Gypsy’s Kiss – Top Of The Iron Maiden Family Tree

Gypsy’s Kiss, the band at the very top of the Iron Maiden Family Tree, celebrates their 50th Anniversary this year. Formed by David Smith and Steve Harris, this was the band that Steve Harris would cut his teeth in before forming Iron Maiden. It is a story that encapsulates the grassroots nature of the Heavy Metal movement in the UK.

Gypsy’s Kiss: The Story

Words: Alex Eruptor

“Would you hold on to my pint? I’ll be back in a couple of minutes,” was the question.

“Is it so you can….go for a Gypsy’s?” I asked back.

“Yeah.” My counter-question is met with a wry smile.

The setting was the Cart & Horses pub at Maryland Point, where Stratford meets Leytonstone, High Road, in East London. We were there for the British Lion show on 3 January 2024.

The man with the pint of beer and the full bladder was Paull Sears, a man with connections to one of Leytonstone’s most famous exports and icons of popular culture.

No, not Alfred Hitchcock, who was born up the road. The East London cultural institution relevant to this story is a band called Iron Maiden, and Paull was their first manager.

But before that gig, he was also the drummer for a band named Gypsy’s Kiss, who, in 2024, will celebrate their 50th Anniversary sitting comfortably and indisputably aloft the Iron Maiden family tree.

The genesis of Gypsys’s Kiss was the combination of a young Steve Harris and David Smith, who both attended Leyton County High School for Boys. David had joined from Downsell Primary School, and Steve from Cann Hall Primary.

Paul Di’Anno also Leyton County High School. Di’Anno was in a year below Steve and three and a half years younger than David. Also at the school around this time were England Cricket Legend Graham Gooch and Pianist Bobby Crush from TV’s Opportunity Knocks.

Steve and David would play football around the garages behind David’s family home. This was an upstairs flat in a small terraced house in front of a wood yard at 10 Downsell Road, Leyton E15.

Although David was around eighteen months older than Steve, the future Maiden bassist was already a good footballer capable of playing amongst the older lads. Today, that house has gone, demolished to make way for the entrance to a Mosque, but traces remain of the chimney flue.

The Smith family home was a flat situated on the top level, the chimney flue still visible. Photo: Alex Eruptor
The Smith family home was a flat situated on the top level, the chimney flue still visible. Photo: Alex Eruptor

Steve lived about half a mile away, at 40 Steele Road. This was where his nan, Ada, lived and where Steve had been born, in the back room on 12 March 1956. This was a mid-terrace house in a quiet street, with a bay window on the ground floor.

A kind of Greco-Roman-style face on the front wall adjoined the neighbouring property. This was before Eddie the ‘Ead was born. Could this be where Steve’s appreciation of disembodied heads began?

The face detail on the front of 40 Steele Road, where Steve Harris was born and raised. Photo: Alex Eruptor
The face detail on the front of 40 Steele Road, where Steve Harris was born and raised. Photo: Alex Eruptor

It is a nice property, typical of those on the street and across London, one of thousands built due to the Industrial Revolution. Music was a common form of entertainment in Steve’s home and he began to develop a taste for what he enjoyed.

David showed Steve his first guitar chords – E, A, D & G. David would sing and play guitar, whilst Steve opted to play bass, David helping him choose first a copy of a Fender Telecaster and then a Danelectro Longhorn.

Steve approached his music with intense passion, practising every day, enjoying the quicker payback of the effort that bass gave him compared to the six-string guitar with its chord changes. He plonked away at songs such as Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Alright Now by Free.

After ten months of bass practice, Steve and David agreed to form a band, and in the winter of 1973, they began rehearsing.

They had both left school by now, but their shared love of West Ham United, progressive rock and straight-up classic rock music, as it is now known, had sustained the friendship. They would attend a lot of live gigs, particularly at the Cart & Horses pub.

The duo tried out a few drummers but nothing quite was working out. Another pal of Steve’s from football games, Robert ‘Bob’ Verschoyle, would help to set up the equipment. Via mutual friend Roy Middleton, a workmate of David’s, they found a very good drummer in Paull Sears.

Roy was at rehearsals with the band, and when they started to gig, he made the announcements and did the sound. “He was a lovely bloke,” David says, “and really did help us all on our way.”

Meeting at the Cart & Horses, they struck a rapport with Paull and invited him to Steele Road to jam the very next day. Searsy was around the same age as David but had been playing from a young age and already had experience of club tours. A hard-hitter in the Simon Kirk (Bad Company/Free) mould, they had found their drummer.

All of the lads lived within walking distance of each other. David could typically walk, carrying his guitar, to Steve’s nan’s house in a fairly direct route, firstly along Downsell Road and the primary school he had attended, finally arriving at Steele Road via Belton Road.

