Today it’s time to get back in order for the third or fourth time this series, I’ll be going over the first single from No Prayer For The Dying even though I did the second one last week. This one, as promised will also be super quick because of the version I own and I covered the band’s changes and background info last week as well.
As will most of the band’s 1990’s singles there are a pile of formats and versions. The one I have just so happens to be a single-song promo CD release. This was a US version and I got it without having to sell a vital organ so I went for it to get the spot taken up in my collection. There are full versions of the single with B-sides that are worth mentioning, but I’ll save that discussion for another time if/when I get a 12-inch record of this or come across a different version with the B-sides.
As a further note – there are censored versions of the song running around – Bruce says “shit” twice on this one, a rarity for Iron Maiden. But this single is uncensored, I’m not sure if any actual censored singles are out there. Radio stations had some but I don’t know the story behind it.
The cover art is another Derek Riggs piece that showcases Eddie holding a TV, while other TVs are on various programming while a huge fire engulfs everything. It ties in well with the theme of the song, which is the ills of televangelist preachers.
Holy Smoke takes direct aim at the hypocrisy of televangelist preachers, those who clogged the American airwaves begging for money and preaching against sins, while also committing those same very sins. Jimmy Swaggart, who was the main televangelist figurehead who was disgraced in a prostitution scandal, gets a near-direct mention as “Jimmy Reptile” in the song, and the “TV Queen” is most likely referencing Tammy Faye Baker. They and others were involved in shady dealings of all kinds through the 1980’s and saw their empires fall in various ways, though all would recover and keep grifting, and lead a new generation of shady TV and Internet preachers to billions in tax-free wealth.
The song is not a condemnation of religion by any means, but a shot specifically at the televangelists and their hypocrisy. Iron Maiden and religion were never really friends, owing mainly to backlash against the group for The Number Of The Beast and other perceived transgressions. Maiden were just one of many metal bands to point the accusing finger back at the TV preachers once their own sins came to light.
The video for Holy Smoke is worth a bit of discussion and at least a chuckle. The group are clearly goofing off with some silly and odd things filmed, including Bruce jumping around in a field of flowers looking so happy that one wonders what kind of substances might be involved. The fun wasn’t confined to the band, either – the fella in the bondage/assless leather pants getup is legendary producer Martin Birch. I’m sure the video was a defining moment of his career.
That about covers Holy Smoke. At some future point in time I’ll revisit the singles series and hopefully have a full version of this so I can get into the B-sides, but for now I’ll just let this roll. Next we are on to the stuff from Fear Of The Dark, which was Bruce’s final stint with the band until 1999. A lot of firsts and changes are coming for the group as they weather a down period in their career.
The Iron Maiden Singles Series
Bring Your Daughter … To The Slaughter
Holy Smoke (you are here)
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here To Eternity
Out Of The Silent Planet
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Empire Of The Clouds