When you first hear Bruce Dickinson bang out the lyrics for "The Zoo," it sounds like he's doing a pretty damn good impersonation of Klaus Meine himself. But when the chorus of the song kicks in, it's all signature Bruce, and it's blood-curdling great.
The story behind the song is interesting, as Dickinson recorded it for his 1998 solo album The Chemical Wedding, but it never made it on the release. At the time, Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith was a part of Dickinson's band, as was guitarist Roy Z (Halford, Tribe of Gypsies), bassist Eddie Casillas, and drummer David Ingraham (also of Tribe of Gypsies). When it came time to record "The Zoo," everyone but Dickinson and Roy had split, so Roy also played the bass, and gasp the drum sounds were provided by a drum machine. Dickinson even shakes up the lyrics a little, and if this all kind of sounds like it was never supposed to happen, it's not far from the truth. The song would end up on the compilation album ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling: Extreme Music) and is listed as the theme music for wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow (RIP). Which, if you are a fan of wrestling, just made you grin. But Bruce didn't seem either enthused or amused about covering the 1978 Scorpions track.
In a 1998 interview with fringe radio host Seriah Azkath, Dickinson explained how his cover of "The Zoo" came to be while throwing some sly shade at the entire situation. Here's the transcript of Azkath's Scorpions/Dickinson Q & A."
Azkath: Did you do an original song for the ECW album?
Bruce: No. We were asked to do a song, and it was "The Zoo" by the Scorpions.
Azkath: Oh, so you did a cover?
Bruce: Yeah, that's what we were asked to do.
Azkath: Okay, but it's not on your album?
Bruce: No. No cover songs.
Azkath: But you did record that for ECW?
Bruce: We recorded "The Zoo," yeah. It was actually just me and Roy Z because everyone else had gone home.
Azkath: Are you a fan, or did you just get asked to do it by the company?
Bruce: We were asked to do it, but I may have to get in touch with my old mate Thunderstick from Samson cause he's a bodybuilder now. He's pretty built, and he still wears a mask, you know. So I may have to get him in the ring with a few of these guys, cause he could teach them a thing or two, you know?
And SCENE! Dickinson's label at the time was Sanctuary, and they have a very long history with Iron Maiden. But sneaking a not-so-thinly veiled threat about sicking Thunderstick (who used to play drums for Maiden while they were still evolving into Maiden) on some suit-wearing record company jerks is so Bruce. And I love it. Despite Dickinson's lack of enthusiasm for his cover of "The Zoo," it's really fantastic, as are John Z's speedy licks. Check it out below.
Bruce Dickinson's cover of 'The Zoo.'