Former IRON MAIDEN guitarist Dennis Stratton, who was a member of the band for less than a year, spoke to Robert Cavuoto of Sonic Perspectives about his involvement with MAIDEN's classic debut album and the British heavy metal legends' nomination for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Asked if he was aware, while MAIDEN was recording its first LP, of just how revolutionary it would be to heavy metal, Dennis responded: "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'," he contined. "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."
Stratton also elaborated on how the intricate harmony guitar parts he introduced to IRON MAIDEN became an integral part of the MAIDEN sound in the later years, particularly as the band incorporated more progressive elements into its music.
"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," Dennis said. "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-IRON MAIDEN 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."
IRON MAIDEN is nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's class of 2021. The top vote-getters will be announced in May and inducted in a Cleveland, Ohio, ceremony in the fall.
According to the Hall Of Fame, the IRON MAIDEN members that would get inducted include the current lineup of singer Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain, and guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers, along with Stratton, former singer Paul Di'Anno and former drummer Clive Burr.
To be eligible for this year's ballot, each nominee's first single or album had to have been released in 1995 or earlier.
A voter pool of more than 1,000 artists, historians, journalists, and members of the music industry will select the new class. Fans also have a chance to take part in the process by voting at Rockhall.com or at an interactive kiosk at the museum in Cleveland. Their selections will count as a single "fan ballot" that gets tabulated along with the others.
Even though artists are eligible for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25 years after the release of their first album or single, iconic hard rock and metal groups like MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and MOTÖRHEAD have yet to be recognized by the institution, which inducted GUNS N' ROSES in that band's first year of eligibility.
Having been eligible for induction for more than a decade and a half, IRON MAIDEN is one of the biggest bands on the planet. Since the release of their self-titled debut album, the British heavy metal legends have released a further 15 full-length studio records, and sold over 100 million copies.
Rock Hall rules state that artists become eligible a quarter century after their first records were released, but the Hall also claims that other "criteria include the influence and significance of the artists' contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock 'n' roll," which is, of course, open to interpretation.
Eligible for induction since 1999, KISS didn't get its first nomination until 2009, and was finally inducted in 2014.
DEEP PURPLE was eligible for the Rock Hall since 1993 but didn't get inducted until 2016.