By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
BRUCE DICKINSON – TATTOOED MILLIONAIRE (1990)
The release of the Tattooed Millionaire album came three years before singer Bruce Dickinson would leave Iron Maiden. It all came about after Dickinson had recorded the song “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter” for the soundtrack of the NIghtmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child movie.
However, the Dickinson version of the song was scrapped from appearing on the original release of this album when Iron Maiden planned to record a version of the song for the No Prayer For The Dying album.
But you can’t keep a good idea down and so without that particular song came Tattooed Millionaire. I’ve owned the album for a number of years but it isn’t one that I’ve found myself listening to all that often. And I couldn’t really figure out why until I played the tape for this article. It’s not like there aren’t a lot of great songs that make appearances on live recordings and compilations. So I was stumped.
But once I played the album, I kind of figured out what the reason might be. You see, while Charles Dickens wrote A Tale Of Two Cities, Tattooed Millionaire is a tale of two sides…of the album.
Before I get into that however, the rather amusing fact I’d forgotten about was that guitarist Janick Gers played the guitars on Tattooed Millionaire. You’d think I’d have remembered that since Gers went on to join Iron Maiden and has been with them for decades at this point. But nope, I totally wiped that from my memory. He co-wrote all but two of the songs for the original album as well.
Getting back to the album, Side One is an absolute humdinger! You’ve got the opening track “Son Of A Gun” which starts out a bit slow during the intro but then breaks out into a killer sounding rock track.
And that’s not a mis-stating of musical styles by the way. This album was clearly intended to be more of a hard rock sound to differentiate the music from what Dickinson was doing with Iron Maiden.
The album’s title track remains to this day a full-on powerhouse. You’ve got the requisite power driven rock soundtrack but with a nice twist of melody mixed in. And then you add in Bruce’s vocals track which finds him practically spitting out the venom-laced lyrics. If this song didn’t get you pumped up back then, you just didn’t have a pulse.
There are many songs that I absolutely adore from Dickinson’s solo catalog, but one of the very finest examples of his songwriting comes in the form of “Born In ’58”. It’s a nostalgic look back at growing up surrounded by the people who taught you, as Bruce sings in the song, “Old fashioned stuff like wrong and right”. I love the entirety of the song lyrics for this track and as the music alternates between a midtempo beat and a more uptempo rocking style, this song is just perfect.
It’s the ripping and raw vocal delivery from Dickinson that powers “Hell On Wheels” through its pedal flat on the floor soundtrack. The song “Gyspsy Road” closes out Side One and while it does a pretty solid job at rocking out, there’s a slightly softer touch at times as well.
So the first side of the album is really great in my estimation. But when I flipped it over to Side Two, I found myself a little less enchanted with the material.
I thought “Dive! Dive! Dive!” had a lot of fun with its very tongue-in-cheek lyrics while walloping listeners with a hard driving musical rhythm. And though I don’t hate Dickinson’s cover of the Mott The Hoople song “All The Young Dudes”, I found I didn’t quite like it as much as I once did. I don’t know why I felt that way listening to the album now but it just didn’t hit home with me like when I first heard the song. Because of that change of heart, I kind of just wanted the song to be over.
But for whatever reason, despite each of the songs being hard rocking tracks, I just didn’t really get into the last three songs on the Tattooed Millionaire all that much. While “Lickin’ The Gun” does have an interesting delivery from Dickinson when singing the song title, I just couldn’t find my way to being more appreciative of the track.
Meanwhile, “Zulu Lulu” felt like a track that should’ve been left in the vaults. As I listened to it, it was almost like it was trying to be a funny song without actually including anything that would’ve brought a chuckle from me. The album closed out with “No Lies”, which just kind of laid there flat while I kept waiting for it develop into something more.
In 1990, Bruce Dickinson was already a global musical star so it’s not like anything I say in the here and now is going to damage his standing. And believe me, I think the first side of the album is proof positive that he was being highly creative at the time. But glancing back now, the second side of Tattooed Millionaire showed that even someone as great as Dickinson had room to grow.
NOTES OF INTEREST: After Tattooed Millionaire, Bruce Dickinson has released five more solo studio albums. The last one, Tyranny Of Souls, came out after he’d rejoined Iron Maiden. It was my favorite album of 2005.
The Tattooed Millionaire album has been reissued twice. The first one came in 2002 with five bonus tracks. An expanded edition was released in 2005 with a second disc that had eleven tracks on it.