DAVE EDWARDS / DENNIS STRATTON
Born and raised in the East End of London, Dennis began his carreer in music at the age of 16. As a talented young football player he played for the West Ham Boys youth team. Dennis bought his first guitar from a mate in the East End, soon he was visiting local pubs and checking out bands like Power Pack, Freedom and If.
Dennis spent the next 6-9 months watching the bands and memorising chords and songs which he would then practise on his guitar at home. He had no tution and basically taught himself. As time went by, he was able to put together simple chords and play the songs he had heard the bands playing in the pubs.
He and a few mates had put a band together and pretty soon they were playing their first gig at the Bridge House pub. His family supported him totally. The PA system they had was hardly that and the feedback was so intense that Dennis’s dad recommended they “sack the geezer on the whistle”.
At the age of 18, Dennis became a fan of Wishbone Ash guitarist, Andy Powell. He even bought a flying-V guitar to emulate his hero. The band played Wishbone Ash songs to the note. He saw almost every gig they played – that was the start of Dennis’s love and skill for arranging harmony guitars.
Every band he has ever played in has been influenced by his style and skill at harmony guitar arrangements. The very first serious band Dennis was in was called Harvest. The very first serious gig they did in the Cart and Horses at Stratford. The band added keyboards to the line up and changed it’s name to Wedgewood.
The band became very popular, playing covers they were packing them in back at the Bridge House. The band did really well and lasted for about 2 years.
It was around this time that Dennis met up with his old friend Dave Edwards who was now the guitarist for a band called Uncle Sam. RDB or “Remus Down Boulevard” was born which means “The Station down the street”. The band featured Dennis and Dave on guitars, Steve on bass and drummer Johnny Richardson who at the time had been playing with a band called Blockade.
RDB started to create such a buzz doing all the circuit, they used to do gigs at the Greyhound at the Fulham Palace Road, The Golden Lion at Fulham Broadway, the North Pole up by Wormwood Scrubs Prison and the Bridge House. They did the Live album at the Bridge House. RDB just took off throughout London and it was so exciting the two vocals and the two guitars. It was raunchy rock and they started to write all their own material.
They then had a visit from Jonathan King. He was with UK records at the time (and is well known in the UK as a producer and performer of chart hits under various pseudonyms.) He visited the band at the Bridge House in his White Rolls Royce he sat right on the front of the stage and listened. He signed the band to UK records and then he did something he had never ever done in his life before. He decided to do the very first album, with RDB, the band’s debut album, live at the Marquee.
The Marquee gig was sold out – one night at the Marquee recorded live, the photos were done for the album, the logo was RDB, Remus Down Boulevard, in a circle….then Jonathan King decided to pack up his UK records business and go more into Production. The album got shelved – and was never released.
Not to be disheartened, the band carried on doing the pub circuit and supports for signed bands and blowing them away in the process. Pretty soon Quarry Management became interested in the band. The company were managing bands like Status Quo, Rory Gallagher, Jackie Lynton and Nutz.
The next big break came when the band was signed to tour with Quo who were doing a 3 month European/Scandinavian Tour. Dennis recalls as a young 22 year old, standing on stage during the Quo tour in front of a stadium packed to capacity – he was shaking so much a roadie had to steady his hand to help him plug the guitar into the Marshall.
Still, the band could not get a record deal. Loads of people were interested in the band but they were just hitting a brick wall at every turn. The band fizzled out and that was when Dennis first met Steve Harris.
Dennis’s wife at the time noticed an advert in the Melody Maker. “Iron Maiden, EMI Recording artists seek guitarist/backing vocalist”
Dennis recalls what happened – we were debating weather to write off or phone up for it. In them days you had telegrams and I was doing a painting job at Stratford and I got on a bus at Stratford Broadway to go to Canning Town where I was living. And a girl came up to me on the bus and said “Your Dennis Stratton?” I went “Yeah” and she said “Oh Hello my names Lorraine. I am Steve Harris’s girlfriend.” And I said “Yeah” rather blankly.
And she went “I take it you haven’t been home yet?” and I said “No”. “Oh well when you get home there is a telegram waiting for you to ring Rod Smallwood because they are interested in you joining Iron Maiden”. And I said “Well how did they know about me?” She said Steve used to come down every night and watch the band play. I didn’t know Steve at the time. He apparently loved it. Iron Maiden weren’t allowed to play in the Bridge House club because they were too heavy. So they were over the Cart and Horses or the Ruskin.
Dennis joined Iron Maiden in 1980 and had to learn all the material that Steve had written for their new self-titled album “IRON MAIDEN” – in at the deep end, he gave his all and when the album was released, it shot into the charts instantly becoming one of heavy metal’s all time best debut albums.
There were a load of other “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” bands around at the time. Def Leppard, Motorhead, Diamond Head, Judas Priest and others. Iron Maiden’s debut album has been very influential in the shaping of the future for many metal bands – it it was one of the first to merge heavy metal’s power with punk’s riffing and attitude, forgoing a blueprint for such genres as thrash, speed and death metal.
This album set the tone amongst young musicians of the day and continues to be a favourite of many – the album contains some of their most memorable compositions, such as “Prowler,” “Sanctuary,” “Charlotte the Harlot,” and the title track.
Dennis had to learn the seven-and-a-half-minute epic “Phantom of the Opera,” and the breakneck instrumental “Transylvania.” A testing time for a young guitarist – his performance on the album was a blessing for Iron Maiden and lead to their first Top 40 U.K. single, the anthemic “Running Free.”
The album had light and shade, with tracks like “Remember Tomorrow” and “Strange World,” which showed that there was more to this young band than just bashing away.
Bassist/founder Steve Harris was the band’s main songwriter with great lyrics that often proved thought-provoking. a sharp detour from the expected topic of sex, drugs and rock & roll that most metal bands relied on, while vocalisr Paul Di’Anno’s vocals were also the main ingredient.
Add to it the inspired performance of guitarist Dennis Stratton and this is the ultimate classic debut album of all time performed by the greatest metal band of all time.
After leaving Maiden Dennis formed Lionheart with Jess Cox from Tygers of Pantang. He later joined Praying Mantis and recorded numerous albums, mostly for the Pony Canyon who were massive in Japan. He never looked back – the band were hugely successful, they toured and recorded for many albums and Dennis contributed with his enormous talent and skill in the harmony guitar department.
Dennis wrote and co-wrote many of the tracks on the albums – he remains a guitarist of extreme calibre. He left Praying Mantis in 2005 after a brief US tour with Judas Priest founder Al Atkins – Dennis talked of forming a bank called DENIAL with Al but it never happened.
Dennis teamed up with South African guitarist Mike de Jager in 2006 and they worked together documenting Dennis’s life and times which resulted in a series of DVDs being produced.
In 2008 Mike and Dennis toured Italy with Italian band the Clairvoyants performing the tracks that Dennis recorded with Iron Maiden in the 80’s. The show known as Dennis Stratton – The Maiden Years, was a massive success in Italy and they plan to continue their work sharing the British Music Experiance with the rest of the world.