"My life is my own."
Bruce Dickinson: Well, here I am in the Village. When I was a kid I used to watch this series, The Prisoner, and I wondered what on earth it was trying to say. Because when I was a kid, I didn't feel that there was anywhere where I belonged, so when the Prisoner turns 'round and says, "I'm not a number, I'm a free man", I want that to be me.
"Be seing you".
Martin Birch: Solid.
Bruce Dickinson: "The Prisoner" started off – the track – in a rehearsal room in Hackney. The drummer wasn't there, he was out having a cup of tea, so, being a frustrated drummer my whole life, I started like bashing this pretty dead simple drumbeat at the beginning. And then I think it was Adrian started like playing this riff, and then Harry came in and went "wow! What a great riff!" and we just started.
Bruce Dickinson: Clive's drumbeat in it is a real like swingtime drumbeat, it's not like the bog-standard Heavy Metal drumbeat.
Martin Birch: I must put that back in the track.
Clive Burr: Everyone got a chance to just give their expressions, their whole... really to the whole thing.
Bruce Dickinson: Obviously, we wanted it to be sort of dramatic with the intro, so we thought maybe we could snip the intro tape off The Prisoner TV series.
Steve Harris: It was quite funny really because we had to get permission from Patrick McGoohan for the intro of "The Prisoner". 'Cause we didn't realise at the time that he actually owns the rights to it all. So Rod our manager had to sort of get onto him personally... had to phone in Malibu or wherever he was at the time.
Bruce Dickinson: Now Rod Smallwood, you see, is probably… well I wouldn't call him a man who is easily intimidated by anybody, but I've never heard him so nervous in all my life as when he had to phone up Patrick McGoohan.
Rod Smallwood: So I actually got his number and rang him up and explained what we wanted to do, who Iron Maiden were, 'cause he obviously wouldn't know who we were.
Bruce Dickinson: Anyway, he calls him up, quotes the line, gets it completely wrong. He's like, "well, Rod Smallwood here, from Iron Maiden. And we want to do a song on "I'm not a number, I'm a prisoner, I'm a free man", hmm, something like that." And I'm like going, "No! No! No! H'es gonna tell you to piss off! You got the words all wrong! He's gonna freak out!".
Rod Smallwood: I was terrified. All the band were in the office and I go, "shut up, I'm talking to Patrick McGoohan!" You know. And after I explained it, there was a pregnant pause for about 5 seconds, and then he said, "Do it!".
Bruce Dickinson: "Do it!" And he was just like, "oh, thank you very much!" That was it! Top Man!
Rod Smallwood: That's very… I mean for people who know Patrick McGoohan, that's very Patrick McGoohan. So I was like, "yeah!"
Steve Harris: And we just said to Rod, "well, why were you so nervous?" And he said, "well, he's a real superstar, not like you arseholes!"
I'm on the run I kill to eat
I'm starving now feeling dead on my feet
Going all the way I'm nature's beast
Do what I want I'll do as I please
Run, fight, to breathe it's tough
Now you see me now you don't break the walls I'm coming out
Bruce Dickinson: Well, of course, that was always the only prison… Ooooh!
"I'm not a number, I'm a free man!"
Martin Birch: I read that they were going to go into the studio to make an album. And I was a bit peed because I thought, well, I wondered why they hadn't asked me, 'cause I was interested in doing it.
Rod Smallwood: Martin at the time was a pretty reknowned producer from Purple, Sabbath and many other things.
Steve Harris: I mean, Martin would have produced the first album, really, if we'd had know he was available. We didn't approach him because we thought he was unapproachable. You know, at that time. We thought he was just a big star producer, he wouldn't be interested in a small band like that.
Martin Birch: Ah right. They wanted me to do the album, and I wanted to do the album, but we never actually got together.
Malcolm Dome: They'd worked with artin Birch, the producer on Killers, and I think it was an introduction for both of them.
Steve Harris: And by the time we did Beast, that was it really. He'd become sort of our full-time producer. And we didn't really think about using anyone else. I mean we used him for quite a few albums, basically 'til he retired.
