The Iron Maiden album The Number of the Beast was released 40 years ago today. Iron Maiden had already made waves in the heavy metal world thanks to their 1981 album Killers, but The Number of the Beast would skyrocket the band even further. From its several iconic songs, being the first album to feature Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and its catchy (although controversial) album cover – The Number of the Beast has cemented itself as one of the most important albums in heavy metal history.
While you may already know the stunning quality and success of this album, there are a few interesting details you may not be aware of regarding the album. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Iron Maiden album The Number of the Beast, we did some digging and found some neat stories surrounding or pertaining to this record we thought would be worth sharing.
Here are six interesting details you may not know about regarding the Iron Maiden album The Number of the Beast.
1. The Iron Maiden Number of the Beast album cover was partially inspired by a comic book featuring the popular Marvel character Doctor Strange. In an interview with Classic Rock Magazine, artist Derek Riggs (who did the Iron Maiden album cover), shared the following insight into the inspiration behind the Iron Maiden cover art: “There was a Doctor Strange comic which had some big villain with Doctor Strange dangling on some strings like a puppet, it was something I read as a child back in the 1960s I think. The picture came to mind right away. I thought I could do a very effective heaven and hell thing using Eddie. Most of those hell backgrounds were taken from my knowledge of medieval European Christian art which was full of such scenes.”
2. On the album’s self-titled track, per Iron Maiden vocalist Brice Dickinson, famous horror movie actor Vincent Price was supposed to do some voice work, but declined. This is because the horror movie actor had a fee of £25,000 and would not do anything for less than that. The band decided to opt for someone else who could do a Vincent Price-like voice.
3. While some religious groups believed the band’s self-titled track to be proof that they were Satanists, the song actually originated from a nightmare Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris had. The nightmare was brought on by watching the horror movie Damien: Omen II.
4. The song “Children of the Damned” has a few influences – some related to horror movies, and one related to a legendary heavy metal band. The song apparently is based on the horror movies Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned (both being released in the 1960s). Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, during a BBC radio show, said that the song was inspired by the Black Sabbath song “Children of the Sea.”
5. The Number of the Beast was a big target among religious groups during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. The Beast on the Road tour was subject to many boycotts and demonstrations where protestors would surround venues. These protestors took to destroying copies of The Number of the Beast album, but, some religious groups were afraid of burning the records and inhaling the fumes of the vinyl. Could this have been because they were afraid of some kind of demonic power taking them over?
6. For all the talk of Satan and demonic forces that appear in the Iron Maiden album, there may have been some mysterious forces at work surrounding that of the band and their team. Between studio lights randomly turning on and off, recording gear randomly breaking down, and a car crash involving album producer Martin Birch – some odd stuff took place during the recording process of this Iron Maiden album. On an even more surreal note, that car crash landed Birch a repair bill for £666.
While there are many records we care about deeply in the band’s discography, this Iron Maiden album means a great deal to us. It’s surreal to hear that this record is celebrating its 40th anniversary today. What does The Number of the Beast mean to you? When did you first hear the record? And where does it land in your ranking of favorite Iron Maiden albums?
We hope you enjoyed this list and throw on some Iron Maiden to celebrate 40 years of The Number of the Beast!!!
Words by: Michael Pementel