"2 Minutes to Midnight" is a song by the English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, featured on their fifth studio album, Powerslave (1984). It was released as the band's tenth single, and first from the album on 6 August 1984 and rose to number 11 in the UK Singles Chart and number 25 on BillboardTop Album Tracks. It was the band's first single to exceed five minutes in length, remaining the band's longest single until the release of "Infinite Dreams" five years later.
The song title references the Doomsday Clock, the symbolic clock used by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which represents a countdown to potential global catastrophe. In September 1953 the clock reached two minutes to midnight, the closest it ever got to midnight, when the United States and Soviet Union tested H-bombs within nine months of one another. According to Dickinson, the song critically addresses "the romance of war" in general rather than the Cold War in particular.
The first B-side is a cover of British progressive rock band Beckett's "Rainbow's Gold", which was featured on their self-titled album released in 1974. The song was written by Terry Slesser and Kenny Mountain, respectively the band's vocalist and guitarist. On the original release, it is titled "A Rainbow's Gold".
According to Nicko McBrain, commenting on the single in "Listen With Nicko Part VI" (as part of The First Ten Years series), the members of Iron Maiden were friends with members of Beckett.
The band's manager, Rod Smallwood, commented this version: "This was originally done by a band called Beckett who the band liked a lot. Adrian used to do a cover of another of their songs 'Rainclouds' in his band 'Evil Ways'. Beckett were from Newcastle and had a great singer called Terry Wilson Slesser (incidentally I was Beckett's agent prior to meeting Maiden)."
Another B-side, entitled "Mission from 'Arry", is a recording of an argument between bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain, which took place after a show in Allentown, Pennsylvania, during the band's World Piece Tour. During the concert, Harris' bass gear broke down, so he asked the nearest roadie to tell McBrain to extend the solo. The crew member was unable to communicate the message effectively, which unfortunately distracted McBrain and had a negative impact on his solo, causing him to yell at the roadie afterwards. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson states that he found the ensuing argument so amusing that he decided to record it with a concealed tape recorder.