This became the band's trademark song and a concert favorite. They would typically close out their sets with it before returning for an encore.
The original demo of this song appeared on the raw tapes played at the Soundhouse, a metal club in London, when the band was just starting out. The demo was eventually released as an EP called The Soundhouse Tapes, but the song was re-recorded for their debut album.
The song is about the medieval torture device of the same name. It was a specifically shaped iron coffin that resembled a sarcophagus. The door was imbedded with long spikes. It was held vertically so the victim could be placed inside, and the door slammed shut under its own massive weight. The victim was skewered, as well as crushed. Steve Harris, who started the band, first saw the Maiden in an old film adaptation of The Man In The Iron Mask.
Maiden mainstay Steve Harris said of this song: "It's quite simple. The bass line is fairly straight forward as is the drumming. But the guitar is over the top with harmony, and the bass is descending behind it. I think this makes it pretty special."
Wil Malone was the producer for the album, although the production was done primarily by the band and the recording engineer.
Derek Riggs designed the cover art, which depicted a shock-haired, skeletal zombie in an alley. When the album was re-mastered in 1998, a slightly edited version of the cover was used. It was darker, both colour-wise (it looked shadier) and emotionally (the zombie looked far less cartoonish and more horrific). Riggs slipped his logo- the symbol which features a reflected D and a right-hand R (his initials)- into the cover art. It appears on the second brick from the left, six rows down, on the shadier half of the wall. Also, a wastebasket on a street lamp by the wall reappeared on the cover art for Somewhere in Time, next to Eddie's left leg.
Only one song from the album was released as a single, "Sanctuary," and it was exclusively in the UK. Paul Di'Anno
, who was the vocalist at the time of this album's release, was far less popular than Bruce Dickinson, whose air-raid siren voice was far more well received that Di'Anno's grittier singing. (Ironically, Bruce tried a grittier style in albums like No Prayer for the Dying
The album was recorded in December 1979, and released on April 11, 1980. "Iron Maiden" was the last track.
The guitar riff was a heavy influence on their later, and far more successful song, "Aces High."
Steve Harris thought "Iron Maiden" could also be a description of a cold-blooded woman (Indeed, Margaret Thatcher's nickname was "Iron Maiden," she appeared on some single covers). The song describes such a damsel, who seduces men into her bedroom to show off her "wares" (torture devices) and proceeds to kill them in an Iron Maiden.
There is an all-female Los Angeles tribute band called the Iron Maidens, who have actually met the band and have a female Eddie as their mascot.
Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for all above
The Heavy Metal band Trivium covered this in 2008. It was included as a bonus track on their Shogun
Nick - Cairns, Australia
This was the first heavy metal song to be played on MTV. The clip was the 16th video played on MTV's opening day on August 1, 1981, flanked by Rod Stewart's "Sailing
" and REO Speedwagon's "Keep On Loving You