Iron Maiden Eddie

Iron Maiden Eddie is "the mascot for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, a perennial fixture of the band's artwork and merchandising who assumes a different guise relating to themes of individual albums or singles." (from the wiki)

These days, if you've got an internet connection you're never far from an Eddie montage or gallery. But when "Wasted Years" premiered on my MTV in 1986:

this (specifically the bits leading up to and during the solo) was it. I had all the albums and between my brother and myself, we had all the singles and EPs, so it wasn't a case of seeing Eddie imagery I'd never seen before. But seeing all the Eddie that had been designed up until that point (which was considerably less than it is now, of course, and 100% of it was done by Derek Riggs) via montage on MTV was such a novelty for me, especially in 1986, getting re-acclimated to life back in the States. 

(I kept a blank tape in the VCR whenever I watched MTV in those days and filled up seven or eight of them from 1986 to 1988 before giving up the practice. Remote Control, tons of videos, countdowns, specials, Al-TV. Some weekday afternoon cartoons like Transformers, GI Joe, maybe even some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What I wouldn't give to have held on to all those and transferred them all to disc!)

Eddie began life as a paper mache mask made by Steve (or Dave. Or John Lyall) that was placed on stage while the band played. Then Rod Smallwood - manager of the group then and now, along with Andy Taylor * - began to put the mask on and join the band at the end of their sets, walking around stage and gesturing to the crowd and what not.

* Those of you who wrote me asking if I meant "the Andy Taylor," shame on you. 

When the time came to pick a cover for the first album, the band was taken by what they saw from a young artist named Derek Riggs. He had a painting that he'd intended for a punk record based on a photograph of an American head stuck to a Vietnamese tank. When Iron Maiden decided they wanted to use it, he modified the picture -

and Eddie's career as a cover artist was born.
Ron Smallwood thought Eddie had agreeable visual continuity, and it was decided he would be used for all of the band's subsequent artwork.

As well as come out on stage and harangue the band.
Eddie has evolved over the years into a globally recognized logo and a bona fide merchandising bonanza. He's been a parade balloon, a hologram, and an unlockable character in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.  

During the last decade of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, he was also an icon of Loyalist paramilitary forces:
Specifically, the Trooper version of Eddie, as appropriated by the UFF.
When the band plays Belfast, they (allegedly) don't play the song on account of this.
Eddie lends his name to the band's custom Boeing 757:

as piloted by Bruce, of course, with Nicko as a back-up.

And lately I've been seeing Eddie in one place I never saw him before: the tabloids, be they of the supermarket, online, or cable variety. Some young celebs (Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Candace Swanepool, among others) have been rocking Maiden tees lately.

The overlap between metal and Victoria's Secret models is something I've never been able to adequately explain to myself. (Ms. Swanepool is modeling the A Matter of Life and Death tour shirt, designed by Tim Bradstreet.)
I'm not here to exhaustively chronicle Eddie's evolution over the years. Plenty of sites do a bang-up job of that already (not the least of which is Maiden's official one.) The t-shirts alone, both official and bootleg, would be a massive undertaking.

Speaking of, check out this man-cave. (Not mine.)
Eddie has always been more than just a mascot or a logo; he's more like a comic book character, as established in my imagination as Spider-Man or Batman, despite never having appeared in a comic book nor having any kind of origin story. Or consistency. He's a malleable concept with a visual through-line. Looking at his covers gallery evokes the Weisinger-era Superman, where every other month the supporting cast gained superpowers or were transformed into historical personages or animals or inanimate objects, only to be put back to their normal selves ready for whatever the next issue's theme would be by story's end.

I'll primarily focus only on the singles / EPs here (and not even each and every one of those) and save the majority of album covers for another time. Often, the album cover set the tone that the singles and EPs would follow. For example, the cover to Iron Maiden, shown above, provided the template for the singles to "Running Free" and "Sanctuary."

Slightly controversial at the time, as it seems to imply that Eddie has gutted Margaret Thatcher.
Something they capitalized on for their next single, "Women in Uniform."
But just as often, the cover was determined either by the subject matter of the single

or was just something Derek Riggs cooked up at random.

