“Eddie the Head” might be more famous than Iron Maiden’s actual band members, which is pretty impressive for a group that pioneered the British New Wave of Heavy Metal.
Since then, Eddie’s glorious zombie-like visage has graced the cover of 17 studio albums (as well as most of the band’s singles), T-shirts, posters and just about any other type of merchandise you can imagine.
You can even buy Eddie figurines!
Each of his appearances are diverse and imaginative, ranging from desiccated mummies to Clive Barker-esque sci-fi corpses. This recurring presence has only added to the fan experience over the years and has become a significant part of Iron Maiden’s brand identity.
And somehow, even while crossing albums and art styles, Eddie’s presence has managed to maintain a certain level of consistency over the decades.
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EDDIE'S ORIGIN STORY
According to legend, the original head or “Ead” was a paper-mache mask made from a mould of Dave “Lights” Beazley’s face. This initial prop quickly became an integral part of Maiden’s lighting and practical effects for their Live shows.
They’d use Eddie as their backdrop and cover their then-drummer Doug Sampson in fake blood by squirting it out of the mask’s mouth using a fish tank.
Eventually, Eddie was upgraded to a giant fibreglass mask equipped with flashing red eyes and the ability to ‘breathe’ red smoke.
THE DEREK RIGGS YEARS (1980 -1992)
After seeing some of Derek Rigg’s artwork on a Max Middleton poster, (probably Another Sleeper & Cave Wrath), Maiden’s band manager Rod Smallwood set up a meeting to find a suitable image for the fledgling heavy metal band.
One piece, “Electric Mathew,” stood out from the rest. Originally a concept for a punk album, they signed an exclusive contract with Riggs and adopted the character with a few minor modifications.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t dig up the original concept art for this particular piece like I have with other iconic pieces of media, but I’ve included what I could find below.
Riggs would then go on to design the cover art for their (1980) debut record, also titled “Iron Maiden,” and many of the band’s early album covers.
Hearing Derek Riggs talk about his art and his time working with Iron Maiden is somewhat bittersweet in hindsight. Still, there’s no question. Riggs is the man who gave the world Eddie.
BUILDING ON A LEGACY
Among others, Iron Maiden has worked with the likes of Melvyn Grant, Hugh Syme, Tim Bradstreet and most recently, Mark Wilkonson to bring fans fresh, bizarre takes on the Eddie we know and love.
Peacock Design Studio
THE DANCE OF DEATH DEBACLE
Still, at least one of their collaborations with visual artists has been less than impressive.
And not just because it’s hard to beat the awesomeness found in the illustrative work for The Number of the Beast (1982) or Piece of Mind (1983).
If you’ve ever wondered why the album art for Dance of Death is so bad, I have an answer for you.
For some reason, Iron Maiden went ahead with an unfinished version of the album artwork provided by David Patchett.
Because of this, the artist very wisely asked the band to remove his name from the album credits. Unsurprisingly, most people agree the result is terrible.
So there you have it. Almost every Iron Maiden album organized chronologically by artist, with a few easter eggs left in just for fun.