Iron Maiden – Stranger in a Strange Land

Is Stranger in a Strange Land Iron Maiden’s best song that they never play?

In 1986 Iron Maiden released the sci-fi themed album Somewhere In Time as a follow up to the massive hit that was 1984’s Powerslave.  The record was hailed as a masterpiece by some critics but was reviled by others, mainly because of the use of synthesizers, which were actually guitar synths and not keyboards as many thought.  The first Iron Maiden album to include fully-fledged keyboards was 1988’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.

Despite the division the album caused among die-hard fans back in the day, it is widely regarded nowadays as one of the band’s finer moments, due in large part to two massive singles penned by guitarist Adrian Smith – Wasted Years and Stranger in a Strange Land.  The former is a solid staple in Maiden’s live repertoire, whereas the latter has barely gotten a look in over the years.

I was chatting with a friend recently about this Iron Maiden classic.  I’ve seen them live many times and I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that they would consistently omit such an amazing song from their set list.  I was under the impression that it was only ever included during Somewhere on Tour and was put to bed afterwards, but as it turns out, the song was performed during the north American leg of the Ed Hunter tour when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith rejoined the band in 1999. I found the video below on YouTube and it’s definitely worth a look.

The audio quality is not the best but it’s obvious that the song is an absolute belter live! Bruce’s vocals are nothing short of amazing and Adrian’s guitar solo (though he deviates from the recorded version slightly) is one of the most beautifully constructed in metal guitar history – pure air-guitar heaven! I’ve always felt that he is a grossly under-rated guitarist in the rock/metal genre and he’s a fine songwriter to boot. Maiden definitely felt his absence as a composer when he left the band in 1989.

Compare the performance in the last video to the Somewhere on Tour version below. Bruce is struggling somewhat with the vocals but I suppose Maiden’s rigorous schedule was beginning to take its toll at this stage in his career.

And just for kicks, why not enjoy the official video?  This pretty much sums up everything that was great about 80s metal for me: grandiose stage set, flamboyant frontman, gloriously ridiculous stage outfits and a fantastic, headbanger of a tune! They don’t make ’em like this anymore!

I don’t think I’m on my own as a Maiden fan when I yearn to see the band give this classic another run in an upcoming tour before they hang up their boots for good!

Have any of you seen Maiden play Stranger in a Strange Land live? Tell me about it in the comments below and fuel my envy!

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Ian

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