In a day like this on 20 June, 1983 with an ID catalog number EMI 5397 Iron Maiden released “The Trooper” their (9th) and second single from the back then fresh studio album (the LP was out on 16 May, 1983 and the first single was “Flight of Icarus” that preceded on April 11th, 1983) and one of their most famous 7” singles, “The Trooper”, taken from the band’s fourth studio album, Piece of Mind. There’s no Heavy Metal fan that hasn’t heard it and hasn’t loved it from hello. This is the reason why every live album since Piece of Mind has had The Trooper, as well as every compilation, and at the same time it was one of only a few songs to get much radio airplay in the United States, thus peaking at No. 28 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. It also achieved success in the United Kingdom, peaking at No. 12 in the UK Singles Charts as well as gaining a much better reception than the band’s previous aforementioned single.
Written by bassist and founding-member Steve Harris the song has as absolutely excellent intro (great combination of pounding drums and brilliant riff) that grabs you from the throat while the starting lyrics « You’ll take my life, but I’ll take yours too/You’ll fire your musket, but I’ll run you through/So when you’re waiting for the next attack/You’d better stand, there’s no turning back” works like the punch in the teeth you need to surrender yourself to Iron Maiden forever. Tight musicianship, fast tempo, memorable harmonized lead riff along with some blistering riffs, good drum fills, thick galloping bass lines that lead the way like the cavalry, essential frenetic soloing and some great vocals from Dickinson on elegant lyrics based on the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava 1854, which took place during the Crimean War, and inspired by Lord Tennyson’s 1854 poem of the same name.
B’ side is also much much worth exploring too. “Cross-Eyed Mary” is a cover on one of Iron the Maiden’s favorite bands, Jethro Tull. A band that had influenced heavily Maiden and Harris felt like ably honoring to. Of course no flute solo here as it is replaced by guitars, the song is sped up, the guitars are angry, while Dickinson is exaggerating with an exuberant performance. Personal opinion that this cover is which is better than the original could trick a new fan that is a 100% original Maiden song. Some still after 39 years claim that this was a bad choice for the band probably why they are totally deaf and certainly overlooking that despite the popularity of the “The Trooper” as a song, it was “Cross-Eyed Mary”, the single’s B-Side, which managed to gain the substantial amount of airplay we were talking above, on US radio, becoming one of the band’s few tracks, along with previous single «Flight of Icarus», to do so.
The single’s accompanying music video included clips of a cavalry battle from the 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, which the BBC refused to play unedited, deeming the footage too violent.
Aaaaand some wiki trivia to complete the story…
The band’s manager, Rod Smallwood, has since criticized the decision, stating, «Anyone would think we’d killed the horses ourselves instead of using an old Errol Flynn movie.»
A regular fixture in the band’s concerts, vocalist Bruce Dickinson has always waved a Union Flag during live performances and, more recently, has begun wearing an authentic red coat uniform which would have been worn during the battle on which the song was based. During a performance in Dublin in 2003, Dickinson’s flag-waving reportedly received a large amount of booing from the Irish audience.
While the band were receiving criticism from Sharon Osbourne in 2005, at the time justifying her attack on the band at the 2005 Ozzfest, she accused Iron Maiden of disrespecting American troops, then fighting alongside the British in Iraq, for waving a Union Flag in the US, although Classic Rock magazine supported the band by pointing out that the song’s subject bore no relation to the military activity then taking place in the Middle East.
On 24 April 2016, during Iron Maiden’s performance in Beijing (their first in China), Dickinson did not bring out a flag while performing «The Trooper» as part of the request from the Chinese government to allow Iron Maiden to perform in the country. The flag was also omitted for a concert in Shanghai two days later.
The song is mentioned in the novel World War Z by Max Brooks and is used as the opening theme for the documentary series Metal Evolution. Iron Maiden created a beer called «Trooper», named after the song.