Every band each member of Iron Maiden was in before Iron Maiden

Various Iron Maiden members through the years
(Image credit: Getty)

Do we really need to sit here and introduce Iron Maiden? They’re the band your grandparents hate because they’re “satanists”, your parents love because they represent their adolescence and that everyone else has heard on rock radio at least once in their lives.

From Iron Maiden to Senjutsu, their achievements have all been documented the world over. However, who were The Beast before they were The Beast? Below, Metal Hammer has collected every Maiden member to ever appear on a studio album and detailed their early CV.

Metal Hammer line break

Steve Harris: Influence/Gypsy’s Kiss, Smiler

While the rest of London was howling out carols on Christmas Day 1975, ’Arry was blaring metal at the first-ever Maiden rehearsal. The Beast’s bassist and sole constant member formed the band after leaving a local bunch called Smiler. Although the blues rockers contained eventual Maiden musicians Dennis Wilcock and Doug Sampson, they didn’t share their future leader’s penchant for prog and deemed his songwriting too complicated. Their loss.

According to Maiden biography Run To The Hills, Steve’s only band before that were called Influence, later Gypsy’s Kiss. He reflected on their first gig in 2020: “There was one song where I played this bass intro thing. I was so nervous that I buggered it up. The singer thought I was tuning up.”

Dave Murray: Stone Free, Electric Gas, The Secret

Maiden’s longest serving trooper not named “Steve Harris”, Dave’s been laying down flamboyant guitar parts for The Beast since 1976. His sole break from the band was in ’77, when he was dismissed by then-singer Dennis Wilcock. The frontman was a bit of a wang by all accounts and stepped down the following year.

Dave’s first band were Stone Free. He formed them aged 16, and they included fellow later Maiden player Adrian Smith on vocals. After that came cups of coffee in Electric Gas and The Secret: Dave described them as “this sort of soft-rock, American-type band” and “this sort of mad punk band” respectively in that Run To The Hills biography. An itch to play harder stuff motivated the guitarist’s Maiden audition.

Adrian Smith: Stone Free, Evil Ways/Urchin

Maiden’s most under-celebrated polymath, Adrian Smith isn’t just a powerful guitarist. He masterminded the megahit Wasted Years, helped push the band into their synthy late-80s era, and his 90s absence contributed to their creative tailspin. Important bloke.

Like his schoolmate Dave Murray, Adrian began his career in Stone Free. He initially sang, but later bought one of his chum’s guitars for £5. The pair reunited in hard rockers Urchin (formerly Evil Ways) during Dave’s 1977 Maiden break; Adrian was so dedicated to the band that he declined an offer to play with Maiden in '79, even though they’d already signed to EMI. However, Urchin imploded in 1980, so the guitarist replaced Dennis Stratton in The Beast later that year.

Bruce Dickinson: Paradox/Styx, Speed, Shots, Samson

Before he was Bruce Bruce and, later, an Air Raid Siren, Brucey was the lead singer of a Sheffield covers act called Paradox at university. The band’s most notable feat was changing their name to Styx, unaware of those pesky prog superstars across the pond. Per Bruce’s autobiography What Does This Button Do?, his reaction to the accidental infringement was: “Oh, they won’t notice.”

After that bunch broke up to pursue summer jobs, the singer had stints in bands called Speed and Shots. Then, more famously, came Samson. The NWOBHM also-rans who were nice enough to name Bruce twice weren’t for him, though, as he almost instantly accepted when Maiden manager Rod Smallwood offered him an audition to replace Paul Di’Anno.

Nicko McBrain: The 18th Fairfield Walk/Peyton Band, The Wells Street Blues Band/The Axe, Streetwalkers, Trust

Bloody hell. Nicko was only 30 years old when he joined Iron Maiden in 1982, but by that point he’d already built up a CV long enough to use up all your printer ink.

