"Flight of Icarus" is Iron Maiden's eighth single and the first from their 1983 album, Piece of Mind. It was the band's first single to be released in the United States, becoming one of their few songs to gain substantial airplay, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Top Album Tracks chart - the highest position of any Iron Maiden single in the US. It was also a success in the UK, peaking at No. 11 on the UK Singles Chart. It is also the band's first release to feature Nicko McBrain, who replaced Clive Burr on drums in 1982.
The song is loosely based on the ancient Greek myth of Icarus who was imprisoned with his father Daedalus in the palace of Knossos on Crete. In an attempt to escape, the pair fabricated wings from feathers and wax so they could fly away. Unfortunately Icarus, not heeding the advice of his father, flew too close to the Sun, melting the wax that held the feathers and thus fell to his death in the sea. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson modified the original tale to make it an allegory of teenage rebellion against adult authority, which caused the death of Icarus in this case.
The single cover, in something of a parody of the original myth, portrays a winged Eddie killing Icarus with a flamethrower. Icarus resembles the figure in Evening: Fall of Day, by William Rimmer, which was used as a label logo by Led Zeppelin. According to the artist, Derek Riggs, this is a reference to Led Zeppelin's break-up a few years before.
The song received criticism in the UK on release, with Garry Bushell commenting, "Plodding rather than powerful, it seemed universally unpopular with hardcore British metallurgists whose worst fears were bolstered by the number's release as the first American single. Bassist Steve Harris has since said that "releasing 'Icarus' in the States was a mistake," going on to state that "I do wish we'd had time to break it in live before we recorded it, it's a lot more powerful live, a lot faster and heavier." In support of the song, Dickinson stated, "Steve never liked it. He thought it was too slow, but I wanted it to be that rocksteady sort of beat. I knew it would get onto American radio if we kept it that way, and I was right."
The song appears on the tribute album Numbers from the Beast, featuring Ripper Owens on vocals, Doug Aldrich on guitars, Jimmy Bain on bass, and Simon Wright on drums, and it was also covered by the progressive metal band Fates Warning in 1983.
The video for this track was directed by Jim Yukich and was filmed in the Bahamas at Compass Point Studios (where the album was recorded) as the band played a staged recording session of the track. Also, drummer Nicko McBrainappeared as a blue faced grim reaper. Also, producer Martin Birch had a cameo in the clip as his face morphed with Maiden mascot Eddie. A newer edit of the video features Flash animation by Camp Chaos spliced between the original footage, replacing McBrain and Birch's acting scenes and some of the '80s-style visual effects. The animation depicts Icarus fleeing away from a winged Eddie (as seen on the album cover).
- "Flight of Icarus" (Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson) - 3:49
- "I've Got the Fire"* (Ronnie Montrose; Montrose cover) - 3:53
^ * A cover of the song "I Got the Fire" from the Montrose album Paper Money in 1974. Iron Maiden originally covered the song on the 1980 single, "Sanctuary", although the "Flight of Icarus" version is a studio production rather than a live performance.
Production credits are adapted from the 7 inch vinyl cover.
- Iron Maiden
- Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
- Dave Murray – guitar
- Adrian Smith – guitar
- Steve Harris – bass guitar
- Nicko McBrain – drums
|"Flight of Icarus"||Irish Singles Chart||14||Piece of Mind|
|UK Singles Chart||11|
|"Flight Of Icarus / The Trooper"||UK Albums Chart[note 1]||7||—|