Adrian Smith is Iron Maiden’s not-so-secret weapon. Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson may grab the headlines and write a greater number of songs between them, but the guitarist is the go-to songwriter for punchy metal anthems with a sparkling melodic edge. Don't believe us? Try arguing with these 10 stone cold Maiden classics that Smith helped to write.
10) Die With Your Boots On
One of the highlights of Maiden's fourth album, Piece Of Mind's this is a peerless rabble-rouser which takes aims at religious fundamentalists who predict the end of the world is nigh. But the song, inspired by the idea of putting up a good fight in the face of impending defeat, also had another meaning: "If you’re going to go for something, go for it,” Dickinson told Rolling Stone in 2012. “That’s exactly the same attitude we have on stage and we have off stage – work hard and play hard."
9) Moonchild (1988)
Iron Maiden’s triumphant 1988 concept album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son opens with the Smith/Dickinson classic Moonchild – guaranteeing an onslaught of goosebumps. Loosely based on the Aleister Crowley novel of the same name, this occult epic bristles with primal screams and massively creepy lyrics about ritual infant murder. It also dives deep into the mind-bending topics of reality, life after death and the meaning of life. The perfect balance of Maiden’s metal thunder and pure mysticism.
8) The Prisoner (1982)
Harris and Smith’s bruising straight-up heavy metal rocker is a paean to the addictive UK TV series that ran briefly in the late 60s and it is magnificent, from the opening drama of dialogue from the titular TV show, featuring the late, great Patrick McGoohan, through to that monstrous opening riff and on to one of the biggest choruses Maiden have ever produced. McGoohan gave his personal approval for the band to use his voice, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with the most exciting young band on the planet?
7) Stranger In A Stranger Land (1986)
Stranger In A Strange Land was very different to the Iron Maiden sound we were accustomed to, incorporating synthesisers into their balls-out heavy metal style. “We went for a new kind of sound on Somewhere In Time, using guitar synths, and two of my songs for that album came out really well, Stranger In A Strange Land and Wasted Years,” Adrian Smith told Classic Rock. The former song’s opening bassline will echo around your skull for a lifetime. And while Stranger In A Strange Land isn’t Iron Maiden at their most immediate, its lush progressive wash and bubbling groove make for an immersive, sci-fi travelogue.
6) The Wicker Man (2000)
How do you inform the world that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith’s return to the Maiden fold is a success? By launching your new album with a fucking grenade of a track. No one could deny how insanely exciting it was when The Wicker Man emerged, instantly proclaiming the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to be the best thing to happen to Maiden in a long time. It’s a modern metal classic, an irresistible sing-along and one of Maiden’s greatest ever singles.
5) Can I Play With Madness? (1988)
Iron Maiden astonished the mainstream by bursting into the UK singles chart at a lofty #3 with this deceptively intricate anthem in March 1988, precipitating the huge success of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son a few months later. Its video features an uppity art teacher – played by Monty Python star Graham Chapman – losing his rag at a student who draws (an admittedly badass) Eddie instead of the church ruins, who suddenly finds himself in an occult crypt scenario watching Iron Maiden live footage and meeting an ‘80s animated Eddie. Be honest, who hasn’t had a day like that?
4) The Flight Of Icarus (1983)
The first single from Iron Maiden's epic Piece Of Mind album in 1983, Flight Of Icarus was the first proper release to feature Nicko McBrain on drums – having replaced Clive Burr a year previous. The song, as the name suggests, is based around the Greek myth of Icarus – the man who attempted to flee Crete using wings made of wax, but flew too close to the sun against his father’s advice. Maiden finally reinstated it into the setlist on 2018’s Legacy Of The Beast tour after a 32-year gap – and not before time.
3) The Evil That Men Do (1988)
The song title The Evil That Men Do is taken from Marcus Antonius’s speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This thunderous slab of none-more-Maiden gallop ’n’ bellow from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was released as a single in the summer of 1988 and peaked at No.5 in the UK.
2) 2 Minutes To Midnight (1984)
A furious anti-war protest song with a lyric that hits as hard as the music, 2 Minutes To Midnight is, in essence, Iron Maiden’s War Pigs. No matter that the bludgeoning riff somewhat echoes Riot’s charging Swords & Tequila, this is classic Maiden through and through.
1) Wasted Years (1986)
Wasted Years is a gleaming, radio-friendly anthem written by Smith. This 1986 gem amounted to a significant detour from Iron Maiden’s trademark sound, but its carpe diem message and insistent melody made it an instant classic and a live favourite. Not just one of the greatest Adrian Smith songs, but one of the great Iron Maiden songs full-stop.