To begin with, you kind of have to be a bit of a geek to be an Iron Maiden fan. It’s a bit like being a D&D player before Stranger Things made it cool (damn those fast talkin’ and totally realistic 80’s kids). In my youth, I’d only play Maiden albums with headphones on and scribble the name of a then cool band like Nirvana or Oasis onto my cassettes just in case the kids in school saw what I was listening to. With songs about epic battles, dragons, Satan and a lot of World War II, they pretty much paved the way for the frequently mocked Power Metal genre. A scene so ridiculous I’m surprised JRR Tolkien hasn’t risen from the grave yet just to tell them all to “calm it down a bit”. Seriously, people go to these shows in full armor and chain mail. And those are just the bar staff!
But Iron Maiden, unlike some of the sillier genres they inspired have actually begun to be seen as cool in a sort of retro or ironic way by mainstream crowds in recent years. Take the fact that they now sell Maiden t-shirts in Primark for example. I mean that’s wrong on so many levels but there you go. But the dedicated among us remain rooted to Maiden’s unashamed geek credentials even if some of us, like the kids in Stranger Things, only indulge in the privacy of our mum’s basement. Not that I still live in my mum’s basement or anything…
Of all things geeky you could observe in Iron Maiden, whether it be their lyrics, their elaborate stage shows or the fact that their lead singer Bruce Dickinson is a pilot, Olympic class fencer, poet, historical fantasy author, professional Fleshlight tester and three-time Russian Cosmonaut (two of those aren’t true) standing above all of these is Eddie. “Who that?” you just thought. Well, lemme tell ya.
Actually, I can’t be arsed telling you as I’m not being paid per word so here’s the Wikipedia page. Eddie is a big scary bloke who comes in many guises. Think Tyler Perry but funny. He/she (I will not assume it’s gender but we’ll go with He for the sake of the article) is Iron Maiden’s official mascot and has appeared on every album cover and t-shirt of which there are literally bazillions. You’ve probably seen him before but maybe haven’t been able to place him. He sort of looks like what would happen if Nigel Farage’s soul manifested itself on the outside. Okay, maybe not that bad.
Over the years, Eddie has puppeteer-ed the Devil, been lobotomized, given birth to himself, been a cloud, a badly rendered CGI Reaper and a radio DJ. However, did you know he once hung out with Doctor Who? And you lot up the back shouting “ahem, it’s The Doctor actually” can fuck off. Go on, away!
However, a few of the album covers have that little bit extra geek cred. Namely the ones we’re focusing on here. The main album in question which we shall observe first is their 1986 release Somewhere in Time. The front and back covers, best seen on a vinyl copy (yes, I have gone full hipster) are a treasure trove of geekery that only the warped mind of Iron Maiden’s longtime cover artist and Eddie creator Derek Riggs could have conjured up.
The Blade Runner References
Let’s start with the obvious: It’s Blade Runner, right?
I mean it’s screamingly obvious that Mr Riggs and the band watched Ridley Scott’s masterpiece six or seventy times before coming up with that one. This is rather impressive when you consider that in 1986, Blade Runner was still considered to be a bit of a dud and it was five years before the famed Directors Cut was released which restored popular opinion in the film. Let’s look at the various Blade Runner Easter eggs first.
Well boom, there it is staring you right in the face. Well, not really. You actually have to squint quite a bit to spot it but there on the cinema marquee is Blade Runner showing as the B-movie to Live After Death which was Maiden’s classic live concert video released the previous year. And check out the name of the cinema! The Phillip K Dick Cinema, named obviously after the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which inspired the movie. Also in this image, we have what are quite clearly Spinners. Those were the flying cars in the film that totally weren’t on wires or anything.
Here’s a less well known one. Bradbury Towers is a reference to the Bradbury building in L.A. of which the exterior was used as a location in the film where J.F. Sebastian lived. This building is so popular for movies locations it even has it’s own IMDb page.
Barely visible on the cover but blown up using the magic of the internet we have a building labelled Tyrell Corp. This was the big nasty company responsible for creating all the Replicants (not forgetting their more optimistic brethren, the RepliCan’s) and run by the chess-playing dude who got his face squished by Rutger Hauer. Above that is a sign for Dekkers Department Store which may be a misspelled reference to Harrison Ford’s character Deckard or could be something else entirely. Like they sold Black & Dekkers maybe. It was a shop for some Star Trekkers? It was where Dekkers Midnight (Blade) Runners hung out?
Other Sci-Fi References
Just below the big pyramid if you squint hard enough, a tall building with the name Asimov Foundation. Issac Asimov, if you haven’t heard the name, was a prominent and influential sci-fi writer whose works included the Foundation series.
Hidden away in the corner is the TARDIS. Now, why Doctor Who (shush) would be hanging about on an Iron Maiden album cover is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps there’s some Daleks on the loose on this dystopian Earth. Let’s look at the facts. Somewhere in Time was released in September 1986 which coincided with the 6th Doctor’s adventure The Mysterious Planet. In this story, the Doctor encountered a challenge totally unique to anything he/she has had to deal with before or since. Saving the universe from a robot.
But what’s this in the main central image?
Well, if it isn’t our hero Eddie having just smoked some robot motherfucker. Wait a minute! The Doctor is chasing a robot motherfucker who wants to destroy the universe, Eddie has just smoked a robot motherfucker. Could this be the same robot motherfucker? Is The Doctor teaming up with Eddie? Is he a closet Iron Maiden fan?
Holy Smokes! It all makes sense now.
As I previously wrote, Eddie has appeared in many guises, some of them directly geek related. Lets looks some others.
In this, Eddie is some sort of hybrid of The Predator and something from Doom.
He’s wearing Deckard’s coat, big collar included and Indiana Jones’ hat while lighting a doobie in a Star Wars cantina. Best. Fanfic. Ever.
He’s gonnae fight for yer freeedom and yer right tae heedbang!
And finally, no words required.
If there are any cool geek references in Iron Maiden’s artwork I may have missed, please let me know in an angry comment below.