Moving along with the Iron Maiden singles, we are now to the band’s 6th studio album Somewhere In Time. This beings the two-album “synth” arc that saw the band expand their sound a bit and, while opinions vary of course, this period is well acclaimed.
It’s also worth noting that my decision to use my Discogs stuff as my reference for this list is biting me in the ass right now – today’s single is out of order and was the second released from Somewhere In Time. No real big deal to me, but this series has been attracting quite a bit of attention and I wanted make sure it was stated that I’m aware of the order not being proper.
Today’s single features the lead track as well as two pretty unique and worthwhile cover songs. And the covers have pretty deep ties to Maiden lore and trivia so there’s a fair bit to go over. And we have again very nice and unique cover art. Here Eddie is decked out like an Old West cowboy, though also sporting the futuristic bells and whistles fitting of the album’s cyber sci-fi theme. Eddie’s pose was based on Clint Eastwood’s famous “Man With No Name” character from the old Western movies. The cover’s background setting gives a bit of the Star Wars cantina vibe to everything. There are a few cool easter eggs on the playing cards, I’ll let people go over those on their own.
There were quite a few different versions of this single, with several 12-inch and 7-inch releases, as well as a cassette. I have a 12-inch version and thus the extra B-side. And, for the first and only time in this series, I also have a 7-inch version. This was a 2015 reissue the band did of their singles, I saw it at a record store for not much one day and figured what the hell, I’ll snag it up.
As is usual with these, this first video includes the single and the first B-side as it represents the 7-inch version.
Stranger In A Strange Land
The feature track is a mid-tempo song that eases off the acceleration a bit and lets the song operate through its atmosphere. Lyrically it’s about an explorer who was frozen to death exploring harsh cold climates and then found many years later, the song bears no relation to the novel of the same name. Adrian Smith was the songwriter here and he also gets a fair bit of time on an absolutely beautiful solo that is a prime example of how a solo can be complimentary to the music without needing to be guitar wankery to be good.
This is one of my absolute favorite Iron Maiden songs, probably second or third if/when I get to the business of actually ranking them. I love everything about it and anytime I’m debating on what Maiden album to play, the chance to hear this song again often influences me to go with Somewhere In Time. It’s one I’d give a kidney to hear live, so hopefully it’s in the set for the next tour which focuses in part on this album and the band make a run through the US with it.
The first B-side is a cover from a band with deep connections to Iron Maiden. The band in question is FM, in this case the British band and not the Canadian one. The story leading to this cover version is not a short one but it has bearing on both B-sides so on we go.
FM originally formed in the early ’80’s and secured a record deal based on the strength of a demo, which included That Girl. In 1985, Iron Maiden were taking time off after a grueling world tour and Nicko McBrain got bored. He called up Adrian Smith and the two hatched a plan to get together with some friends and play a few secret gigs. The first and more famous of these gigs was under the title The Entire Population of Hackney. Appearing with the Maiden duo was Andy Barnett, formerly a bandmate of Smith’s in Urchin, as well as Dave Colwell and Martin Connoly. Each brought songs from various points in their careers to play at this gig, which included this FM song as both Barnett and Colwell had some early involvement with the group. (Barnett would later join FM)
So after the secret gig, Maiden decided to work up a full band version as a B-side. It’s a very well done song and fits the vibe of the full album pretty well, something both of these B-sides do fantastically. It’s also interesting because the cover is based on FM’s original demo recording. FM had reworked the song a bit before releasing their debut album and went more melodic AOR rock with it, very fitting for the time.
It’s also interesting because Maiden’s cover was released barely a few months after the original was out. FM’s debut album Indiscreet came out a week before Somewhere In Time and this single was released just two months later. So this was two versions of a song out at essentially the same time.
This song was also done at the secret gig outlined above. Even more interesting than the last one is that the original of this was never actually released. The song was originally composed by a group called Marshall Fury, of which Martin Connoly had been a member. The band never released the song and info on the group is scarce – in fact, looking them up on Wikipedia redirects to this very single.
There’s no original to compare here, but Juanita is a pretty well done track for a Maiden B-side. It’s a straightforward rocker and the band handles it very well.
That (finally) does it for this single. If you thought there was a lot here, wait until next week. Another song from the secret gig will be there and it’s probably the most-discussed Maiden B-side in existence. And someday I’ll get into the bootleg of The Entire Population of Hackney, but the bootlegs are a ways off so don’t hold your breath waiting for that one.
The Iron Maiden Singles Series
Stranger In A Strange Land (you are here)
Bring Your Daughter … To The Slaughter
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here To Eternity
Out Of The Silent Planet
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Empire Of The Clouds
23 thoughts on “Stranger In A Strange Land – The Iron Maiden Singles Series”
Another great single and great cover. I like the Clint Eastwood homage. I was thinking it looked a little blade runner, but I guess I was wrong.
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No there was a definite Blade Runner influence on the art from this time period, just one I didn’t really think to bring up.
Great single. Smith sure stepped up on this album. Cool writeup Sir. Look forward to the next single.
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The cover alone was enough for me. It’s just a great work of art.
And yes, the song is crushing. That riff with the tritone, and as you said the solo.
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