For the first decade-and-a-half of his existence, Eddie was illustrated exclusively by Derek Riggs.
Had this poster on my wall for many years.
Sometimes Riggs would do two-parters. Here's Eddie vs. Satan (for some reason.)
And pt. 2.
One of the images from "The Clairvoyant" single.
And the other.
Eddie in Star Frontiers mode for the "Stranger in a Strange Land" single.

In the 90s, Maiden decided to let other artists take a crack at Eddie, and they worked with a variety of folks, among them Melvyn Grant (this is too funny not to share, from his personal website) and Mark Wilkinson.

"Holy Smoke" from No Prayer for the Dying

Hugh Syme, whose c.v. is fairly extensive for album cover design, did the sleeve for The X-Factor. Whereas all previous Maiden albums were oil paintings, for the X Factor Eddie was a puppet with some digital touch-ups to enhance its grittiness.

Around this time, Eddie became the star of his very own videogame, Ed Hunter. I've never played it. The snippets on YouTube look like your standard first-person shooter game, with bits of Maiden songs that randomly play. 

Derek Riggs returned to the fold for Brave New World via Maiden's using one of his previously made but never released designs (Eddie as stormcloud) as part of the album cover. (Steve Stone did the rest of it.)


But my favorite work from this era is definitely from the single for "The Wicker Man" (by Mark Wilkinson.)

Great wraparound sleeve.
The Dance of Death era.
I think the above is David Patchett, but I'm not sure. He fell out with the band after they chose to go with an unfinished cover over his objections and eventual ultimatum. I'm not sure why the band felt so strongly about the cover:

Sometimes Maiden (and I can only imagine Steve Harris casts the final vote for these things) has a taste for the schlocky. I mean, this looks terrible to me, so I can only imagine that's the whole idea.
Melvyn Grant returned for this nice single from their next album.
As well as for their latest, The Final Frontier. And apparently, the Eddie-like creature from the cover of that album might not even be Eddie at all but an alien imposter.

The plot thickens!
Whatever this alien Ed-doppelganger is planning, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Ed the Head. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed the character may make an appearance in Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Along with Ash from Evil Dead - a boy can dream.

See you next time.


  1. I know who Iron Maiden is (though I am not hugely into their music) so I didn't know this. I do love love music and love trivia. If I had seen one of the album covers in the store I wouldn't have know that this was Eddie. I love to know this now and can impress my friends who love heavy metal. I might be cool now!!

    1. haha! I hope your friends are suitably impressed. :-)

  2. In the late 1980s I knew a guy who had seen Maiden in concert and swore that Eddie was a real guy, horribly deformed and impossibly tall. I told him it was a guy on stilts, but he insisted not, that he witnessed him doing things that a guy on stilts couldn't do (according to him), like roll around onstage and get back up on his own.

    1. I think EVERYONE needs to get together and let this guy hang onto that illusion/dream. It sounds horrifyingly delightful.

  3. Even though I was big into metal -- hair metal, at least -- during the late '80s and early '90s, I never listened to any Iron Maiden. There is a one-word reason for that: Eddie.

    Eddie, to be blunt, scared the shit out of me. Is this because I was a pussy? Yep. I could fight my way through pussydom enough to listen to Kiss, or Ozzy (Black Sabbath included, though barely), or Metallica, all of whom had similarly morbid imagery to one extent or another.

    But there was something about Eddie that creeped/freaked me out beyond my ability to man up for the metal. I avoided Iron Maiden like the plague. This might have gotten changed if any of my friends had listened to them, but none of them did.

    Looking at all these covers now, though, I have to say that they really are just totally fucking righteous. Best one, for my money: "2 Minutes to Midnight."

    1. My brother and all his friends and seemingly everyone in Germany when I was growing up was into three bands: Iron Maiden, Accept, and Demon. (A band that never really broke over here.) Saxon, too. So, I had little choice in the matter, ha - I was kind of the odd man (well, kid) out for loving Def Leppard and Quiet Riot as much as I did. (And Men at Work, for some reason. Well, for the best reason of all, because they wrote good tunes.)

      I apparently feel the need to organize every last bit of information from this time in my life, the great transition from Germany back to the States. I'm looking back at all these blogs and realizing that is the common thread. So, might as well continue, eh? More Maiden coming down the pike, rolling along like so many dwarves in barrels bound for Lake Town.