When Iron Maiden released their third studio album, The Number of the Beast, in 1982, it – like all of the band’s studio albums and a fair amount of other releases – featured a creepy character within the artwork. His name is Eddie, and he’s come a long way over the years, so we thought we’d look back at how far this disconcerting dude has come since his inception.
Eddie’s initial incarnation was in the form of a mask made by an art student who was friends with Dave “Lights” Beazley, who had – at least at the time – been responsible for lighting, pyrotechnics, and other effects for the band’s concerts. Eddie’s big effect at the time was to have blood squirt out of his mouth, but when he got an upgrade from papier-mache to fiberglass, he instead released red smoke from his mouth while his eyes flashed.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why he was called “Eddie,” it’s pretty simple: when he was initially just a mask, they referred to him as “The Head,” which – with the band members’ accents – sounded like “Ed,” hence the evolution to “Eddie.” Or at least that’s the way bassist / founding member Steve Harris tells it, anyway.
But it was manager Ron Smallwood, who decided on making Eddie a recurring character within the band’s artwork. So artist Derek Riggs came to design the full Eddie figure, after which Rupert Perry, EMI’s managing director, pitched the idea of having them utilize Eddie even more in Iron Maiden’s live shows than they did already. Initially, Smallwood actually put on a mask and leather jacket and played the character himself, but by the time the band embarked on the World Slavery Tour in 1984, they’d expended Eddie’s importance to such a degree that they had a 30-foot mummified version that shot sparks from its eyes!
The way most Maiden fans saw Eddie’s evolution, however, was via their album covers. He started out as a zombie-looking character on their self-titled 1980 album, looked closer to the Crypt Keeper on 1981’s Killers, became a gigantic threatening thing on 1982’s The Number of the Beast, and became an inmate in an asylum for 1983’s Piece of Mind.
You already know about the mummified version from ‘84’s Powerslave, but then came the Terminator-esque version on 1986’s Somewhere in Time, but by the time he got to 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, he was literally half the man he used to be. (Riggs later said he was slightly sick of painting the character at the time.)
That’s it for Eddie in the ‘80s, but before we go, we wanted to circle back to The Number of the Beast and make sure to give it the appropriate amount of love as one of Iron Maiden's most beloved albums. After all, it was their first to feature longtime vocalist Bruce Dickinson, their first to make its way to the top of the U.K. albums chart, and it was also their first LP to find its way into the top 40 of the Billboard 200. In short, it was a definite game changer for the band, defining them as one of the top heavy metal bands of their generation and legends of the genre for all time.
And did we mention that they’re still making music even now? Because they are.