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Former SMILER / GYPSY’S KISS Bassist Steve Harris Forms IRON MAIDEN
December 25th, 1975

Steve Harris

On December 25th (Christmas Day), 1975 former Smiler / Gypsy’s Kiss bassist Steve Harris formed a new band called Iron Maiden. Completing the line-up were; Paul Day (vocals), Dave Sullivan (guitar), Terry Rance (guitar) and Ron ‘Rebel’ Matthews (drums). Harris named Iron Maiden after a medieval torture device, the device being a coffin-like structure lined with long, sharp spikes.

Harris initially wished to play drums, but didn’t have enough bedroom space. Instead, he traded in an old acoustic guitar and purchased a Fender Precision bass for £40. After having practised bass for ten months, he formed the band Influence with school friend Dave Smith. Rounding out the line-up was Bob Verschoyle on vocals, Paul Sears on drums and a man named Tim on rhythm guitar. During the group’s existence, they performed several compositions by The Who, ‘I’m A Mover’ and ‘Mr. Big’ by Free and original tracks like ‘Heat-Crazed Vole’ and ‘Endless Pit’. Influence entered a local talent contest in Poplar, the East End Of London, but came second. Shortly afterwards the outfit changed its name to Gypsy’s Kiss, rhyming slang for piss. Three gigs were performed at the Cart And Horses pub in Maryland Point, Stratford as well as two at the Bridgehouse in Canning Town, but eventually split.

In February 1974 Harris auditioned at a pub named the White Hart in Enfield, London for the bass position in Smiler, led by twin brothers Tony and Mick Clee. Several weeks following the bassist’s first handful of pub dates with Smiler, their drummer left and was replaced by Doug Sampson. 18 at the time, Sampson successfully auditioned at a pub near Chingford, North London. Following an advert placed in Melody Maker magazine, later Dennis Wilcock would join on lead vocals, a position previously occupied by the twin brothers. Due to the bassist’s desire to play more progressively inclined material, he left Smiler as a result of musical differences. Drummer Doug Sampson left Smiler at the same time and was invited to join Harris in Iron Maiden, but declined.

The band’s set list mainly consisted of covers by the likes of Wishbone Ash, Savoy Brown and ZZ Top, as well as other bands like Free and Montrose. Original tracks Smiler performed included two Harris-penned numbers in the form of ‘Burning Ambition’ and ‘Innocent Exile’, the latter being a newer version of Imitation / Gypsy’s Kiss track ‘Endless Pit’.

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