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Iron Maiden - The Number of The Beast (Rock In Rio Festival 1985)

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Retrieved from Wikipedia:
The Number of the Beast on Wikipedia
"The Number of the Beast"
Single by Iron Maiden
from the album The Number of the Beast
Released26 April 1982
Formatvinyl record (7") (12")
GenreHeavy metal
Writer(s)Steve Harris
Iron Maiden singles chronology

"The Number of the Beast" is Iron Maiden's seventh single and the second from their 1982 album of the same name. One of the band's more popular songs, it reached No. 18 in the UK singles charts and has been performed on almost all of their concert tours.


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 actor Barry Clayton,[3] which quotes directly from the Book of Revelation. 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]


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 a very rare red, pictured below, and even more rare picture disc vinyl.

Music video

The original music video featured the band performing the song, interspersed with clips from various horror films including Godzilla, War of the Colossal Beast, the Crimson Ghost film serial, How to Make a Monster, and The Angry Red Planet. The 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 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] It also ranked 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, it has been covered by Iced Earth,[8] Sinergy,[9] Powderfinger,[10] Djali Zwan (whose version was used for the soundtrack of the cult film Spun),[11] The Iron Maidens[12] and many other bands. In addition, it was also covered on a String Quartet Tribute to the band.[13]

This song was also featured in video games, such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4,[14] Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,[15] and can be downloaded to Rock Band.[16] On top of this, it can be heard in the film Murder by Numbers.[17]


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][18] The controversy led to organised burnings of the group's albums as well as several protests during their 1982 tour,[2][18] although this would only serve to give the band more publicity.[5][19] 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."[20]

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.[21] 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?"[21]

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.[22]

1982 7" Vinyl track listing (EMI 5287)

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

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

2005 CD track listing (EMS 666)

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Harris)
  3. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Harris)
  4. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Harris)
  5. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (live 2002) (Harris)

2005 7" Red Vinyl track listing (EM 666)

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Harris)

2005 12" Picture Disc track listing (12EM 666)

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Harris)
  3. "Remember Tomorrow" (Di'Anno, Harris)


  • Bruce Dickinson – vocals
  • Dave Murray – lead guitar
  • Adrian Smith – lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Janick Gers - lead guitar (live)
  • Steve Harris – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Clive Burr – drums
  • Nicko McBrain - drums (live)


  1. ^ Re-release of both singles as part of "The First Ten Years" box set. Exceeded the length limit of the UK Singles chart.
  2. ^ Re-release of original studio version along with 2002 live version.


  1. ^ Wall, Mick (2004). Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills, the Authorised Biography (3rd ed.). Sanctuary Publishing. p. 224. ISBN 1-86074-542-3. 
  2. ^ a b c Classic Albums: The Number of the Beast (DVD). Eagle Vision. 4 December 2001. 
  3. ^ "The 10 Mightiest Intros in Metal". Retrieved 2011-10-12. 
  4. ^ "Bruce Dickinson: Iron Maiden on tour in 2005". Retrieved 2012-01-09. 
  5. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Review: The Number of the Beast". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by; last accessed 2006-09-10.
  7. ^ "The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time"[1].
  8. ^ "A Tribute to the Gods". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  9. ^ "A Tribute to the Beast-". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  10. ^ "Metre: Powderfinger". Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  11. ^ "Djali Zwan Official Myspace". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  12. ^ "The Iron Maidens- Allmusic". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  13. ^ "Anatomy of Evil: A string quartet tribute to Iron Maiden". Retrieved 24-09-2011. 
  14. ^ "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 soundtrack". Retrieved 24-09-2011. 
  15. ^ "Guitar Hero 3". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  16. ^ " Iron Maiden". Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  17. ^ "Murder by Numbers Soundtrack". Retrieved 24-09-2011. 
  18. ^ a b Young, Simon. "Raising Hell". Kerrang! Legends (2): 32. 
  19. ^ The History Of Iron Maiden – Pt. 1: The Early Days (DVD). Sony. 23 November 2004. 
  20. ^ Wall, Mick (2004). Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills, the Authorised Biography (3rd ed.). Sanctuary Publishing. p. 228. ISBN 1-86074-542-3. 
  21. ^ a b Wall, Mick (2004). Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills, the Authorised Biography (3rd ed.). Sanctuary Publishing. p. 246. ISBN 1-86074-542-3. 
  22. ^ Various dates in Iron Maiden history
  23. ^ a b "UK Charts". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  24. ^ "Search the charts". The Irish Charts. IRMA. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  25. ^ "UK Albums Archive- 17th March 1990". Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  26. ^ "Finnish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  27. ^ "French Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  28. ^ "German Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  29. ^ "Irish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  30. ^ "Italian Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  31. ^ "Norwegian Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  32. ^ "Swedish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  33. ^ "The Number of the Beast- Swiss Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 

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