Monday, 17 December 2012

Paul Di'Anno: Running free? Or shackled by circumstance?

In November, former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno, who sang on the band's first two albums, got into a verbal confrontation with a guy in the crowd at a gig he was playing in the Ukraine. 

The chap had apparently shouted out the name of Maiden’s current, and infinitely better-off, front-man Bruce Dickinson. Which, to put it mildly, wound Paul up a bit. He challenged the guy to a fight, making headlines in the likes of Classic Rock after dissing Dickinson and making some homphobic remarks about the “fan”.

But what the news stories didn’t pick up on was a remark Di’Anno made during his tirade. He said: “Yeah, you shouldn’t be offensive, mate; I came up here to work hard. If you don’t like me, fuck off!” (My italics)

I imagine Di’Anno has a harder time dealing with hecklers than some other professional musicians because, to him, rock and roll is now nothing but a job. A grinding, painful slog undertaken solely to stay solvent and alive. One, I think, he no longer enjoys.

For all his faults, and there are many, Paul Di’Anno is one of the hardest working musicians I know of. But for him, performing is quite literally - and necessarily - a full time gig.

Tour dates for March 2013 recently appeared on his Facebook page, and I dare say they’ll make sobering reading for anyone who assumes that Di’Anno must live a pretty cushy life.

Depending on who you ask, he either quit or was sacked from Maiden in 1981. After that, an attempt was made to launch him as a cookie-cutter eighties rocker a la Bruce Springsteen in 1984, which failed miserably. He more or less disappeared from mainstream view in the mid-'80s, and - to make matters worse - signed away his Maiden royalties years ago.  

So consequently he'll be playing four days a week throughout the entire month in venues all over Sweden, Germany and Holland, belting out ancient Iron Maiden hits all the way. And this is the norm for Paul, week after week, month after month, year in, year out these days: playing all over the world, full time, just to keep going and get by.

Money is a pain in the arse, but it’s a central, integral worry in everyone's life. So, while it might seem trite talking about how the guy makes a living, I think that understanding how he keeps himself alive sheds a great deal of light on “where his head’s at". 

He has to work hard for his money, and he does so at fairly significant personal cost.

By his own admission, he’s led a hard life - lots of drink, drugs, fags, fast sex and violence, and he’s probably paying the price at this point. 

I mean, in his autobiography The Beast he admits that he's got a hole in his septum thanks to his cocaine abuse over the years; a quick glance at the Ukraine video reveals that he's a pretty big guy these days, and an acquaintance of mine claiming inside knowledge alleges that Di’Anno can’t stand up under his own power on stage any more, having to rely on a reinforced microphone as a makeshift cane.

He’s done time in the past as the result of a particularly violent episode in Los Angeles involving an ex-wife, and I think it’s fair to assume just isn’t the kind of guy who’s lived a particularly responsible life. Especially not financially.

Which explains why Paul tours so frequently these days. Because, as I say, he doesn’t enjoy it. This video interview is quite enlightening.

In it, Di’Anno complains of not having seen his family for 11 months and expresses a world-weary grumpiness about the tour he was doing when the interview was taped. He’s generally hacked off, and it’s not the first time he’s expressed that sort of sentiment about his hard rockin’ life.

In fact, he wrote a song about it. The centrepiece of his 2006 solo album The Living Dead is a track called Nomad, on which Di’Anno laments his life. 

“I move around the world, seeking peace but finding none/A thousand cries for help but no pity underneath the sun/I have seen a world where nobody gives a damn/Shed your tears of blood children, all join hands to die” is how it kicks off, and it doesn't take too great a leap of imagination to see where that first line - or the nihilism in the rest - comes from.

Plus, the guy was convicted for benefit fraud in March 2011. He served two months of a nine month sentence for claiming £45,000 in incapacity benefit under false pretences. Say what you like about his scallywag nature - benefit fraud strikes me as something only a fairly desperate man would do. 

I mean, he went to prison - and he had to have known he was running the risk when he decided to start carrying out his little scam. Owing to his unstable lifestyle, it's probably fair to assume that he did "need" the money.

Paul copped a lot of flack for his conviction, and deservedly so to a certain extent - not least because the evidence presented in court consisted of videos of his live performances hosted on his own website and YouTube channel.

But he showed up at the hearing on a walking cane, and I think it’s fair to say doesn't look a well man in the photos from the hearing:

These days, Dianno is busting a gut to earn whatever he can from his music - after a lifetime spent in rock bands and institutions, he presumably wouldn't know how to do very much else. 

Look, I’m not saying he’s a saintly figure in need of of pity - I just think people should know the facts. Di’Anno is a fairly unique figure among performing musicians, owing both to his present circumstances and his past legacy, but he’s also, ultimately, just a man. An injured, troubled man with a job to do, and bills to pay. Like you. Unless you’re a woman. Cut him some slack.


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