A member of 1970s British progressive rock band Beckett is suing Iron Maiden for a six line lyrical tribute in ‘”Hallowed Be Thy Name” off Number of the Beast to one of Steve Harris’s favorite prog rock songs, “Life’s Shadow”. Some random band manager Barry McKay is suing Iron Maiden on behalf of Brian “Ingham” Quinn, one of the two credited writers of “Life’s Shadow”. McKay is alleging that Iron Maiden came to a secret settlement with the other writer credited on the record, Bob Barton, and that Quinn really wrote the song himself back in 1969 rather than in the early 70s when both of them were in Beckett. Barton is also being sued and McKay is now trying to hit Iron Maiden up for a “few hundred pounds per live performance” for a license to perform their own music.
If Quinn can prove he did indeed write the lyrics Iron Maiden should pay him but frankly the lyrics do not really matter to the music in metal as metal is not vocal-based music; metal is instrumental guitar music. As such1 metal tracks are not technically even songs but compositions. To whine that Steve Harris payed tribute to your band with inconsequential lyrics that could have been anything is ridiculous. Iron Maiden should not have to pay hundreds to play a track where a third of the lyrics are “Yeah, yeah, yeah” and the name of the composition, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, emphasizing just how inconsequential they are. Most metal compositions regardless of sub-genre also say the name of the song in the song like dialogue in a bad action movie.
The traditional popular music industry halfway split of royalties between the writers of the lyrics and the music makes zero sense for metal where the listener is focused on the music actually being played. The lyrics are typically inaudible and the vocals usually have no independent melodic line, echoing the guitars which they are subservient to like Black Sabbath or “sung” around them like in late 60s, early 70s hard rock like Led Zeppelin. Even if Quinn and McKay are right, he should only get a portion of what Barton was paid or a token amount per performance of his verse, which could easily be replaced with “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
If bands could be sued for paying tribute in metal, then Motorhead and Metallica would be able to collect from every subsequent speed metal band as could Bathory for black metal. Diamond Head took the high road and actually thanked Metallica for giving them some popularity that they would never have achieved by themselves as Lightning to the Nations was originally an extremely limited white label pressing. Perhaps Beckett should too.