For the uninitiated, Barry Graham Purkis joined an early incarnation of Iron Maiden in the late 1970s. He recorded a now ‘holy grail’ rehearsal tape of early versions of many of the songs that later appeared on the first two Maiden albums, in particular leaving his mark with the rolling drum pattern in Ides Of March.
Words: Alex Eruptor
Then upon joining Samson, he adopted a mask and became Thunderstick, a clever caricature embodying the juxtaposition of the silent and faceless but simultaneously lunatic drummer. It was a strong image, and a photo was used for the front cover of the seminal December 1979 Sounds music publication special feature heralding the NWOBHM with the caption ‘The New Face Of Heavy Metal’.
Whilst Samson and Maiden’s paths crossed many times again at gigs, tours, and studios, in 1980, he was asked to consider re-joining Maiden. Instead, he preferred to stick with Samson but left a year or two later, shortly before their singer (a certain Bruce Dickinson) did jump ship to Maiden.
There were short stints and collaborations with Atomic Rooster, Bernie Tormé and others, but the Thunderstick persona was his true calling, and a band was assembled. The new band, named simply Thunderstick, played original music and the odd Samson cover, such as Earth Mother, but this time with a female vocal and a theatrical Hammer Horror-inspired live show.
Despite landing a few music business deals and boasting a cast of stellar musicians, the Thunderstick band and persona were eventually put on ice at some point in the mid/late 1980s.
Occasional Samson reunions and a steady momentum of internet articles gradually put Thunderstick the man and the band back into focus. In 2007 he was listed at number 36 in the Classic Rock magazine’s best-ever drummers list, and in 2009 reappeared at a German NWOBHM revival festival.
Soon after, Heaven & Hell Records issued a CD Echoes From The Analogue Asylum, which compiled the entire 1980s Thunderstick back catalogue with demos and outtakes. Remastered for the digital era and finally showcasing the music as a sonically superb and complete set of songs, it was well received and brought the music to a new generation of fans as well as providing a gloriously enhanced nostalgia trip for the old-school.
A new studio album Something Wicked This Way Comes, followed in 2017 and received great reviews across the board, and a new live band was assembled to bring the music to the people.
Through various shifting line-ups, the band has released a live album and singles and had a song on the Cart & Horses CD, which raised funds for the very stage where their 40th Anniversary gig took place.
This gig celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the very first Thunderstick (the band) live show, which took place at the late lamented Marquee Club in 1982, and the set comprised from across Stick’s the man/beast, recorded output.
“40 years of Thunderstick (The Band) has given me inordinate amounts of rock’n’roll memories throughout its existence,” Barry Graham Purkis (aka Thunderstick) told MetalTalk. “Like many bands that can claim longevity, it has had both ups and downs over the years. I have always tried to remain truthful to my original vision of a powerful theatrical female-fronted rock band, something that was 40 years ago a comparatively original format within its genre.
“Sure, there were all female bands around in the early 1980s, but a male rock/Metal band fronted by a female was considered to be something different.
“All the ladies that have fronted Thunderstick have been remarkable, none more so than the wonderful Raven Blackwing, who leads my latest line-up.
“I have had the pleasure of playing with some incredibly talented musicians throughout the years, and I thank them all for the individuality they all brought to the various line-ups.
“Above all else, I would like to thank the fans/supporters whether they have only just started their journey with us or have been with us over the years. Without you, I wouldn’t be writing this. We take your choice to include us as part of your musical backdrop in your lives with great humility and pride.
“Who’s up for another 40 years? I am if you are.”
For more info about Thunderstick, including music and merchandise, please visit the official website https://thunderstick.co.uk
For more info about the Cart & Horses pub and music venue, including details of how to purchase the ‘2 Wasted Years’ compilation CD (which includes Thunderstick) please visit https://www.cartandhorses.london