Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “The Prisoner” — Iron Maiden (1982)

We want information.
Who are you?
The new Number Two
Who is Number One?
You are Number Six
I am not a number, I am a free man!

You know, this is kind of embarrassing.

To wit: Iron Maiden is my favorite New Wave of British Heavy Metal band, and my second favorite metal band of all time (after the majestic Black Sabbath). On top of that, we’ve featured them thrice before with Powerslave, Fear of the Dark, and Hallowed Be Thy Name.

Not a bad selection of tunes.

And yet, we never, ever featured my favorite Iron Maiden tune of all time.

Until today.

Enter: The Prisoner.

Inspired by (and featuring dialogue directly lifted from) the classic British spy series of the same name, The Prisoner is a King’s Cut of classic Iron Maiden and NWoBHM. Following the spoken word intro, the song bursts into Clive Burr’s thundering drums. Establishing that driving groove, Burr engages in a musical call and response with guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith and bassist Steve Harris. We’re talking epic metal riffage here.

And then the song just takes off. Enter Bruce Dickenson. We’ll hear more from him a few days.

The television show which inspired the song is a magnificent take on where classic spy tropes meets Technicolor absurdism, where espionage and late-60s psychedelia intersect into something wholly unique and terrifying. Featuring Patrick McGoohan as a retired spy trapped on a nightmare island, constantly asserting his freedom amid continued escape attempts, it exemplifies the eternal conflict between the individual and the collective. Or rather, the devaluation of the self for the “benefit” of all. Or maybe it’s just a trippy spy show.

Whatever. I just work here. With all that said, The Prisoner picks up that theme and runs freely with it, to amazing effect. It ain’t my favorite Maiden song for nothing. And not for nothing, but one of my biggest workplace successes was when I was able to arrange having this painted in our office:

Listen, work is always a nightmare prison…

Run, fight to breathe, it’s gonna be toughNow you see me, now you don’tBreak the walls, I’m comin’ out
Not a prisoner, I’m a free manAnd my blood is my own nowDon’t care where the past wasI know where I’m going…

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