“The Number of the Beast” is the 3rd studio album by British heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. It was released in 1982 on EMI Records and produced by Martin Birch. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Adrian Smith (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Clive Burr (drums).
The cover of the album, created by artist Derek Riggs, portrays band mascot Eddie the Head with hand outstretched, grasping for the devil. “The Number of the Beast” was the first Iron Maiden album to feature former Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson who’d replaced Paul Di’Anno, and the last to feature drummer Clive Burr. “The Number of the Beast” reached No.1 in the UK album charts and spawned the two above-mentioned singles. “Run to the Hills” smashed the top 10 with a No.7 entry and “The Number of the Beast” reached No.18.
We get off to a shaky start if I’m honest with “Invaders”, which is something you’d not associate with an album of this caliber. It’s not a bad song but it is felt that Martin Birch overproduced the vocals on the chorus as Bruce Dickinson doesn’t do high pitched screams, but what he does bring to the table is his amazing harmony. It is a song about a Viking invasion; the bloodshed, the slaughter and the pillaging. It evolved from an early Iron Maiden song called “Invasion” that was left on the studio floor to become “Invaders”. Steve Harris said “It felt like a great rock ‘n’ roll opener. Funny enough we’ve never played it live and it’s basically about an invasion of Britain.” I do like the lyrics in the song as I’m an avid reader of Viking history but it’s the delivery of the chorus that doesn’t sit well with me and that’s a shame because it had the makings to be a really good Iron Maiden song.
Children of the Damned
With “Children of the Damned” comes a glimmer of hope. Well, OK, with the song comes a giant ray of light. It’s based on the 1963 film of the same name which is about six children who have to battle for survival because they’re far superior to the rest of humankind. Bruce’s vocals are astonishing on this song and it is here where you stand up and say “Yeah, this guy is the right man to take Iron Maiden forward on a global level.” The chorus is sung with so much passion and the guitars fit the mood in perfect harmony as the band effortlessly goes through one of their best songs, ever. The sped-up outro is especially good, where the vocals describe the children on the run as they try to escape the clutches of people who wish them dead.
The song begins with a dialogue from the “Prisoner” TV show before Clive’s drums launches us into the song. There are some really good guitar riffs and hooks throughout this track, but they do take time in coming and the intro is probably drawn out a little too long. The wait for the chorus is definitely worth it, though, as you get some classic Iron Maiden harmonies and Bruce’s singing is top notch with the first guitar solo, albeit triplets over and over, sounding really good. It is the second and third solos that drop the jaw in amazement. This is a very good song but only when it gets going. Steve Harris said “The opening for this song is from the actual “Prisoner” TV series, which starred Patrick McGoohan. Adrian took the solo on this one and it’s one of his favourites. It’s a very strong live number, although we don’t play it on the set now.”
22 Acacia Avenue
This is the second in a series of songs about a fictional lady of the night, the first being “Charlotte the Harlot”. It is a fast song on record but is usually a little faster live, and that’s what a lot of the fans want. The studio version is still excellent and it has some very interesting riffs and solos, but it is often felt like the style of the song could have been intended for Paul Di’Anno’s more punk-like vocals. Adrian Smith said “This was one of the first things I ever wrote, which of course ended up in a slightly different form on the album. It was weird how it came to end up as a Maiden song. Urchin did a gig in the local park and we played it and Steve Harris was at the gig. I didn’t even know him then, but he remembered it when I joined the band, years later. We were getting stuff ready for this album, and out of the blue Steve turned to me and said, “What was that song you used to do in Urchin?” and he started humming it and it was this one. It was weird how he’d remembered that one song all those years.”
The Number of the Beast
This begins with actor Barry Clayton reciting a verse from Revelations:
“Woe to you, oh earth and sea,
for the devil sends the beast with wrath
because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast
for it is a human number. Its number is six hundred and sixty six.”
Steve Harris said “In America, a right-wing political pressure group accused the band of being Devil worshippers and of trying to pervert their kids. It was mad. They completely got the wrong end of the stick and they obviously hadn’t read the lyrics. They just wanted to believe all that rubbish about us being Satanists.” Musically, it is one of Iron Maiden’s most famous tracks and no concert the band puts on is without the song in the set list somewhere. Here’s the strange thing, though. Don’t let the song title fool you for one second because it’s almost a happy-go-lucky number but with metal roots. The chorus is very pop-like and you can’t help but sing along to it. Even close to the end of the song where Bruce sings, “I’m coming back. I will return. And I’ll possess your body and I’ll make you burn”, you still get the feeling that it’s a joyous song with no evil intent. Ask many fans what their favorite Iron Maiden song is, and a lot will tell you it’s this one. Others will say the next one on the album, too.
Run to the Hills
This has one of the most memorable Iron Maiden drum beats to it, and also one of the most recognized main riffs. Steve Harris commented on the song “This song is about the American Indians. It’s written from both sides of the picture. The first part is from the side of the Indians and the second part is from the side of the soldiers. I wanted to try and get the feeling of galloping horses. When you play this one, be careful not to let it run away with you.” As Steve Harris says, you really do get the feeling of horses at full pelt across the fields in battle with the galloping strums on the guitar strings.
Here is where it just falls apart a little, and it can only be imagined as a filler song. There’s nothing special on the song apart from maybe the drum intro with some wonderful footwork on the bass pedal, but you’re really not going to get anything else out of the song, and that’s a shame. Martin Birch’s production is good, however, and it’s probably the fastest song on the album as far as tempo goes, but you really wouldn’t think that when you listen to it, as it tends to plod along. Steve Harris: “This one is by Adrian and Dave. The intro is very much a drum thing which Clive got together. It’s probably a bit jazz influenced and a bit different than things we’d done before, but the basic riff is very much a rocker. It’s a very good song, but one we’ve never done live.”
Hallowed be Thy Name
This is the longest song on the album but don’t let that fool you – it is a monster of a track. Bruce’s vocals are delivered with venom and ferocity here, especially when he holds the note for a full 14 seconds when singing the line “the sands of time for me are running low.” This truly is a magnificent song, and one that fans really enjoy listening to. Some complexly played riffs are present but the song holds itself together well, building up from a slow and broody start through to a fast-paced ending. Steve Harris said “That’s one of my favourite songs and still one we play live. We’re trying to create a mood with the build-up of the song. The classical guitar-like opening was Dave building the mood, with bells in the background. It’s about someone with only a few hours left to live. In concert the end part of this one takes off.”
Given a place in the reference book “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”, “The Number of the Beast” is a timeless classic which most fans will name first if they were to be asked of their favorite Maiden albums. Over half these songs are still played live on a regular basis by the band and that speaks volumes from an act that has 15 studio albums. It is hard to imagine Maiden before Nicko McBrain’s insane drumming, but Clive Burr was also a very competent skinsman. Unfortunately, this was to be his last album with the band, as he was fired not long after its release for his partying ways and unreliability.
- Children of the Damned
- The Prisoner
- 22 Acacia Avenue
- The Number of the Beast
- Run to the Hills
- Hallowed be Thy Name