As alluded to, by the time of Maiden's synth guitar-ridden 1988 album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, Eddie was beginning to...disintegrate, become one with the ether, as it were.
As Rod explains, "Ideas and execution of Maiden art varied a lot. You have to remember we pretty well did an album and world tour almost every year in the '80s so we were often in a rush to get stuff done. When we finished the record we would choose the first single, schedule the release and call Derek in to discuss artwork we would need yesterday. Looking back it was very intense but we were young and very up for it! And all still single — Maiden was our lives. The input into concepts varied. Most of the singles like 2 Minutes To Midnight, The Trooper, Aces High and the rest were pretty direct briefs to Derek. We would discuss the concept, Derek would play around with some sketches and once we had it Derek would go and paint it, adding much to the original idea in the detail. Other stuff, particularly the mid and late '80s albums were much more general briefs so I am sure Derek would have had much more fun with them as there was so much more freedom. The classic Powerslave brief was just Egypt. Somewhere In Time was the future — although we all had a lot of fun suggesting bar names and other things to add to the detail of the artwork. But the singles were pretty specific briefs. Seventh Son was different. 'Basically, Derek's brief was simply something surreal and bloody weird for the album and all the singles' — there were four of them, all Top 10. All we did was wait for them, look at them, really like them and approve them. I thought it was a fantastic range of ideas and quality workmanship. We adapted the idea for all the tour art and the whole thing really was very conceptual and different. We always want to move on and try something different and this album and Derek's fantastic work I think achieved this."
"They said they wanted one of my surreal things," affirms Riggs. "'It's about prophecy and seeing into the future and we want one of your surreal things.'That was the brief. I painted the first two albums off my own plan. The singles are pretty much what the single is about, if you can work out what the single is about (laughs). But it's always like, we want a guy and a television set and go and do it. But yes, for Seventh Son, I had a limited time to do the picture, and I thought it was pretty weird, their concept, so I just went with that. I don't know where the ideas come from. I read a lot and I stick a lot of pictures in my head. I've got a lot of wildlife books and sooner or later something goes in, but mixed up."
Derek explains further the extraneous sources for shapes and figures and inspiration. "When I was younger I used to like comic art like Jack Kirby, and then I found out about the surrealists, who I liked for a while. I was into Salvador Dali, but he was never really an influence. I just go through things, like through the surrealists, then onto abstract art, then I got bored with that and went on to English landscape painting. As I've mentioned, John Martin, the English landscape artist, turns up here or there, like the Phantom Of The Opera single cover. It's just a matter of looking at everything, photographs, for example. I look at a lot of wildlife books and read stuff and get ideas from it. And it's not always pictures. Pictures don't always inspire that much. Sometimes it's ideas. Somebody told me once about this insect in Australia that lives in the lakes in northern Australia, and if you go swimming, it latches onto your head and starts burrowing. And you have to have all of it drilled out, because if you just leave the head in, it carries on burrowing and ends up getting right into your skull. And I thought, well, isn't that cool? (laughs). Have you ever heard of an assassin fly? It leaps on the back of another insect, and it sticks this great long nasty proboscis into him, squirts this stuff into him that dissolves him from the inside, and then sucks out their insides while they're still twitching. I think that's good. Make an alien that works like that (laughs). All these things. Writers, I like Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur C. Clarke, Doc Smith — science-fiction writers, stuff with good ideas in it. Nowadays, science fiction seems to have gone to the dogs. The ideas have gone down the chute, talking about people growing up and stuff. I just wanna read about spaceships and rockets and good ideas. I don't care about characterization."
Says Bruce on Seventh Son — artwork and music, "Seventh Son really revitalized my enthusiasm. The idea of doing a concept album, I loved. It was a great idea. I was probably responsible in a large part for the cover, with Derek. The idea was to do something surreal. We wanted a surrealist Eddie. And Derek came up with that, which I was really pleased with."
"I don't really mind about any of them," remarks Derek, asked about the stark new light blue color scheme he utilized for Seventh Son. "I don't really have color preferences. It's not in my interest. I just use the colors that seemed appropriate for what's happening in the picture. If it's daylight, I'll use daylight colors. If it's artificial light I'll use yellow a bit more. If it's streetlights, I'll use yellow with a blue keyline, to show the moon or something. It just depends on what is simple and straightforward for the environment. I don't have a lot of favorite colors. That's a strange thing people say to me, 'Why did you choose the color? Why do you paint in the colors you paint in?' And I thought, well, I have to (laughs). The color of the pictures is defined by what's in it."
It's logical but nonetheless amusing that Eddie is still sporting the lid and latch from his Piece Of Mind lobotomy, which in fact, was there for Powerslave as well. "Yeah, look at them. If you look at the Egyptian one, the bolt in his forehead, that's written like an Egyptian cartouche, you know? Where they do the oval and write their name inside it. So that bolt is the one from the previous album, where we bolted his head together, where they took the top of his head off and we bolted it back on again; I kept the central bolt. And that carried on right through until they decided to scrap all that and start again, which kind of spoiled it all, really. But it went right through for about, well, the first eight albums or something, nine albums. And the injuries were building up (laughs). He ended up with a slot around his head and a bolt in the middle and the false eye and then they gave up. I don't really know why they wanted to go back to the beginning. I think it was something to do with what they were going through at the time and they want to get back to their heavy metal roots and they thought this would be a good idea, presenting it like that."
