Ex-Iron Maiden Guitarist Reveals If He Regrets Getting Fired From the Band, Says He Introduced Them to Guitar Harmonies

Guitarist Dennis Stratton reflected on his career and how he ended up getting fired from Iron Maiden.

The early Maiden was a bit of a chaos, to say the least. Bassist and founder Steve Harris was running the show with a constantly changing lineup of musicians. Eventually, things settled for the band, although he was still in charge. Well, he and manager Rod Smallwood, who’s responsible for Iron Maiden’s massive success.

The band scored a record deal, and the lineup featured guitarist Dennis Stratton, who shared duties with Dave Murray. It was a completely different animal back then, but they were on the right path to becoming one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. As Stratton told Guitar World in a recent interview, he simply never got well together with Rod Smallwood’s ideas.

Dennis Stratton - The Maiden Years

“The truth is that I never saw eye-to-eye with Rod Smallwood, who managed Maiden back then,” Stratton said after being asked to set the record straight about leaving the lineup.

“He was basically the headmaster, which was really about trying to keep five young kids together. I was older than the other guys, so I was used to having my freedom, which caused issues.”

And the freedom wasn’t really down to the creative side of things. As Stratton explained, Smallwood was a little more controlling than that, something that vocalist Paul Di’Anno remarked over the years as well. And it’s the little things, seemingly unimportant ones, that didn’t sit well with the legendary Maiden manager.

“Sometimes I’d travel from gig to gig with just the crew for a laugh or a change of scenery,” Stratton recalled. “And then, sometimes, I’d go from venue to venue in one of the trucks with a driver, just to keep them company, to see different parts of the world, and for different sorts of conversations. But Rod didn’t like that.”

Iron Maiden: Dennis Stratton's Role On The Album That Changed Heavy Metal

Stratton remained a member long enough to record on Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut album and to go on the road with the band, supporting Kiss. After he was fired, Iron Maiden went on to score major worldwide success. It took them some time to really build a loyal following and they’re now one of the most influential names in rock ‘n’ roll.

So the obvious question comes to mind — does he regret how things ended up for him?

“No, I don’t regret how it was,” he replied. “At the end of the day, Maiden were a new band, and it was all about gelling and learning. It wasn’t just musical learning, but learning habits and all that.”

“But my being fired was premature because we hadn’t been together long enough. When I was fired, we’d already wrapped pre-production on the second album, ‘Killers.’ I’d worked on the whole album, but I never got the chance to record.”

“The entire thing was premature, but what’s done is done. You’ve got to admire what Maiden have done, how far they’ve come, and how big they are.”

Eventually, Stratton continued his music career. His biggest band apart from Maiden is Lionheart. Apart from that, he also played with English hard rock band Praying Mantis between 1990 and 2006.

Both of these bands are significantly different from Iron Maiden. And it’s not a surprise since Dennis has always been very open about his musical preferences and how they were dissimilar to those of the guys in Maiden.

Dennis Stratton's 'Phantom Of The Opera' 15.11.13 (Iron Maiden)

“I was never totally heavy metal like the other guys in Maiden were,” the guitarist said in the same interview. “I listened to heavy rock like Whitesnake, Bad Company, and UFO, but they weren’t really heavy metal. I brought a few things to Maiden that they still use today.”

As he also adds, the guitar harmonies that Maiden is known for were actually his idea:

“They still use the harmony guitar style, which they weren’t doing before me. I’m very proud that whatever I took into Maiden, it’s still there.”

Dennis Stratton - Strange World (Iron Maiden cover). Live at Civico25, Torino, 14/01/23.

As for his work in Lionheart, the band is now promoting the newest album, “The Grace of a Dragonfly.” Reflecting on it, Stratton said:

“It’s a concept album. People are saying it’s about war, but not about war; it’s about the people who fought in wars that served their countries – who sacrificed their lives during the war so that we can live a free life.”

Photos: MangakaMaiden Photography (Maiden United Feat. Dennis Stratton (25250098453)), adels (Steve Harris Costa Rica)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.