10-List: My Favorite Iron Maiden Songs

I listen to all kinds of music. Jazz, country, blues, rap, surf rock, New Wave, punk . . . you name it. However, as you can tell by reading my Looking Forward quadmonthly reports, the music I return to time and again is hard rock and heavy metal.

This was the music I was listening to in my late teens, early twenties. It provided the soundtrack to a pretty good slice of my life. It evokes specific emotions and memories of seminal moments of my existence. If I can, I’ll still listen to metal when I’m in the Old Folks Home.

In high school, I was especially drawn to what’s come to be known as NWOBHM, or New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This included the bands Judas Priest, Saxon, Diamond Head, early Def Leppard, Motörhead, and—among many others—Iron Maiden.

Lately, I’ve been listening my way through Iron Maiden’s entire catalogue, even the pre-Bruce Dickinson albums. While I haven’t completed this personal project, I’ve surprised myself by being able, already, to name ten of my favorite songs by the band. Which means, of course, that this list will be subject to change in the future. As everything is.

It doesn’t surprise me that three of the ten songs on this list are from the 1982 Iron Maiden album The Number of the Beast because that was where I jumped on this particular bandwagon. What surprised me is that “The Number of the Beast” didn’t make the cut. I still like the song a lot. It’s just that today I like the rest of these more.

Eighty percent of this list came off of three albums from 1982 – 1984. Also not a mistake. I saw Iron Maiden in concert at the old Charlotte Colesium during this timeframe. It was either the Piece of Mind or Powerslave tour. It was a memorable night of my friends and I drinking what used to be known as PJ in South Carolina, watching Iron Maiden in concert, and fighting in the parking lot, which is one of the natural consequences of drinking PJ and listening to heavy metal.

This is not a ranked list, although “Run to the Hills” would probably have been #1 on that list as well. If you’re not familiar with these songs already, I would recommend creating a playlist to listen along. I would link them myself if I knew what I was doing.

In order of album release year:

Run to the Hills” (The Number of the Beast) 1982

This is metal with a social conscience. This song is about how Native Americans were mistreated by the white settlers in what became America. At my most petty, I would wonder aloud why the band couldn’t choose to write a song about the minority races oppressed under British colonial rule rather than pointing the finger of blame at white Americans. But, it’s all true. With or without a highminded message, this song rocks. The galloping bass of Steve Harris and the air-raid vocals of Bruce Dickinson rise to a metal crescendo.

Children of the Damned” (The Number of the Beast) 1982

In a radio interview, Bruce Dickinson mentioned that the Maiden song “Children of the Damned” was inspired by Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea.” I can hear that, and the obvious Dio influence on Dickinson’s vocals. That it was also inspired by the wonderful 1960s sci-fi/horror movies Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned was a bonus for me. When I heard this song, I knew that the band and I shared some common pop culture references.

Hallowed Be Thy Name” (The Number of the Beast) 1982

A song about a man waiting for his execution by hanging. It doesn’t get more upbeat than this. Structurally, it reminds me of the Styx song “Renegade.” After the somber opening, with the funereal bell-ringing, the song increases in tempo and Dickinson’s vocals positively soar. In spite of the dark lyrics, I do think that the tune, with its fast pace and driving bassline, becomes uplifting and positive. Invigorating.

Flight of Icarus” (Piece of Mind) 1983

Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson wrote this one, which is loosely based on the Icarus legend from Greek mythology. Popular rumor holds that Steve Harris, the band’s bassist who writes most of the band’s music, doesn’t particularly care for this song, thinking it too slow and plodding. There is a vocal contingent of fans who agree with Mr. Harris. I like it, however. Especially the chorus. Iron Maiden often shows a literary bent, as in Steve Harris’s own “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” based on the Coleridge poem (which didn’t make my list, you may notice).

The Trooper” (Piece of Mind) 1983

Another galloping Steve Harris song, this one inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem about the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. I’ve mentioned the band’s literary bent, haven’t I? The opening salvo of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s blistering, harmonized lead guitar work, with that driving rhthym that seems to require air drums, leads to one of my favorite opening lyrics:

You take my life, but I’ll take yours too/

You’ll fire your musket, but I’ll run you through”

It can get better for me. But not much.

Where Eagles Dare” (Piece of Mind) 1983

I was a big fan of the 1968 movie, starring Richard Burton and a young Clint Eastwood. So were the members of Iron Maiden, it seems. Another great gallumphing Steve Harris song that takes you high into the Bavarian Alps at breakneck speed. The driving beat of the tune always makes me feel like I could be doing something more productive. This is a bracing ride.

2 Minutes to Midnight” (Powerslave) 1984

A cheerful ditty about the Doomsday Clock and how close we’re getting to killing ourselves off. A feel-good song. I’ve always gotten a horror movie vibe from this one, all this talk about doom and killing the unborn in the womb. No Steve Harris involved in this one. Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson share the writing credit. Many fans believe the meaning of this song is our impending nuclear holocaust, which somehow seemed more likely in 1984 than now, even though the opposite may be true. Others claim that the band is taking the pro-life stance against abortion. And a stubborn contingent like to stick with those hoary rumors of the Antichrist and Armageddon. The Satanic branding is difficult to shake.

Aces High” (Powerslave) 1984

Another Steve Harris song with lyrics told from the POV of an RAF pilot during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Flying is a recurring theme in Iron Maiden songs. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson is also, famously, a pilot and has a voice that’s been compared to an air-raid siren. I love the thrash metal pace of this song and the way Dickinson’s voice soars like a Spitfire.

The Evil That Men Do” (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son) 1988

Another literate reference. The title “The Evil That Men Do” comes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris share writing credit on this one. Harris once agains tears up the bass on the track. Fun for fans of fast metal.

Bring Your Daughter . . . to the Slaughter” (No Prayer for the Dying) 1990

Part of the reason I like this song so much is that it could have easily been one of the metal parody songs of the pretend band Spinal Tap. I mean, it’s a ridiculous idea. Somehow, Iron Maiden pulls it off. Bruce Dickinson wrote this one and recorded it for the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Maiden’s bassist, Steve Harris, liked the song, so the band rerecorded it for the album No Prayer for the Dying. To date, it has been Maiden’s only number-one single in the UK.

I could easily have made this a 20-List. There are many honorable mentions that I’m not going to mention. I know that Iron Maiden didn’t stop making music after 1990. I’ve listened to a lot of it and have enjoyed a generous portion of it. However, I’ll stand by my list today. These are my favorites.

3 thoughts on “10-List: My Favorite Iron Maiden Songs

  1. Excellent songs and memories. I first got into Maiden in 82 with Number of the Beast. Those early teenage years for me were just jam-packed with rock and metal, especially the NWOBHM, all those bands you mentioned, along with Tygers of Pan Tang, Girlschool and Venom. Such good days 😊

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.