Continues Derek on the Seventh Son sleeve, "The idea was that they were doing an album that was a bit more thoughtful than some of the others. It had a concept behind it; in other words, it was telling a story. It was about something weird. The seventh son of the seventh son is supposed to be psychic. That's the departure point. So the thing is actually a concept album about stuff that this guy goes through. And I thought, you know, I don't feel like painting all of Eddie, so I'll get rid of him (laughs). I'll chop him off, and make it look kind of non-pleasant. And it's got the apple, which is Garden of Eden stuff, and the baby, and it's got some of his machine parts plus a burning head, which was actually a symbol for inspiration, which I stole from Arthur Brown, as in The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, who used to dance around on stage and set his head on fire and sing about fire. But I actually had the album way back when. And on the album, the stuff about fire is not about the devil; it's actually about inspiration. It's kind of about the devil and suffering, but it's about inspiration, so I kind of stole that. And the apple has got yin yang on it. Red and green is yin and yang. They're opposites; plus red and green are opposites in the color spectrum."
Why the polar landscape?
"I might have just seen a documentary about the North Pole or something. These are flying icebergs. You know, it can be something simple as that and I liked the idea. I wanted something that was a departure from all the cityscapes and things It was about prophecy and seeing the future, and so I just wanted something distant. And then they said, on the back, 'Could you stick all the other Eddie's in the ice?' So I did. The Bible and the spaceship... that's just stuff I stuck in. You know, what's more prophetic than the Bible? There's all kinds of stuff people try to read into that, so I stuck something in that looked like the Bible. These things are flying, so I thought, well, I'll make an edge to the water. So I folded it over in a Dali kind of way. I thought, I'll put something under the water that shouldn't be there, so I stuck a planet under there. The way you do surrealism is you find something and you contradict it. Look at Magritte, with his umbrella — umbrellas are to keep the rain out, so you put a glass of water on top of it. Or a picture of a pipe, and he says, 'This is not a pipe.'"
"Well, can you smoke it? (laughs). It can be what you want. It's just about getting something that is a visual contradiction. It doesn't have to mean anything. It can just be an idea that you stick in because it works, or it looks good. The edge of the ice is similar to the edge of the book; it's as simple as that. It's about taking ideas and putting them in situations you wouldn't expect."
The lyric side of Seventh Son's inner sleeve sports a bunch of occult symbols, which, despite Derek's interest in and knowledge of symbolism, he had nothing to do with. The flipside featured a full color, full size Eddie writing in a book.
"That's actually not the original," says Derek, of the strange floating orb in front of the grim and resolute and writing Eddie. "I had to put a sticker over the original because they said it was too heavy. It was all about the Second World War and bombers and buildings burning - it was too heavy for them (laughs). So they wimped out on me. The original was my idea, all about prophecy and being a clairvoyant, and that's what they always predict. They never predict the fall of the stock market. It's always going to be a war or a messiah figure that will get nasty on you. But in the absence of what I had actually put in there, I just had to make something up (laughs). So I just got a bit cosmic with some Eddies in it and some building burnings."
So, one supposes, the original artwork is still safely buried under that added spot of paper... "I think so. But how discernible it would be depends on how good the glue was (laughs)."
"The reaper was there simply because I stuck him in everything," continues Derek, scanning the work. "And Eddie looks that way because as I've said, the albums follow one from the other; the changes I made to Eddie, I kept in the following covers. So for Piece Of Mind, we cut his hair off, and he's got a bolt in his head. The flatter, sort of random-turned screws becomes a thicker, proper Egyptian cartouche on Powerslave. The machine eye comes from the science fiction cover, Somewhere In Time, where they stripped him down and he had a mechanical eye. So he's got a mechanical eye, but it s an altered more surreal one for Seventh Son. As he went along, he kept the bits, or some remnant of the bits, from the previous cover. And his hair is that mid-length because it's growing back since his lobotomy"
Er, something we've not covered until now: how much of an Iron Maiden fan was Derek?
"I only saw them live a couple of times. I saw them when they were doing their first video, and it was in the Hammersmith Odeon in London. I just went down to have a look. I saw them live another time, and it hurt my ears. And I went to the after gig party. I don't know if you've been to many of these but you kind of end up standing in a corner and nobody knows who you are and they don't talk to you. It's just boring. Kind of the naffest party you've been to, with people you don't know; it's just strange. I just never wanted to go to another one after that. My ears were hurting and the party was crap (laughs)."
