It is known around the globe that Iron Maiden played some of their earliest gigs here at the Cart and Horses in London's East End.
Here's a brief history of Iron Maiden and of the main bands from which Maiden was formed, Gypsies Kiss and Smiler, supplied by our friends at Legacy Project the Number 1 Iron Maiden Fan site in the UK.
Gypsies Kiss started the connection with the Cart & Horses and Iron Maiden through Steve Harris’ first band Gypsies Kiss. Formerly known as Influence it consisted of David Smith, Rob Verschoyle, Paull Sears, Tim Nash and of course Steve Harris. They played at Cart & Horses in Stratford, mixing in covers of “Smoke On The Water” (Deep Purple), “Paranoid” (Black Sabbath), “All Right Now” (Free), “Blowin’ Free” (Wishbone Ash), “I Am A Walrus” (The Beatles), and “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (Ray Charles), with their own songs; “What Went Wrong”, “Heat Crazed Vole” and “Endless Pitt”, a song that later became Iron Maiden’s “Innocent Exile”. The band only survived for six gigs, half of them were played at the Cart & Horses.
Smiler Continued the Cart & Horses connection when Steve Harris then Joined Smiler in February 1974. A new band that was being formed by guitar playing brothers Mick and Tony Clee initially with Fred Leggat on vocals and Stevie Smith on drums. Smith was replaced by Paull Sears formerly of Gypsies Kiss and Paull was in turn replaced by future Iron Maiden drummer Doug Sampson. Fred Leggat made way for future Iron Maiden vocalist Dennis Willcock. Smiler’s music was blues based boogie rock playing numbers like the Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red And The Black” and “Rock Candy” by Montrose. It must be noted that “Burning Ambition” a song that was recorded by Iron Maiden as a B-side to their debut single “Running Free” was written during Steve’s time in Smiler and a boogie version of “Innocent Exile” made its live debut with this band. Dennis Willcock decided to leave after around 14 gigs and was shortly followed by Doug Sampson and Steve Harris. But this wasn’t the end for Smiler the band soon found replacements and carried on playing.
Iron Maiden formed in the summer of 1975 the band consisted initially of Steve Harris, Ron ‘Rebel’ Mathews, Terry Rance, Dave Sullivan and Paul Mario Day. At first they played covers of Thin Lizzy’s “Jail Break”, “I’m A Mover” by Free and Tucky Buzzard’s “She’s A Striker”. Iron Maiden’s first songs were aired in the Cart & Horses, Stratford London, Paul Day’s “Strange World” and “Innocent Exile” in its final form also graced its stage. Paul Day was let go after 26 gigs, the 23rd September 1976 saw his last gig at the Cart.
The band was on the princely sum of £10 per gig back then. Dennis Willcock formerly of Smiler became the new sword welding and blood spitting vocalist who brought theatrics to the band. Iron Maiden’s first use of pyrotechnics was on the 5th November 1976 at the Cart and they earnt £17.50 for their efforts. Songs like “Iron Maiden”, “Prowler”, “Wrathchild”, “Transylvania” and “High Way Road In Time” were also being performed. There were new line-up changes after the band was introduced to Dave Murray by Dennis.
After a gig on the 21st November 1976 Steve announced the band was going to take a break.
But the band resumed without Terry Rance and Dave Sullivan on guitar. And Bob Angelo (Sawyer) made his debut on the 19th December 1976. Bob brought the song “Sanctuary” into the bands set. In 1977 the vampire Prowler appeared on stage as Iron Maiden’s first onstage character. The crowds were soon packing out the Cart due to the bands theatrics and Maiden’s music went from strength to strength, this soon meant if you didn’t get to the Cart early enough you ran the risk of getting locked out. The band’s gigs were advertised in the Melody Maker music paper attracting new fans. But bigger crowds led to problems, and trouble at a gig on the 23rd of May 1977 led to the bands enforced exile from the pub.
The band did not return to the Cart & Horses until the 7th April 1978, a gig that was the penultimate one for Dennis Willcock and Iron Maiden’s last at the Cart. The line-up consisted of Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Barry Purkis and Dennis Willcock this gig marked the end of Steve Harris’ four years association with the Cart & Horses.
Many former members of Iron Maiden came back to film a section of The History of Iron Maiden –
Part 1: The Early Days DVD in 2004.
Over the years some members of all of these bands have been known to enjoy a pint from time to time at the Cart, and still do, reminiscing over the great times they had here. Iron Maiden former band members still play here in Stratford East London on-stage at the Cart & Horses, check out our EVENTS calendar and look through the listings for mention of their names. If you're visiting London Town you could drop by and get to see a part of London Rock Music History.