Running Free is the debut single by British rock icons Iron Maiden and released on 8th February 1980. Written by band driving force and bassist Steve Harris and singer Paul DiAnno with initial quantities in a card sleeve and subsequent issues in paper sleeves. The artwork for the cover was conceived and created by Derek Riggs and featured an early incarnation of ‘Eddie The Head’ although his face is obscured as the band did not want him unveiled until the imminent album’s release.
The B-side is an excellent Harris composition ‘Burning Ambition’ which never made it onto the eponymous debut album released a couple of months later.
The line-up at the time consisted of Paul Di’Anno – vocals, Dave Murray – guitar, Dennis Stratton – guitar (on Running Free), Steve Harris – Bass and Clive Burr – Drums (on Running Free). Burning Ambition was recorded in late 1979 as a four-piece just before Stratton and Burr joined the band and is one of only a few recordings to feature early drummer Doug Sampson.
Released at the height of a growing, underground movement called the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), a term coined by Sounds journalist Geoff Barton after seeing the band perform a gig featuring a line-up of Iron Maiden, Samson and Angel Witch at London’s Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse. It entered the UK singles chart at number 46 and three weeks later peaked at 34 after the band’s legendary performance on BBC’s Top Of The Pops, where they refused to mime and performed the song entirely live. This feat had not been done since The Who in 1974.
Text by Phil Ashdown.
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