Rehearsals went on week after week, backwards and forwards to Bromley By Bow and eventually déjà vu kicked in. I was thinking one day about how Paul and I had done pretty much the same thing eighteen months before with Rock Candy. It’s funny how it affects you. Same ol’, same ol’ came to mind.
At the time I was working for a sewing cotton company in Lammas Road, Leyton (now gone) who specialised in making cord for the centre of menus. Paul was working on the other side of Lea Bridge Road, 50 yards away, in a steel drum spraying facility (also long gone).
Trying to get time off for our Heavy Metal venture was almost impossible for the both of us, so midweek we had to leave work and go straight to the studio. It was the only way we could make it on time.
It got to the point where my bosses finally let me work a three day week, which was perfect while the band had enough gigs. Then, after six weeks, I was given my cards and told that I had agreed to leave the company. I hadn’t signed anything to confirm that, but took it anyway. Working for a rock band was much more exciting.
Paul quit his job about a week later and the two of us scrounged whatever we could to get to rehearsals. I will always be indebted to my parents for helping both Paul and myself out financially during this period.
With the way things were going rehearsal wise, the decision was made to move ourselves to Hollywood Studios in Clapton, E5. Steve Harris and the rest of the band decided that we needed to progress to a bigger and better sounding studio, and who was I to complain?
It was going to be more expensive, but nobody cared. In my heart I knew that this was going to work. I had a feeling from the start that this band was going to be something, although I still didn’t quite know what.
Hollywood Studios was run by a guy called John Edwards, better known for being the creator, controller and voice of Metal Mickey back in the day.
I actually saw Metal Mickey in one of the sheds at Hollywood Studios during our time there, but that was much later on. He hadn’t been used for many years and rust was definitely getting the better of him. Poor bugger.
We had a few meetings with some old friends of Steve’s, namely Dave Beasley and Vic Vella, and, within a few weeks, the crew had swollen to four, with Pete Bryant, an old friend of Dave Lights, coming in to look after guitars. By this time I had struck up such a good understanding with Doug that drums seemed to be my destiny, so we became the first Killer Crew.
Vic was the driver/sound guy, Dave Lights (as he is known internationally) did our lights and effects, Pete the guitars/driving, and I did the drums plus the beer and fag run.
After what seemed like an eternity, probably about nine months in total, of rehearsals in Bow and Clapton, Steve obviously felt it was time to unleash the beast, and started to book gigs.
Our first gig with the new line up was held at the Bridgehouse, Canning Town, but, as I remember so little about it, I always thought our first one was at the Ruskin Arms. And for a very good reason…
I got so drunk during the gig at the Ruskin Arms, meeting up with friends that had come to see what the noise was all about, and parents that wanted to know what we boys had been up to, etc. So much so that Steve Harris found me sitting on the steps at the front of the Ruskin, with my head in my hands, close to puking with Steve saying, “Brilliant! And he’s supposed to be our Stage Manager”.
It was my worst moment. I never did it again.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a drink, but there’s a time and a place. Under the circumstances it would have been foolish to get drunk like that again whilst working for the band. And I didn’t.
Out of sight, out of mind is the simplest way. And THAT happens a lot. Enough said.
This also puts an end to Paul’s story of our first gig being at the Cart and Horses, which he has mentioned in two different books, his own, ‘Paul Di’Anno – The Beast’, and ’30 Years Of The Beast’ by Paul Stenning.
Firstly, the Cart and Horses was being refurbished, and secondly, they hadn’t had a live band there for over two years. Their live music license had expired. Combined with the refurbishment, it was never going to happen.
We continued our regular visits to the Ruskin and I was amazed at how quickly we were building a following. Week after week they kept coming, and more and more each time.
Dave Lights’ shows were getting more extravagant and then he added the Eddie effect. A huge black backdrop ringed with white light bulbs, and a white mask that spat blood during the song ‘Iron Maiden’, which the punters loved. Paul’s vocals were sounding better each time and the band was getting tighter too.
I’d told my parents how things were going and they showed up one evening. I remember my old man saying he’d never heard a guitar talk before. He was referring to Dave Murray.
At the time I was clueless as to what was going on. I could see that the band were getting better and I could see the crowds were getting bigger, but back then I wouldn’t have thought of calling them fans. They were mates, or mates of mates. Everyone knew each other. But fans they were. And a lot of them followed us everywhere…
The original columns, published between 2012 and 2016, led to the hugely popular ‘Loopyworld – The Iron Maiden Years’ book, which you can buy from eBay.