Formed in Leyton, East London in 1975, Iron Maiden are one of the pioneers of new wave heavy metal. Although fluid in the band’s early years, the enduring lineup consists of bassist Steve Harris, vocalist Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.
The group’s sprawling discography boasts 41 albums, 47 singles and 20 video albums. Their third effort, The number of the beastis one of the most popular heavy metal albums of all time, having sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide.
Elsewhere, their legacy has been cemented in video games, a horror-inspired mascot, and a number of bands that consider them their primary influence. But, how did the iconic band get their name? Let’s dive into it below.
Behind the band name
The name is often attributed to bassist Steve Harris, who created Iron Maiden shortly after leaving his previous band, Smiler. Harris would have been inspired by the film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas The Man in the Iron Mask. The Leonardo DiCaprio-directed film centered on an unidentified prisoner wearing a metal mask which, in turn, reminded Harris of the medieval torture device, The Iron Maiden.
Although there is no hard evidence that Iron Maiden was ever actually used, the device was essentially a standing sarcophagus with spikes lining the interior. When the victim was placed inside with the door closed, the spikes pierced her, causing her to bleed for several hours – yuck…
The band went through a few names before landing on their enduring moniker – Ash Mountain was almost their pick although we’re not sure anything could be more metal than Iron Maiden.
Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie
Eddie is a staple of the band’s album art and sci-fi and horror-influenced shows.
Originally a papier-mâché mask incorporated into their backdrop that squirted fake blood during their shows, the name was transferred to the character featured on the cover of their debut album, created by Derek Riggs.
Eddie is also featured in the group’s first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunteras well as their mobile role-playing game Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. In 2008, Eddie received the “Icon Award” at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, while Gibson describes him as “the most recognizable metal icon in the world and one of the most versatile too”.
Iron Maiden’s Legacy
Many bands consider Iron Maiden to be one of the biggest influences in metal.
Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley noted that Iron Maiden “helped spawn a whole genre of music,” while Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich told Guitar World he “always had had an incredible amount of respect and admiration for them.”
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett also sang the band’s praises, saying their song “Phantom of the Opera” played a big role in his development as a guitarist: “A lot of the guitar elements in that song can still be heard in his work with Metallica today. .”
And it’s not just metal bands who feel inspired by the outfit, Lady Gaga has also publicly declared her admiration for Iron Maiden’s career, saying, “The devotion of the fans moving in unison, waving their fists, watching the show, when I see this, I see the paradigm of my future and the relationship I want to have with my fans. Iron Maiden has never had a hit song, and they’re touring stadiums all over the world, and their fans live, breathe, and die for Maiden, and that’s my dream. This is my dream.
Iron Maiden (Photo: John McMurtrie)