The Prisoner – Unchaining the Spirit of Rebellion and Individualism


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Iron Maiden's The Prisoner at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Escaping the System: A Proclamation of Independence
  5. Dismantling Dystopia: The Song’s Political Undertones
  6. Unleashing the Power of Self-Determination
  7. Vengeance vs. Defense: The Grey Area of Resistance
  8. The Resonating Cry of ‘I Am Not a Number!’

Lyrics

We want information, information, information
Who are you?
The new number two
Who is number one?
You are number six
I am not a number, I am a free man!

I’m on the run, I kill to eat
I’m starving now, feelin’ dead on my feet
Goin’ all the way, I’m nature’s beast
Do what I want and do as I please

Run, fight to breathe, it’s tough
Now you see me, now you don’t
Break the walls, I’m comin’ out

Not a prisoner, I’m a free man
And my blood is my own now
Don’t care where the past was
I know where I’m going out

If you kill me, it’s self defense
if I kill you then I call it vengeance
Spit in your eye I will defy
You’ll be afraid when I call out your name

Run, fight to breathe, it’s gonna be tough
Now you see me, now you don’t
Break the walls, I’m comin’ out

Not a prisoner, I’m a free man
And my blood is my own now
Don’t care where the past was
I know where I’m going

I’m not a number, I’m a free man
Live my life where I want to
You’d better scratch me from your black book
‘Cause I’ll run rings around you

Not a prisoner, I’m a free man
And my blood is my own now
Don’t care where the past was
I know where I’m going

I’m not a number, I’m a free man
Live my life where I want to
You’d better scratch me from your black book
‘Cause I’ll run rings around you

Not a prisoner, I’m a free man
And my blood is my own now
Don’t care where the past was
I know where I’m going

Full Lyrics

When the heavy metal juggernauts Iron Maiden released ‘The Prisoner’ in 1982, they captured the essence of rebellion and individualism that has defined the genre. Enveloped in blistering guitar riffs and galloping drums, the song’s lyrics offer a complex narrative that’s ripe for a deep dive.

Beyond its obvious nod to the iconic British TV series ‘The Prisoner’, the song taps into universal themes of freedom, defiance, and the struggle against oppressive forces. This track isn’t just another entry in the band’s formidable catalogue; it’s a manifesto for those who refuse to be defined by numbers or constrained by the shadows of their past.

Escaping the System: A Proclamation of Independence

From the opening lines, ‘The Prisoner’ sets a tone of urgency and escape. The protagonist is ‘on the run’ and ‘starving now,’ implying a compelling need to break free not just from physical chains but also from the expectations and limitations imposed by society.

As the character asserts, ‘I’m nature’s beast,’ it’s clear that Iron Maiden is positioning individualism as an innate human attribute, as natural and unstoppable as any force of nature.

Dismantling Dystopia: The Song’s Political Undertones

The repeated exchange, ‘Who are you?’ ‘The new number two.’ ‘Who is number one?’ ‘You are number six.’ encapsulates a dialogue of power and resistance. This nod to the TV show also evokes a sense of Kafkaesque bureaucratic control and the struggle to maintain identity within an oppressive system.

Maiden’s ‘The Prisoner’ isn’t just a high-octane track; it’s a commentary on the battles against the often faceless mechanisms of control in government or any authoritarian institution.

Unleashing the Power of Self-Determination

The song’s anthemic chorus, ‘Not a prisoner, I’m a free man / And my blood is my own now,’ roars with the energy of someone who has seized control over their life and destiny. This is not the voice of someone asking for their rights; this is the voice of someone taking them.

Iron Maiden weaves the narrative of ultimate liberation, where the past is irrelevant, and the future is forged with one’s own hands. It’s an invigorating call to throw off the shackles of anyone’s preconceived notions of who or what one should be.

Vengeance vs. Defense: The Grey Area of Resistance

The lines ‘If you kill me, it’s self-defense / If I kill you then I call it vengeance’ point to the morally ambiguous terrain that comes with fighting against tyranny.

The protagonist in ‘The Prisoner’ is not a simple hero; they walk a tightrope between being labeled a martyr or a villain. This dualism emphasizes the idea that when pushed to the edge of oppression, every act of survival blurs the line between justified defense and vengeance.

The Resonating Cry of ‘I Am Not a Number!’

What makes ‘The Prisoner’ enduring in the hearts of many isn’t just its thundering sound, but its iconic declaration of individuality, ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ This line goes beyond music to resonate with anyone who fights against being reduced to a statistic or a cog in the machine.

In what can be considered one of the song’s most memorable lines, Iron Maiden captures a universal, timeless struggle for identity and the relentless pursuit of personal freedom – a message that continues to stir the souls of listeners across decades and borders.

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