8. ENTER SMALLWOOD
The original columns, published between 2012 and 2016.
After a few shows at the Music Machine and countless gigs elsewhere and everywhere, Steve was introduced to a guy called Rod Smallwood. Rod, from what I remember, had a few contacts in the music industry and had been part of the management team for IQ, Paul Young’s band before he went solo and became a hit in the UK.
I could be totally wrong about that but I’m sure there’s a little archivist sitting there somewhere who will say nope, he got that wrong. Like I care?
One night at the Music Machine, a night that Iron Maiden was actually headlining, Rod came along and was introduced to the band. Everything went really well as far as I could tell. Then he was introduced to the crew. We all said our hello’s, hi, how ya doing, whatever and went back to what we were doing, i.e., getting everything ready for the show.
Rod was very quick at realising the potential and asked Steve about a fan club. I just happened to be in earshot of this conversation and piped up that I would do it. Harris looked at me, then looked at Rod and said, “Nah!! He’s a bit of a dark horse this one. We’ll find someone else.”
To this day I still have no idea what he meant and the comment didn’t hurt. I was too busy looking after Doug so I had enough to do. I was just offering my services. No harm in that!!
But it did Keith Wilfort a favour, as Keith got the job, part time to start with, in November 79, went full time in August 1980, and kept the whole thing going until November 1996. That is dedication for you.
Back then we were proud to be members of a little outfit from the East End of London. And we were a team. Everybody pulled in the same direction, with one goal. To make this band bigger.
Anyway, the show itself was a great success as usual and, once Rod was happy with the way things were going, he took over as the band’s manager.
It didn’t take long for the Rod effect to kick in.
Rod was always looking at ways of getting more out of the crew than necessary. We did a gig in Swindon during his early reign and Rod wasn’t happy with me. I still don’t understand why but he asked Vic if I should be running around a lot more. Vic simply said, “He’s the drum roadie. If he sets the kit up right the first time he has no need to run around.”
Vic told me about it later and said that Rod wasn’t happy. I have no idea what Rod’s problem was but this wasn’t the end of it by any means. I was just doing my job and, more to the point, I was doing it for free. This goes back to what I said earlier about everyone pulling in the same direction. The one person trying to fuck things up back then was Rod Smallwood.
All of a sudden we were doing gigs all over the place. If the distances had been erratic before, now they were getting mentally so.
After a few weeks of going from Blackpool to Aberdeen to Liverpool to Glasgow to Norwich then Swansea, we said to Harris, “This has to change. We are driving backwards and forwards and, although we love the job, we’re not getting any sleep.”
Harry spoke to Rod but we carried on like the troopers we were. We then went back to London to start rehearsals and try to add a second guitarist.
The guy who got the job was Tony Parsons, a tall pale bloke with long blonde hair and a centre parting. He played a Gibson Flying V and had his own Marshall stack with a 100w amp. That should have been enough to impress anybody. Except Rod.
We went back on the road with Tony. In fact we used to pick Tony up from his place in Potter’s Bar and, from where we were based, it was a good thing we were heading north or we might have left him behind.
Tony was introduced to our shows slowly. He would come on for the last few numbers here and there, but I don’t recall Tony ever actually doing a full gig with the band. Again I could be totally wrong.
I liked Tony but he had a problem, being that he only had one style. He looked, played and sounded like Michael Schenker. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Schenker and worked with him, but there can only be one. And that was Tony’s problem. Even to the point where, in one of his solos, he ripped off Michael’s solo from the song ‘Rock Bottom’. Note for note. Being a big UFO fan, I made Harry aware of this.
At this point I didn’t realise that Tony’s days were already numbered. The band took him on in August 79. Tony played a part in around 30 shows and played on the ‘Metal For Muthas’ album. He also played on the BBC Rock Show, and was eventually fired by Rod Smallwood at Paddington Station on Tony’s birthday (information supplied by Barry Considine, thank you sir).
Shortly after Tony’s demise the band had to endure some studio time, so we went to Wessex Studios, somewhere in north London if my memory serves me right.
The idea was to record a demo for the record companies to drool over. Maiden were making a lot of noise around this time and, of course, there were a lot of companies interested. I think EMI stumped up the funds for this though I can’t be certain.
So, we did what we always did. Turned up on time, unloaded the van and put the gear where we were told to. From memory, Wessex Studio was almost like an empty warehouse with the control room upstairs in the Manager’s office.
The two tracks required were ‘Burning Ambition’ and a new song called ‘Running Free’, written by Harris and Di’Anno.
As far as I can remember everything went really well with the recording, but there were a few comments made about Doug not being well. I just assumed he had another cold or something similar.
With a decent demo in the bag, Rod managed to secure a contract with EMI. We were all ecstatic. We hadn’t been going long but all the hard work had paid off.
While the crew were still working hard to get the band’s equipment looking good and sounding great what came next was unexpected, and totally blew me away.
Doug had resigned because of medical reasons.
Shit, I thought, what the fuck do I do now? I spoke to everybody trying to make some kind of sense of it all, but nobody had an answer. Doug had simply had enough.
I could have cried, but I spoke to Dave Murray who simply said, “You’re one of us. Whoever we get to replace Doug, you will always be one of us.”
I didn’t have an option. I was an unpaid member of the Killer Krew. Although at that time, I didn’t know it.
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.