After several months of touring all over the country as a four piece Steve decided that a new addition was required. He wanted a second guitarist to make the harmonies work so he put an advertisement in Melody Maker, along the lines that Iron Maiden were seeking a second guitarist for recording and live work.
Studio time was booked for one night midweek (usually a Wednesday) and one day at weekends (usually a Sunday) for one month. That way we could give people from all over the country the chance of auditioning, and still getting home at a reasonable hour. As expected, the response was overwhelming. We had people from all over the United Kingdom turning up for auditions and it got to the point where we had to provide more rehearsal time to fit them all in.
Some would come in and really impress us, but the majority were timewasters. For others it was probably a long journey, followed by the line the milkman fears most, “not today thank you” and they were gone.
I remember one guy telling Steve after his dreadful audition that he’d driven all the way down from Scotland or somewhere up north (not that it matters now), and he’d told his wife he was going to get the job so could he have another chance? Harry didn’t fuck about. He told the guy quite straight, “You didn’t have a first chance”. Brutal but true.
I even saw people in the car park crying. I then realised how cut throat this business could be and, to be honest, I’d only been in it for five minutes myself and realised how lucky I’d been. And I was only a roadie.
The auditions carried on for a few weeks, and we saw so many people come and go that it became a bit boring. We spent so much time in the nearest pub, the bar staff thought we were locals. Then suddenly, just when things were about to wrap up for the evening a guy called Paul Cairns turned up with his dog, Nelson.
If I could describe his look, Paul, not the dog, the shaggy hair style and opened shirt, I would say that Jon Bon Jovi stole Paul Cairns’ look, without even knowing it.
Even though Bon Jovi came along a few years after Maiden and musically was of a different genre, they went on to become a huge selling act and, after my stint with Iron Maiden, I worked for them a couple of times. But that’s another story.
Paul slotted in quite well during the initial audition. He had everything. Musically, he was what the band wanted, and he looked the part too.
But that was where it ended as far as I was concerned.
The whole scenario, as I remember, was a bit strange. Paul Cairns was put through his paces, and he did everything that Steve asked of him. He learned the songs easily and quickly and was fitting in quite well.
So this is one of those weird bits I don’t quite remember, or understand. I’ll come back to this briefly a bit later on.
Harry had booked some studio time to do a demo for the interest of promoters, managers etc; which we all know now as the Soundhouse Tapes. This demo was recorded at the Soundhouse Studio in Cambridge.
We turned up at the studio with our equipment as we would if we were doing a gig, and loaded our stuff into the studio. We set the gear up as we were directed by the studio engineer. Once finished, and having nothing better to do, Pete Bryant and I went to the local pub, which was literally over the road.
Now we knew that it was going to be a couple of days recording and mixing, so we came prepared. Bad weather had been forecast. We knew it was going to be cold but we had our sleeping bags in the van and we were ready for it. But a cold front moved in so fast that we were not as ready as we thought we were.
During the band’s recording, we were happily sitting in the studio enjoying the warmth. Everything seemed to be going well, until the studio engineer said he needed a break and would be back the following day.
With the Green Goddess out of commission we had a minor problem on our hands. There was only enough sleeping room in the van for three at the most, so we arranged with the studio owners to let us sleep on the studio floor, which they agreed to.
Paul Di’Anno did what he does best and went to the local pub. Within ten minutes he had chatted up a local girl and managed to get a couple of guys to sleep on her living room floor. To this day I still don’t know where Paul slept, but knowing him, he was warm enough.
We all awoke the following day to a huge blanket of snow on the ground so, in hindsight, getting my head down in the studio was a blessing in disguise. The two guys in the van, Vick and Pete, were warm enough and Paul turned up with a smile on his face, so he was OK, along with Dave and Doug, who had slept on his conquest’s living room floor.
Day two of recording went pretty much the same as day one. By 5.00pm the vocals were finished, the guitars were finished and all we had to do was pack everything up and go home.
Now, notice I haven’t mentioned Paul Cairns all the way through the recording process. And the main reason being, I simply don’t remember him being there. If he was there then I have blocked him out of the whole situation for some reason.
I even spoke to Doug Sampson about this recently, and he couldn’t remember Paul Cairns being there at all. So that’s two of us out of a few people. But of course, to get the rest of the band’s comments on this issue, you’d have to be able to get in touch with them first, and for the best part of twenty years, I have tried and tried.
If you read Garry Bushell’s account in his ‘official story of Iron Maiden’ (Running Free) there is still no mention of Paul Cairns. Nothing in Paul Stenning’s book (Thirty Years Of The Beast) either.
But there’s more. According to Stjepan Juras, who runs the Maiden Croatia website, he did an interview with Paul Cairns who claimed he was at Cambridge, and even gave the tracks and parts he played on them. All this info can be found in Stjepan’s book, ‘Steve Harris – The Clairvoyant’.
So you can understand why I feel a bit confused about the whole scenario.
The whole thing may be a bit strange to you too, poor reader, but for me it’s an absolute nightmare, trying to remember where you were at a particular time and with whom.
What haunts me most is a picture in Stjepan’s book. There’s the band, including Paul Cairns on page 143. Ok, so maybe he was there!!
In which case why did he never work for the band again? And, more importantly, why was he never credited on the Soundhouse Tapes? Over to you Mr Harris!!!
As I wrote this a few months ago, and still have no further updates about Paul Cairns, I felt the timing of this release was meant to be.
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.