The early ’90s were a challenging time for Bruce Dickinson.
He’d soared to the top of the music world after joining Iron Maiden in time for 1982’s The Number of the Beast. But after an almost-constant cycle of writing, recording and touring, Dickinson felt like he was in a downward spiral.
If Dickinson hadn’t already decided to quit when he agreed to tie up with Mr. Bean, he must have been close to it. That might explain why a strange collaboration alongside the genius physical comedian Rowan Atkinson’s character ever took place.
Mr. Bean was always a love-it-or-hate-it comedic concept. While many appreciated Atkinson’s famously rubber-faced performances, others struggled to see the funny side and preferred his arguably more accessible outings using the spoken word – as British sitcom icon Blackadder, for instance, or in a 1991 spoof interview with Elton John.
Dickinson, through his desire to find success outside of Iron Maiden, had also been experimenting with comedy. He wrote the dark-farce 1990 novel The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace then the 1992 follow-up The Missionary Position, which shared its theme with Iron Maiden’s 1990 track “Holy Smoke.” His next stab at humor, a cover of Alice Cooper’s “(I Want to Be) Elected” with Mr. Bean in support of the Comic Relief charity, arrived in April 1992.
Listen to Mr. Bean Perform ‘I Want to be Elected’
Mr. Bean had to speak on the track, of course, and the character had only done so on rare occasions before. Atkinson delivered his performance against the backdrop of Dickinson and his group, named the Smear Campaign for this outing. They were actually Taste (later Skin), the backing band Dickinson was working with at the time.
Fans of Dickinson’s “air-raid siren” voice were likely disappointed that he chose to use the lower-pitched, more rasping delivery he’d adopted at the time. The results sounded something like a renegade from 1990’s No Prayer for the Dying, an Iron Maiden LP that doesn’t often settle at the top end of rankings. The B-side of the vinyl contained Dickinson’s straight cover, without Mr. Bean.
As one of two telethon-led U.K. charities dedicated to humanitarian work elsewhere in the world, Comic Relief had a major following. So, the single landed at No. 9 during that year’s British general election. (That’s the reason, of course, this particular song had been chosen.)
“I Want to be Elected” then stayed on the chart for a total of five weeks before falling away further and faster, fortunately, than Dickinson’s own career.
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When ranking Iron Maiden albums, perhaps the most striking thing is that they succeeded despite changing lead singers on three separate occasions.
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