10 of the best incarnations of Iron Maiden’s Eddie
Put yourself in the shoes of a young musician in the late ’70s/early ’80s and reflect on how you could make your craft known to the world at large. Bands had to really plan out their brand, and looking back there were quite a few funny attempts at standing out in the crowd. An iconic logo and a sprinkling of shock value sometimes caught the attention of the squares. Mysterious promo photos, ridiculous attire, and absurd names for members. Unknown groups created their own fan clubs or ‘hordes’, listing defunct P.O. Box addresses requiring their little sister to answer fan mail. Some played the Satanic threat card very heavily and have since built empires on a foundation of, “We are actually the spawn of the devil, be very fucking afraid.” But along the way, some fucking psychopath came up with the idea of adding a cartoon monster to a band’s live set. Not only that, but then they sequentially added that same monster to every release going forward. And every metal fan across the world cannot deny the most popular of these monsters is Eddie of Iron Maiden.
In the ’80s it seemed every band had their mascot to further that image – Samson were known for Thunderstick, Motörhead for Snaggletooth, Riot for that weird weasel/mouse thing, Anthrax for Not Man, Megadeth for Rattlehead, etc. It was all a fantasy, because that’s what metal was always okay with being. Music is a dosage of escapism and heavy metal was just fine with embellishing in the departure from reality. It’s this sort of over-the-top comic stage show that added to the fun behind each band. But Eddie has stayed immortal for all time, and has shown up on everything from beer labels to jets. In the post-modern world of the internet age, where we have the luxury of looking into the past with rose-tinted glasses, Eddie is still here, making it okay for metal to have spectacle.
But which versions of Ed The Head are the best? Here are our 10 favourite incarnations of Eddie we’ve seen over the last 40 years…
Eddie on the Running Free single cover (1980)
The Running Free single was actually Eddie’s debut on a cover. It’s significant for its earmark in Iron Maiden’s brand, but also striking due to the ambiguous nature of the artwork. Aside from the obscured Ed figure in the background (and somehow an Eddie hand in the foreground?), there are a few things happening within the cover that are notable in defining the Iron Maiden story and sound. Maiden were the forerunners of the NWOBHM, which was the strange mixture of punk, metal, rock’n’roll, power pop, pub rock, oi, and more, all swirling in the UK. Add in a DIY approach and you’ve got what thousands of bands were attempting in these early years. This artwork not only features the obvious mascot, but includes graffiti of other hard rock bands that frontman Paul Di’anno loved, as well as a hidden tribute to West Ham United, a favourite of the bands’ members. The viewer is really able to capture the threat and excitement felt during this era, built up by rockers from the streets.
Eddie on the Sanctuary single cover (1980)
Released in 1980, originally as a 7” single, Sanctuary was one of earliest appearances of Ed The Head. It’s funny to think about it now, but this one caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. Derek Riggs illustrated Eddie standing over the slashed corpse of Margaret Thatcher, which was described by the band as a tongue-in-cheek jab at Maggie, whose cruel, calculating politics in the face of the Cold War had earned her the nickname ‘The Iron Maiden’. The band felt that they needed to express that they were the real deal and dominated the brand; therefore, Eddie sliced the competition to pieces. It was immediately followed by a censored version that included a bar over the prime minister’s eyes. All versions, as you would imagine, are fun collectors items these days. Fun fact: The following Maiden single, Women In Uniform, depicted a revenge scene of Margaret about to kill Eddie with a machine gun in the same alley. Well played, gents.
Run To The Hills era Eddie (1982)
Like most metal bands of the ’80s, Maiden encountered their share of Satanic Panic from England and abroad – although they rarely sung about the dark lord verbatim or even depicted him within their artwork/merchandise. On the Run To The Hills single, we get to see one of Derek Riggs’ rare incarnations of the devil. For those of you who aren’t aware, the song is the story of the Sand Creek Massacre, a stain left on Native American history by the U.S. Army. Eddie appears to have taken on the role of hero, attempting to stop the slaughter of the innocents below and end the madness. Derek later described his composition as the ‘power struggle within Hell’, but included a tomahawk as a nod to the native lyrical theme of the song.
