||LOOPY'S WORLD: FUN AND BANTER WITH DENNIS STRATTON
Steve 'Loopy' Newhouse
Now it's time to give a little room for a great friend, Den. Or fully known as Dennis Stratton. Or locally, for a few weeks on tour at least, Debbie Stratford.
Where the Debbie Stratford thing came from, I have no idea? When he and Clive were fucking around, you could never tell. There was Debbie and Clive, Derek and Clive, or just plain Dennis and Clive, but they were a team. Between them the jokes and stupidity just kept going.
Den had been around a lot longer than any of us, and he knew a lot more. His band, Remus Down Boulevard had toured Europe with Status Quo a few years before he joined Maiden, so he was the guy we looked up to, in terms of "what do we do now?"
It's easy to say we had done a lot of shows before he joined the band, and we wondered and hoped he would fit in, and we weren't disappointed. Den's showmanship and expertise came at the right time.
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I felt that as a unit we had pushed the boundaries as far as we could, and although the band was tight, musically, everything else seemed too professional. Nothing wrong in that I hear you say, and I totally agree, but what Maiden needed was to lighten up a bit.
Dennis and Clive joining when they did was perfect timing. They added the spark to ignite the fire that is still burning today.
I'm not taking anything away from Dougie Sampson. He will always be an integral part of Maiden's unique style and set up. And he is still a good friend and I hope it remains that way.
But when Dennis and Clive joined the band, the humour and fun went to another level.
Having just watched the DVD, 'Dennis Stratton - The Maiden Years' for the first time, I realised just how much fun he was, and in fact still is.
Yes, I know I see him every month and the banter between him and Dave Edwards never changes, but recently I have been added to the banter, and it gives me a sense of pride to know these guys.
On the road Den had one particular antic that he enjoyed.
During the live set, Dennis would be playing away, then he would look up to see if any of the crew were watching. Now I was usually safe from this, as I was tucked away behind the Marshall stacks, but the guys at the side of the stage could see Den, and more importantly, Den could see them.
If he caught one of the crew watching him he would signal, usually a nod, to say he had a problem, for example his jack had come out of his effects box, or his lead was caught up under Dianno's mike stand.
From the side of the stage you couldn't tell, so you had to go and investigate.
Crouching low and running at the same isn't the easiest thing in the world. Nobody wants to see a fat roadie slob his way across the stage, so you had to be quick and nimble.
Back then, we were all good at quick and nimble. These days the only thing I'm quick and nimble at is sex and falling asleep. But I digress.
So once Den has your attention, and you go haring to where he is pointing, which just happens to be right at the front of the stage, with you crouching low, Den would sit on you. And that's where you stayed until Den got off your back, or the song finished.
Of course, we got wise to it very quickly, but it didn't stop us sending the newbies in every now and then.
I only suffered this once when working for Dennis, when he was with Lionheart, and we are talking about almost two years later. I really should have learned my lesson from a master, but hey, it's rock and roll innit!!!
Having Den around made the crew happy, and it's true what he said on the video about spending a lot of time with us. We called him the swag man, because if the band were being given free t-shirts, Den would make sure we all got one too. That was the kind of guy he was. Anything going for free, Den made sure the crew got their share, even if it meant he went without.
On the Kiss tour, Den had two shirts that he wore on stage. A white one, with a black dragon motif on the back, and a black one, with a white dragon motif on the back. (With me so far?)
Each day Den would hang one of his shirts up in a shower for a few minutes to take the creases out. So I thought I would do him a favour in Holland and hung both his shirts up.
An hour later, when the band turned up for sound check, Den asked me where his shirts were.
They were still in the shower. By the time we got to them they were both dripping wet.
That night Den had to borrow a waistcoat from Dave that was so small, it restricted his playing.
Thankfully Den saw the funny side, and only had to go through a 40 minute set. Needless to say, I never did Den's laundry again, but I learned from it.
And it could have ended a lot worse.
I could have ended up doing everybody's laundry, which is exactly what happened in 1983.
But that's another story.
The other thing I remember about Den's time with the band, was the constant ageing that Geoff (deaf) Barton bestowed upon Den.
Den was only a few years older than the rest of us, but in every interview the band did with Geoff, Dennis was getting older and older.
By the time Den officially left the band, Geoff had him aged at 67.
I have no idea if Den ever said anything to Geoff about it, but I know it bothered him for a while.
It amazes me that Rod let it go too as he was there to protect the band's image. You can't have a reporter telling fans of the biggest up and coming band in the UK that one of the guitarists was 67. What a great way to put people off.
Dennis can still be found at the Crown, Hornchurch every first Sunday of the month with Dave Edwards, his old RDB side kick, from 5.00-7.00pm and every third month with his band RDB from 8.30 till close.
Just a heads up if you are interested, the next full RDB gig will be at The Crown, Hornchurch on December 1st 2013. Hope you can make it.
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