Released 6th August 1984
1. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Smith, Dickinson)
2. Rainbow's Gold (Slesser, Mountain)
3. Mission From 'Arry (Harris, McBrain)
2 Minutes to Midnight is another classic Maiden single, and among the best songs written by Adrian Smith. It reached number eleven in the U.K. charts, and its video was the first Maiden video that actually told a story rather than the usual live concert shots and movie clips. The sleeve picture is another one of Derek Riggs's masterpieces, showing a soldier Eddie sitting in front of a nuclear explosion and obviously in the famous 'Uncle Sam' pose, saying "I want YOU!". Does he actually want us for the massacre, or is he pointing the finger at us to indicate that we are somehow all responsible for this mess and that we are the only ones who can prevent such a catastrophe? The flags are, from left to right: Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, UK, Argentina, USA, Israel and Cuba. These countries are not represented there by accident. At the time the single was released, all of them were engaged in an armed conflict of some sort.
- The USSR had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, a conflict that was to last until the Soviet troops started to withdraw in 1988.
- Iran and Iraq were at war against each other.
- The UK and Argentina had just fought the Falklands War.
- The USA were already then guilty of being a major warmonger in the world, supporting military coups and delivering weapons all over the planet (the same, of course, applies to the USSR).
- Israel was not technically engaged in a "true" war in 1984, but the words 'Israel' and 'war' were a common combination even back then.
- Cuba was engaged in Angola and other African countries at some point, but was also infamous for its threat to world peace since the missile crisis in October 1962.
The whole feel of the illustration is very reminiscent of the Cold War that saw many coutries being used as pawns by the superpowers of the West and the USSR. The threat of global nuclear warfare was very vivid at that time and many people thought that it was going to end like this. It didn't. But the aftermath of this conflict is still painfully visible today, with former "pawns" turning against their old allies who let them down or still fighting against each other. World peace is still a long way away.
On an interesting side note, in 1984, the Doomsday Clock was moved to three minutes to midnight, the closest it had ever been since 1953, when it was at two minutes. The official reason given was:
The arms race accelerates. "Arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda. [...] The blunt simplicities of force threaten to displace any other form of discourse between the superpowers."
It is more than likely that these news also inspired the song.
Rod Smallwood's comments are taken from the Best Of The B'Sides album booklet included in the Eddie's Archive box.
2 Minutes to Midnight (Smith, Dickinson)
This is the same version as on the Powerslave album.
Rainbow's Gold (Slesser, Mountain)
Beckett 'Rainbow's Gold' was originally from a progressive rock outfit from Newcastle of the early 1970s called Beckett and features on their one and only 1974 self-titled album. According to Nicko, the guys in Beckett were friends with the Maiden guys, but they apparently weren't incredibly successful. The song itself is lyrically fairly surrealistic, with an interesting tie with the lyrics for 'Hallowed Be Thy Name':
And your bird she's singing
Catch your soul, he's willing to fly away
And though the end is near I'm not sorry
Catch my soul, it's willing to fly away
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Obviously Steve liked the line enough to borrow it, which is fine because it helped to create possibly the best song ever. On its own however, 'Rainbow's Gold' is a pretty average song at best.
This was originally done by a band called Beckett who the band liked a lot. Adrian used to do a cover of another of their songs 'Rainclouds' in his band 'Evil Ways'. Beckett were from Newcastle and had a great singer called Terry Wilson Slesser (incidentally I was Beckett's agent prior to meeting Maiden).
Mission From 'Arry (Harris, McBrain)
Despite the fact that 'Mission From 'Arry' does not contain any music, it is in my opinion one of the best B-sides that Maiden has ever released. It is a recording of a real and extremely funny argument between Steve and Nicko, and the fact that it is unplanned and completely real makes it even more hilarious. It all happened during a gig on the World Piece Tour, when Nicko was performing his drum solo. During Nicko's solo, Steve was having some trouble with his bass and sent the first bloke he saw to tell Nicko to extend his solo. However, the poor guy wasn't Nicko's drum tech and didn't know how to properly communicate with Nicko. So instead of getting the message, Nicko was only confused and distracted enough to mess up his solo. Naturally, this angered him, and after the show he punched out the poor messenger. That wasn't exactly fair either, since the guy was only trying to follow Steve's orders, and so Steve and Nicko had a major argument about it. After it had died down, Bruce walked in with a tape recorder in his pocket and started the argument again. And and the resulting recording is 'Mission From 'Arry'. It's absolutely hilarious! Buy this single, you won't be sorry.