Eddie the Head

Eddie the Head

The Somewhere Back in Time World Tour "Walk-on" Eddie in Paris, France
First appearance 8 February 1980
Created by Derek Riggs

Eddie, also known as Eddie the Head, is the mascot for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. He is a perennial fixture of the group's artwork, appearing in all of their album covers (as well as most of their singles) and in their merchandise, which includes T-shirts, posters and action figures. On top of this, Eddie features in all of the band's concerts, as well as in the first-person shooter video game, Ed Hunter, and the role-playing game, Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast.

Originally a papier-mâché mask used in Iron Maiden's stage backdrop, the band transferred the name "Eddie" from the mask to an illustration by Derek Riggs, which was used as the band's debut album cover. Although he is occasionally described as "zombie-like" in the press,[1][2][3][4] Eddie assumes a different guise relating to the themes of individual albums and their corresponding world tours, and has appeared as a cyborg, an Egyptian mummy and a lobotomised mental patient amongst others.


The very first version of Eddie was a mask made by an art student who was friends with Dave "Lights" Beasley,[5] then in charge of lighting, pyrotechnics and other effects for Iron Maiden's live show.[6] According to Beasley, the original mask was a papier-mâché mould of his own face, which was then used in the band's backdrop, consisting of lights and the band's logo.[5] At the end of their live set, during the "Iron Maiden" song, a fish tank pump was used to squirt fake blood out of the mask's mouth, which typically covered their then-drummer Doug Sampson.[7] After this initial incarnation, Beasley constructed a larger mask out of fibreglass, equipped with flashing eyes and the ability to release red smoke from its mouth.[5]

The band's bassist and founding member Steve Harris states that the name "Eddie" comes from the fact that said mask was referred to as "The Head", which sounded like "Ead" in the band members' London accent.[8] According to guitarist Dave Murray the name was also inspired by an old joke:

"A wife had a baby, but it was born with only a head and no body. 'Don't worry,' says the doctor. 'Bring him back in five years time, and we'll probably have a body for him'. So five years go by, and there's Eddie the 'Ead, as his parents have called him, sitting on the mantelpiece, when in walks his dad. 'Son,' he says, 'today's a very special day. It's your fifth birthday, and we've got a very special surprise for you.' 'Oh no,' says Eddie. 'Not another fucking hat!'"[5]

"The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" backdrop, featuring Eddie, during The Final Frontier World Tour

Once Iron Maiden had secured a record contract with EMI, the band's manager Rod Smallwood decided that the band needed "that one figure who utterly stamped his presence and image on the band in a way that was obvious enough to make a good album cover."[9] After seeing some of his artwork on a Max Middleton poster, Smallwood set up a meeting with Derek Riggs and asked to see some of his other illustrations, in the midst of which was the band's first album cover.[9] Originally created as an idea for a punk record (which Riggs states in the 12 Wasted Years documentary was based on an alleged American's skull stuck to a Vietnamese tank),[10] the band had extra hair added to the illustration, making it more suitable to their style of music,[9] and transferred the name from the original masks they used onstage.[11] Surmising that the creature had "great visual continuity," Smallwood decided it would be used for all of the band's artwork.[12]

Smallwood claims that Rupert Perry, EMI's then managing director, came up with the idea that Eddie could become a more active part of the band's concerts, originally portrayed by Smallwood himself, wearing an Eddie mask and a leather jacket.[11] The classic "walk-on" Eddie was created for The Beast on the Road tour by Dave Beasley after seeing a pantomime version of Jack and the Beanstalk, which used similar giants, consisting of "basically a bloke on stilts but dressed up to look about ten feet (3 m) tall."[13] As the band's stage show expanded, an additional gigantic Eddie was also incorporated at the back of the set during "Iron Maiden", which, like the "walk-on" Eddie, would match the theme of the current tour, such as the 30-foot (9 m), mummified version used during the World Slavery Tour, which shot sparks from its eyes.[14]

The "Extra-large" Eddie used during the Eddie Rips Up the World Tour

Eddie's debut appearance was on the band's first single cover, "Running Free," in which his face was covered by shadow to protect his identity before the release of the band's first album.[15] Since then, Eddie has assumed a different guise for each cover, such as a "mummified Egyptian god" for Powerslave,[15] a lobotomised mental patient for Piece of Mind,[16] emerging from a grave in Live After Death,[16] and a cyborg for Somewhere in Time.[15] In addition to the band's album covers and live shows, the character also appears in merchandise including T-shirts, posters and action figures,[15] as well as the group's two video games: the 1999 first-person shooter, Ed Hunter,[17] and the 2016 role-playing game, Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast.[18] On top of this, Eddie features as an unlockable character in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.[19]