School of Rock? The author standing outside the former entrance and all that remains of the primary school attended by David Smith. Photo: Alex Eruptor
School of Rock? The author standing outside the former entrance and all that remains of the primary school attended by David Smith. Photo: Alex Eruptor

Paull recalled that first session at Steele Road, setting up his drums inside the bay window of the front room. He says how early rehearsals would typically involve cover versions of Blowing Free by Wishbone Ash, Paranoid by Black Sabbath, Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple, All Right Now by Free, and Southern Man by Neil Young.

Steve has gone on record as also naming The Who as another band that they covered a couple of songs by, as well as I’m A Mover and eventually Mr Big, both by Free.

Mixed information exists as to whether or not rehearsals were moved to the back room of the property. But either way, when neighbours complained about noise, they were always sent away by Ada, who championed the lads from the very start.

But giving the neighbours a break, they also rehearsed at Alan Gordon studios, located under railway arches in Midland Road, Leyton. This was a well-known haunt for many up-and-coming London musicians,

When David had trouble with his voice on one occasion Bob stepped in to help and so impressed Steve that he became permanent lead singer. Arriving at the band name Influence, the band also worked on original material.

Influence, Steve’s first experience of having a song with the same name as the band, which nodded towards Kiss and Wishbone Ash. Heat Crazed Vole was a song inspired by a tabloid newspaper headline during the famous heatwave of 1974.

There was the cool and brooding blue boogie What Went Wrong. A further song was Endless Pit, which was possibly cockney rhyming slang. Steve’s bass riff for the latter was a few years later recycled as Iron Maiden’s Innocent Exile.

Influence made its debut in 1974 at a local talent contest at a church hall in nearby Poplar, playing original material and coming second. Steve and David have both told the story many times that Steve was so nervous he messed up his riff for Endless Pit, in turn throwing off Bob, who started singing late.

It was here that a friendship was made with the show’s organiser, Dave Beazley, who eventually became Iron Maiden’s lighting engineer and would be known as Dave Lights.

Influence was still finding its identity. A few guitarists were tried before Tim Nash was given the position midway through 1974. The band also reconsidered its name.

Whilst holidaying on the English South Coast during the summer, Steve sent a postcard to Paull Sears in which he wrote that he was hopeful the band would be “on the road in 2-3 months” and that they should change the name of the band to Spare Rib.

This was an interesting choice, considering that since 1972, it had been the title of the magazine of the women’s liberation movement. But whether or not this was intentional is not a matter of record.

Instead, Influence became Gypsy’s Kiss in time for their second gig held at the Cart & Horses. According to Paull Sears, the name was decided after he heard an older chap in a pub announce that he was “going for a Gypsy’s”, which was cockney rhythming slang for ‘having a piss’.

The band would play nine gigs in total, including three times at the Cart & Horses and a couple of times at the Bridgehouse in nearby Canning Town, where they were seen by future Iron Maiden singer Paul Mario Day.

The Gypsy’s Kiss era played the same four original songs by David mentioned earlier, plus cover versions: I Am The Walrus and I Want to Hold Your Hand (both of course by The Beatles), Strange Kind of Woman and Smoke on The Water (both by Deep Purple), Paranoid (Black Sabbath), I Don’t Need No Doctor (Humble Pie), Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd), The Hunter (Free), Radar Love (Golden Earing), Blowing Free (Wishbone Ash), and Turn to Stone (Joe Walsh).

David Smith is reflective today. “Steve was just so much more dedicated than the rest of us. Searsy and I wanted to go out to the pub and to meet girls, whereas Steve wanted us to rehearse. So, it fell apart around the middle of 1975.

“When people ask me why Steve got to be so successful, the answer is simple. Stubborn commitment to what he was doing. Even then, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and where he was going and focused on it.”

After Gypsy’s Kiss, Steve joined up with some guys who were a few years older, including guitar-playing brothers Mick and Tony Clee, but who had not yet even played a gig. Paull Sears also got involved on drums and named the project Smiler, although he left before its first gig, replaced by Doug Sampson. “I’m very good at naming bands, just not very good at staying in them,” Paull says. Dennis Wilcock joined as a singer/frontman.

The musical influences were once more blues rock, classic rock, and some progressive rock. The rehearsals were held at Alan Gordon Studios, and the band debuted at The Cart & Horses. This seems to have been the next logical step for Steve after Gypsy’s Kiss. The setlist comprised cover versions and a couple of Steve Harris originals, including something called Innocent Exile that developed out of his intro riff to Gypsies Kiss’ ‘Endless Pit.’

Indeed, Steve’s songwriting creativity then went in a slightly different direction to that of the Clee brothers, and without the opportunity to flex those proggier leanings, Steve departed, taking his own new song, Burning Ambition, with him. Both Sampson and Wilcock would also eventually depart and reunite with Steve later in the decade in different line-ups of his next band.

Steve’s next move was to join forces with drummer Ron Rebel for what would eventually become Iron Maiden. In early 1976, he brought in a singer. This local mechanic who worked “about two minutes from where Steve lived” was Paul Mario Day.

Day had seen Gypsy’s Kiss, and also possibly Smiler, at the Bridgehouse and expressed an interest in singing for Harris. Steve initially refused, but soon after offered him the opportunity to front his new band.

