I still remember the first time I heard the opening riff of “Number of the Beast”. I was waiting for the school bus (eighth grade, maybe?) and a friend had let me borrow the cassette tape and I was the proud owner of a Sony Walkman. I was hooked, immediately, by the sheer awesomeness of it. Of course, then the song’s lyrics kicked in, and this church-going teenager was shocked to hear that “666” was not just the number of the beast, but also “the one for you and me”.
It seems funny now to think back about the moral panic of heavy metal lyrics during the 80’s, when parents across the land were convinced that the music of bands like Iron Maiden were going to turn their precious teenage boys into “devil worshipers”. I mean, I still sacrifice a live chicken every now and then (who doesn’t?) but otherwise I turned out okay and it appears that Satanism never really took hold as a mainstream religion.
The thing is, Iron Maiden still exists as a group, they still tour and continue to spread awesomeness across the land. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson famously pilots the band’s tour plane. The band stayed clear of drugs and alcohol, they didn’t abuse groupies, never got into legal trouble, they just did their thing, playing complex music with lyrics that often reference classic tales from history and literature.
Almost the perfect role models for their young fans, in other words.