Some of the band's artworks have proved controversial, such as the cover of "Sanctuary," in which Eddie can be seen standing over the corpse of Margaret Thatcher.[20] It was claimed that Iron Maiden were banned from releasing the single without censoring the cover, blacking out Thatcher's face, although Riggs has since claimed that this was fabricated by the band's management to gain publicity in the British tabloids.[20]

The greatest controversy, however, was reserved for the band's third album, The Number of the Beast, whose artwork depicted Eddie controlling Satan like a marionette.[16] Originally created by Riggs for the "Purgatory" single cover, but deemed too good by Smallwood and withheld for the next studio release,[21] the image, along with the record's title track, led to the Moral Majority labelling Iron Maiden as Satanists and organising public burnings of their back-catalogue in the United States, which in turn gave them a large amount of publicity.[16]

During the course of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Eddie the Head, specifically as he appeared on the sleeve of "The Trooper", became an unofficial mascot of the Ulster Freedom Fighters loyalist paramilitary group and was the main figure on a number of the group's murals.[22][23] During The Final Frontier World Tour in 2011, after Iron Maiden did not perform "The Trooper" in Belfast, Blabbermouth.net reported that there had been speculation amongst fans that this was due to the artwork's use in murals.[24]


Gibson.com described Eddie in 2008 as "the most recognizable metal icon in the world and one of the most versatile too,"[25] while in 2009 Gigwise called him "perhaps the most enduring band mascot of all time."[26] Many artists who have been influenced by Iron Maiden hold their artwork in high regard, with Joey Jordison, former member of Slipknot commenting that he bought his first album "on the strength of the cover alone"[27] and Corey Taylor, also of Slipknot, stating that "there wasn't a dude that I hung out with that wasn't trying to draw Eddie on their schoolbooks."[28] Steve-O, from Jackass, says that they have "the coolest album covers in the music industry" and Lars Ulrich, of Metallica, comments that "they had the best packaging, the coolest T-shirts — everything."[27] Mick Wall describes Eddie as "the immortal soul of Iron Maiden, the defining symbol of the eternally youthful, blissfully uncompromising spirit of the band's music."[15]

In 2008, Eddie won the "Icon Award" at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards.[29]

Other artists

Melvyn Grant's The Final Frontier version of Eddie during The Final Frontier World Tour

From 1980 onwards, the band's Eddie artwork was provided exclusively by Derek Riggs until 1992, when the band decided to accept contributions from other artists, with Smallwood explaining that they "wanted to upgrade Eddie for the '90s. We wanted to take him from this sort of comic-book horror creature and turn him into something a bit more straightforward so that he became even more threatening."[30] Since then, Riggs has contributed much less to the band's artwork, creating part of one studio album, one single and two compilation covers, while the band have employed a number of different artists:

Mark Wilkinson's The Book of Souls Eddie as it appears on the band's Boeing 747, Ed Force One

