Woe to you, oh Earth and sea… 36 Years Ago Iron Maiden Unleashed “The Beast” Album

Text by Phil Ashdown.

The Number of the Beast is the third studio album by the English heavy metal band Iron Maiden and was released on 22 March 1982. It was their first release to feature new vocalist Bruce Dickinson and their last with drummer Clive Burr.

It was met with considerable critical and commercial success and was a landmark release for the band. It became their first album to reach No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart, and to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard chart in the US. The album also produced the singles Run to the Hills which became the band’s first Top Ten UK single and The Number of the Beast.

The Number of the Beast is Iron Maiden’s only album to include songwriting credits from Clive Burr and was the band’s first album to feature writing by guitarist Adrian Smith. It also saw Steve Harris adopt a different approach to writing, which would cater more for new vocalist Bruce Dickinson whose vocal range allowed the band to push song arrangements further.

Dickinson was allegedly heavily involved in writing several of the album’s songs but due to his previous band’s ongoing contractual issues, Dickinson could not legally take part in any songwriting for the record. The recording and mixing of the album had to be completed in only five weeks during January and February after the band had spent too long constructing the new songs. This was largely due 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.

Music press reports told stories of unexplained phenomena occurring during the sessions at Battery Studios, such as lights turning on and off of their own accord and the recording gear mysteriously breaking down. These odd occurrences reached a climax when producer Martin Birch was involved in a car accident with a mini-bus transporting a group of nuns, after which he was presented with a repair bill for £666!

The album was also controversial, particularly in the US, due to the religious references in its artwork and the title track’s lyrics. The band were accused of being Satanists, with public burnings of the band’s catalogue, although some religious groups smashed the records with hammers, for fear of inhaling fumes from burning vinyl! 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 title track opens with a spoken introduction from the Book of Revelation, read by actor Barry Clayton. According to Dickinson, the band originally approached British actor Vincent Price to record the passage, but were unwilling to pay Price’s fee of £25,000.

Original release artwork featuring the incorrect coloured sky

The album artwork was once again created and painted by artist Derek Riggs, originally conceived as the cover for the 1981 single Purgatory, but manager Rod Smallwood thought it was too good for a single release and decided to save it for next album album instead. The original 1982 artwork had a blue-coloured sky in the background, a mistake by the printers which was subsequently corrected for future releases and re-issues.

The correct artwork how it should have been. Taken from the official Derek Riggs website.

And you can’t talk about this album and not mention the best song they ever recorded not to feature on the original release of the album, Total Eclipse.

1. Invaders
2. Children Of The Damned
3. The Prisoner
4. 22 Acacia Avenue
5. The Number Of The Beast
6. Run To The Hills
7. Gangland
8. Hallowed Be Thy Name

Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass
Dave Murray – Guitar
Adrian Smith – Guitar
Clive Burr – Drums

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