Martin Birch: There was a certain excitement on Number Of The Beast, 'cause we all felt – me especially – that there was something special about that album. Just the way it was coming together, the songs, the addition of Bruce, the extra scope that we had to work with. It was a certain feeling from that album that it was something special.
Steve Harris: Basically, by the time we'd come to do the first couple of albums, we'd used all the material from that period, really, and some we'd written at that time. So by the time we'd come to do The Number Of The Beast, we had no material left.
Rod Smallwood: It was a fresh start writing-wise and it was a different battery of songwriters.
Adrian Smith: You know, you'd take a rough idea, that's the great thing about being in a band, and it… from sort of a seed of an idea, it'd become this big-sounding track. That's one of the thrills for me doing it, actually going in the studio and record it properly.
Bruce Dickinson: One guy picks up a guitar and somebody else clocks it and goes, "Oh that's good! Hang on a minute!"
So we've already got 2 or 3 spins and ideas to go in on. Steve likes to go off and do all those stuff on his own and plan it all out. I tend to be a bit more… throw stuff at the wall.
Steve Harris: If I'm writng a song and it's just got my name on it, then usually I've written everything, you know, except for the guitar solos. And I just take it to the rest of the lads and show them the parts and just sort of lay it up like that. I don't do demos and stuff. Some of the simpler songs, you know, they're written in 5 minutes literally, I mean, you know… I mean, the song only probably 5 minutes, but it sounds like a strange thing to say, but they were written quite quickly. And sometimes some of the best or catchiest songs were written like that. Some of them do work like that, other ones you have to work on and it takes time, you know, especially some of the longer ones, obviously.
Dave Murray: Doing the album, ok it's called Number Of The Beast and that… you go in there and you don't think there's any outside… you go in there doing an album. And I think a lot of the stuff breaking down was just technical stuff and things, like that happen anyway in the studio. Things are gonna go wrong, you know.
Bruce Dickinson: We all loved to hammer it up as well a little bit. Bacause we all thought it was a good laugh. And we all thought it was a couple of good wind-ups going on there. The Martin Birch issue about the carload full of nuns is true.
Martin Birch: On that Sunday, we were working on the track "Number Of The Beast". It was a rainy night. I hit this van and I look at the back of the van, it's got those windows and it's got about half a dozen nuns in the back. That's about unusual. Sunday, whatever. So we get the van back andit's raining. I'm in the middle of the road and this guy starts praying to me.
Rod Smallwood: He was very badly hurt. He was looking out to be killed.
Martin Birch: Anyway, I think the next day or a couple of days later, I took my Range Rover in to be repaired. So when I went to get the car, they gave me the bill. It was £666.
Rod Smallwood: Derek did a fantastic job. He made it very boshy and in a way with the small figures. He brought it in as the cover of Purgatory and we all said "ah it's much too good. We'll keep that for the next album." The first thing that one notes is the colours. This is actually a dark and a grey sky. But the album when it came out was a blue sky, a light blue sky. It obviously looked crap. 'Cause EMI managed at the factory to completely screw-up the printing process.
Adrian Smith: I suppose that the idea was, you know, if you thought that the devil was bad, you know, he's not as bad as Eddie.
Dave Murray: Who's manipulating who? That is the question!
Rod Smallwood: And then when we got the songs for the album, we looked at the song titles and of course, you know The Number Of The Beast obviously is perfect for that artwork.
Steve Harris: Well Eddie can be whatever you want him to be, that's the good thing about it. And I suppose that's one of the reasons why we've always had him on the covers. That means we haven't got to be there for a start.
Dave Murray: And it's great it kind of takes away, you know, it puts most of the stuff on his shoulders. So that way we can go shopping at Sainsbury's and nobody hassles us, you know.
Steve Harris: And it means that you can do so much with him. He can do all the things that we don't wanna do. I wish he could do interviews though. One day, you never know…
Adrian Smith: As we were putting the finishing touches to it definitely we thought "yeah, this is gonna be good".
Bruce Dickinson: It sounded completely new. People then hadn't heard anything like it before. Joining together something that was really melodic with something that was really like, "Aaargh!"