When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I would get shipped off to Mexico to visit my dad, who lived there and was the place of his birth. It was Mérida, Yucatán to be exact. Before that, as a youngster, my reputation wasn't the greatest as I was known to steal my music.
I wouldn't steal money or food or toys, I was never that shady. I'd never rob my buddies. To see a new record or tape in the mall with a huge cut out next to it was for me hard to resist. Pre-Internet meant you had to work for things, to find out about things, to be in the mix. Yes, it was a nasty habit for a little nutty kid to be stealing music releases. Whether it was the local library to steal Blondie, Ramones and Judas Priest albums (British Steel didn't last a week in there), I needed my fix.
Some kids played with and obsessed over toys and cars, which I dug, but I never really had that chemical urge to collect Star Wars or Transformers figures. Once I was able to secure my habit of stealing music in all forms, I began to collect all things vinyl and cassettes.
One summer, after being shipped off to Mexico, where it was 115 degrees outside and 89 inside, it was a bit hard to adapt to the weather. Back home, sure, I had all my stolen Kiss records, my Black Sabbath and random other heavies of the era. The first album I didn't steal and bought with my own dinero was Iron Maiden's 1981 opus, Killers.
In the '80s, even at the very almost beginning of their career, Maiden were huge in all forms, especially with their merch, I learned. In Mexico, it was a whole other ballgame compared to the Maiden shirts I saw in America. That summer the best place to find metal in Mexico was in supermarkets, yes, supermarkets! If you went to a record store in town, albums were about $15 bucks as to get tourists to buy them. Being in the supermarket, with all of your food in a cart, and seeing all of the vinyl records and metal merch on the wall next to all of the candy was highly disturbing. I remember getting light-headed and bursts of energy would pummel my head until I was dizzy after seeing those records there. To see rare versions of the first Maiden album with alternative artwork and weird sub labels on the back was destroying to me.
Sure, back on Long Island, circa 1982, I would go to summer camp in Huntington with a dude named Anthony DiBari (I wonder where he is now), and we'd cruise the back of the school bus with our boombox (one speaker JVC), and blast the newest opus of the day which was Number of the Beast. I had already stolen two copies of the album (well, cassette) and played it to death. I'd wake up three times a night to flip the tape over.
This was slightly different, I was buying an album. This felt different to me. I was with my dad and wouldn't think of heisting the tape or anything as I wanted to make a good impression on him, and not think I was in some wacky, trippy alternate world that metal puts you in. It was bad enough my hair was getting long and he didn't seem too connected to his old world, where, before I was born, he worked in a record warehouse in Island Park, where he'd steal everything from Master of Reality to Syd Barrett and King Crimson and Zappa stuff. I guess theft ran in the family. When he split, his vinyl was all I had left.
Killers was a huge album for Maiden, as they went on their first Euro and Japanese tours, as well as their American introduction... and there began the discussions and sometimes arguments on who was better: Paul Di'Anno or Bruce Dickinson.
As Maiden's second album, Killers is chock full of energy and pure feeling. Paul Di'Anno's rough edge lent itself an almost punk-like vibe to Steve Harris' new found galloping chords. It's a flawless album from start to finish. I could've easily waxed poetic on all of their first four albums, but being I didn't steal Killers and went to the Mexican counter girl with my 800 pesos, and plopped it down, I felt like this was my first gateway into adulthood. "So, this is what people do," I thought. I remember thinking albums were pretty expensive. Even in Mexico, an album was around $5.00 in the supermarket, but I had no qualms about my first real purchase. Here I was getting an alternative package with random writing on the front and back. "No one has this version back home," I thought to myself. I was high as a $4 meth head.
I then went home with Killers and asked this dude named Rob, who was older than me and looked like Iron Maiden guitarist Dave Murray, to paint the album's cover on the back of my new dark-blue Lee jacket. Rob was known for doing graffitti-ed "Eddies" all over the place and he had a mean hand. On a good day, you couldn't tell Rob's work from Derek Riggs. So, I went back to school a new man, with a Maiden-ized jacket and crisp copy of Killers in hand.
To this day, if I see a copy of Killers in a store, I check for security cameras.