Dennis Stratton, former Iron Maiden guitarist, had a recent chat to Robert Cavuoto of Sonic Perspectives, where he spoke about his involvement with Maiden’s classic debut album and the British heavy metal legends’ nomination for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
He was asked about the album and how revolutionary it would be to heavy metal, he replied:
“No, not at all. In 1979, when [Iron Maiden] signed the deal with EMI in London, basically, they transformed from a pub band to a big band overnight. When I first went down to meet them, there was only three of ’em — there was only Steve [Harris] and Dave [Murray] and [Paul Di’Anno]. They never had a [steady] drummer and they never had a second guitarist.
“Going into the band, I was given the ‘Soundhouse Tapes’. I had always been involved with harmony guitar bands, with Lionheart and Praying Mantis, so joining Maiden and taking that harmony guitar style of playing seemed to transform the sound of the band quite dramatically. Dave sat down with me, and we’d run through a few things. I was left alone to put down my stamp on the early songs from the ‘Soundhouse Tapes’ leading up to recording the first album.
”So I was basically given a free rein to put the harmonies where I thought it would make the songs more interesting or bigger, wider. So that’s what I did. And it seemed to work. And it still works now with three guitarists doing all the harmonies. But doing the album, recording the album, we were in the middle of the ‘Metal For Muthas’ tour with Praying Mantis supporting in ’79, and it was just a big rush. So knowing what the album was gonna do — no, it was nowhere near what we were thinking. It was just ‘get the album done.’ We needed to finish the tour, and then we were going on to tour with Judas Priest. So everything was rushed for EMI to get this album out.”
Asked more about the harmonies in the band’s music, the guitarist added:
“I’m very proud to be able say that it was me that took that style of playing into Maiden, and they’ve kept it. Because I did all the pre-production for [Maiden ‘s second album] ‘Killers’, you will notice when Adrian Smith came in [to record the album], you will hear a lot of my style of playing in the harmonies that Adrian had to learn.
”So then he recorded the album. It was only after that that I listened to other [Maiden] albums as they ventured on through their career, and when they had three guitarists, they kept the harmony guitar style. So it was quite nice for them to still keep that harmony guitar style. And they’ve kept it all the way through till now. So, yeah, it’s a big plus for me to say that it was my idea, it was me that started the harmony guitar [sound] with the band.
“I remember in London in the mid-70s, with [my pre-IM band] RDB (Remus Down Boulevard), me and Dave Edwards would always be doing the harmony guitars. And it was the start of Thin Lizzy in the early ’70s. And I remember Scott Gorham sitting and watching us play, me and Dave, on the harmony guitars. ‘Cause basically, all that harmony guitar style was coming from [an obscure band in] the late ’60s, early ’70s. And then it was the love of Wishbone Ash. So, we had the harmony guitar style [down] to a tee from the beginning. And then other bands started using ’em. But, yeah, it’s a big plus for me to know that Maiden still use that style, which is nice.”