Ginger Nuts of Horror
The Number of the Beast has weathered time, protesters hammers, and passing trends in the metal genre to still be one of the best albums of all time and is hailed as a cornerstone of heavy metal.
The Number of the Beast was released, or should I say unleashed upon the world on March 22, 1982. It was the third studio album by the English heavy metal band Iron Maiden. It was the last record that included drummer Clive Burr and the first with Bruce Dickinson, whose vocal abilities were more suited for the territories in which the band wanted to go. It was a landmark record for the band, receiving both acclaim for their musicianship but also controversy from those religious freaks that believed the music and artwork to be satanic. Since its release and subsequent tour “The Beast” has become a nickname for the band, named after their first number one record in the UK album charts and also describing their ferocity on stage.
The album clocked in at just over 39 minutes, it was recorded at Battery Studios in January and February of 1982 by the producer Martin Birch who also recorded greats like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Dio. He began working with Maiden exclusively and retired after their fear of the dark record. Bruce Dickinson was on lead vocals, contributing to songs, though as he put it, it was only moral contributions that he added to “Children of the Damned”, “The Prisoner” and “Run to the Hills”, due to contractual problems with his former band, Samson. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were on guitars, Clive Burr on drums and Steve Harris on Bass.
They released “Run to the Hills” and “The Number of the Beast.” as singles, the latter stirring up protests where people were too scared to breathe the fumes if the records were burned so they smashed them with hammers. Those protestors couldn’t grasp how philosophical the lyrics were, it was blasphemy in their eyes, yet to the fans they were truly epic. Stories were told of the strange happenings in the studio while recording The Number of the Beast like lights going on and off on their own, recording gear breaking down under mysterious circumstances and the producer getting in a car accident with a bus load of nuns, his repair bill was 666 pounds. Whether the tales are true or just hype, it certainly added to the mystery of the band.
I love to make connections between songs and the horror and literary influences that helped birth them. It’s the chain of imagination that binds creative types. I will list a few here so that you can explore them if you haven’t read the stories/poems or watched the movies that inspired some of our favorite Iron Maiden tunes.
The Number of the Beast was inspired by a mixture of nightmare that Steve Harris had after watching Damien: The Omen 2 and also reading Revelations and a poem by Robert Burns called Tam O’ Shanter, a long poem about a drunkard who witnesses a gathering of witches, demons and other creatures while riding home from the pub and gets chased by them. The introduction was read by the actor, Barry Clayton. Vincent Price was originally asked to do so yet his fee was far too high.
The Children of the Damned was based on the old films Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned, which were both adapted from the novel “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham. In later interviews, after Ronnie James Dio had passed, Bruce Dickinson also stated that the Black Sabbath song “Children of Sea” had been an inspiration
These songs were intertwined with other favorites that people can’t help but sing along to. “22 Acacia Ave”, “Invaders”, “The Prisoner” and of course the epic “Run to the Hills” and my absolute favorite “Hallowed Be Thy Name” which has been played on every tour with the exception of only one. It tells the story of a man awaiting to hanged. The lyrics, “Life down here is just a strange illusion”, have always come to my mind whenever I have heard of someone passing on.
The iconic album artwork was painted by Derek Riggs, it depicted Eddie controlling the devil like a puppet which really stirred up controversy though he explained it as a scene of “Who controls who?” and was inspired by a Doctor Who comic from the 60’s. Originally it was created for the song “Purgatory” off of the album Killers, but it was decided that it was too high a caliber to be the cover of a single so it was saved.
In the end The Number of the Beast has weathered time, protesters hammers, and passing trends in the metal genre to still be one of the best albums of all time and is hailed as a cornerstone of heavy metal. Whether it was the making of a group of super talented and innovative musicians or the devil himself, there are millions that are thankful for its creation and the birthing of the beast.
Read Kerry Lipp's companion piece, where an Iron Maiden Virgin listens to The Number of the beast for the first time Here