Early June, 1979. At a pub named The Swan, close to the famous Hammersmith Odeon, Iron Maiden, a young heavy metal band from the East End of London, were due on stage. But there was a problem. Their singer had just been led away in handcuffs to the local police station.
Iron Maiden: Hope And Glory
In 2011, Classic Rock told the Iron Maiden story. From East End pubs to worldwide stadiums, via sackings, squabbles and 'inventing new business models'.
Paul Di’Anno had been arrested for possession of an offensive weapon – a flick-knife found by police when they frisked the singer during a random stop-and-search outside the pub. Di’Anno, a classic Cockney wide boy, was good at talking himself out of trouble. But on this occasion he was out of luck.
At The Swan, the band’s bassist Steve Harris nervously broke the news to the man who had booked the gig. Rod Smallwood – at 29, six years older than Harris – had been looking for a way out of the music business following spells as an artist manager and booking agent, but having heard an Iron Maiden demo tape, passed on to him by a friend who worked with Harris, Smallwood had sensed potential. He’d booked two gigs for the band. The first – at The Windsor Castle on Harrow Road – ended in farce when the band, not realising the prospective manager was there, refused to play to a near-empty pub until 30 or so fans and friends travelling from the East End arrived, leading to an argument with the landlord who told them he would get them barred from North London. The second gig was at The Swan.
When Smallwood heard that Di’Anno had been nicked, he turned to Harris and told him, “You’ve got to play – your fans are here on time for you.” Harris hesitated, but Smallwood pressed him. “Do you know the words?” “Yeah,” Harris replied, “I wrote ’em.” “Can you sing?” “Not really.” “Can you try?” “Yeah, sure.”