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Low Culture

Low Culture Podcast Five: John Higgs On Iron Maiden & Eddie The Head
John Doran , January 6th, 2021 09:53

The fifth in our series of subscriber only podcasts sees KLF and William Blake author John Higgs talking about the deep, esoteric history of the heavy metal mascot that embodies the spirit of one of the world's biggest bands

Portrait by Maria Jefferis

Last year John and Luke piloted the misfiring Quietus clown car towards the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton. After two and a half days trying to secure a parking space, they made a successful rendezvous with producer Alannah Chance. Their mission? To visit countercultural writer John Higgs for the latest Low Culture podcast.

John Higgs has long been one of this site's favourite authors and was responsible for the essential tome, The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds, as well as books on Timothy Leary, William Blake and one of the UK's oldest and most storied roads, Watling Street.

When we asked him which cultural artefact he felt was under-loved, misunderstood or was simply in need of a bit of re-contextualisation, we were delighted when he chose wizened and zombified band mascot, Edward T Head.

From a grizzly photograph of a war atrocity and an artist's visceral reaction to the punk explosion of 1976/1977 via a jet-black Cockney joke and a cheap Kabuki mask designed to spit stage blood on a drummer, John describes the evolution of the only band mascot that counts, calling Eddie The Head's story "much stranger than anyone gives credit".

He warns that people who think it's just a heavy metal mascot - "a bad joke gotten out of hand" - should think again: "It captures the experience of listening to the band in a way you can draw... It captures the feeling of being a prepubescent young boy where you're just a little bit of a yappy terrier but you feel like you can do anything. And [in a weird postmodern way] Eddie is whatever he wants to be, whether that's an Egyptian mummy, a fighter pilot or a cyborg from the future, he is whatever he wants without permission. And I can't think of anything quite like it.

"And if you see an Iron Maiden concert it's essentially a ritual. Certain things happen at certain times and everyone who goes knows that during a certain point during the song 'Iron Maiden', then that's when it turns up... this giant Eddie rises from the back of the stage and at the same time the Eddie that's inside us all rises up as well."

If any subscribers want to let John and Luke know what their favourite new culture of the moment is - be that books, films, records, bizarre performance art etc. - they should email in to hello@theQuietus.com under the title, "Low Culture Tips". The best suggestions will be discussed in an upcoming podcast.

This responsibly produced and socially distanced podcast was recorded in early October 2020 before stricter COVID-19 guidelines were introduced for the Winter.

To listen to The Quietus' new Low Culture podcast, you'll need to become a subscriber and sign up to the Low Culture or Sound & Vision tiers. You can find out more about why we're introducing the subs and all the amazing perks you can get here and join via the checkout below.