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Beginning with a brief but brilliant drum intro, this is another excellent album opener. Steve mentioned to Nicko that they needed some kind of drum intro. Nicko was still kind of nervous, being the new kid on the block and all, but he stayed in working almost all day on a drum intro for the song. At the end of the day, he had a little 67-second thing that entailed hitting basically every piece of his kit, going from small tom to big tom, like a kind of ending to a song and then jumped into the chorus. The next day, Nicko played it for Steve and Steve went "no... no... no... nothing like that... just something simple like rat-tat-tat-tat... rat-tat-tat-tat (you get the idea)". Steve tried to play something on Nicko's kit, but he's about as good as that as his grandmother would be... Nicko said "oh... you mean like this?" and played it. "That's it!" replied Steve. And "it" became this brilliant technical piece we all know.

The song is based on an Alistair Maclean (1922-1987) novel, published in 1967, and that was also made into a film (1968) starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, about a WWII covert rescue of an American general from a Nazi stronghold in the Bavarian Alps. Burton is absolutely fantastic in the role of Major John Smith. Who really is this character? Could he be a double agent spying for both Britain and Germany? And why is this American general so important? Read the book and/or watch the film, you'll love every minute of it!

[The instrumental section] is supposed to sound like a machine gun. It's not very loud in the mix, but we wanted it that way so people who listened to it a couple of times would say "What's that?" This song was done in two takes.

Steve Harris

The drum track is great and makes a good introduction to Nicko's skill and style. There's also a machine-gun sound that can be heard near the beginning of the instrumental section, highlighting the reference to the war story. It was difficult to hear it in the original release on LP and cassette, but it seems to be much more apparent on the CD.

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