When it comes to British Heavy Metal there is no band more famous than Iron Maiden and no icon more terrifying and significant than Eddie. Self-confessed metalhead ANN MASSEY O’REGAN takes us through her top 7 Iron Maiden/Eddie album covers.
Since I first heard Phantom of the Opera as a kid I was hooked on Maiden. Buying ‘Number of the Beast’ was my first introduction to the scary but delightful Eddie and each and every album cover is a dark and delicious wrapper that I know will encase great tunes backed with lyrics based on violent history, folklore and horror tales. Choosing my top 7 was a bit like choosing your favourite child and it was hard to select by cover alone but here they are!
Iron Maiden (1980)
This cover depicts Eddie in his embryonic stage on the debut Maiden Album cover. The track listing contains ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and the instrumental ‘Transylvania’ which need no introduction. Derek Riggs was the fledgling artist who took a papier mache stage prop nicknamed Eddie and married it with the concept of H. P. Lovecraft that things are more horrific when added to your own environment. The first iconic Eddie album cover was born.
This album was the first with Adrian Smith and the last to contain the vocals of Paul Di’Anno. Tracks include ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale of the same name. Interestingly the artwork for the cover of the single release ‘Purgatory’ was pulled so it could be used for the next album on my list! Riggs is again the artist depicting Eddie brandishing a bloody axe under a street light, his victim desperately clutching at his t-shirt.
Number of the Beast (1982)
Another iconic album as it featured the debut of a certain Bruce Dickinson and tragically was the last recording for Clive Burr. Queue Derek Riggs for artwork, who was under a strict deadline and openly admits nicking the running with the devil idea from a comic he had seen a decade before. Imagery depicts Eddie in a much more powerful role than Lucifer and thus the evolution of Eddie had begun. Live fan favourites on this album include the title track ‘Number of the Beast’, ‘Run to the Hills’ and ‘Children of the Damned’, based on the 1964 sci-fi horror of the same name.
Piece of Mind (1983)
The first album with Nicko McBrain on drums, it contains the track ‘Still Life’ which has a message when played backwards (good old vinyl!) sticking a firm two fingers up at the critics who declared Maiden as Satanists. Derek Riggs was back again for artwork and depicted a chained and strait-jacketed Eddie in a padded cell, insinuating that the Maiden Mascot had lost his marbles over one of Maiden’s most critically acclaimed albums.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
The album was based on the writings of sci-fi writer Oscar Scott Card and Harris’s interest in the concept of the paranormal and an individual with mystical abilities. All the tracks kept to Harris’s vision including ‘Can I Play with Madness’ and ‘The Evil That Men Do.’ Derek Riggs was commissioned to create something that was both ‘surreal’ and ‘bloody weird.’ While Bruce Dickinson will tell you he inspired Riggs with imagery on the ninth circle of hell, Riggs will tell you he based it on a documentary he watched. Either way futuristic Eddie with nods to the Garden of Eden and previous covers is awesome.
Fear of the Dark (1992)
Surprisingly, Eddie stalwart artist Derek Riggs submitted concept artwork and was rejected by the band. Instead former classic medium artist Mervyn Grant stepped up and evolved Eddie from comic level to a Nosferatu inspired horror character and bang in with the nineties trend. The title track encompasses all our fears from reading folklore to watching horror and will always be a firm favourite.
The Book of Souls (2015)
The longest Maiden album to date, this latest album is the live tour that keeps on giving. Eddie is at his most evil and terrifying best with artwork from Mark Wilkinson covering a double album spread. Based on Mayan beliefs on life after death, it was all the more poignant with the cancer battle that Bruce Dickinson was enduring. So intent were Maiden on getting it right, they actually hired a Mayan civilization specialist to ensure the artwork and ‘glyphs’ were on point. The first release ‘Speed of Light’ was a homage to video gaming and tracked the evolution of Eddie over 35 years.
So there we have it. The dark and loveable Eddie continues to grow with Iron Maiden and a new legion of horror and metal fans including my young friend Shana Phelan embrace the music, art and everything it represents. To watch the likes of Shana at a live gig both marvelling and in awe of stage Eddie shows that a former humble papier mache stage prop has so much more to give. Long may Eddie give us nightmares and UP THE IRONS! \m/