Adrian Smith – The solo career that never was
Iron Maiden’s newest album is coming September this year. While getting hyped up for the up-coming new studio album, it can be interesting to also think about the solo-endeavours of some of its other members. By far, the most successful solo effort came from the band’s singer Bruce Dickinson who left the band for a period between 1993 and 1999, yet even his solo efforts couldn’t really compete with the sales success of the band that made him famous which is why the following story of another member’s somewhat weak solo career will not surprise you.
Guitarist Adrian Smith joined Iron Maiden in 1981 for their second album Killers when creative differences led to the firing of Dennis Stratton. Smith, a friend of Maiden-guitarist David Murray, joined Maiden more out of a need of steady work than anything else. Smith had been heading a struggling band called Urchin for about five years at that point. Urchin had only released two singles but had never managed to seal a record-deal. However, around the time of the band’s fourth album Piece of Mind, Smith began contributing songs to Maiden and soon thereafter became one of the three principal writers for the group. This was seen especially on the band’s sixth album Somewhere in Time, but actually the origins of Smith’s solo career started the year before the album’s release.
In 1985, Maiden took a break from touring. Smith and drummer Nicko McBrain hooked up with Adrian’s friends from Urchin and formed a club-band called The Entire Population of Hackney. The group played original material, including a few future Maiden B-Sides and a few songs that would wind up on Adrian’s first solo album. The two Maiden B-sides in question was the rather commercial That Girl and Reach Out which became the first (and to date only) Iron Maiden recording where Smith sang the lead-vocals with Bruce Dickinson providing the backing.
This early experiment sowed the seeds for Smith’s first solo-band A.S.A.P. (for Adrian Smith and Project) which released its first and only album in 1990, the same year as Maiden’s No Prayer for the Dying and Bruce’s first solo album, Tattooed Millionaire. Silver and Gold sold worse than expected and ASAP disbanded almost immediately. Smith had left Iron Maiden the same year (replaced by Janick Gers who played on Tattooed Millionaire) and the blow was so devastating that Smith actually left the music industry for three years. A.S.A.P.’s music was more akin to commercial rock with Smith’s husky laid back vocals providing a distinctly different vibe from the over-the-top screamer metal that Maiden were more known for. The songs were excellent but fans perhaps were put off by the general vibe of the music. This is truly sad, but at least you can enjoy the full album on YouTube now.
In 1993, Smith returned to the business. He made a special guest appearance on Iron Maiden’s Live at Donington video and live-album. That same year he also formed a blues-rock group The Untouchables. Although this group never recorded a single album, it laid the groundwork for Smith’s next project which was Psycho Motel.
Psycho Motel was a return to more traditional heavy metal and was slightly more successful than the prior A.S.A.P., actually releasing two albums. Disappointingly, Smith didn’t perform the lead vocals for the band. Psycho Motel’s 1995 debut album featured Hans-Olav Solli, still with a husky but powerful vocal performance. However, uneven commercial success of the albums (remember that metal in general was not considered hip at the time) coupled with Smith’s problems of retaining members in the group (including his lead vocalist who was replaced by Andy Makin for 1997’s Welcome to the World) led to the disbanding of the group.
The rest of the story is probably familiar to most Maiden-fans. Smith had already appeared on Bruce Dickinson’s Accident of Birth album earlier in 1997 and joined his support band permanently for 1998’s Chemical Wedding before both of them returned to Iron Maiden with 2000’s Brave New World. Smith’s musical efforts weren’t perhaps as inventive and experimental as those of Dickinson, but still produced a lot of grade-A songs, which is why it’s such a shame that Smith couldn’t carve a niche for himself in the musical scene. However, all of these albums are worth giving a listen to…
Other Iron Maiden Departures:
- Dennis Stratton (guitar): Left after Iron Maiden’s first album to play with Praying Mantis after a stint in Lionheart.
- Paul DiAnno (vocals): Fired from Iron Maiden after the first two albums. Sang for Gogmagog and Battlezone before focusing on his on solo-band. Has retained an okay rep.
- Clive Burr (drums): Switched bands with Nicko McBrain after Piece of Mind to play with Trust and Gogmagog. Passed away in 2013 from multiple sclerosis.
- Blaze Bayley (vocals): Fired after Bruce Dickinson’s return to the band, has had steady success as a solo-performer since.
- Also, band-founder Steve Harris released an album with the group British Lion in 2012.