Iron Maiden (Album of the Week)

As of last Friday, April 14, Iron Maiden’s debut album is 43 years old. Seems like as good of time as any to explore it here.

Iron Maiden – self-titled

Released April 14, 1980 via EMI

My Favorite Tracks – Iron Maiden, Transylvania, Phantom Of The Opera

Iron Maiden had spent five years playing in pubs and shifting line-ups in advance of their full-length debut, but the actual recording process for the record took all of 13 days. The band had mis-fired on two attempts to record the month prior and went through two producers before settling on Wil Malone. This would not be a fruitful partnership as Steve Harris recalls that the band did most of the actual production.

The recording line-up would be bassist and band founder Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton on guitar, Paul Di’Anno at vocals and Clive Burr on drums. By album four, only Harris and Murray would remain of this line-up.

The cover art depicts the band’s legendary mascot Eddie. This was not Eddie’s cover debut as a shadowy form of him appeared on the Running Free single and the Japanese single release featured Eddie in full form, but this album still serves as the popular introduction. Derek Riggs was the artist behind Eddie’s appearances through Iron Maiden’s first decade of operation.

The album would release with 8 tracks, but I will be covering the US version which also offered the song Sanctuary. This was added to subsequent re-issues later on, though the current day pressings seem to omit it.


The opener slams in with great guitar work between the Murray-Stratton duo and the signature rumble of Steve Harris’ bass. Di’Anno sings a desperate tale of a depraved man out to stalk and flash women.

I am warmed to the album’s production after decades of hearing it, but I will admit that Prowler is one song that maybe could have used a bit more work in the mixing stage. Still a very nice track but I can hear where it could be cleaned up a touch.

Remember Tomorrow

A remarkable song that starts out slow and contemplative but later launches into a Maiden guitar fireworks show fast break, showing that the band would forego typical pop-based song structure in their expressions. The song’s title was a phrase Di’Anno’s grandfather used frequently.

Running Free

This was the band’s debut single and still lives today as an iconic track. It is a simple banger that would get an extended live cut with a call and response passage added. The song is about the simple pleasures of being a wild and crazy youth and was based in part on Di’Anno’s young lifestyle.

For more on the single of this song, visit my recap of it as part of my Iron Maiden singles series.

Phantom Of The Opera

We move now to an extended cut and one with shifts and movement as Maiden take on the famous novel which has been adapted musically far and wide. The groundwork for the Iron Maiden sound to come can be found here, with a focus on epic storytelling. Phantom remained a staple of the live set long after Paul Di’Anno’s exit from the band and the song is hailed as one of the best from the early era.


Up next is the band’s first instrumental. The song was originally intended to have lyrics but after hearing the instrument cuts they decided to keep it as is. This is a fantastic song that plays out just fine without words and I’d say ranks at the top of the band’s handful of instrumental tracks. Transylvania would see a fair bit of stage time in the band’s early years and then again in 1993.

Strange World

Now it’s on to a song that’s aptly titled as this is very strange and a huge departure from what is recognized as the Iron Maiden sound. This is a trippy, atmospheric track that doesn’t feature the distinctive Maiden rumble at all. The song is maybe about vampires, or drugs or who knows what. It’s very odd and it’s jarring to hear when set against the rest of the album but it’s not bad in and of itself.


The US bonus track slots here on original pressings of the album, note that re-issues can have it in different spots. This song about a killer on the run from the law would be a mainstay of early Maiden setlists. For more on this one, head to my rundown of the Sanctuary single.

Charlotte The Harlot

Here we have one of just a few songs written entirely by Dave Murray. This is celebrating a woman of the night and Murray has stated it’s based on a true story, though that story has never emerged. While the song itself is not the most celebrated track from this album, Charlotte would make three further appearances in Iron Maiden songs before her story was completed in 1992.

Iron Maiden

The album closes with an eponymous song, which is always a treat when a band does that on a self-titled album. And this one is truly a gem – there is no more signature Maiden sound than the guitars and bass on this song. Just as the chorus says, Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, and that they did with this track. This is the band’s most-played song live.

Iron Maiden marked the start of a heavy metal legacy. The album would hit number 4 on the UK charts and get platinum certifications in the UK and Canada. Critics took to Maiden right out of the gate, and the band found ready and willing audiences when they entered new countries to play there for the first time. The days of grinding in London pubs were over and the world was waiting. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal had been bubbling around England for years and Iron Maiden helped bring it into the light for the world to experience.

The raw production gave the album a “metal meets punk” feel, though band members insist they were not chasing punk as a sound. But the identity would follow Maiden through the Paul Di’Anno era and a subset of fans lament the turn toward something more akin to power metal that Maiden took when Bruce Dickinson stepped into the singer’s role. Those fans represent a minority of course, but they are out there.

For me I was a hair too young to catch this on release, I was not quite 3 years old when this album hit. It would be several years later when I got into Maiden and backtracked through the early stuff. This one was always a favorite of mine, I loved the raw energy yet still finding a lot of the band’s signature sound that was present on later albums.

This album was the start of something very special and a legacy that has now run close to half a century. All things must end, but they also must begin and Iron Maiden’s start was a great thing.

8 thoughts on “Iron Maiden (Album of the Week)

  1. This was my fourth purchase of Maiden. I bought Killers in 81, then Maiden Japan. In 82 of course NOTB than I bought the debut…lol…
    Solid album. You can tell by listening to it they were going for it….

    Liked by 2 people

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