By Adam Waldman
On March 22, 1982, Iron Maiden began a journey towards becoming one of the most successful bands in heavy metal history with the release of The Number Of The Beast. Although Maiden’s journey officially began in 1975, it wasn’t until Bruce Dickinson joined the band that they really hit their stride. With all due respect to original vocalist Paul Di’Anno, it’s no coincidence that the band took off with Dickinson’s first release. In fact, according to producer Martin Birch, Steve Harris wanted to explore a new direction, but didn’t think that Di’Anno could handle the vocals.
The Number Of The Beast is the album that introduced many fans to Iron Maiden (myself included). Even though it’s the band’s third studio release, in many ways, it feels like their debut album because it set the tone for everything that would follow over the next 35 years (and counting).
In addition to the album’s title track (which caused a lot of false accusations about the band being Satan worshippers), and “Run To The Hills” (a fan favorite), this album also features “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (a song that is arguably the best closer on any album in heavy metal history). This band favorite has been played on virtually every tour since 1982. Dickinson has described performing the song live as “narrating a movie to an audience.”
Without question, The Number Of The Beast is an essential album that belongs in the collection of every heavy metal fan. Beyond the music lies one of the more interesting stories behind the recording of any album, including a B-side that never made it onto the record (see below)…
The Story Behind The Number Of The Beast…
It was drummer Clive Burr’s last album with the band, and his only one with writing credits. It was also the first album where guitarist Adrian Smith received writing credits.
Bruce Dickinson was involved in the writing process, but because of contractual issues with his band at the time (Samson), he was legally prohibited from providing enough creative input to earn a writing credit. Dickinson is said to have made “moral contributions.”
The entire album was recorded and mixed in only five weeks.
There are reports of strange happenings during the recording sessions at Battery Studios, including lights turning on an off on their own, and equipment inexplicably breaking down.
During the recording of the album, producer Martin Birch was in a car accident with a mini-bus filled with nuns. The cost of his repairs – £666.
The title track of the album is not satanic (as many people believe). It was inspired by a nightmare that Steve Harris had after watching Damien: Omen II late one night.
Iron Maiden wanted Vincent Price to do the spoken word before the title track, but he wanted too much money. They hired actor Barry Clayton to read the passage from the Book Of Revelation instead.
“Children Of The Damned” is based on two films – Village Of The Damned and Children Of The Damned. Dickinson has stated that the song was inspired by Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Sea.”
“The Prisoner” was inspired by a British TV show of the same name, and features dialogue from the title sequence of the show.
Steve Harris doesn’t think that the opening track (“Invaders”) shouldn’t have made the album.
DID YOU KNOW?
The B-side of the single for “Run To The Hills” features a song called “Total Eclipse” that does not appear on the album. Had the song made it onto The Number Of The Beast, it would have replaced “Gangland” (which would have been on the B-side of the single). Ultimately, the band regretted the decision.
Steve Harris on “Total Eclipse”…
“We just chose the wrong track as the B-side. I think if ‘Total Eclipse’ was on the album instead of ‘Gangland,’ it would have been far better.”
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Number Of The Beast, listen to the album again and then check out “Total Eclipse” (below)…