The lineage to Gypsy’s Kiss is evident from several facts.

Rehearsing once more at Alan Gordon studios, they practised hard at their craft, Harris continued developing Innocent Exile out of the ashes of Endless Pit, as well as introducing newer songs Wrathchild, Iron Maiden, Another Life and Strange World.

As with Gypsy’s Kiss, the set included a few choice cover versions, carrying over Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and now adding Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy), I’ve Got The Fire (Montrose), and Tush (ZZ Top). Day would sing for Maiden until September 1976, when Steve reunited with former Smiler frontman Den Wilcock.

Former Gypsy’s Kiss drummer Paull Sears would also become Maiden’s first manager during the late 1970s prior to Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor taking over the business dealings. Sears also had to deputise on drums at the beginning of an outdoor gig at Teviot Street Jubilee Party in Poplar, September 1977, when Ron Rebel was late, and Maiden risked losing their slot.

Maiden, of course, would then go through a few line-up changes, ultimately landing a multi-album contract with EMI. But Steve continued to live at Ada’s house on Steele Road until he returned from Maiden’s Killer World Tour in support of their second album in the early 1980s.

Over the years, the former members of Influence and Gypsy’s Kiss all maintained contact. Roy Middleton sadly passed away around 2018, by which time he had amassed a collection of over 1000 albums and around 20 guitars.

Four original Influence members, including Steve, reunited for a group photograph in 2013 at one of David’s gigs with his band, The Front Covers. They would get together again, minus Steve, in 2014 for a few jams and to relive some memories.

Gypsy’s Kiss was then booked to play a one-off charity event in 2017 but cancelled due to illness, and the world had to wait until another charity event, Burr Fest 2018 in North London, for a reunion.

The line-up for the 2018 show featured Bob on lead vocals and David on lead guitar, supplemented by a new line-up. Paull Sears was in the crowd, watching from the back of the room.

Gypsy’s Kiss were a big highlight that day. They drew a substantial crowd of Iron Maiden fans eager to hear what the fabled ‘GK’, legend of every Iron Maiden bio and book, actually sounded like.

Their set included some of the cover versions that the band had played in the 1970s as well as showcasing for the first time since 1974 the songs we had only ever read about: What Went Wrong (Gypsy’s Kiss) was the one that stuck in my head but Endless Pit, Heat Crazed Vole and Influence all impressed. It was amazing to finally hear them.

Bob stepped back after the Burr Fest show, the circle complete. Encouraged by the interest in the band and his own ‘burning ambition’, David forged ahead once more, taking on lead vocal for two more shows in 2018.

Sadly, bass player Shaun Steer, who had so ably filled Steve Harris’ shoes, passed away not long after.

But David, sensing the interest in the band, particularly from the community of Iron Maiden fans around the world, decided to make Gypsy’s Kiss a permanent band and, with a ‘new’ line-up, has played many gigs and festivals.

They recorded several singles and an EP, collating new recordings of the original 1974 songs. An album, simply titled 74, followed in 2021, which features appearances from Paull Sears and former Iron Maiden guitarist Terry Wapram.

The album has a fantastic sound and stays faithful to what influenced the original band, with the addition of keyboard/synth.

In fact, it is not too far a leap of the imagination to consider 74 to be close to the direction that Iron Maiden themselves may have taken had they followed the 1977 one guitar and keyboards line-up.

David has always maintained the Gypsy’s Kiss connection to the Cart & Horses. He contributed a song to the Wasterd Year 2020 fundraising CD album during the lockdown of 2020-21 and played a blockbusting headline set at the re-opening weekend in 2022.

He was recently spotted there with Paull Sears when Steve Harris returned to play three nights with his band outside Iron Maiden, British Lion.

Paull Sears and David Smith watching ex-bandmate Steve Harris at The Cart & Horses. 3 January 2024. Photo: Alex Eruptor
Paull Sears and David Smith watching ex-bandmate Steve Harris at The Cart & Horses. 3 January 2024. Photo: Alex Eruptor

2024 marks the fiftieth Anniversary of Gypsy’s Kiss, and it promises to be a year of big celebrations. David has assembled a talented and cohesive band to do justice to the original vision for the band that began rehearsing as Influence next to the bay window of 40 Steele Road, Leyton.

The two most recent singles demonstrate that this is much more than a nostalgia act: The powerful and dramatic Gone For Good, released at the end of 2023, is simply stunning. This was followed in January 2024 by Jack For All Times, a dark rocker that draws upon another East Ender, the infamous ripper.

There are plans underway to celebrate Gypsy’s Kiss, including a very special night at The Cart & Horses, where former Iron Maiden guitarists Terry Wapram and Terry Rance will perform with The Legends. For more details, visit GypsysKiss.net.

Gypsy'S Kiss - Cart & Horses - April 2024
Gypsy’S Kiss – Cart & Horses – April 2024

Updated 25 February 2024. Further updates of Steve Harris post Gypsy’s Kiss.

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