The Number of the Beast (song)

The Number of the Beast (song)
"The Number of the Beast"
Single by Iron Maiden
from the album The Number of the Beast
Released 26 April 1982
Format vinyl record (7") (12")
Recorded 1981
Genre Heavy metal
Length 4:49
Label EMI
Writer(s) Steve Harris
Iron Maiden singles chronology
"Run to the Hills"
"The Number of the Beast"
"Flight of Icarus"


"The Number of the Beast"

"The Trooper" (live)
The Number of the Beast track listing
"22 Acacia Avenue"
"The Number of the Beast"
"Run to the Hills"

"The Number of the Beast" is Iron Maiden's seventh single and the second single from Iron Maiden's 1982 album of the same name. The song is inspired by both a nightmare bandleader and bassist Steve Harris had after watching the movie Damien: Omen II, and the storyline of the poem Tam o' Shanter. "The Number of The Beast" is one of Iron Maiden's greatest hits, and is almost always performed during concert. It reached 18 in the UK charts. The track is known for its very long, high-pitched and guttural wail by Bruce Dickinson at the end of the intro. In the documentary on the album of the same name, as part of the Classic Albums series by the BBC, Dickinson said this was due to producer Martin Birch forcing Dickinson to sing the first four lines for several hours, over and over again.

The band had asked the famous horror film actor Vincent Price to read the intro text. However, according to Dickinson, Price refused to do it for anything less than £25,000. They had heard of someone who read ghost stories at Capital Radio and got him to do it. The man was a theatre actor named Barry Clayton who had no interest in Maiden, but they asked him to put on a Vincent Price kind of voice.[citation needed][original research?]

The opening phrase is taken directly from the Book of Revelation: "Woe to you O earth and sea for the Devil sends the beast with wrath because he knows the time is short" in Chapter 12, Verse 12; "Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast for it is a human number/its number is six hundred and sixty six," in Chapter 13, Verse 18. Note that some airings of the song, both on the radio, and as a music video, do not contain the spoken word intro.

When Dickinson joined Iron Maiden, the sound engineer Martin Birch wanted to get the right sound for the first four lines of this song, and forced Dickinson to sing them over and over again for hours, until Dickinson grew frustrated and he let out a tremendous scream. The band liked that scream so much that they decided to keep it in the intro. So was born Dickinson nickname "Air Raid Siren".

The song can be heard in the movie Murder by Numbers. The song is played while Ryan Gosling is driving by school and waving the devil horns at a school girl.

In the movie Spun a cover of the song is played during the opening credit. The cover is a quite different from the original being acoustic country-blues/alternative rock played by The Djali Zwan with members of The Smashing Pumpkins including Billy Corgan, Slint, Tortoise, Chavez, and A Perfect Circle.

The intro to the album All Killer No Filler by the Canadian rock band Sum 41 is a parody of the intro to "Number of the Beast". It is covered by The Band MUTE( consisting of guitarist Archit 'The God' Pathak) for Hard rock Cafe's cover album. Archit Pathak was critically praised for his guitar performance.



The single's cover is the last of three singles to feature Riggs' depiction of Satan, which debuted on the cover of the "Purgatory" single. The cover of The Number of the Beast is the aftermath to the cover of the "Run to the Hills" single where Eddie and Satan are depicted in battle. The single was also released in a very rare red, pictured below, and even more rare picture disc vinyl.

Music video

The original music video featured the band performing the song, interspersed with clips from various horror films including Godzilla, War of the Colossal Beast, the Crimson Ghost film serial, How to Make a Monster, and The Angry Red Planet. The Crimson Ghost - used as a logo by The Misfits - also appears early in the video, and there is another reference to The Misfits later in the video, when the monster from The Angry Red Planet appears (The Misfits used the monster on the cover of their album Walk Among Us). Also featured are Nosferatu and The Devil Rides Out. In the middle of the guitar solo, a dancing couple wearing cards marked "6" on their costumes appear on stage. As the male dancer spins his female partner around, the female dancer suddenly appears (via editing) wearing a wolf mask and furry gloves. They later appear, holding up their number signs to the camera, in close-up shots, with the third "Six" being held up by the female dancer while wearing her wolf mask. Eddie also makes an appearance towards the end of the video, as a large scale version of him walks across the stage to join the band. An alternate version of the video exists where the film clips are omitted and the video is basically just the band's performance (although the dancing couple still appear). A later video (available on the Visions of the Beast DVD), animated by Camp Chaos, replaced the film clips and the dancing couple with flash animation of Bruce (acting as a priest) and Eddie re-enacting scenes from The Exorcist. According to a trivia question asked on That Metal Show, the devil costume is actually worn by future Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, who was a drum tech for Clive Burr at the time.


