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Ex-Samson Drummer Thunderstick Recalls Being Asked To Rejoin Iron Maiden Prior to Clive Burr Joining

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Canada's The Metal Voice recently spoke to former Samson and Legacy Iron Maiden Drummer Barry Graham Purkis also known as Thunderstick.

In the chat Thunderstick spoke about his upcoming new album 'Lockdown' as well as his time in Samson (with Bruce Dickinson) Plus joining and being asked to rejoin Iron Maiden in the early years.

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When asked about Thunderstick's upcoming new album Lockdown

"It's been a while, I actually put the drum tracks down for that album just before uh Christmas 2019 and the deal was that I was going to start track laying in 2020, so that the album could be out in 2020. But as we all know along came Covid and kind of put it all back. I also ended up with two guitarists leaving because they just didn't feel part of it anymore. Everybody was self-isolating and it was a shame and it left just the hardcore three of us, which was Rex my Bass player, myself and the wonderful singer Raven Blackwing. So I started calling friends and saying do you know anybody that would fit the Thunderstick band, the theatrical side of things and just the general style. We're a power rock band. I don't ever really regard myself as a heavy metal musician. I don't think we're metal enough to actually be called that but that is a kind of you know the dichotomy of what, I'm known for in the NWOBHM era and was once the figurehead for that movement. So I called a lot of friends and a lot of them came back and said well we don't know anybody that we could recommend for live shows but we'd be more than happy to put some stuff down on the album if you're doing an album. I thought about it for a while and then I thought you know I'll do that. Why not, what's better than having a load of friends that are really musically competent to play on your album and I ended up doing that so I have guest artists all over the place. And what happened with the album is because of the input of everybody's playing style, I have got such a varied album. And funny enough the main job I had with it was trying to make everything sound like an album rather than random tracks that have been played. I got there in the end and I'm really happy with it. I think the material is really strong. There's a lot of material that I wrote back in the day that had never got to the demo stage but never actually seen the light of day. So I dipped into some of those and then I started co-writing with other people. So up until now as you probably know with 2017 everything to that point was me, Thunderstick was my baby. I produced it, I arranged it, I wrote all the lyrics etc.. or had up until this album. So this time my vocalist Raven had written two song lyrics and absolutely astounding lyrics and I think to myself this is great because I can use these people to input into Thunderstick and it just makes it fresher. This album is a little bit more technical. I've been able to play as a producer on it, which I thoroughly enjoy. I actually love the arrangements and production of the album. The album shows that the band are heavier on this album than they were on the last one."


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When asked about the Thunderstick setlist

"I'm playing Riding with the angels (Samson) we're doing Earth Mother (Samson) Too close to rock (Samson). And what they could expect is a lot of theatricality. We have a kind of storyline. It's not a concept album or anything like that but live we have a storyline and we record a lot of narrative. This narrative takes over a storyline and so therefore Raven (singer) goes through many character changes during the course of the gig. Which is great and I get to watch this from behind my kit, I can watch this lunacy that's happening up front. People go away from a Thunderstick gig thinking how wonderful she was (Raven) but she was probably slightly unhinged [Laughter]. We have loads of props, we should have a tour bus for the amount of props that we carry around with us, I always worship at the altar of Alice Cooper. "

When asked why he left Samson in the 80's

"I'll tell you what I found funny was that the main reason that I left Samson was because of theatricality. We went through a period where the music press would only write about Thunderstick and Thunderstick did this and Thunderstick did that and blah blah blah Etc. And there came a point where both Paul Samson and Bruce (Dickinson) were really getting cheesed off with all that they were really getting fed up with it. And that led to a lot of altercation between myself and the others because I wanted to take the theatricality even further and they didn't want it. I can remember we were showcasing the Shot Tactics (Albums) at the Marquee and I was really sort of alienated because they went on wearing jeans and Bruce wore a rugby shirt or something like that and he was really against any kind of theatricals.

I find it somewhat ironic because if you see the Iron Maiden shows of today (they are theatric)."