Various Incarnations

  • Iron Maiden, the first artwork featuring Eddie, originally created for a possible punk record, based on an American's head allegedly stuck to a Vietnamese tank.[10]
    • "Running Free", the band's first release to depict Eddie, painted after the album cover so his face was hidden to protect his identity.[47]
    • "Sanctuary", showing Eddie above Margaret Thatcher's corpse, wielding a knife. According to Riggs, the band's management censored the image themselves to gain publicity.[20]
    • "Women in Uniform", according to Riggs features Margaret Thatcher about to get "her own back" on Eddie.[48]
  • Killers, featuring Eddie with an axe and his victim clawing at his shirt. Based on a block of flats in which Riggs lived at the time,[49] it contains several references to the band, such as the "Ruskin Arms" and "Charlotte the Harlot".[50]
    • "Twilight Zone", features Eddie's spirit reaching towards a woman through a mirror. According to Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden's manager, the band were criticised as Eddie appeared to be attacking the woman.[51]
    • "Purgatory", depicts the devil's face crumbling away to reveal Eddie.[52]
  • Maiden Japan, shows Eddie with a Samurai sword. The cover was painted at short notice as the original,[53] featuring Eddie decapitating Paul Di'Anno, was withdrawn as the band were considering replacing him.[54]
  • The Number of the Beast, depicts Eddie controlling the Devil like a puppet, who, in turn, also controls a puppet Eddie, causing controversy with American evangelists.[50] Originally painted for the "Purgatory" song, Smallwood withheld the artwork for the following album, deeming it too good for a single.[21]
  • Piece of Mind, a lobotomised Eddie, in a straitjacket, is chained at the neck to a padded cell.[50][57]
  • Powerslave, featuring a statue of Eddie as an Egyptian pharaoh.[50]
  • Live After Death, shows Eddie rising from the grave.[62]
  • Somewhere in Time, Eddie appears as a cyborg in a Blade Runner-inspired future.[64] The cover is notable for containing dozens of Easter eggs relating to the band and pop culture references.[65]
  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, depicts a surreal Eddie with most of his body removed, which Riggs claims was because he was "sick of painting him" and this would mean there would not be as much of him to draw.[68] Riggs also comments that he set it in a "polar landscape" after seeing a documentary on the North Pole, and that Eddie's head on fire was inspired by Arthur Brown.[69]
  • No Prayer for the Dying, shows Eddie bursting out of another grave. Unlike the band's previous artworks, in which he would retain the same features gained with each release (such as the Piece of Mind lobotomy), Eddie returned to how he was in the first few albums.[69]
  • Fear of the Dark, the first cover not created by Derek Riggs, features Melvyn Grant's design of Eddie as a tree monster.[30]
  • A Real Live One, depicts Eddie biting through an electrical cord.[78]
  • A Real Dead One, features Eddie as a radio DJ.[80]
  • Live at Donington, re-release depicts Eddie as a bat, originally created by Mark Wilkinson for the Monsters of Rock 1992 poster.[36]
  • The X Factor, created by Hugh Syme, shows Eddie on an operating table being vivisected by machine with most of his insides showing. Due to the cover's graphic nature, the band had to provide a less-violent alternative consisting of a similar Eddie from a distance.[38]
  • Best of the Beast, features a selection of Riggs' past Eddies.[82]
  • Virtual XI, Eddie reaches towards a child wearing a virtual reality headset, created by Melvyn Grant.[31]
    • "The Angel and the Gambler", Eddie with wings standing outside a floating casino, created by Derek Riggs.[84]
    • "Futureal", also by Riggs, Eddie appears as a statue head with his brain exposed.[85] Alternate covers for these two singles are renders of Eddie as he would appear in Ed Hunter.
  • Ed Hunter, featuring the version of Eddie used in the game.
  • Brave New World, this Eddie originally appeared in a cloud of smoke coming from a burning "Wicker Man" Eddie, a piece of artwork created by Derek Riggs, but was removed and placed into the album art, wherein his cloud form looms over a futuristic version of London.[86]
    • "The Wicker Man", Eddie appears as a Wicker Man, created by Mark Wilkinson.[36]
    • "Out of the Silent Planet", features Eddie at a press conference, also designed by Wilkinson.[36] An alternate cover uses the same Eddie from the Brave New World cover.
  • Rock in Rio: in both the CD and the DVD, as a cloud similar to the Brave New World cover, but looming over the Rock in Rio stage where the band played instead.
    • "Run to the Hills (2002 CD)", released to fund the recently created charity Clive Burr MS Trust Fund. One version had in its cover a Ross Halfin picture of Dickinson taken during the Rio concert digitally manipulated to turn him into Eddie.[87]
  • BBC Archives, created by Derek Riggs for Billboard, the artwork originally depicted Eddie destroying Capitol Records (with whom they had just signed) with the pole of a British flag,[88] but the building was changed for the album cover to him destroying the Broadcasting House instead.[89]
  • Beast over Hammersmith, shows Eddie planting a British flag in the earth, adapted from The Beast on the Road tour programme from 1982, drawn by Derek Riggs.[90]
  • Best of the 'B' Sides, depicts Eddie mooning from behind the wheel of a truck (with the words "Up the Irons" written across his rear end), illustrated by Mark Wilkinson.[91] Wilkinson also designed the Eddie's Archive embossed metal case.[36]
  • Edward the Great, showing Eddie on a throne in full royal regalia, was created by Tom Adams.[39]
  • Dance of Death, features Eddie as the Grim Reaper, created by David Patchett.[42]
    • "Wildest Dreams", shot of Eddie in a top hat from the "Wildest Dreams" music video.
    • "Rainmaker", cover also taken from its music video.
  • Death on the Road, features Eddie as an undertaker, designed by Melvyn Grant.[32]
  • A Matter of Life and Death, shows Eddie riding a tank, created by Tim Bradstreet.[45]
  • Somewhere Back in Time, shows the cyborg Eddie (from Somewhere in Time) erupting from the Powerslave statue.[92]
  • The Final Frontier, drawn by Melvyn Grant, shows Eddie as an Extraterrestrial retrieving a key from a space ship.[34] The artwork caused controversy as it was vastly different from the band's past covers, confusing many fans claiming that it was not Eddie.[93] Melvyn Grant himself has distanced this new monster from previous Eddie incarnations, stating that it "is not Eddie, as such,"[94] although the band members state that it is.[34]
  • From Fear to Eternity, created by Melvyn Grant, shows three different incarnations: the Wicker Man Eddie from the "Wicker Man" single, the tank-riding Eddie from the A Matter of Life and Death album cover and a cross between the Dance of Death, Fear of the Dark and The Final Frontier Eddies.[35]
  • The Book of Souls, created by Mark Wilkinson. This Eddie draws inspiration from Maya civilization, wearing facepaint and earspools similar to those of the Mesoamerican people.[37][95]

See also


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