What’s that, I hear you say, The Guardian published an ‘Iron Maiden’s 30 Greatest Songs‘ list, I wonder if Gav will have an opinion on that? BY CROM I DO!
If there’s one thing Iron Maiden fans love as much as Iron Maiden, it’s making lists about Iron Maiden. We’re like Doctor Who fans in that respect, though seemingly unlike a lot of so-called Who fans, we actually like Iron Maiden. (Never let it be said I don’t have some spicy opinions.) On first impression it’s a good solid list, with a nice mix of eras and styles. The author clearly knows and loves Maiden and hasn’t just gone for the hits, which add further marks in their favour. I do have some quibbles though, which I’ll address as we go down the list.
30. Burning Ambition. (1980) A nice an obscure B-side straight out of the gate. I’d probably swap it for Prowler or The Ides of March myself. If we need an obscure B-side, why not Sheriff of Huddersfield, or Mission from ‘Arry?
28. Empire of the Clouds. You might think a 18 minute long piano led song about an airship disaster would be the most over the top thing Maiden have done. Oh my sweet summer child, we’re just getting started. And as much as I love the song, I really hope they never try it live.
Fun Fact: The 8th Doctor rescued one of his companions from the R101.
26. Dance of Death. Stuffed with more ham than a BRIAN BLESSED performance, and all the finer for it. Now if only the album cover art wasn’t quite so fucking awful…
25. Sea of Madness. Look, it’s not bad, but I’d swap it for Stranger in a Strange Land in a heartbeat and I stand by that.
23. 22 Acacia Avenue. The lyrics haven’t aged at all well, but the chorus almost saves it. I’d chop it for something from the Blaze Bayley Years, Futureal or Sign of the Cross most likely.
19. Alexander The Great. Really? It’s not the worst of Maiden’s historical epics (Mother Russia, I’m looking in your direction), but rhyming ‘Aegean Sea’ and ‘334 BC’ is both incredibly smart and completely stupid. I’d swap it for Moonchild, which has to rank among Maiden’s finest album openers and if you don’t agree with me on that you’re wrong.
Fun Fact: While Maiden themselves haven’t played the song live, allegedly owing to Adrian Smith not being able to nail the solo again, I have seen the Iron Maiden’s (The worlds only all female Maiden tribute act) play it, and it was glorious. Someday, Covid permitting, I hope to see them again.
18. The Clansman. *deep breath* FRREEEEEEEEEDDDDOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! Possibly the best thing to be inspired by Braveheart (Yes, it’s a short list I know), it’s generally considered the high point of Blaze Bayley’s tenure with the band.
17. Wrathchild. That this song isn’t top 10 is just flat out wrong, like a Clash best of that doesn’t include English Civil War.
16. Flight of Icarus. On their recent tour singer Bruce Dickinson performed this song with two flamethrowers strapped to him. I cannot help but be reminded of WASP’s Blackie Lawless and the incident with the firework codpiece.
15. Wasted Years. The Somewhere in Time album is controversial to say the least, what with the use of synthesisers and the band’s fashion sense, thanks to a load of free football kit, veering away from the traditional leather and spandex. The song is inextricably linked to memories of an unhealthy crush I had as a lad, so while it’s a cracking tune, the air of melancholy in the song is sometimes more than I can bear. I will, however, defend Dickinson’s stage outfit on that tour till my dying day.
12. Run to the Hills. That opening drum beat and guitar riff is like a massive shot of adrenaline to me, I hear that and I immediately start air-guitaring. Every so often I wonder what my brain activity is like hearing the song.
11. The Wicker Man. Putting this one in-front of Run to the Hills takes balls of, well, iron, but hear me out on this. The 90’s were, to quote comic and die-hard metal fan Andrew O’Neill, ‘when all your favourite bands went shit’ and it’s fair that outside of a few high points Maiden’s output in that decade didn’t stack up to the glory days. I have an immense amount of sympathy for Blaze Bayley (who sang for them between 94 and 99) and consider Futureal more than worthy of inclusion on this list. But when it was announced that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were returning to the fold, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic, But they still needed a statement, something to show the world that Maiden weren’t dead and buried, that the glory days weren’t over. And then we heard this. Hearing this song for me is like first seeing Christopher Eccelston saying “Run” in Rose, this feeling that the thing I love is back, and everything’s going to be be OK.
10. Fear of the Dark. Find me a live version of this where the crowd aren’t singing along at the top of their lungs and I’ll say something nice about Scott Morrison.
8. The Number of the Beast. The song that sparked a thousand moral panics and album burnings, that Big Scream of Dickinson’s (A result of having to sing the opening lines over and over again) was the moment I knew I’d be into this band till my dying day. Hammer horror set to music, from the Vincent Prince sound-alike to the roar of 6-6-6!, this was the song that put them over the top.
7. 2 Minutes to Midnight. Still grimly relevant, it’s a prime burst of blood and thunder, with a chorus that can demolish buildings when deployed properly.
6. Phantom of the Opera. The majority of Maiden’s first two albums (AKA the Di’Anno Years) are shorter, spikier and *whispers* slightly punk influenced. And then there’s Phantom. Epic, grandiose and suitably over the top, it’s almost a prototype for Maiden Phase 2, the Dickinson Years, Part 1. For my money the version on Live After Death is the one to beat, the way Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s guitars intertwine is just perfect.
5. Powerslave. SLAVE TO THE POWER OF DEATH!!! The highlight of the album of the same name, it’s a masterpiece from start to finish. Books could be written about it, from the way it builds from 2:55, the guitar swirling around and the atmosphere building till finally all hell breaks loose. Genius stuff.
4. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. A bold move placing this so high. It’s not undeserving of it’s rank, but maybe if the chorus wasn’t just the song’s title repeated 8 times I might feel more positively inclined towards it.
3. Aces High. I have seen grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song. I have been one of those grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song.
3. The Trooper. Maiden’s music has oft been described as galloping, and there’s no more fitting use of it than on this song, the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
1. Hallowed be thy Name. The story of a condemned man on his way to the gallows has been the soundtrack to every performance review I’ve ever had. The way it builds, from the doom laden intro, to the point at 4:30 when it goes full throttle, to that ending scream of “naaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmeeeee!’ Perfection.
There is plenty more I could add to this, and if you need to kill a couple of hours, ask me in person about it. Alas, it’s time to end the set and get to bed. Be seeing you…