Veteran Hampstead rock agent sues Iron Maiden over ‘stolen’ song

Iron Maiden performing on the Main Stage at the Reading Festival. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA

Iron Maiden performing on the Main Stage at the Reading Festival. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The retired rock band manager is taking heavy metal band Iron Maiden to court, on behalf of the original author of a haunting melody about life after death.

Veteran rock agent Barry McKay is determined to defend Brian Quinn's original work.

Veteran rock agent Barry McKay is determined to defend Brian Quinn's original work. - Credit: Archant

Barry McKay is challenging Iron Maiden founder member Steve Harris and guitarist David Murray, who he claims copied lyrics and music from a talented but little known songwriter.

In papers submitted to the High Court, Mr McKay contends that the Iron Maiden song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” reproduces major parts of the song “Lying in my Shadow”, written by musician Brian Quinn, under the name Brian Ingham.

Mr Quinn’s song, “Lying in my Shadow” is a haunting melody from the point of view of someone who has died, who says: “Life down there is just a strange illusion”.

After writing “Lying in my Shadow”, writer Mr Quinn agreed that Mr Barton of the band Beckett could adapt his song and call it “Life’s Shadow”, as long as he was given credit on the Beckett album, according to the court papers.

The song “Life’s Shadow”, which appeared on the Beckett album, was then “stolen” by Iron Maiden who were fans of the band, it is claimed.

Mr Barton from Beckett went on to settle a copyright claim against Iron Maiden in 2012, although he did not tell the original author, Brian Quinn, it is claimed.

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In the court papers, Mr McKay’s solicitors argue that Iron Maiden’s seminal song “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, in fact reproduces a substantial part of the lyrics of ‘Lying in my Shadow’, which later became ‘Life’s Shadow.’

They also contend that a second song, “The Nomad”, in Iron Maiden’s album, Brave New World, reproduces a substantial part of the music.

Mr McKay told the Ham&High: “This case may well create a precedent for the music publishing industry because unusually for a copyright infringement action, this claim goes back to 1982. The claim is estimated to be valued at between £2m and £3m.”

He added: “‘Hallowed be Thy Name” isn’t just an Iron Maiden song. It’s the song that has defined the band and put them on the map in 1982. It’s the Band’s favourite song and their fans favourite song.

“Hallowed is heavily influenced by ‘Life’s Shadow’.”

Original writer Brian Quinn, who emigrated to Canada in 1971, said: “I was lying in my bed and it surprised the hell out of me, to suddenly hear from an old pal after so many years and then to be told the news that my music and lyrics had helped make Iron Maiden so successful.

“I was not an Iron Maiden fan so I had never heard their music. I had no idea that half of the lyrics of a song I wrote as a teenager had been used by a heavy metal band...

“‘I wrote Lying in My Shadow (which later became Life’s Shadow) during a trip to Sweden in 1969. It was to form part of a series of songs about the last surviving dragon and the last dragon slayer and was also influenced by the death of my father when I was eight years old. I wrote the lyrics on the back of an airmail letter from my mother. There are only three chords in the original. It’s a very dark guitar sound with a simple melody.”

A spokesman for Iron Maiden said: “Phantom Management are aware of the action brought by Barry McKay against Steve Harris and Dave Murray. The dispute concerns the song Life’s Shadow, a song originally written in the early 1970s, credited to Robert Barton and Brian Ingham, and recorded by the band Beckett.

“Steve Harris was a fan of Beckett and some six lines from ‘Life’s Shadow’ were referenced in Steve’s song, ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, which was recorded by Iron Maiden and appeared on the album The Number of the Beast released in 1982.

“As far as Steve is concerned, this matter was settled some years ago by agreement with Robert Barton, but there now appears to be a dispute between the two original writers as to their respective shares in ‘Life’s Shadow’.

“Further, an individual called Barry McKay in taking this action now claims to publish Robert Barton’s interest in Life’s Shadow, despite so far being unable to come up with a publishing agreement and showing little or no evidence in his claim of any interest in Mr Barton’s songs in approximately 40 years.

“Mr McKay also states that he entered into a publishing agreement with Brian Quinn (aka Ingham) on March 29 2017, two days before the claim was served.

“Mr Barton maintains he was the writer of the lyrics of Life’s Shadow and recently said: ‘I wrote the lyrics of Life’s Shadow and am happy with how Iron Maiden have, and are, dealing with this matter.

“Any evidence presented will be looked at very closely and a defence will be submitted in due course.”

Mr McKay has responded to the statement by saying that he has in fact published Robert Barton’s minor interest in Life’s Shadow since 1976 and that he now publishes the entire song.