Derek Riggs and Iron Maiden’s Eddie the Head
Derek Riggs – Iron Maiden – Roger Dean – Arthur Brown – Salvador Dalí – The Iron Maidens – Gillman
“I couldn’t really use him for anything useful, and I wanted to stop painting him anyway”. Derek Riggs
Derek Riggs (born 13 February 1958 in Portsmouth, England) is a contemporary British artist best known for creating the heavy metal music band Iron Maiden’s mascot, “Eddie the Head”.
Riggs is self-taught in his art, both in his traditional painting and in his digital work. His most famous achievement is his work with Iron Maiden and his creation of Eddie, the band’s mascot and subject of their album and single covers. Riggs’ first picture of Eddie was originally entitled “Electric Matthew Says Hello”, Iron Maiden’s management came across it while looking through Riggs’ portfolio, and asked him to add hair to the figure to make it look less punk-like. The resulting picture was used for the debut album, Iron Maiden, released in 1980 and Riggs went on to work with Iron Maiden throughout the 1980s and into the 90s, creating many of the band’s famous album covers.
According to guitarist Dave Murray the name of Eddie the Head 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!'”
“The original picture was inspired by a photo of a dead soldier’s skull that I found in TIME magazine when I was about 15. I used it in a photo-montage, stuck it to the front of a folder and covered it in plastic. Years later I found it and decided to use it for the basis for a picture. It was the late 1970’s and Punk rock was big in England. I thought that maybe some punk band might be able to use it”. Derek Riggs
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. Since then, Eddie has assumed a different guise for each cover, such as a “mummified Egyptian god” for Powerslave, a lobotomised mental patient for Piece of Mind, emerging from a grave in Live After Death, and a cyborg for Somewhere in Time.
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. 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.
The most amount of controversy, however, was reserved for the band’s third album, The Number of the Beast, whose artwork depicted Eddie controlling Satan like a marionette. Originally created by Riggs for the “Purgatory” single cover, but deemed too good by Smallwood and withheld for the next studio release, 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.
“The Number of the Beast”, the single cover showing Eddie holding the devil’s severed head, which Riggs claims was meant to look like Salvador Dalí.
“Flight of Icarus”, shows a metal-winged Eddie torching Icarus with a Flamethrower, which Riggs states was meant to look like Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song logo. The painting also contains a small box, meant to be Eddie’s Piece of Mind padded cell.
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. 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.
“I like Roger Dean’s work. He was probably the most creative artist to grace album covers. Luckily he worked in an age when such originality was more readily accepted than it is today. How much of your current illustration work is created with a computer?” Derek Riggs
In 1992, Iron Maiden decided to go with an artist by the name of Melvyn Grant for the Fear of the Dark album cover and he subsequently did two album covers after that.
“By the time they thought of using other artists I really wanted to stop doing it anyway, so I felt nothing about that. Working with Maiden at that point was getting more and more painful and I was just glad that it stopped. Eddie was my invention and I could have made some kind of a fuss about it but I didn’t see any reason to do Maiden that amount of harm. Eddie was a part of their core business, I couldn’t really use him for anything useful, and I wanted to stop painting him anyway. So to have other artists paint him seemed like the sensible and obvious way to go. Doing harm to other people is not really in my nature. I would rather just walk away and let them get on with it. Although, they didn’t seem to mind what became of me. I wanted to get on with other things and invent new worlds” Derek Riggs
Riggs has also designed the cover of World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden, the self-titled debut album by the all-female tribute band, The Iron Maidens, a piece which was inspired by the Killers album, featuring a similar “Kinky Sex Shop” which featured in the Iron Maiden artwork
He has also worked with Iron Maiden lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson for his album Accident of Birth, Stratovarius for their album Infinite, Gamma Ray for their Power Plant album, Artension on their 2004 album Future World, Gillman on their 2003 album Cuauhtemoc,and with many other bands and companies most of which are featured on his website.