Revisiting Adrian Smith’s First Public Iron Maiden Appearance
Iron Maiden's lineup looked like a game of musical chairs over their first few years as recording artists. They'd already endured significant turnover even before the band signed to EMI.
Each of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal upstart's initial four albums saw a membership change, and the first of these took place hardly six months after the release of Iron Maiden's self-titled debut, when guitarist Adrian Smith replaced the exiting Dennis Stratton.
In retrospect, Smith's admission into the Maiden fold feels like the inevitable result of a long and winding road that for years had him connected, in one way or another, to his future bandmates. It began when he and Iron Maiden's other guitarist, Dave Murray, first became friends as teenagers, swapping guitar licks and then forming a band together named Stone Free. This led to another group called Evil Ways which, in turn, evolved into Urchin after Murray quit to join Steve Harris' fast-rising group.
Urchin was very much Adrian's baby, as he sang, played guitar and wrote most of their songs, including a set of singles entitled "Black Leather Fantasy" and "She's a Roller," released in the late '70s by Dick James Music (once the home of Elton John and Horslips, among others). Neither one of these went anywhere, but Smith was still sanguine enough about Urchin's prospects that he politely declined an invitation to join Iron Maiden in 1979, just as they were inking their recording contract with EMI.
Watch Iron Maiden Perform 'Running Free'
But after another year of fruitless belief in Urchin, only for the group to finally fall apart, Smith wasn't fool enough to refuse a second invitation to join Iron Maiden, where he would now be replacing Stratton, in November 1980. But before the band got down to the business of recording their sophomore album, Killers, Adrian found himself whisked away to Munich, Germany, for what would became his first public appearance with the band.
This was a studio "performance" for a German TV music show named Rock and Pop and, as was so often the case at the time, it had Iron Maiden simply miming along to a backing tape of their pre-recorded songs. Nevertheless, surviving footage (embedded above) shows that the band were very game for these shenanigans – unlike this appearance six years later – and that Smith looked amazingly comfortable for someone making his debut television appearance with new bandmates Harris, Murray, singer Paul Di'Anno and drummer Clive Burr.
Clearly, Adrian was precisely the man Iron Maiden had been looking for, and he would soon make his presence felt as a key songwriting contributor, beginning on 1982's The Number of the Beast, and building in frequency until his contributions trailed only to Harris' in number and quality.