tour program – for the Australian shows in November of 1982. These dates can be cross-referenced and confirmed with newspaper articles, gig ads, live reviews and ticket stubs. There are many inaccurate gig dates listed online, (including the band’s official site) – but it is safe to say that the dates published are the ones performed.
So if we study the itinerary, the only gap dates available for this supposed gig in the Riverina would be Thu 11/Fri 12 November – (on the way to the Adelaide gig), or one week later – Thu 18/Fri 19 November (before the Canberra date). Once I had a possible date for the mystery gig, I needed to cross Wagga Wagga off the list. This is something I achieved after perusing several back-issues of Wagga’s Daily Advertiser newspaper. No luck. I also quizzed many rock n roll friends – some are longtime rock journalists, others have been on the Australian HM scene for many years – and no one had heard of the mighty Iron Maiden tearing it up at Wagga back in 1982.
Wagga was therefore ruled out, yet there were four free dates on the tour itinerary, where an extra gig could’ve been added. It’s possible. But short of getting hold of the booker – or promoter, this elusive and much-rumored 1982 gig in regional Australia, will for now, remain a mystery.
With Wagga ruled out as a possibility, I was beginning to think that the dates/tours were being mixed up. It seems quite possible, that the gig in question was not on the 1982 tour but during the band’s tour three years later – in May of 1985 on their massive World Slavery Tour. Is it possible both Murray and Jackson got the tours mixed up ? It’s possible and I’m taking a guess and stating that this gig at ‘Bob’s Country Bunker’ could’ve taken place at a location such as Lismore – in northern NSW, which seems to make more sense. Let’s look into it:
Here are the tour dates for 1985:
2 May Canberra Civic Theatre
3 May Melbourne Festival Hall
4 May Adelaide Thebarton Town Hall
6 May Wollongong Shellharbour Workers
7 May Sydney Hordern Pavillion
8 May Newcastle Newcastle Workers Club
9 May Lismore Lismore Workers Club
10 May Brisbane – Festival Hall
The tour kicked off on a cold Canberra evening with Boss opening up – vocalist Craig Csongrady shared his memories of those support slots here.
From there, Maiden hit Melbourne’s Festival Hall, a somewhat larger venue than St Kilda’s Palais Theatre (where they’d played two consecutive nights on the previous tour). Just as they’d done on the 1982 visit – the band headed out to the ABC TV’s Ripponlea studio for another appearance on the pop/rock show Countdown (a welcome respite from all the dull music being aired back then: Madonna, Tears For Fears, Models, Dire Straits etc)
After shows in Sydney and Newcastle – the band had a free date before hitting Brisbane’s Festival Hall, so slotting in a show at the Lismore workers club in Northern NSW made sense. Newcastle Workers could’ve also been the location of the ‘Bob’s Country Bunker/bingo hall/twin set’ gig, (and unless we see a complete booking sheet for the 1982 tour) the Lismore show pretty much fits the bill. Case closed – for now. (See update below!)
To summarise, exploring the possibility of Iron Maiden – playing a small venue in regional Australia (at the height of their powers), has given me a lot of enjoyment. Sifting through large amounts of incorrect information online did not, and at times left me wondering if I could indeed ‘play with madness !’. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Fan sites often copy wrong info, so do your research folks. 1982-1985 are important years in Iron Maiden’s history and also in my years as an adolescent, when loud rock n roll ruled my world. It still does. The band would not tour downunder for another seven years, by which time, the HM landscape had changed and Bruce was about to exit. That story another time. Did you see Iron Maiden in Australia in the early 80’s ? Can you shine more light on the supposed ‘regional Australia gig of 1982’, or will it remain a rock n roll rumor? History will show that during this time period, this hardworking and iconic heavy metal outfit toured every part of the planet, and went on to conquer the rock world. Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, no matter how far. Indeed.
= Update 23 October 2019 =
Have received a message from Lismore resident Rod Thistleton – who, at 17 years of age back in 1985 – was all set to see Maiden at the Workers Club, but confimed that the show was cancelled.
Rod: ‘Iron maiden were to play in lismore on their world slavery tour. It got cancelled while they were in australia.. i took one of the posters from the club before it was cancelled. Unfortunatly I have lost it along the line somewhere. i used to show friends and it blew them away that they (Iron Maiden) were going to play here….’
Thanks to John Dokken, Lemmy Wilson, Greta Tate, Joel Whitford, James Anfuso, Rod Thistleton and Murray Engleheart for allowing me to wrack their brains 🙂