Behind The Band Name: Iron Maiden

Formed in Leyton, East London in 1975, Iron Maiden is one of the pioneers of the new wave heavy metal. Though fluid in the early years of the band, the enduring line-up consists of bassist Steve Harris, vocalist Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain, and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers.

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The band’s sprawling discography boasts 41 albums, 47 singles, and 20 video albums. Their third effort, The Number of the Beast, is one of the most popular heavy metal albums of all time, having sold almost 20 million copies worldwide.

Elsewhere their legacy has been cemented in video games, a horror-inspired mascot, and a number of bands who credit them as their primary influence. But, how did the iconic group get its name? Let’s dive into it below.

Behind the Band Name

The name is often credited to bassist Steve Harris, who came up with Iron Maiden shortly after he left his previous group, Smiler. Harris was reportedly inspired by the film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask. The Leonardo DiCaprio-helmed movie centered around an unidentified prisoner in a metal mask which in return reminded Harris of the medieval torture device—The Iron Maiden.

Though there is no hard evidence that Iron Maiden was ever truly used, the device was essentially a standing sarcophagus with spikes lining the inside. When the victim was placed inside with the door closed, the spikes would pierce them causing them to bleed out over a number of hours – yikes…

The band did cycle through some names before landing on their enduring moniker—Ash Mountain was almost their choice though we’re not sure anything could be more metal than Iron Maiden.

Iron Maiden’s Mascot, Eddie

Eddie is a perennial fixture in the band’s science fiction and horror-influenced album cover art and live shows.

Originally a papier-maché mask incorporated in their backdrop which would squirt fake blood during their shows, the name got transferred to the character featured on their debut album cover, created by Derek Riggs.

Eddie is also featured in the band’s first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunter, as well as their mobile role-playing game Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. In 2008, Eddie was awarded 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 credit Iron Maiden as one of the biggest influences in metal.

Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley noted that Iron Maiden “has helped spawn an entire genre of music” while Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich told Guitar World that he, “always had an incredible amount of respect and admiration for them.”

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has also sung the band’s praises saying that their song “Phantom of the Opera” played an important role in his development as a guitarist: “a lot of guitar elements from that song can still be heard in his work with Metallica today.”

And it’s not just metal bands that feel inspired by the outfit, Lady Gaga has also publicly stated her admiration for Iron Maiden’s career, saying, “the devotion of the fans moving in unison, pumping their fists, watching the show, when I see that, I see the paradigm for my future and the relationship I want to have with my fans. Iron Maiden‘s never had a hit song, and they tour stadiums around the world, and their fans live, breathe and die for Maiden, and that is my dream. That is my dream.”

Reserve your spot! Iron Maiden Tour tickets are selling fast – get yours before they’re gone!

Iron Maiden (Photo: John McMurtrie)

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