His most talked-about pre-Beast gig is the final one, when he drummed for French political rockers Trust. They’re the band behind Antisocial: that song that Anthrax covered to become more famous than them. Before that were stints in bands called The 18th Fairfield Walk (later the Peyton Band), The Wells Street Blues Band (later The Axe) and Streetwalkers. He was a prolific studio player too, drumming on discs by Cockerel Chorus, Gordon Gilltrap, Pat Travers and Jenny Darren. Just writing about all that is knackering enough, never mind doing it…

Janick Gers: White Spirit, Gillan, Gogmagog, Bruce Dickinson

Before he became Maiden’s most theatrical performer (and that’s bloody well saying something), Janick was a journeyman guitarist strutting his way from band to band during the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. His career started in the hard rockers White Spirit, whose greatest accomplishment was finding a fan in Lars Ulrich. The Metallica drummer even put them on a NWOBHM compilation album in 1990.

In 1981, the player skipped over to Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s solo band, creatively called Gillan. The project only lasted a year, so Janick joined Gogmagog: a supergroup of ex-Maiden members Paul Di’Anno and Clive Burr. He subsequently joined the first incarnation of Bruce Dickinson’s solo band and played on the singer’s 1990 debut album, Tattooed Millionaire.

Paul Di’Anno: unknown

Considering it was his snarls that helped thrust Maiden onto the world’s stage, surprisingly little is known about what Paul got up to beforehand. His autobiography The Beast skirts around the topic and, in a 2004 interview, he dodged a question about his pre-Maiden CV. Perhaps it’s because he’s rumoured to have been in a band called The Paedophiles.

What we do know is that Paul was a punk before Maiden ignited his intrigue. “I was a right bastard and loved to go out on the piss,” the singer once told the band’s Bulgarian fan club. “I used to hang out with complete nutters, but it all changed when I joined Maiden and converted to metal.”

Dennis Stratton: Harvest/Wedgewood, Remus Down Boulevard

Dennis only played guitar on one Maiden album, but when that album is as influential, commercially successful and crammed with bangers as their self-titled debut, that’s more than enough. He quickly left the band over “musical differences”, but remained a fixture of the NWOBHM by playing with Lionheart and Praying Mantis. Later, he formed The Original Iron Men with one fellow Maiden ex, frontman Paul Di’Anno.

What got him the job performing for The Beast was playing in a band called Remus Down Boulevard. Although now lost to time, they did well during their brief existence, supporting Status Quo across Scandinavia and recording with Genesis producer Jonathan King. Before that, Dennis’s first band were Harvest, later renamed to Wedgewood.

Clive Burr: Samson

Clive Burr sadly passed away in 2013, when he was just 56 years old. However, as the man who drummed on Iron Maiden, Killers and The Number Of The Beast, he carved an amazing legacy out of a tragically short life. His other historical, albeit less-discussed, achievement was being the first drummer for pre-Maiden Bruce Dickinson vehicle Samson.

Clive co-founded the NWOBHM scallywags in the summer of 1977, though he didn’t hang about long enough to make it onto 1979 debut Survivors. At the start of that year, he’d joined Maiden, after then-guitarist Dennis Stratton recommended him to his bandmates. He replaced his own Maiden replacement, Nicko McBrain, as the drummer of Trust in 1983, then leapt through many a NWOBHM band during his later career.

Blaze Bayley: Wolfsbane

Thanks to his first band Wolfsbane, Blaze was on the Iron Maiden radar years before he replaced Bruce Dickinson. The two bands toured together in 1990, at which point the Brummie and his boys had some serious momentum. They were signed to Def American Records (home of Slayer) and Rick Rubin produced their 1989 debut, Live Fast, Die Fast.

Wolfsbane’s music was more concise, gritty and tongue-in-cheek than the drama Maiden dealt in. As a result, Blaze’s appointment to the biggest metal band in Europe was and remains controversial. His albums with The Beast are widely regarded as a nadir, but the bright side is they springboarded the singer when he started his prolific and long-running solo career.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.