Just over a month ago I posted a little blog about Iron Maiden recording the Spaceward Demo, which as we all now know, became 'The Soundhouse Tapes'. And of course, if it hadn't been for the success of the Soundhouse Tapes, then where would Iron Maiden be now?
With the demo in the bag we went back to rehearsing at Hollywood Studio's,
whilst waiting for the final studio cut to be sent to Steve. In the meantime the Green Goddess had been overhauled and was now road
worthy again, so we managed to book a bunch of gigs and went back to what
we did best, i.e. play to packed pubs all over the place.
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It wasn't that long after we got back to gigging that the first batch of our
demo's came through and, keen to make an impression, Steve sent the demo's
off to everyone he thought important enough to hear it.
About this time we heard of a heavy metal bar/club/pub making a lot of noise
in Kingsbury, North West London, and Steve wanted to go there and try his
The Heavy Metal Soundhouse, as I recall, was a huge pub on a roundabout in
the middle of Kingsbury, NW9 (I think). So loaded with our massive assignment
of one (1) cassette, Steve and I made the journey round the North Circular
Road in his Nan's Nissan and, having found the place where somebody had
conveniently left it, we ventured in.
First impression was the volume. Not the size of the place, I mean the
VOLUME. The noise was deafening. Well to a layman it was deafening, but to those of us that were used to it, this was sitting at around 9. Iron Maiden was
only playing at 8 at the time, but we persevered.
Harry and me stood and watched the head bangers doing their thing for a
while, when Steve then decided it was time to approach the long haired guy at
the consul and have a quick word.
Neal Kay looked like he'd seen it all before and until this point, I'm sure he had.
With his long blonde hair and stack heeled boots, he watched me and Harry
approach, with a look that said, here we go again
. With Steve holding up the
demo before him, Neal met us at the steps to his rostrum.
"Yes gents?" he said. Steve passed him the demo tape, and simply said, "Can
you give this a listen?"
Neal accepted the tape and went on about the amount of demo's he got all
the time and he didn't have time to play them all but eventually agreed
to give it a listen. Steve and me got
back in the trusty Nissan and went home.
A few days later my phone rang and some lunatic was ranting and raving
about how good our demo was.
It was Neal Kay.
He was saying how he wanted us to play at the Soundhouse as soon as he
could set it up. I then phoned Steve and relayed the conversation I'd had with
Neal. Steve hung up and phoned Neal to arrange our first gig at the Heavy
Metal Soundhouse. The gig was quickly arranged for a few weeks later.
In the meantime, 'Sounds', a popular music weekly, had picked up on the heavy
metal scene at the time and had started to compile a heavy metal top ten,
based on the stuff that Neal was playing at the pub.
Maiden's demo had become so popular at the Bandwagon/Soundhouse that
one of our tracks, 'Prowler', was all of a sudden number one in the chart and
the punters were going mad for the band.
This was ultimately the best move the band had ever made. Ok, it was Steve
who made the decisions, and nobody can fault his single tracked mind, but to
me, this was the one thing that helped to make them as big as they became.
The union of Steve Harris and Neal Kay was exactly what Iron Maiden needed.
But again, that's history now, and I'm telling the story my way.
Every gig we did at the Soundhouse/Bandwagon was sold out. I'm not sure
how many shows we actually did there but we always came away feeling we
had proved ourselves. Of course, we were still doing gigs all over the country and our fan base was
getting bigger and better everywhere we went.
We then got booked to do a headline gig at the Marquee Club in Wardour
Street in the centre of London which to Paul and me was almost like coming
The two of us had spent a couple of years frequenting the Marquee seeing great bands like Nutz, (a favourite of mine, so much so that I followed
them everywhere); AC/DC, who I remember doing every Monday in August '75??? Whatever
year it was, the encore usually ended up with Angus getting his kit off; Thin
Lizzy and Gary Moore. We even got to see Status Quo do a warm up prior to
their gig at the Reading Festival the following night. It got to the point where
Paul and I went to the Marquee so often, one of the managers, a guy called
Nigel, used to let us in for nothing.
I also remember seeing a band featuring a couple of old school friends, namely
Jeff Hepting from William McGuffie in Walthamstow, and Phil
Collen from Leyton County High School for Boys (also the home of Steve Harris
and Paul Dianno). The pair were getting together to play lead guitars for a band called Dumb
To be honest I don't remember what they sounded like. I was just fascinated
that I was watching some old schoolmates live on stage and thinking, if they
can make it, why can't we?
Iron Maiden's first gig at the Marquee was a huge success, but it was also a
long day. We arrived with our equipment at around 10AM. The guy running
the place didn't show up until noon and with parking restrictions along
Wardour Street being what they were at the time, we couldn't just park the
van and unload our gear. So Pete and Vic took it in turns to take the Goddess
around the block a few hundred times.
Finally it was time to load our gear in. At bloody last. Then the guy we had
been waiting for says, "you could have parked round the back." GGRRRRR!!!
Even more annoying, once our vehicle was empty, the same guy said, "you
can't leave your van there."
The area at the back of the Marquee was meant for residential parking only
and to get in and out of the parking area with a van our size meant only one
thing. Having driven in forwards, somebody had to reverse it out, AND find
somewhere to park. To me this was easy, I don't drive, S.E.P. (Somebody Elses
When Vic finally returned to the Marquee Club, having parked 2 miles away
and spitting feathers, Pete and I had the bands gear set up and we were ready
to go. This presented our next problem. The Marquee wasn't big enough for us to
store our empty cases, so Vic had to walk back to the van, and bring it back to
the Marquee so we could get rid of said empty cases, and then take the van to
another parking spot even further than the first.
Stay with it folks, and eventually you will see a pattern emerge.
By the time Vic finally got back, he'd missed the soundcheck and all you
could here was "fucking" this and "fucking" that. To me and Dave Lights it was
hilarious, and Pete Bryant too, but eventually Pete took pity on Vic and took
him to MacDonalds. You could still hear the moaning half a mile away. By the time they came back
to the Marquee, Vic had calmed down a little and I was given a cold Big Mac,
fries and a root beer, "and be fuckin' grateful". I just fell over laughing.
You might not get the irony but what we had was special.
The gig itself was fast and furious, as most Maiden gigs were those days. The
place was filled with a lot of old friends from the Ruskin, but now we had the
new bunch from Neal's Bandwagon selling the place out was easy.
So, once the gig was over, me, Pete and Dave Lights got on with doing what
we did best, tearing the bands gear down. Vic said, "I'll go and get the van
then?" To which me and Lights said, "Yeah, bye." But Pete asked me to look
after the guitars and walked off with Vic.
The band had finished getting changed (there were no showers backstage at
the Marquee in those days, in fact ever) and went home, leaving me and Dave
Lights looking after the bands equipment. There was plenty of time to think
about what was going on and that's when it hit me most. Having spent all this time working and touring together, this was the first time
that band and crew had been split, and I had no idea what arrangements had
been made regarding how I was getting home (not selfish, but survival...lol), or
where the gear was going to be stored?
Of course, everything had been worked out by Vic and Steve, they just hadn't
told anybody else. Pete knew when Vic told him in Maccy D's, but me and
Lights were oblivious until we packed the van up and headed back to the East
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