Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band’s discography has grown to thirty-eight albums, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.
Pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal, Iron Maiden achieved initial success during the early 1980s. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of UK and US platinum and gold albums, including 1982‘s The Number of the Beast, 1983‘s Piece of Mind, 1984‘s Powerslave, 1985‘s live release Live After Death, 1986‘s Somewhere in Time and 1988‘s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Since the return of lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith in 1999, the band have undergone a resurgence in popularity, with their 2010 studio offering, The Final Frontier, peaking at No. 1 in 28 countries and receiving widespread critical acclaim. Their sixteenth studio album, The Book of Souls, was released on 4 September 2015 to similar success.
Despite little radio or television support, Iron Maiden are considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, with The Sunday Times reporting in 2017 that the band have sold over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide. The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002. As of October 2013, the band have played over 2000 live shows throughout their career. For over 35 years the band have been supported by their famous mascot, “Eddie”, who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows.
On New Year’s Eve 1978, Iron Maiden recorded a demo, consisting of four songs, at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge. Hoping that the recording would help them secure more gigs, the band presented a copy to Neal Kay, then managing a heavy metal club called “Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse”, located in Kingsbury Circle, northwest London. Upon hearing the tape, Kay began playing the demo regularly at the Bandwagon, and one of the songs, “Prowler”, eventually went to No. 1 in the Soundhouse charts, which were published weekly in Sounds magazine.
A copy was also acquired by Rod Smallwood, who soon became the band’s manager, and, as Iron Maiden’s popularity increased, they released the demo on their own record label as The Soundhouse Tapes, named after the club. Featuring only three tracks (one song, “Strange World”, was excluded as the band were unsatisfied with its production) all five thousand copies were sold out within weeks.
In December 1979, the band secured a major record deal with EMI, and asked Dave Murray’s childhood friend, Adrian Smith of Urchin, to join the group as their second guitarist. Due to his commitment to Urchin, Smith declined and Dennis Stratton was hired instead. Shortly afterwards, Doug Sampson left due to health issues, and was replaced by ex-Samson drummer Clive Burr at Stratton’s suggestion on 26 December 1979. Iron Maiden’s first appearance on an album was on the Metal for Muthas compilation (released on 15 February 1980) with two early versions of “Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild”. The release led to an ensuing tour which featured several other bands linked with the new wave of British heavy metal.
Iron Maiden released their eponymous self-titled album in 1980, which debuted at No. 4 in the UK Albums Chart. In addition to the title track (a live version of which would be one of the first music videos aired on MTV), the album includes other early favourites such as “Running Free”, “Transylvania”, “Phantom of the Opera”, and “Sanctuary” – which was not on the original UK release, but appeared on the US version and subsequent remasters. The band embarked on a headline tour of the UK, before opening for Kiss on their 1980 Unmasked Tour’s European leg as well as supporting Judas Priest on select dates. Iron Maiden also appeared, to much acclaim, at the Reading Festival 1980. They were second to top of the bill on the Saturday, with UFO headlining. After the Kiss tour, Dennis Stratton was dismissed from the band as a result of creative and personal differences, and was replaced by Adrian Smith in October 1980.
In 1981, Iron Maiden released their second studio album, Killers. Containing many tracks written prior to their debut release, only two new songs were written for the record: “Prodigal Son” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (the latter’s title was taken from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe). Unsatisfied with the production on their debut album, the band hired veteran producer Martin Birch, who would go on to work for Iron Maiden until his retirement in 1992. The record was followed by the band’s first world tour, which included their debut performance in the United States, opening for Judas Priest at The Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas.
By 1981, Paul Di’Anno was demonstrating increasingly self-destructive behaviour, particularly due to his drug usage, about which Di’Anno comments, “it wasn’t just that I was snorting a bit of coke, though; I was just going for it non-stop, 24 hours a day, every day … the band had commitments piling up that went on for months, years, and I just couldn’t see my way to the end of it. I knew I’d never last the whole tour. It was too much.” With his performances waning, Di’Anno was immediately dismissed following the Killer World Tour, at which point the band had already selected his replacement.
After a meeting with Rod Smallwood at the Reading Festival, Bruce Dickinson, previously of Samson, auditioned for Iron Maiden in September 1981 and was immediately hired. The following month, Dickinson went out on the road with the band on a small headlining tour in Italy, as well as a one-off show at the Rainbow Theatre in the UK. For the last show, and in anticipation of their forthcoming album, the band played “Children of the Damned” and “22 Acacia Avenue”, introducing fans to the sound towards which they were progressing.
In 1982, Iron Maiden released their third studio album, The Number of the Beast, which gave the band their first UK Albums Chart No. 1 record and additionally became a Top Ten hit in many other countries. At the time, Dickinson was in the midst of legal difficulties with Samson’s management, and was not permitted to add his name to any of the songwriting credits, although he still made what he described as a “moral contribution” to “Children of the Damned”, “The Prisoner” and “Run to the Hills”. For the second time the band embarked on a world tour, dubbed The Beast on the Road, during which they visited North America, Japan, Australia, and Europe, including a headline appearance at the Reading Festival. A new and hugely successful chapter in Iron Maiden’s future was cemented; in 2010 The New York Times reported that the album had sold over 14 million copies worldwide.