OK, what about the records? "They're never finished by the time I'm painting. I'm usually doing the cover at the same time they're doing the music, and actually I tend not to listen to any music while I'm painting, as it's too distracting. For the easy bits, maybe, but otherwise it gets on my nerves. When I grew up, I used to listen to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, bands like that, when I was about 15, 16.1 was into heavy rock, as it was called, and stuff like Yes, progressive things, Hawkwind. I had a huge record collection, and then I had a big CD collection, and I ditched everything and am starting again (laughs)."
"In the '80s I got into reggae and classical music. I got away from rock a bit, then I got bored with that and got into some electronic things. And then I went back and bought all the rock that I missed in the '60s and 70s, like The Groundhogs, and bluesy stuff. Then it was abstract electronic things and free jazz. I liked Kraftwerk, or the first album anyway, and then they got into all that pop stuff and I lost interest. I thought Philip Glass was a bit boring. I've gone through a lot of that. I go around in spirals with my musical tastes."
"Nobody seems to remember the Groundhogs anymore," muses Derek, "but they were the heaviest thing you could find. And there were a few bands that were kind of much heavier than the stuff that's going around now. I wasn't much of a concert-goer; I went to a few. I saw Hawkwind in the early days twice. They were quite fun. I managed to narrowly miss seeing Led Zeppelin. I saw The Who; they were fun, and Alex Harvey was always fun."
Seventh Son hatched a little suite of similar Eddies not all there. "They were done at the same time as Seventh Son. Can I Play With Madness, I did first, I believe, or perhaps it was the album, because usually the album comes first and sets the pace and the style for the other things. Anyway, for Can I Play With Madness, I didn't want a complicated background. Because they aren't pictorial ideas; they're conceptual ideas. And it had to go with the lack of background of the album. So I just made it fade. It's not blue. This print is off; it's horrible. They put in about 30% too much blue in the printing, which messes up all the red. It's gray. It's a faint, steely, blue gray. And it's, well, it's smashing your brains out, isn't it? And he's being screwed — there's normal screws and a corkscrew. And there's a fly sitting on the picture surface. And there's making eggs in his skull, or the idea of scrambled brains/scrambled eggs... madness. That's an egg, with a spoon — Eddie the egg cup (laughs). I changed my painting style slightly, to make it look a bit different."
Can I Play With Madness was the requisite pre-release single, arriving March of'88, a month ahead of the album. The Evil That Men Do came next, which Derek says was "done in one night because I was ill. I put it off for a week then I drew it in one night."
Finally there was The Clairvoyant, issued in November of '88, the weirdest of a weird batch.
"It was about seeing the future, so I thought, past, present and future. And that Roman god, is it Janus that has three faces? It has to do with passage of time. Anyway, I drew these three faces and I couldn't resolve it. Because if you put three heads together like that, it's all right when his mouth's shut, but when he opens his mouth, what happens? Where do the gaps join up? Where do the cheeks join up? So I was just kind of trying to resolve that. What
happens there? Do I put flesh in that comes down like that, and how does that work?
Because it's a bit confusing. So I rubbed it out, and sat and thought about it. And the tongues were still there, but I thought, I quite like that. It's totally apeshit (laughs). So I stuck the drills
in it and whatnot, because it relates back to the drills in the other one. And the eyeballs are kind of a Vision of the future' kind of thing. And fire is always good for a laugh, so I stuck all that in." "And then Freddie Mercury from Queen saw it. I saw in an interview, where he said they had done an album called The Miracle, where they stuck all the faces together. And he said he was walking down the street and he saw a poster and he got the idea from a poster. And there's never been another poster that looks like that. It was the same year that this came out. They stole it from me (laughs). Absolutely. I would bet money on it. There's never been another cover that was on the street, all over London, that looks like that. And he said in an interview that he saw a poster on the street, and he got the idea from that. This was in a documentary on television. There was nothing else in London that looked like that at the time." Rare as these trips were, in the late '80s, Derek was eventually summoned to perform his magic on demand yet again, this time, the mission highly custom in nature. "They flew me out to L.A., to work on a
Halloween poster for a gig they were doing. I think they were doing a Halloween push of some sort. I think they were maybe doing a gig at the same time, so they want to make a big noise. They used a lot of artwork in those days. You could get 20 pieces of artwork to do with an album. And some of it was just off the wall, one-off pieces. It was all about getting the imagery out there."
"Anyway, it was cheaper to fly me out rather than sending the painting backward and forward. I was out there for about three days, at the record company office, and that was that big circular Capitol Records Building on Hollywood and Vine (laughs). It was a bit boring, because I was working over the weekend at one point, nobody else in the office, and it's circular, and I was right up in the air, and it was like being in a space station all on your own — weird. And it was just boring. From there I would just go to the hotel and sleep, and I couldn't sleep, because there were all the helicopters flying outside the window. Because the hotel was in that Sunset Marquee area, Sunset Strip, which was full of nightclubs and police and riot squads and what have you (laughs). I got woken up a couple times by police helicopters and voices squawking."
This article is taken from Derek Riggs book Run For Cover