The ‘Nightmare’ that Inspired “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” by Iron Maiden

Sometimes one never knows which single from a band will turn out to be the chart-topper. In the case of Iron Maiden, the song with the silliest title ended up being their biggest hit. This was, of course, “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter,” which began life as a solo track by frontman Bruce Dickinson for the 1989 slasher film A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. But Maiden bassist and bandleader Steve Harris liked his track so much that he had the band rerecord it for their 1990 album No Prayer for the Dying.

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According to Metal Hammer magazine, the Nightmare producers reached out to the British band to do a song for the film, but most of the members were either taking time off or working on the Maiden England live release. Dickinson jumped at the chance to do a movie soundtrack song, and he clearly came up with a cheeky title that was referencing how the Freddy Krueger horror franchise was littered with teenage victims. Dickinson was a longtime Hammer horror movie fan and Maiden had traded in a lot of horror imagery, particular in their earlier days. And let’s not forget their ghoulish mascot Eddie, a horror icon all on his own.

For the song, Dickinson enlisted guitarist Janick Gers, who would make his Maiden album debut the following year after Adrian Smith departed. The singer claims to have written the lyrics in three and a half minutes, and it gave him the chance to do something more salacious than he could on a Maiden record. The song also had a more straightforward, AC/DC-ish vibe.

Honey, it’s getting close to midnight
And all the myths are still in town
True love and lipstick on your linen
Bite the pillow, make no sound
If there’s some living to be done
Before your life becomes your tomb
You’d better know that I’m the one
Unchain your back door
Invite me around

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child was the poorest-performing entry in that entire movie franchise. It was profitable ($22 million domestic gross against an $8 million budget), but not nearly as much as previous or subsequent installments. That also meant that “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” did not get as much attention as it could have.

An Obscure Original

“Not many people have heard the original version of that,” Dickinson told Stereogum. “The original version of it is more of a groove-type piece. Maiden do it, and all of a sudden, it gets enormous and spiky and becomes a gallop. And that’s just what happens when you play songs with Iron Maiden. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.” 

The Iron Maiden version of Dickinson’s song has a fuller production with a barely faster pace, and there’s a melodic line in the mid-section that sounds reminiscent of “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” That song was from their third album Number of the Beast, which marked the debut of Dickinson as their new singer. Regardless, one can easily find things to enjoy in both versions.

The performance video for Maiden’s version intercuts scenes from the 1960s horror film City of the Dead (also known as Horror Hotel) which starred Christopher Lee. The BBC reportedly only played one minute and ten seconds of the clip, and BBC Radio barely played the song. However, metal bands back then relied more on specialty radio shows and music video networks to get the word out.

Their Only No. 1 UK Hit

Indeed the most fascinating aspect about the rerecorded “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” is it became Iron Maiden’s only No. 1 UK hit. The band have had numerous Top 10 UK singles throughout the first decade of their career—they came close to the top with “Holy Smoke” and “Can I Play with Madness,” the video for the latter featuring Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. For their next album, Fear of the Dark in 1992, the lead single “Be Quick or Be Dead” shot up to No. 2 on the UK singles chart.

Yet despite being a chart-topping single in their native country, “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” carries some baggage. The song won a Golden Raspberry Award (aka a Razzie) for Worst Original Song, and after the early ‘90s the band rarely ever played it. Some fans dislike it, others embrace it.

Blame Freddy Krueger

Thanks to the original version emerging on a soundtrack, there was interest in more solo material from Dickinson, who wound end up releasing his debut solo effort Tattooed Millionaire five months before Maiden put out No Prayer for the Dying in October 1990. Then things changed for the iconic group. Seeking other creative pastures, Dickinson released his second solo album Balls To Picasso in 1994, a year after departing Maiden. The move shocked fans. One could argue Freddy Krueger is to blame for this turn of events because, while the band chose not to work on the song, their frontman took a shot at it and wound up cultivating a solo career. (Eddie vs. Freddy is a Celebrity Deathmatch episode we’d like to see.)

But Dickinson and Smith returned to the Maiden fold in 1999, and the band’s reunion album Brave New World began a new phase of their career. While album sales were not the domestic Gold and Platinum tallies of the past (and whose are anymore?), Maiden became one of the biggest global concert draws and are arguably more popular than they were in the ‘80s.

Sometimes certain band members need a break to recharge their creative batteries, and “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” was Dickinson’s gateway for rejuvenation. Ironically, the song also gave Maiden its sole No. 1 UK hit. But it’s not likely they’ll be playing it anytime soon.

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Photo by Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic

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