Released – 22 March 1982
Recorded – January – February 1982
Studio – Battery Studios, London, England
Genre – Heavy metal
Length – 39:11
The Number of the Beast is the third studio album by the English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released in March 1982. It was their first release to feature vocalist Bruce Dickinson and their last with drummer Clive Burr.
“Run to the Hills” was released as a single, acting as a preview for the forthcoming album, which would not be released until two days after the British dates ended. Released alongside a music video, made using live footage and clips from Buster Keaton films, the single performed remarkably well. As they were rushing to complete the album in time, as well as record and mix the single for an even earlier release, the band hastily selected “Total Eclipse” as the B-side.
As they had written too much material, they had to choose between “Total Eclipse” and “Gangland” for the “Run to the Hills” single release, with the understanding that the other song would make it onto the album. Several band-members have since expressed regret over the decision, with Steve Harris commenting, “We just chose the wrong track as the B-side. I think if ‘Total Eclipse’ had been on the album instead of ‘Gangland’ it would have been far better.” On top of this, Harris has stated that the record’s opening track, “Invaders”, was not good enough, commenting that it “could have been replaced with something a bit better, only we didn’t have anything else to replace it with at the time. We had just enough time to do what we did, and that was it.”
While the title track was considered by many religious groups in the United States as evidence that Iron Maiden were a Satanic band, the song was in fact inspired by a nightmare bassist Steve Harris had, triggered by watching the film Damien: Omen II late at night. In addition, Harris has stated that the lyrics were also influenced by Robert Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter. The track opens with a spoken introduction from the Book of Revelation, read by actor Barry Clayton. According to Dickinson, the band originally approached Vincent Price to record the passage, but were unwilling to pay Price’s fee of £25,000. Although the liner notes state that the passage is from Revelations 13:18, the first line comes from 12:12.
The closing song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” has remained in all but two of the band’s setlists since the album’s recording. Several band-members have since stated that it is one of their favourite tracks, with Dickinson describing it as “fantastic” and that performing it live is like “narrating a movie to the audience.” A live version of the song was released in 1993.
“Children of the Damned” is based on the films Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned, which in turn were adapted from the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. On his last radio show for BBC Radio 6, during a segment in tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio, Dickinson mentioned that Children of the Damned was inspired by Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea”.
“The Prisoner” was inspired by the British TV show of the same name, and features dialogue from its title sequence. The band’s manager, Rod Smallwood, had to telephone Patrick McGoohan to ask permission to use the audio clips for the song and was extremely hesitant during his conversation with whom Smallwood himself describes as “a real bona fide superstar actor”. McGoohan was reported to have said “What did you say the name was? A rock band, you say? Do it.” Iron Maiden later made another song based on the series, “Back in the Village” from 1984’s Powerslave.
“22 Acacia Avenue” is the second song in the “Charlotte the Harlot” saga, which was originally written by Adrian Smith several years earlier, while playing in his old band, Urchin. According to Smith, Steve Harris remembered hearing the song at an Urchin concert in a local park, and modified it for The Number of the Beast album.
- “Invaders” – 3:20
- “Children of the Damned” – 4:34
- “The Prisoner” – 5:34
- “22 Acacia Avenue” – 6:34
- “The Number of the Beast” – 4:25
- “Run to the Hills” – 3:50
- “Gangland” – 3:46
- “Hallowed Be Thy Name” – 7:08