is the third album by legendary band Iron Maiden, released in March. It saw the debut of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and the final appearance of drummer Clive Burr. The Number of the Beast met with considerable critical and commercial success and was a landmark release for the band, The album was also controversial – particularly in the US – due to the religious nature of its lyrics and its artwork.
was the band’s first album to feature writing by guitarist Adrian Smith. In addition, the release saw Steve Harris adopt a different approach to writing, which would cater more for new vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The album’s producer, Martin Birch, remarked, “I simply didn’t think [former vocalist Paul Di'Anno] was capable of handling lead vocals on some of the quite complicated directions I knew Steve wanted to explore… when Bruce joined, it opened up the possibilities for the new album tremendously.
According to several interviews, Dickinson was heavily involved in writing several of the album’s songs, and in particular the tracks "Children of the Damned”, “The Prisoner” and “Run to the Hills”. Due to his previous band Samson’s ongoing contractual issues, Dickinson could not legally take part in any songwriting for the record, and had to make what he called a “moral contribution”, which meant he was able to influence particular tracks, but not provide enough creative input so as to earn a writing credit. The recording and mixing of the album had to be completed in only five weeks, after the band had spent too long constructing the new songs. This was because the group were for the first time creating a new album from scratch, with very little material written prior to the record’s pre-production stage.
The album was strongly opposed by social conservatives – especially in the US, where Iron Maiden were accused of being Satanists. Public burnings of the band’s catalogue were organised, although some religious groups smashed the records with hammers, for fear of inhaling fumes from burning vinyl. The Beast on the Road tour was subject to numerous boycotts and demonstrations: venues were sometimes surrounded by activists who handed out leaflets and, in one case, a 25-foot cross was carried in protest. Harris has stated, “It was mad. They completely got the wrong end of the stick. They obviously hadn’t read the lyrics. They just wanted to believe all that rubbish about us being Satanists.
The cover was originally created for the song "Purgatory”, but Rod Smallwood deemed it of too high a calibre for a single release and decided to save it for The Number of the Beast album instead. The original 1982 artwork includes a blue sky in the background; this was a mistake by the printers of the album cover, and was later rectified and became black.
The Number of the Beast is a historical landmark, as it is where Iron Maiden first started on the path that would lead them to worldwide stardom, but it is a fucking great album all the way, too. It’s simple, it’s poppier than the previous albums, but it’s a well written, tight collection of songs from a band bursting with youthful fire. Maiden on here showed the first signs of their expertise at crafting memorable, hook-laden and commercially successful work, and it’s a testament to exactly how good writers they were that these songs are still so universally memorable and loved.
this ‘Masterpiece’ without a word of exaggeration is the greatest heavy metal record of all time – one that continues to enthral now and will no doubt do so for decades to come.
Steve Harris Bruce Dickinson Dave Murray Adrian Smith Clive Burr