“It’s amazing that this was recorded!” Listen to the only time Iron Maiden have ever performed 80s classic The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner live

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden onstage in 1987
(Image credit: Chris Walter/WireImage)

Is it silly to call an album that was made by one of metal’s most beloved bands, landed in the top 10 of nine charts and has been certified Platinum by the RIAA “underrated”? If so, we’ll put on our wackiest clown nose right now and declare that Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time is an underrated album.

Despite The Beast’s sixth LP being an evolutionary classic for the band, introducing synths to their then-expanding sound and spawning a song as immortal as Wasted Years, it was their one Bruce Dickinson-era 80s album to not get a dedicated live video. Plus, many of its tracks disappeared from the Maiden setlist between the supporting tour and 2023, when they were finally exhumed for the ongoing Future Past shows. Nowhere is such undeserved burial more apparent than with The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.

Loneliness… is a banger. Penned by bassist and band mastermind Steve Harris, it has all the classic Maiden-isms, from the weaving lead guitars to Bruce’s near-operatic wailing of an invigorating hook. It was even based on seminal fiction, in keeping with the now-sextet’s loooooooooong-running songwriting tradition, this time the short story of the same name by Alan Sillitoe. It’s a cult fan favourite – yet, it has only ever graced the Maiden setlist once.

The lucky crowd who got to witness the sole airing of this anthem were in Belgrade on September 10, 1986, back when the city was the capital of Yugoslavia. It was the first date of the Somewhere In Time tour, and apparently Maiden had such a shit time playing it that they dropped it instantly, swapping it out for Piece Of Mind’s Where Eagles Dare the following night. However, to the relief of heavy metal historians everywhere, one person in the Hala Pionor venue had a tape recorder on them and immortalised this sole performance (embedded below).

The audio doesn’t reveal why the band so swiftly dropped Loneliness… from their repertoire. Bruce seems fired up when introducing it, and the twirling guitar and bass playing sounds just as effortless here as it did on record. The comments beneath the YouTube upload also agree that it’s a damn shame this song hasn’t been busted out since.

“Apparently this is the only time they ever played this one live,” says one user. “It’s amazing that it was recorded!”

Another concurs, “This song is so underrated!”, while someone else writes, “It’s actually a crime they haven’t played this more, hope it gets played at least once on the Future Past tour.”

To the best of our ability, we couldn’t find an explanation for the abrupt scrapping of Loneliness…, but Steve has expressed interest in resurrecting it onstage. The bassist told Classic Rock in March 2023: “That’s something I would love to play. I’m not sure we will, we will have to get to rehearsals and see, but it’s one I think we should do.”

Unfortunately, Loneliness… hasn’t come out during any of the Future Past dates thus far, but the tour isn’t over yet! With Maiden gearing up for some Oceania, Asia, North America and South America dates to close 2024, there’s still every chance this deep cut will get dusted off. And deservedly so.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.