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"The Number of the Beast" is Iron Maiden's seventh single and the second from their 1982 album of the same name. It was also re-released in 2005.

Upon release in 1982, the song caused controversy in the United States where its religious subject matter caused outrage amongst religious groups. In spite of this, it remains one of the band's more popular songs, reaching No. 18 in the UK singles charts, and has been performed on almost all of their concert tours. On top of this, the song has been covered numerous times and has appeared in several video games and films.

ContentsEdit

 [hide*1 Background

Background[edit]Edit

According to the song's writer, bassist and band-founder Steve Harris, it was inspired by a nightmare he had after watching the film Damien: Omen II,[1] in addition to the poem Tam o' Shanter by Robert Burns.[2]

The song opens with a spoken word passage, read by English actor Barry Clayton,[3] which quotes Revelation 12:12 and Rev 13:18. According to lead vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, the band originally asked Vincent Price to read the intro, but decided to hire Clayton after Price refused to do it for anything less than £25,000.[4]

The track is known for its very long, high-pitched and guttural wail at the end of the intro, which AllMusic describes as "the most blood-curdling Dickinson scream on record".[5] In the Classic Albums documentary based on The Number of the Beast album, Dickinson states that it came about through frustration with producer Martin Birch, who forced him to sing the introduction repeatedly for hours on end.[2]

Single[edit]Edit

The single's cover is the last of three singles to feature Riggs' depiction of Satan, which debuted on the cover of the "Purgatory" single. The cover of The Number of the Beast is the aftermath to the cover of the "Run to the Hills" single where Eddie and Satan are depicted in battle. The single was also released in red vinyl. The live version of "Remember Tomorrow" was recorded during the Killer World Tour in Padua, Italy on 29 October 1981 with Bruce Dickinson on vocals.

Music video[edit]Edit

The original music video featured the band performing the song, interspersed with clips from various horror films including GodzillaWar of the Colossal Beast, the Crimson Ghost film serial,How to Make a Monster, and The Angry Red PlanetThe Crimson Ghost - used as a logo by The Misfits - also appears early in the video, and there is another reference to The Misfits later in the video, when the monster from The Angry Red Planet appears (The Misfits used the monster on the cover of their album Walk Among Us). Also featured are Nosferatu and The Devil Rides Out. In the middle of the guitar solo, a dancing couple wearing cards marked "6" on their costumes appear on stage. As the male dancer spins his female partner around, the female dancer suddenly appears (via editing) wearing a wolf mask and furry gloves. They later appear, holding up their number signs to the camera, in close-up shots, with the third "Six" being held up by the female dancer while wearing her wolf mask. Eddie also makes an appearance towards the end of the video, as a large scale version of him walks across the stage to join the band. An alternate version of the video exists where the film clips are omitted and the video is basically just the band's performance (although the dancing couple still appear). A later video (available on the Visions of the Beast DVD), animated by Camp Chaos, replaced the film clips and the dancing couple with flash animation of Bruce (acting as a priest) and Eddie re-enacting scenes from The Exorcist. According to a trivia question asked on That Metal Show, the devil costume is actually worn by future Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, then a friend of the band.

The song's first guitar solo was played by Dave Murray, and the second was played by Adrian Smith.

Legacy[edit]Edit

"The Number of the Beast" is one of the band's most popular songs, appearing at No. 7 on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs[6] and No. 6 in Martin Popoff's book "The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time", in the list was compiled from 15,000 votes submitted by musicians, music journalists and the general public.[7]

Since its release, the song has been covered by Avulsed,[8] Iced Earth,[9] Sinergy,[10] Powderfinger,[11] Djali Zwan (whose version was used for the soundtrack of the cult film Spun),[12] The Iron Maidens[13] and many other bands. In addition, it was covered on a String Quartet Tribute to the band.[14]

This song has featured in video games, such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4,[15] Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,[16] and can be downloaded to Rock Band.[17] On top of this, it can be heard in the film Murder by Numbers.[18]

Controversy[edit]Edit

In addition to the album's artwork and title, the song was a prominent target of religious groups in the United States who accused Iron Maiden of being a Satanic group.[5][19] The controversy led to organised burnings of the group's albums as well as several protests during their 1982 tour,[2][19] although this would only serve to give the band more publicity.[5][20] Steve Harris has since commented that the accusations made against them were "mad. They completely got the wrong end of the stick. They obviously hadn't read the lyrics. They just wanted to believe all that rubbish about us being Satanists."[21]

On their following album, Piece of Mind, the band placed a backmasked message at the beginning of the song "Still Life," in which the band's drummer, Nicko McBrain, gives a drunken impression of Idi Amin.[22] According to McBrain, the message, in which he says "Don't meddle wid t'ings yo don't understand", was directed at those who had labelled Iron Maiden as devil worshippers, commenting, "We thought, if people were going to be stupid about this sort of thing, we might as well give them something to be really stupid about, you know?"[22]

On top of the accusations of Satanism, when "The Number of the Beast"'s music video was first shown on MTV, Eddie's appearance at the end was edited out after complaints from frightened viewers.[23]

Track listing[edit]Edit

1982 7" Vinyl (EMI 5287)[edit]Edit

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (Steve Harris)
  2. "Remember Tomorrow" (live in Italy) (Harris, Paul Di'Anno)

Also on red or clear vinyl (EMI 5287), 12" (1A K052-1076386), cassette (EMI TC IM3)

2005 CD (EMS 666)[edit]Edit

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (live - Brixton Academy, London 19–21 March 2002) (Harris)
  3. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (live - Brixton Academy, London 19–21 March 2002) (Harris)
  4. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (Harris)
  5. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (live 2002) (Harris)

2005 7" Red Vinyl (EM 666)[edit]Edit

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (live - Brixton Academy, London 19–21 March 2002) (Harris)

2005 12" Picture Disc (12EM 666)[edit]Edit

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (live - Brixton Academy, London 19–21 March 2002) (Harris)
  3. "Remember Tomorrow" (Harris, Di'Anno)

Personnel[edit]Edit

Production credits are adapted from the 7 inch vinyl[24] and reissue picture disc covers.[25]

Iron Maiden
Production

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Single Chart (1982) Peak

position

Album
"The Number of the Beast" UK Singles Chart 18[26] The Number of the Beast
Irish Singles Chart 19[27]
Single Chart (1990) Peak

position

Album
"Run to the Hills / The Number Of The Beast" UK Albums Chart[note 1] 3[28]
Single Chart (2005) Peak

position

Album
"The Number of the Beast"[note 2] Finnish Singles Chart 2[29]
French Singles Chart 78[30]
German Singles Chart 76[31]
Irish Singles Chart 11[32]
Italian Singles Chart 5[33]
Norwegian Singles Chart 13[34]
Swedish Singles Chart 40[35]
Swiss Singles Chart 42[36]
UK Singles Chart 3[26]
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