Flight Of Icarus era Eddie (1983)
Another powerful 7” from the power metal pioneers, one of three coming from the Piece Of Mind album. Derek Riggs depicts Eddie in a mockery of the story of Icarus. Come to think of it, Maiden have some funny ways of inserting Ed throughout history as one cynical brat. On Flight Of Icarus he can be seen flying away from an Icarus, who has been set ablaze by the flamethrower he is wielding towards the viewer, bat-winged and crazed on his way back to an earth in flames. There’s a few hidden details in this depiction that are fun to know: towards the moon, or star focal point in the back, is a floating box which has been to said to be Eddie’s Piece Of Mind box. Also, the Icarus figure was intended to resemble the Led Zeppelin logo. Heavy metal burns the hippies – an adorable war of mascots.
Eddie from the Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter single (1990)
Another uniquely crafted Eddie depiction adorning the 12” single cover of Iron Maiden’s now classic single Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter. We’ve seen Eddie drawn throughout the years playing quite a few different heroic roles, whether it be crusading for the fate of heavy metal, committing crimes in alleyways, or flying a WWII bomber. This happens to be the first time we see him with a lady, and with some sort of backstreet sex appeal. Positioned with his fist in the air and screaming into the night, he’s clenched by what looks to be a cartoonish Jessica Rabbit on his side. It should also be noted that he’s standing atop a pile of what seems to be Sesame St. characters and there’s a Batman logo in the background. Not sure we get it, but we’re happy to see Ed finally get the love and attention that he’s longed for after all these years.
Eddie the unlockable game character in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (2002)
Teenage rock’n’roll rebellion at some point finds itself a skateboard. If you grew up skateboarding in the 21st century, there’s a high probability that you fell into a couch coma once a year when the new version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released. With its endless amounts of creativity, it carried its own fantasy appeal. One of heavy metal additions to version four of the series was Eddie as an unlockable character, showing the Maiden mascot unlike he’d never been seen before. Gamers could finally skate the world as the miniature 3D Ed that they always wanted to be.
The Ed Force One 747 airplane (2008)
The title pretty much covers the description on this one: a truly proud moment of phallic flight for the boys from Leyton. Maiden made their own airplane, toured in that jet to every continent in the world, made a documentary about it, had the vocalist fly the plane, and painted the entire tail to look like Eddie. In case the clouds at 60,000 feet were wondering what Eddie from earth looked like, they now got their chance to see him up close and airborne.
Eddie on the body of a tattooed street preacher (2009)
For those who had the pleasure of viewing the Flight 666 movie about Ed Force One and its wildly ambitious tour, you remember the short interview of the Brazilian street preacher Marcos Motolo, who has over 150 Iron Maiden tattoos, most of them depictions of Eddie. Not only is Marcos a clear maniac for the Irons, but he has somehow spun his fandom into a way to preach the word of God to troubled youth in his area of Brazil. For most metalheads this is confusing, counterintuitive… and yet surprisingly inspiring. There are certain bands that have gained a heavy mutual agreement among fans that their response over the world is almost godlike. But although there have been many tattooed fans of music throughout the history of time, you probably won’t be able to find another person with 168 hand-poked or jail-style tattoos of the same band mascot all over their body. In South America, Iron Maiden is the religion.
Eddie on any of the Trooper beer labels (2013-present)
Created in collaboration with Robinson’s Brewery, Iron Maiden’s beer The Trooper finally gave Ed his chance of gracing a label on a frosty bottle and can. There are many different versions of Trooper available now, including a porter called Red ‘N’ Black and a pilsner called Sun & Steel, all with their own variations on the classic Eddie figurehead.
Eddie from the Legacy Of The Beast series RPG and toy set (2019)
A team of creative geniuses tied the link between the fantasy in Maiden’s music and made it into a platform for an RPG. In the video game spectrum, the band would have been suited much better with a more militaristic, shoot-’em-up, save-the-world-for-heavy-metal role. Yet, the average Maiden metalist seems to enjoy the reclusive D&D agoraphobia lifestyle and games that suit it. Read a bunch of words on a screen, talk shit with your friends in a multiplayer mode, and throw crystals or spells at each other. Involuntary celibacy is life, and Ed can guide you!
Read this next:
And his foot injury meant the Iron Maiden singer had to “fake” being able to move properly on tour…
Watch the lyric video for As It Is’ brand new banger, I Lie To Me