Q There’s a rumor floating around the University of Chicago that a professor of ancient history and archeology once played guitar in Iron Maiden. Is this true?
A In Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice (AltaMira Press, 2006) comes the following clue: “Ian Morris, a professor at Stanford University, had in 1979 auditioned for the heavy-metal rock group Iron Maiden.” Further digging reveals Morris taught at U. of C. from 1987 to ’95. Contacted at Stanford, Morris confirms the legend. “I was a student back in 1979 and played lead guitar with several bands in and around Birmingham, England,” he says. “[Iron Maiden was] looking for a new guitarist, so I sent in a demo.” At one point Morris thought Maiden was going to ask him to join, but the band chose Dennis Stratton, who shredded on the group’s debut album and was soon sacked. Instead, Morris got his Ph.D. at Cambridge University and eventually accepted a teaching gig at U. of C. He says it’s mere coincidence that he, a scholar of ancient Mediterranean civilizations, almost joined the outfit that wrote “Alexander the Great” and featured a pyramid on the cover of its Powerslave album. But if metal history had been different, instead of writing Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity, Morris might been there when Maiden played the Allstate Arena last year, rocking out beneath a 15-foot-tall animatronic mummy.
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