Everything You Need to Know About Iron Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’
Iron Maiden’s latest limited-edition beer, Hallowed, goes on sale in October for four months only. To mark the arrival of the latest extension of their Trooper ale, here’s everything you need to know about “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” the Maiden track that gives the new beverage its name.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” was written by bassist Steve Harris for Iron Maiden’s third album, The Number of the Beast, which was released in 1982. The title comes from the Christian Lord’s Prayer, better known as “Our Father,” while the song itself is a first-person account of a condemned man who’s about to be executed. He can’t understand why he’s scared, because he’s certain his soul is immortal and will carry on after his death.
It was one of the first songs the band recorded with new singer Bruce Dickinson, who’d already identified that its epic nature was something he wanted to pursue with Maiden. “’Hallowed Be Thy Name’ was a precursor to ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’” he told TeamRock. “That song, and the whole album, took Maiden to a different level.”
The song didn’t have the easiest of births. While Harris had stockpiled material for the band’s first two albums, he had nothing prepared for its third. As a result, The Number of the Beast was recorded during the last five weeks of a four-month studio stint. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was placed as the last track on the album.
The band started performing it live during the Beast on the Road world tour that followed the album’s release. Since then, it’s been removed from the set list on only two occasions: first, during the 2012-2014 Maiden England world tour, and then during the second stint of the Book of Souls world tour this year, a result of legal action spurred by the British prog band Beckett, claiming that Maiden lifted words and music from their 1974 song “Life’s Shadow.” An agreement had been reached with one of the original song’s writers, Bob Barton, but not with the other, Brian Quinn, who’s now suing Maiden.
A live version of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was released as a single in 1993, taken from that year’s A Real Dead One album, recorded at Moscow’s Olympic Arena on June 4, 1993. It was expected to be the last Maiden single to feature Dickinson’s vocals after he decided to leave the band, but he returned a few years later and appeared on “The Wicker Man,” the first single from 2000’s Brave New World. I
Maiden have recorded an alternate take of the song in 2005, when they performed it for BBC Radio 1 and released it as the B-side of “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg.” Two years later, they delivered a version on Live from Abbey Road, a TV series on the U.K.’s Channel Four. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” also been covered by Dream Theater, Cradle of Filth, Iced Earth and Machine Head.
In 2012, The Number of the Beast was voted the best British album of the past 60 years in an HMV poll. In 2017, it was voted Iron Maiden’s best song by Metal Hammer readers. “If someone who’d never heard Maiden before – someone from another planet or something – asked you about Maiden, what would you play them?” Harris once asked. “I think ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ is the one.”
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