The Beast on the Road’s US leg proved controversial when an American conservative political lobbying group claimed that Iron Maiden were Satanic because of the new album’s title track, to the point where a group of Christian activists destroyed Iron Maiden records as a protest against the band. In recent years, Dickinson stated that the band treated this as “silliness”, and that the demonstrations in fact gave them “loads of publicity”.
In December 1982, drummer Clive Burr was fired from the band and replaced by Nicko McBrain, who previously played for Trust. Although Harris stated that his dismissal took place because his live performances were affected by offstage activities, Burr objected to this, and claimed that he was unfairly ousted from the band. Soon afterwards, the band journeyed for the first time to The Bahamas to record the first of three consecutive albums at Compass Point Studios. In 1983, they released their fourth studio album, Piece of Mind, which reached the No. 3 spot in the UK, and was the band’s debut in the North American charts, reaching No. 70 on the Billboard 200. Piece of Mind includes the successful singles, “The Trooper” and “Flight of Icarus”, the latter of which being particularly notable as one of the band’s few songs to gain substantial airplay in the US.
Soon after the success of Piece of Mind and its supporting tour, the band released their fifth studio album, Powerslave, on 9 September 1984. The album features the singles “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “Aces High”, as well as “Rime of The Ancient Mariner”, based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of the same name, and running over 13 minutes in length.
The tour, following the album, dubbed the World Slavery Tour, was the band’s largest to date, and consisted of 193 shows in 28 countries over 13 months, playing to an estimated 3,500,000 people. Many shows were played back-to-back in the same city, such as in Long Beach, California, where the band played four consecutive concerts. Their first live album, Live After Death, was recorded, which became a critical and commercial success, peaking at No. 4 in the UK. Iron Maiden also made their debut appearance in South America, where they co-headlined (with Queen) the Rock in Rio festival to an estimated 300,000 in attendance. The tour was physically gruelling for the band, who demanded six months off when it ended (although this was later reduced to four months). This was the first substantial break in the group’s history, including the cancellation of a proposed supporting tour for the new live album, with Bruce Dickinson threatening to quit unless the tour ended.
Returning from their time off, the band adopted a different style for their 1986 studio album, entitled Somewhere in Time, featuring, for the first time in the band’s history, synthesised bass and guitars to add textures and layers to the sound. The release charted well across the world, particularly with the single “Wasted Years”, but notably included no writing credits from Dickinson, whose material was rejected by the rest of the band. While Dickinson was focused on his own music, guitarist Adrian Smith, who typically collaborated with the vocalist, was “left to [his] own devices” and began writing songs on his own, coming up with “Wasted Years”, “Sea of Madness”, and “Stranger in a Strange Land”, the last of which would be the album’s second single.
The experimentation evident on Somewhere in Time continued on their next album, entitled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which was released in 1988. A concept album, based on the 1987 novel Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card, would be the band’s first record to include keyboards, performed by Harris and Smith, as opposed to guitar synthesisers on the previous release. After his contributions were not used for Somewhere in Time, Dickinson’s enthusiasm was renewed as his ideas were accepted for this album. Another popular release, it became Iron Maiden’s second album to hit No. 1 in the UK charts, although it only achieved a Gold certification in the US, in contrast to its four predecessors.
During the following tour, the band headlined the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park for the first time on 20 August 1988, playing to the largest crowd in the festival’s history, with an estimated 107,000 in attendance. Also included on the bill were Kiss, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses, and Helloween. The festival was marred, however, by the deaths of two fans in a crowd-surge during the aforementioned Guns N’ Roses performance; the following year’s festival was cancelled as a result. The tour concluded with several headline shows in the UK in November and December 1988, with the concerts at the NEC Arena, Birmingham recorded for a live video, entitled Maiden England. Throughout the tour, Harris’ bass technician, Michael Kenney, provided live keyboards. Kenney has acted as the band’s live keyboard player ever since, also performing on the band’s four following albums before Harris took over as the group’s sole studio keyboardist from 2000’s Brave New World.
Iron Maiden were ranked No. 24 in VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”, No. 4 in MTV’s “Top 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time” and No. 3 in VH1 Classic’s “Top 20 Metal Bands”. The band also won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002 and were inducted into the Hollywood RockWalk whilst touring in the US in 2005.
Iron Maiden frequently use the slogan “Up the Irons” in their disc liner notes, and the phrase can also be seen on several T-shirts officially licensed by the band. It is a paraphrase of “Up the Hammers”, the phrase which refers to the London football club, West Ham United, of which founder Steve Harris is a fan.
Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie, is a perennial fixture in the band’s science fiction and horror-influenced album cover art, as well as in live shows. Originally a papier-mâché mask incorporated in their backdrop which would squirt fake blood during their live shows, the name would be transferred to the character featured in the band’s debut album cover, created by Derek Riggs. Eddie was painted exclusively by Riggs until 1992, at which point the band began using artwork from numerous other artists as well, including Melvyn Grant. Eddie is also featured in the band’s first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunter, as well as their mobile role-playing game, Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast, in addition to numerous T-shirts, posters and other band-related merchandise. In 2008, he was awarded the “Icon Award” at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, while Gibson.com describes him as “the most recognisable metal icon in the world and one of the most versatile too”.
Iron Maiden’s distinct logo has adorned all of the band’s releases since their debut, 1979’s The Soundhouse Tapes EP. The typeface originates with Vic Fair’s poster design for the 1976 science fiction film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, also used by Gordon Giltrap, although Steve Harris claims that he designed it himself, using his abilities as an architectural draughtsman.
80s Studio albums