Iron Maiden isn’t a band to shine away from controversy, but that is exactly what they had to deal with upon the release of the 1980 single, Sanctuary. Although, it wasn’t their music that was the problem, but their Mascot Eddie and his murderous ways.
Adorning the front cover, of the single, is a whimsical scene whereby Eddie had just murdered England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It is a throw back to Thatcher being declared the ‘Iron Maiden/Lady’ when dealing with the Soviet Union.
Clearly Eddie was infuriated by this and decided to take matters into his own hands. Although, he didn’t do the best job as Thatcher would return on the following Iron Maiden single, with machine gun in hand, to take revenge on Eddie.
Covers like this shouldn’t be seen as sinister as they tell us something about the period the song was written, recorded, and released. It tells us about the social and political consciousness of the time and encourages us, in retrospect, to review these now historic events.
While initially a non-album track, Sanctuary was later added to a Maiden’s self-titled debut Iron Maiden.
Without doubt, Sanctuary has become a fan favourite, but it isn’t one of my personal favourites. I don’t mind it within the flow of the album format, but as a single, I’m not to sure it showed off the best Maiden could offer at the time. In my opinion, it was a letdown from their debut single Running Free.
On the limited edition US reissue, Sanctuary is of course the A-side while the B-side contains live performances of Drifter and I’ve Got The Fire with the small, but rowdy, live crowd is in force to support the band.
I must be completely honest when I say that I prefer Drifter, from Maiden’s second album Killers, as a potential single over Sanctuary. I absolutely love the guitar work throughout Drifter and I believe it showcases a band significantly more polished than Sanctuary does.
The live performance of I’ve Got The Fire is interesting as I hear influences of the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, in Di'anno's vocals. That said, the song is actually a cover that was first released in 1974 by Montrose, on their album Paper Money. The Montrose edition is superb and while I acknowledge that Maiden’s version is a live performance, there is just no comparison. Montrose owns this song. It should be noted that the original name of the song, when recorded by Montrose, was I Got The Fire, but Maiden changed it to I’ve Got The Fire. A studio recording of the cover song was also released on Maiden’s 1983 single, Flight Of Icarus. When I offer my opinion of that release, I will re-evaluate my thoughts on Maiden’s rendition.
Irritatingly, at the end of the live performances, but not in the runout track, Maiden left one of the fans woohooing. It drives me insane! I appreciate Maiden acknowledging their fans, but I wish they would do so in a less irritating manner. All I want after hearing the woohooing, is sanctuary.
Interestingly, the 7-inch single is not your traditional 45rpm record. It is 45rpm on side A and 33.3rpm on side B, due to the extended length of the live performances. Talk about crossing the streams!
This is the first time I have ever come across something like this, if you have come across similar, please let me know in the comments.
Okay, so I can switch between 45rpm and 33.3rpm, but every time I play the single, I forget. That said, it is important to note that switching speeds isn’t always as easy as pressing a button, especially when you get into the audiophile-grade level of turntables. For instance, my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, an entry level audiophile deck, requires a manual belt change to switch between speeds. It’s not a big deal if I’m going to play a number of 45s, but it is an issue when you have to switch it back and forth for one side of a 7-inch single.
That said, the collector in me appreciates this distinctiveness.
Overall, Sanctuary is in my collection because I am a collector. While I do listen to it, it is not a go-to single that I will pull out when I feel like having a couple of days filled with 7-inch bliss. It tends to only get played when I listen to my Maiden singles in chronological order.
If you feel inclined to pickup the 7-inch single, it is still available. Alternatively, Sanctuary is available on all post-1998 mastered editions of the Iron Maiden album that is available on Vinyl, CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and iTunes. The studio-recorded version of Drifter is available on the Killers album, but the live edition of Drifter and I’ve Got The Fire is exclusive to the 7-inch single release.