When asked about co-writing Iron Maiden's Ides of March and Samson's Thunderburst as they were two of the same songs

"When I was with Iron Maiden, Steve (Harris) was the first person to introduce to me rehearsals of just the Rhythm Section. Up until then every band I've been in used to rehearse as a band all the time and yet when I got with Maiden Steve started rehearsing just the two of us. And Thunderburst was a drum rolling pattern that I came up with and he came to me with ideas for that song and I would do this drum roll pattern as well, as I threw in a couple of ideas. So when I was with Samson we did the 'Head On' album and we were still looking for a couple of other tracks to use. I said well there's a track that's an instrumental and played it to them and they said yeah let's do it ,so we did it as an instrumental. So we did this instrumental and Paul was still friends with Clive Burr and Clive went over to Paul's (Samson) house and Paul said look you know we finished the album do you want to hear it, yeah great. So we put the side one on wonderful everything was great, side two goes on and comes Thunderburst and Clive fell off his chair and he went oh my God we're using that as an intro (to shows). And Paul said what are you talking about so Clive went in his bag and he pulled out a cassette, put a cassette on and there was Ides of March. So as soon as this got heard by the Iron Maiden camp I was summoned to an a meeting at the EMI and Rod (Smallwood) was there and Steve (Harris) was there a couple of the record company people were there and the legal team from Iron Maiden were there. And I was told with no uncertainty Steve is going to take 50% of the songwriting royalties on Thunderburst with Samson. We were a four-piece songwriting team, so we only got 12 and a half% each from Thunderburst track and Steve (Harris) Took 50%. And then the legal team said if you insist on trying to claim songwriting credits on Ides of March we'll see you in court and that was the end of that.

It was something that had happened prior to me joining Samson. The management and band (Samson) didn't want to know anything about it, so I was totally unrepresented by anybody and I went there to that meeting alone and the rest as they say is history."

When asked how much he and Steve Harris contributed to the Song Thunderburst/ Ides of march

"Never totally my thing, if we were to break the whole song Down Steve (Harris) probably 75% me 25% of that song. It's many many years and a lot of blood has passed under the bridge so you know it's just another one of those stories."

When asked about the stories of him falling asleep while playing on stage with Maiden

"I mean how ridiculous I mean I don't know where that came from. I mean it's just so stupid, it's so stupid I have actually got a copy of that gig that I did the one that they were talking about that I supposedly fell asleep and I am right on everything. I really am. I mean I listen to it. In the video (documentary) of the early days (Iron Maiden) Steve (Harris) talking about it and he went oh Barry or Thunderstick must have dropped something and it wasn't his drumsticks. So it was interpreted as the fact that I was out of it or whatever but as I say I have a copy of the live performance that we did and there is no way that I'm out of it."

When asked about being asked to rejoin Iron Maiden, after Doug Sampson and before Clive Burr Joined

"What happened was we toured together, Samson headlining, Iron Maiden second on the bill and Angel Witch opening and it finished Christmas 1979. At the time the Iron Maiden drummer Doug Sampson and he had some kind of medical condition that he was losing power in his arms. I don't think that there was any kind of firing or anything like that. It was a mutual agreement between the band and Doug that he wasn't actually cutting it at the time. So we finished the tour and before Christmas Eve the phone went and I answered it and he said hello it's Steve Harris, hi what can I do for you.? Would you consider coming back and rejoining Maiden and I literally was stunned. He didn't want anything to do with the Thunderstick image, it was already on the Sounds (Magazine) cover and Thunderstick was really gaining momentum for me as a character and was getting a lot of publicity for the band for Samson. And Steve obviously didn't want any of that at all, he wanted just me. So I said can I have a couple of days, it's Christmas can I have a couple of days to think about it and he said well you know we've got we've got an itinerary that we're working at and you know we really need to know what's going on, what's going to happen we need to put the band together because we've got all these these gigs and we're recording and blah blah blah. And what happened was I said how about you hire a drum kid and after Christmas I come down and play with the band and he said great okay let's do that. But in the meantime Rod Smallwood phoned me up and said we need an answer because you know we're really under the cost here as far as our timeline is concerned. And I said I just can't at the moment, I can't give you an answer so for Christmas it ruined my Christmas. I've got it all written in my diary because at the time I was keeping a journal every day and uh it's just you can see the angst in my writing because I really didn't know what to do. So anyway I went the day after Boxing day which is the day after Christmas Day in the UK I went down to the East End. There was a foot and a half of snow. I only just managed to get over there and they'd hire the drum kit and I started playing with them. Rod was there and I can remember Rod at the time said this band (Iron Maiden) is going to be bigger than Led Zeppelin. I thought that was wonderful anyway, so I played. I can't remember how many tracks there are, three or four tracks. We did Running Free which was the single they were just about to record and by the time I got to the fourth track I thought this is not going to work because our Styles I think are incompatible now. So I finished playing and Steve said and? I still needed a couple of days to think about it and I left it at that. There was never a definitive no or yes, I just needed a couple of days to think about it and the phone call never came and by that time I had well and truly decided that I was sticking with the Thunderstick image and sticking with Samson. I mean they were really pissed off when you know when they (Samson) found out that I'd gone and and auditioned as it were for them they weren't none too happy."

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