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One of the most popular Heavy Rock bands for t-shirts and other merchandise just has to be Iron Maiden.

Everywhere you go in the world you will see the familiar grinning features of Ed Hunter or 'Eddie' as he's affectionately known by fans of 'The Irons' who flock to see the band.

Ed Silver @ Flickr.com
Ed Silver @ Flickr.com

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Iron Maiden have been rockin the Earth for over 30 years now and unlike many bands they have never waned in their appeal.

Most certainly more than many of their contemporaries in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) of the early 1980s.

Under the steady guiding hand of bassist and main songwriter Steve Harris they have undergone many line-up changes.

But all the same have recruited fine musicians and talented singers.

None more so than the vocal air-raid siren of Bruce Dickinson who has fronted the band on two occasions as well as fine solo career.

Even when Adrian Smith returned after an absence the band kept on his replacement Janick Gers.

Thereafter they became a six-piece band with three guitarists, all of whom were capable of playing lead.


They have proved to be a ground-breaking band too by being one of the first Rock bands to play behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.Their first concerts in Poland in the 1980s they were feted like heroes by the young fans under the thrall of Communism. But they broke America too. Not by massive radio airplay, not by quirky or expensive MTV videos and not by selling out and transforming into an AOR band.

They just kept playing, recording and touring. Relentlessly they hammered away at the doors of the American music scene and built up a solid following of fans which now sees them play the biggest festivals across the United States. They took their time but they eventually established themselves in the mainstream rock circuit proving that hard work brings it's own rewards. They are unlikely to lose their footing unlike many more 'here today, gone tomorrow' musicians who rode the tide of popularity brought on by a trendy fashion or a hit single.

It seems that no Iron Maiden t-shirt would be complete or even credible without the sight of Eddie on the front.

He has become completely synonymous with the band at least since 1980 in the puiblic eye and seemed like a 6th member even encoring on stage at their live performances.

Of course that was until 1999 when things changed.

Then he became a 7th member as the band adopted a triple lead-guitar line-up when Adrian Smith returned from self-imposed exile to join fellow axemen Dave Murray and Janick Gers in the band.

The Cult of Eddie phenomenon was spawned by artist Derek Riggs back in 1980 when he became the icon of Iron Maiden's self-titled debut album and the various singles that were released at that time.

Riggs got the idea for the image from a gruesome real-life scene that he saw in a photograph from the Vietnam War.

There in front of him was a shrunken head of a Viet Cong guerrilla with straggly hair that was hanging from the front of an ARVN tank. It made such an impression on the artist that it became the inspiration for Eddie. None more so than on their first album which depicts Eddie as a sunken-faced, wrinkled and almost skeletal figure with spiky yellow hair and a vicous snarl.

This was in keeping with the times back then in the late 70's early 80's as Eddie had all the qualities of a post-Punk street creature. Iron Maiden were born in 1975 actually pre-dating the height of the Punk movement but subsequently developed their sound in that atmosphere.

Sure they were a Heavy Metal band, there was no doubt about that, but there was a crossover appeal at least in the early days. Their front man at the time Paul Di'Anno was a follower of Punk Music and the Punk style. He had short hair, earrings, a leather jacket and plenty of attitude. But the sound of the band was congruous with the Punk attitude too. Stripped down, raw and almost recorded live in the studio with no pretentions to lavish production values. Classic like 'Running Free', 'Transylvania' and the incredible 'Phantom of the Opera' marked them immediately as being in the vanguard of NBWOHM.

Eddie has transmogrified through many image changes since then, as would befit a superstar, and was even considered to be consigned to history until the loyal fans intervened to spare him.

But quickly gone was the snarl and the spiky hair when their seminal album 'Number of the Beat' was released in 1982 with new singer Bruce Dickinson. Now Eddie sported a proper metal hair-do, platinum blond and combed down straight like the metalheads who worshipped him.

The snarl became a smile, although a fiendish looking one at that as he maniacally grinned on the album cover and also the singles covers. On 'Run to the Hills' battling with the Devil and on 'The Number of the Beast' single cover he had the decapitated head of Old Nick in his hands as he emerged from the fires of Hell. Now we new that Eddie was the good guy.

Eddie has even lost his hair ever since he was locked up in a padded cell on the Piece of MInd front cover in 1983 through to the Fear of the Dark album in 1992 and 'The Final Frontier in 2010. The band have committed all sorts of terrible atrocities to him including stripping him of his skin and implanting robotic parts on the 'Somewhere in Time' cover of 1986 and even dismembering his body in a hellish contraption reminiscent of the 'Saw' movie on the 1995 album 'The X-Factor' which had Blaze Bayley on vocals.

The band had originally 'killed' him off on stage in Dortmund Germany way back in 1983 but as I said the fans were having none of it and he was resurrected for more ghoulish punishments throughout the years. And the t-shirts keep coming. There are countless variants of the Eddie motif on the Iron Maiden merchandise. Not only studio albums but live albums, singles, EP's, posters, postcards and a multitude of souvenirs.

Iron Maidens conquest of the world will continue as long as they keep producing great music and as long as Eddie is there at the helm.

This was apparent in their 2008 documentary 'Flight 666' which filmed the band as they traversed the globe with lead singer and qualified pilot Bruce Dickinson flying the aircraft.

In keeping with their open philosophy of bringing metal to the masses they played far-flung place like India, Chile and Columbia. And in all of these countries the reaction was the same. Excitement, euphoria and undiluted adulation for a band who have stood the test of time. And looking at the shirts being worn it was obvious that the brand had also stood the test of time.

Eddie is truly immortal.

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Nat Amaral profile image

Nat Amaral 5 years ago from BC Canada

Aesome piece! I do agree that they were an excellent band. Their album covers and T-shirts...the artwork on them were amazing. I'm grateful to my brothers that I heard of this group.

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