Watch Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain take on Sooty in a tense drum battle in 1988

Nicko McBrain on The Sooty Show
(Image credit: The Sooty Show)

When Harry Corbett created a yellow, silent bear named Sooty and introduced him to the nation via his own television show in 1955, Nicko McBrain was just a toddler barrelling around Hackney.

Life has a habit of moving pretty fast, but we must move forward 33 years. 

Nicko – now no longer a toddler, but a fully-grown man and drummer for Iron Maiden – was at his Muswell Hill home, probably dressed head-to-toe in free Puma swag which the whole band seemed to wear around that time. The phone rang. It was the band's manager, Rod Smallwood.

"Nicky, are you sitting down?" he asked. "I’ve just had ITV on the phone and they’ve asked me to ask you if you’d be prepared to do The Sooty Show."

“I said, ‘Rod, you’re having a laugh’,” remembers Nicko, in a filmed interview conducted by Andy Humphreys . “My eldest boy [Nicholas] was 5, and Rod said, ‘Think of the kudos when your lad goes to school. ‘My dad was on The Sooty Show’. He’ll be a hero.’ This is how he sold it to me, and I thought he had a point there."

Soon enough, the Maiden drummer and his young son found themselves on a studio set in Teddington, face-to-face with the wordless, flaxen legend.

"The idea was that there was a local talent competition and the drummer got sick, so could I stand in?" he explains. "No problem! That was the basic premise of the story. We had a drum battle, me and Sooty. I lost. He was pretty sharp, I can tell you.”

The episode, titled Hidden Talent, was aired on March 10, 1988, just 10 days before the release of Can I Play With Madness, the first song from their Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album. The single reached Number 3 in the official UK singles chart, clearly benefitting from Nicko's appearance on the long-running children's show. 

The pair have remained firm friends ever since, with Sooty appearing on the front of the drummer's kit in various guises during Iron Maiden's extensive world tours.

You can watch the tense drum battle in all its glory below: 

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.