For a while, I have been wondering how best to present my 7-inch 45rpm singles. As you may imagine, I have amassed quite a few and while I could probably do two or three at a time, in a single post, I decided that it would be best to dedicate an individual post to each single.
The reason for this is the single is important me. It was often the first connection I had with an artist and it allowed me to sample their music, without necessarily buying an album. Yes, today you would simply go to a streaming music service, but in the 90s the cassette single and CD single were popular beyond belief. I miss those days and the alternative mixes, B-sides, and live performances that would be included on singles. Needless to say, as the vinyl-revival is in full swing, the 7-inch 45rpm single is making a return with new songs being released on the format, as well as limited edition re-pressings from our favourite artists.
Iron Maiden is one such band that has re-issued their singles collection from the 1980s. Starting with the debut Running Free, from the self-titled album Iron Maiden, Maiden would release a further 18 singles in 2014 that I will document over the coming weeks and months. The editions I have are all US, limited edition, pressings. Although, these singles were also released by Parlophone for the UK audience. The only difference is the distribution and record label information. Where it is Parlophone for the UK, it is Ingrooves/BMG/Sanctuary for the US release. I’ve never found out exactly how many pressings Maiden regard as limited, with regards to these singles, but they have claimed that it is a one off pressing that won’t be repeated.
Regardless, I’m happy to have them in my collection as I wasn’t collecting Maiden during the time of their initial release and I wouldn’t become a fan of their work until a friend showed me a selection of CD’s with some of the most incredible album artwork I had ever seen, in the late 90s. Before I even heard a note, I was hooked on Maiden.
Running Free is obviously the A-side on this single and it is clear from the outset that Maiden was here to stay. While Burning Ambition is the B-side, I would call it a A.5 side as it is strong enough on its own. It is a non-album track and unavailable on any streaming services or iTunes. Other than this release, it has been released on the now out-of-print Best of the 'B' Sides, that was also featured in the Eddie’s Archive Box Set.
Both songs feature Maiden’s original vocalist, Paul Di'Anno. While I likely have a small preference for the vocals of Bruce Dickinson, I have to say that Di’Anno’s vocals are superb on Maiden’s debut album. While we can’t, and likely don’t want to, change Di’Anno’s departure from the band, it is interesting to think of what could have been, if he had remained vocalist of Iron Maiden. Alas, we will never know.
While it is disappointing that Burning Ambition can not be heard outside of physical formats, I’m actually glad that the band have kept some of these B-sides exclusive and limited. It plays into the collector’s psychology and it makes for an enjoyable process of collecting each and every song, rather than paying a nominal fee and having access to them all.
Add to this fact that each Maiden single is adorned with magnificent artwork, is reason enough to collect this series of 7-inch records. The artwork for this single also introduced Eddie, Iron Maiden’s Mascot, to Maiden fans as it predated the release of their self-titled debut album. The names of Maiden’s musical influences also adorn the artwork with bands such as the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest shown on the rear wall in spray paint. This is why I collect vinyl. These small details just aren’t transferable on modern-day digital delivery services and devices.
Also, the album artwork tells a story. It is a visual interpretation of the song Running Free and it is fair to say that it adds to not only the associated album release, but the band, and ultimately the meaning and relevance of the song.
The rear cover presents a blurred black and white image of the band playing live with a ghost-style head looming above. I’ve no idea of the symbolism of this face, please let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts.
The label of the 7-inch vinyl presents Eddie in the same pose on both sides, with only textual information changing. Nothing is amiss here as it is an accurate representation of the original release.
It is important to note that there is a second single in Maiden’s lineup for the song Running Free. It is a live performance that was released in the mid-80s with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. I do have that copy and when it comes time to write my thoughts, I will contrast it against the original single.
Overall, the quality and mastering of this re-issue is immaculate. It is a must own for any Maiden fan. It is still available, but if you don’t feel inclined to pickup the 7-inch single then you can always check out Running Free on Iron Maiden’s self titled debut album that is available on Vinyl, CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and the iTunes Music Store.
I don’t know about you, but I now have a burning ambition to run free!