It’s time to get back into the series and an actual, proper single this time. This is one of a very few 7-inch Maiden singles I own. It makes today simple as it’s A-side and B-side, the 12-inch singles have some beefy contents sometimes.
There are some different versions of this single around, but in this case they’re mostly just territorial presses and all of the versions have the same content. Mine is a UK pressing in a cardboard sleeve, nothing special to it.
This was the true debut multi-territory single from Iron Maiden, in so far as conventional single releases go. It was put out in advance of the debut album. This is the first official cover appearance of Maiden’s most famous member, Eddie. But as you can see he’s not that easy to make out – the band wanted the album to be his true “reveal” so here you see his face obscured. Putting his face on the label of the single’s record itself probably didn’t generate much suspense for the future “reveal.”
This official video from IM’s channel features both sides of the single in one clip.
Maiden’s first single is a very simple and basic rock song, one of the relative few the group recorded. Paul Di’Anno penned the lyrics about being wild, young and free, somewhat inspired by his own young life.
The song is a long-time staple – it’s been played live a trillion times (don’t quote that) and is still one of the band’s best-known even in a career with 17 albums and a peak a few years away yet. A live version got its own single release a few years down the road, which I’ll cover when its time comes.
While Running Free doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of a quintessential Iron Maiden song, it’s one I enjoy quite a bit. It’s simple and pleasing and it works great live. It’s a massive part of the Maiden lexicon even if it got technically outclassed by other material.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Maiden B-sides, and honestly a lot of it isn’t good. But we come out of the gate with what might be the best B-side the band ever did. The song comes out with a classic rock vibe uncommon in Iron Maiden’s music but hits pretty hard once Di’Anno starts singing. The song deals with someone who warns his significant other not to hold him down as he pursues something beyond the mundane life.
Burning Ambition has a bit of band trivia behind it – it marks one of the few recorded performances of drummer Doug Sampson. Sampson played on the famous Soundhouse Tapes demo and a handful of other demo tracks, but that is all of his Maiden recording history for his year or so in the band.
Burning Ambition is on the short list of “best Maiden B-sides.” It does feel like enough of a departure to excuse its absence from an album but its quality is undeniable. The song has surfaced on some reissue and archive material over the years but is still a bit of a hidden gem in the catalog.
That’s all for today. It’s on through a run of 12 inch singles next, all with a bunch of stuff on them. Also the list will get a bit bigger next week – I’ve got a few CD singles in, and also I discovered that I have a few more records that what I thought I did. Thanks for not updating, Discogs.
The Iron Maiden Singles Series
Running Free (you are here)
Women In Uniform
Run To The Hills
The Number Of The Beast
Flight Of Icarus
2 Minutes To Midnight
Run To The Hills (live)
Running Free (live)
Stranger In A Strange Land
From Here To Eternity
Out Of The Silent Planet
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Empire Of The Clouds