January 5th marks the 25 year anniversary of Iron Maiden’s one and only chart topping single (to date, but highly unlikely to be achieved again) in the UK. Online there seems to be some speculation as to when this was released, but according to the official website of the charts it debuted at number one on 5th January 1991 and stayed there for two consecutive weeks. The single spent a measly total of five weeks in the top 100, but at least three of those were in the top 10.
Originally the song was written and recorded a year earlier by Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson while the band were on a break after the exploits of the Seventh Son album tour and was featured on the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. The Dickinson original can be found on his best of CD released in 2001.
As legend has it Maiden’s heartbeat, and bass player, Steve Harris heard the track and liked it so much he persuaded Bruce not to include it on his solo album and stuck it on upcoming Maiden album No Prayer For The Dying. Structurally there is no different between the two versions, just that the Iron Maiden interpretation of it is a lot more up tempo – as you would expect.
Surprisingly to some the single debuted at number one, but to be fair not surprising to metal fans. Since the first single Run To The Hills was lifted from their breakthrough album Number Of The Beast in 1982, they have been a constant top 20 artist, right though to Different World in 2006. Out of the 31 singles since only three have only just failed to make the top 20, with more than half of those inside the top 10.
When the song was revealed at the top of the pile just before 7pm on a Sunday evening, the BBC chart show played the smallest snippet of the track that they possibly could and on the Thursday evening Top of the Pops TV show they played even less. This was all due to the BBC banning the song from their airwaves. Receiving a ban always seems to aide a tracks popularity. Strange that, isn’t it?
Mainstream media journalists and “experts” at the time put the achievement of the tracks success down to that time of year being a slow single buying time and the vehemently rabid fan base that the band had, and forever will have. Without a doubt that’s a given, but isn’t that the same for the majority of artists that release records? Would Cliff Richard’s fans or those who enjoyed Madonna, MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice buy this song?
I believe I listen to a broad spectrum of music now, but the majority is encompassed under the umberella of rock music. It was highly unlikely that in my single buying days, and during my much more narrow minded ways, I’d buy anything that wasn’t rock or metal related, but when I did buy a bands single and it happened to be a band I followed with a passion I’d buy all available versions. This particular release is, from memory, spread over five different formats –
- 12″ vinyl with a 1991 calendar.
- 12″ picture disc vinyl.
- Single sided etched 7″.
- 7″ picture disc in “brain” pack.
- CD single.
There was probably a cassette release too, but I brought very few singles on that format. And I know I wouldn’t be the only person who’d buy them all and as early as humanly possible. It helped with this particular release that it was after Christmas so I had no work to go to and vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you either that I still have them all packed away upstairs.
As a side note, this chart also marked Anthrax’s first foray in the world of the top 20 singles chart with the release of their Joe Jackson cover Got The Time, which hit a high of 16.