The Stories Behind Iron Maiden's Artwork: Part Three

Hammer recently gave the lowdown on all of the Derek Riggs artwork decorating Iron Maiden’s single sleeves from 1980 to 1989, which were printed as posters in the mag. We couldn’t leave the rest of them hanging, so here’s the SP on Riggsy’s remaining Iron Maiden single sleeves from 1990 to 2000. (There’s no posters of these, they’re just for the website!)

HOLY SMOKE Released: 10th September 1990

After pushing Eddie through multiple conceptual surrealist tortures, the Holy Smoke sleeve was an unmistakeable assertion of No Prayer For The Dying’s ‘back to basics’ approach. A longhaired Eddie – back in jeans and T-shirt in the moonlit Hellish milieu of the Number Of The Beast era – standing on a mound of burning tellies tuned into the American TV evangelists who inspired so many metal lyrics in the late ‘80s (see Metallica’s Leper Messiah, Slayer’s Read Between The Lies, Ozzy’s Miracle Man), although their status as a ‘hot topic’ was a few years out of date in 1990, and we never got them in the UK anyway.


Riggs embraced the cartoonish humour of the song with a host of creepy-crawly monsters (including a cameo for Sesame Street’s resident bin-based misanthrope, Oscar The Grouch) bursting out of the pavement round the back of a Maiden gig at the Paradise Club (a reference to the BBC crime drama that Bruce Dickinson had recently appeared in, awkwardly uttering unintentionally hilarious lines like “Life’s crap then you die”). Oh, and Eddie’s pulled Jessica Rabbit.

BE QUICK OR BE DEAD Released: 13th April 1992

A snarling Eddie clutching the head of a fat bloke against a backdrop of newspaper clippings, the first single from Fear Of The Dark has a rather low-budget look, although the combination of photo and painting was novel. The fat bloke was a reference to fraudster tycoon Robert Maxwell, the subject of the bottom-right headline. Quick and cheap but pointed and eye-catching, the album’s other singles, From Here To Eternity and Wasting Love, dispensed with Riggs – and even Eddie – entirely, and remain Iron Maiden’s most mystifyingly derisory sleeves.

**FEAR OF THE DARK… LIVE Released: 1st March 1993 **

A slavering Eddie plays Steve’s bass, in Steve’s West Ham colours and foot-on-monitor stance. It was an unusual idea; never had a member of the band identified himself so strongly with the mascot. “I painted this at the request of Steve Harris who wanted to associate himself with Eddie,” Derek Riggs reveals on “He actually wanted people to think that he was Eddie, or that Eddie was based on him in some way,” he adds incredulously. “Why would anybody want to do that?”

HALLOWED BE THY NAME… LIVE Released: 4th October 1993

Perhaps the answer’s in this mischievous image of Eddie as the Devil, skewering Bruce in Hell, comedically stirring up the bad blood surrounding Bruce’s departure (reminiscent of the rare Venezuelan sleeve for 1981’s Maiden Japan EP, where Eddie held up the severed head of departing frontman Paul Di’anno). “I thought they might give it to Bruce as a kind of farewell gift but they didn’t feel that way about it apparently,” Riggs comments. “A bit resentful are we boys?”

VIRUS Released: 2nd September 1996

Although the nightmarish CGI/prosthetic sleeves of _The X Factor _era – including the two CD releases of this seldom-discussed non-album single – were brilliant, they were on a darker level of alien body-horror than Riggs’s traditional lurid paint jobs. But on the Virus seven-inch, the artist got a chance to update the metaphysical head-shots of the Seventh Son era for the internet generation, elegantly dissolving Eddie’s ‘ead into a silicon chip.

THE ANGEL AND THE GAMBLER Released: 9th March 1998

Specifically CD2 of the two-CD set, a standard way of boosting single sales in the late ‘90s (the CD1 sleeve – a CGI Eddie head with dice – was even more rubbish than the song itself), depicting a green-skinned, top-hatted Eddie with wings and cane, inviting the viewer aboard Captain Edward’s Floating Mississippi Casino (careful though, the Grim Reaper’s on the top deck). To date this is the last Maiden single to feature a Derek Riggs Eddie – and if we’re honest, an Eddie by any other artist isn’t really Eddie at all.

THE WICKER MAN Unreleased!

Derek’s original composition for 2000’s The Wicker Man single – with Eddie’s face formed from the smoke of the titular burning figure as per the clouds of the Brave New World sleeve – was turned down by the band for reasons that haven’t been made public. You can kind of see why they went with Mark Wilkinson’s eventual Eddie-is-The-Wicker-Man sleeve, though; it’s a far simpler, more self-contained image, although the colours (and, of course, Eddie’s features) are much better realised here.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.