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The basic elements of a band began to emerge in Basildon, Essex, England in 1964 when four school friends decided to learn to play guitar, the “band” originally consisted of Barry Skeels, Steve Drewett, Chris Rose, and Alan Hooker. After many line-up changes and an improvement of musical talent, a proper band emerged in early 1966, featuring Steve Drewett (vocals), Chris Rose (lead guitar), Tom Loates (rhythm guitar), and Stan Gillem (drums) and decided to name themselves “Growth”. More line-up changes took place, and by 1967 the band had whittled down to a two-piece featuring Steve Drewett (vocals, harmonica) and Barry Skeels (guitar, slide guitar, vocals) and played blues music. They renamed themselves Stevenson’s Blues Department and toured the London club circuit along with other then up and coming bands, like Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, King Crimson, High Tide and David Bowie. 

(Paul Reynolds, Trevor Thoms, Barry Skeels, Steve Drewett)

After a year of touring the London circuit they noticed that a lot of the bands who they where once touring with and regularly appering on the same bill as, had gone on to bigger venues like the Marquee, and Hammersmith Odeon (now Hammersmith Apollo), and had released albums. As they still had not received any interest from any record labels they decided that the restricted line-up must have been affecting records company’s views on what they could do, so they decided to expand the line-up with some talented and also yet undiscovered locals musicians.

The first “new” member was drummer Paul Reynolds, the band then hired guitarist Graham “Gruff” Esgrove, Barry switched to bass, simply because he played bass better than guitar, and the band was complete, they continued to tour the same London and Essex circuits and had now noticed that record labels were staring to show interest, they decided that they needed a manager and Lenny Green (brother of Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac) was hired. 

(Gemini Records, press statement of Falling, Ned Kelly single release)

In mid 1968 they recorded a demo (witch is now lost), but troubles were occurring within the band and they temporarily disbanded.

After a short period of time passed by Barry and Paul decided to re-form, Steve agreed to give it another go, but Graham didn’t, so they put an advertisement in Melody Maker (a popular musicians magazine) for a new guitarist. The job was given the Trevor Thoms who got on very well with the band and was also the best guitarist they had ever seen.

The band now consisting of the line-up of Steve Drewett (vocals), Trevor Thoms (guitar), Barry Skeels (bass) and Paul Reynolds (drums) renamed themselves Bum (witch in those days would have been seen as being quite a vulgar name) to try to catch the attention of the media, which it did, they regularly appeared in local news papers and some more wider read newspapers, due to Trevor Thoms very unique style of playing (similar to that of Tony Iommi) the bands style changed considerably and they soon went from playing conventional blues to a very dark sinister style of rock, witch was dubbed as “downer rock” (witch in the 1980’s became heavy metal) the band recorded two demo’s “The Ballard of Martha Kent” and “God of Darkness” which they used to get a record deal with the new up and coming record label Gemini Records, they got the contract with the record label and began work on their debut album in mid 1969.

(Steve Chapman, Barry Skeels)

It was at this point that the band decided that they had finally got the media and record label attention they wanted and now decided that it was time come up with a better, more appropriate name, It was at this point that the bands roadie Pete Walmsley came up the name Iron Maiden, all of the group liked the name accept Barry who was not to sure about it at first, but he was outvoted and the name was used anyway.

While recording their debut album the band noticed that since changing their name, to a much more acceptable one, the media attention they once had plenty of was now starting to dwindle, so they decided to put out a single, it was at this point that Paul Reynolds decided to leave and was quickly replaced by session drummer Steve Chapman, the bands classic line-up was now in place. A lot of the albums material had already been recorded with Paul and they did not have the money to re-record it so they decided to leave them as they were.

Steve, Trevor, and Barry wrote the single’s tracks, the two songs were entitled “You Must Be Fooling” misprinted as “Falling” on the record and “Ned Kelly”. The single was heavily advertised, partly because the A-side “Falling” was seven minutes in length, witch at that point was the longest single ever to be released. Because of the advertisement the single released in early 1970 sold well and contained some excellent guitar work, and drumming, proving that Steve Chapman was a more than worthy replacement for Paul Reynolds. Iron Maiden had become Gemini Records biggest band in a mere few months.

(Steve Drewett, Barry Skeels, Paul Reynolds, Trevor Thoms)

The single did so well in Australia, (where “Ned Kelly” was the A-side and “Falling” the B-side), that the band decided, to do a tour out there. It was at this point that due to reasons unbeknown to the band, even to this day that Gemini Records, went bankrupt, spelling an end to the Australian tour and the release of their debut album. The band was back to square one, no album and no label. This proved to be to much for Barry who left and joined Southend-on-sea band Zior, at first Barry was replaced and many line-up changes took place, as other members left and joined other bands, it is unknown, how may line-ups the band went through and whether any other original members left and got replaced, but it is known that Trevor Thoms left and joined the band Spirit of John Morgan, Steve Drewett went to work on special effects at the BBC, working on shows such as Doctor Who, The Tripods, Blake’s Seven and more, Steve Chapman joined the band Moon, and Paul Reynolds later reappeared in Basildon pop band The Pinkees, who had some chart success with a couple of songs in the late seventies.

(Concert advertisement)

Up until 1998 the Original Iron Maiden, had been all but forgotten, when obscure 1970’s downer rock specialist record label Audio Archives, decided to try and find copies of the unedited album recordings, for a possible album release, after discovering that all copies once owned by the record label had been wiped they decided to contact the band members, after speaking to Barry Skeels (who was the only person own copies of the album recordings) they confirmed that with the help of Barry, they would release the album, containing re-mastered versions of every piece of available and useable material (including the single “Falling” and its B-side “Ned Kelly”, and the two demos recorded in 1968 when the groups was known an “Bum”, and a few newspaper cuttings, and advertisement from the time) from Barry Skeel’s personnel collection.

The album was released and contained the original cover art that would have been used, although the Audio Archives release is not how the album would have been released (several songs, like the 1968 demos would not have, featured on their originally) it was the best release possible and contained all existing material, unfortunately the original albums centre piece, (a seriously heavy track entitled “Monoliths”) as well as possible other tracks for the album no longer exist. The original album would have been a downer rock masterpiece and would have contained a lot of jamming, and soloing, much to the same style as Black Sabbath’s debut.

Although they both played unique gloomy music that had never been heard before, there is no way that Iron Maiden could have been influenced by Black Sabbath simply because when they were recording their fist album, Sabbath was recording theirs, and as both bands came from totally different areas, and could not have had any contact with each other. This proves that Black Sabbath did not only invent heavy metal, it was also invented by the original Iron Maiden.

Sadly The first Iron Maiden have been long forgotten, but anyone who has been lucky enough to hear the album will have no doubt that they should be up there with Black Sabbath as the inventors of the Heavy Metal.