Ex-Iron Maiden Guitarist Reveals What It Was Really Like to Tour With Kiss, Recalls How Ace Frehley Played

Guitarist Dennis Stratton looked back on his tenure in Iron Maiden and reflected on the metal band’s famous tour with Kiss back in 1980.

At the time, Iron Maiden was a different beast (no pun intended about the first album with Bruce Dickinson). Apart from Stratton, the lineup also featured vocalist Paul Di’Anno and drummer Clive Burr. With one very raw-sounding record getting ready to be released, Maiden went on a tour with Judas Priest in early 1980. But it was the tour with Kiss that really helped them make a breakthrough, while their self-titled debut was released not long after the tour’s kick-off.

Dennis Stratton - The Maiden Years

Speaking to Guitar World, Dennis Stratton recalled the Kiss “Unmasked” tour and what the whole ordeal was like. “It was fantastic,” the guitarist said while looking back at those days. Obviously, this comes as no surprise — getting an opportunity to tour with Kiss back in the day is, indeed, fantastic. But what’s interesting is that, back then, with only some promotion that they had, the crowds were coming in to witness this new metal sensation live.

“Maiden hopped on as openers for Kiss’s European tour while they were promoting ‘Unmasked,’ I believe,” Stratton said. “We had so many fans at the shows to see us, and we put on a great show. I think that’s why Kiss decided not to have us support them in the UK – we had too many fans coming to see us!”

Meanwhile, Kiss leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were both professional and friendly with their opening band. Although Maiden is a huge name now, back then, this probably felt mindblowing for them.

“I got on really well with Paul and Gene,” when asked about what the time was like with the two. “We used to have lots of chats backstage. When we went to Stockholm in October of 1980, Gene and Paul took me to dinner for my birthday with Dave Murray. That was quite a special treat for me.”

Imagine the greatest rock ‘n’ roll act in the world at the time taking you out for dinner? It’s definitely an unforgettable experience for Stratton and Murray.

But what about the other two Kiss members? Well, as the former Maiden guitarist revealed, the guitarist Ace Frehley mostly kept to himself. Although praising his playing, Stratton added that Ace was usually pretty quiet. He offered:

“Ace played great on that tour – but unfortunately, he was very, very quiet. He never really came out of his dressing room at all, so I only got to meet him a few times for a few moments.”

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

“I got a few photos with him, but he would really only come out of his dressing room when Kiss were about to go on stage. So, sadly, I didn’t have many words with him.”

Meanwhile, the Kiss’ drummer at the time, Eric Carr, who replaced the original member Peter Criss, was a little more outgoing. “But Eric Carr was brilliant and very kind,” Dennis added.

Unfortunately, despite his talents and contributions, Dennis Stratton was fired from the band right after the Kiss tour. Although older than the bunch, Dennis simply didn’t see eye-to-eye with the band’s Rod Smallwood who decided to sack him, with Adrian Smith coming in not long after.

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

Some years back, Stratton also reflected on the Kiss tour, saying that portions of the crowds were really keen about seeing Maiden live. In fact, they were a little too keen for Kiss’ preferences.

“They were frightened that we had so much fanbase – so many fans,” Stratton stated. “Even in Europe and Scandinavia, we had thousands of fans there, which I was very surprised at. You saw so many Maiden t-shirts on the Kiss tour.”

This, supposedly, affected Kiss’ touring plans as well, with Stratton adding:

“We stayed in Italy while they came to the UK because I think basically they were a bit concerned because our fanbase was so huge in England that we would end up being on level peggings rather than being the support band. So that’s why we didn’t open the shows in the UK.”

AeroRockStarz - Dennis Stratton

Photos: Public domain (Dennis Stratton), Public domain (Kiss – Ace Frehley (1977))

  • 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.