The song made it in at #7 on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs.[1]

"The Number of the Beast" was ranked #6 in Martin Popoff's book "The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time". Popoff put together this book by requesting thousands of metal fans, musicians, and journalists to send in their favourite heavy metal songs. Almost 18,000 individual votes were tallied and entered into a database from which the final rankings were derived.[2]

In January 2005, a new and updated version was released. It features live video renditions of "Number of the Beast" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" that have never been officially released before.

It has since been covered by Iced Earth, Saints in Hell, Avulsed, Breed 77, Sinergy, Powderfinger, Zwan (whose version was used for the soundtrack of the cult film Spun), The Iron Maidens and many other bands. The song is also featured on The String Quartet Tribute to Iron Maiden.[citation needed]

This song was featured on the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and is playable in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as a master track. It is also available in Rock Band as a downloadable song, albeit a cover version. The master, however, became available for Rock Band on June 9, 2009, as part of the Iron Maiden pack.[citation needed]


The song, being the title number for the 1982 album was a prominent target of critics in the USA during a time when Maiden were accused of being a Satanic group. Much of the controversy is believed[who?] to have originated due to the prominence of the number 666 in the song's repeating chorus.[citation needed]

Maiden took a swing at their critics in the follow-up album Piece of Mind which features a backmasked message in the beginning of the song Still Life which, when played backwards translates as a very drunk Nicko McBrain doing an impression of Idi Amin Dada (stating "What ho said the t'ing with the three 'bonce', do not meddle with things you don't understand"), followed by a belch.[citation needed][original research?]

When the music video was first shown on MTV, Eddie's appearance at the end was edited out after complaints from frightened viewers.[3]

Track listing 1982 7" Vinyl EMI 5287

  1. "The Number of the Beast"
  2. "Remember Tomorrow" (Live)

Also on red or clear vinyl EMI 5287 Also on 12" 1A K052-1076386 Also on cassette EMI TC IM3

2005 track listing CD EMS 666

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Steve Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Steve Harris)
  3. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Steve Harris)
  4. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Steve Harris)
  5. VIDEO - "The Number of the Beast" (live 2002) (Steve Harris)

2005 track listing 7" Red Vinyl EM 666

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Steve Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Steve Harris)

Also on 12" Picture Disc 12EM 666

  1. "The Number of the Beast" (original 1982 studio version) (Steve Harris)
  2. "The Number of the Beast" (Live at Brixton Academy, London - March 19–21, 2002) (Steve Harris)
  3. "Remember Tomorrow"

Chart performance

Year Single Chart Position Album
1982 "The Number of the Beast" UK Singles Chart 18[4] The Number of the Beast
Irish Singles Chart 19[5]
1990 "Run to the Hills / The Number Of The Beast" UK Albums Chart[note 1] 3[6]
2005 "The Number of the Beast"[note 2] Finnish Singles Chart 2[7]
French Singles Chart 78[8]
German Singles Chart 76[9]
Irish Singles Chart 11[10]
Italian Singles Chart 5[11]
Norwegian Singles Chart 13[12]
Swedish Singles Chart 40[13]
Swiss Singles Chart 42[14]
UK Singles Chart 3[4]


  1. ^ Re-release of both singles as part of "The First Ten Years" box set. Exceeded the length limit of the UK Singles chart.
  2. ^ Re-release of original studio version along with 2002 live version.



  1. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by; last accessed 2006-09-10.
  2. ^ "The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time"[1].
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "UK Charts". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  5. ^ "Search the charts". The Irish Charts. IRMA. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  6. ^ "UK Albums Archive- 17th March 1990". Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  7. ^ "Finnish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  8. ^ "French Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  9. ^ "German Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  10. ^ "Irish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  11. ^ "Italian Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  12. ^ "Norwegian Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  13. ^ "Swedish Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  14. ^ "The Number of the Beast- Swiss Singles". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 

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