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Steve Harris Interview
STEVE HARRIS HAS PLAYED FOOTBALL FOR BOTH. WELL OKAY, THE LATTER WAS A CHARITY GAME BUT HE DID GET TO WEAR THE FAMOUS NATIONAL STRIP AND GRACE THE HALLOWED WEMBLY TURF! NOW THAT THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS HAVE KICKED OFF IN SWEDEN, AT LEAST HALF OF KERRANG!, ARRY HIMSELF, STEFAN CHIRAZ AND LOT MORE WETALLERS THAN YOU PROBABLY GUESS WILL BE GOING FOOTBALL CRAZY AND HOPING THAT THE NATIONAL BOYS ARE ON SONG...
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I am not, by and large a jealous man. I see it all with these rock 'n'rollers - fast cars, millions of dollars, fat houses and flashy holiday havens in far off places. But as Steve Harris utters the words "got a pass from Glenn Hoddle..." thick, virile jealousy shoots abruptly through my veins. Steve Harris played football with the King, my beloved Glennda! And over the next hour or so, I learn that the skipper of Iron Maiden for over a decade has managed to turn two childhood dreams into realities. This lucky sod´s off for kickabouts with international football greats as well as headlining Donnington and Rock in Rios and Madison Sqoare Gardens. He should pinch himself because not even Jim could bloody well fix that lot! And instead of crigeing, read on: over the next few pages you´ll learn that football and metal have an immence amount in common... Back in 1972, at the age of 14, Steve Harris was offered a trial by his beloved West Ham to possibly turn pro.
"I was on their books for about eight months, and at that time I was playing every day of the week between West Ham, my Saturdays and Sundays clubs, and school. I played Saturday afternoons for a club I still play for called Melbourn Sports and on Sundays for Bearmont Youth, which is where I got discovered by a famous West Ham scout called Wally Serpa. I couldn´t belive it when I heard West Ham were interested. It was great, but 14´s the wrong age really ´couse all I wanted to do was start having a few beers and meet a few birds - which doesn´t mix with playing football. They want you in bed early and all that stuff. In a sense it disillusioned me because I thought, if I can´t be dedicated to the club I really love, then what´s it all about? It did me in a bit, really. If it had been a couple of years ago it maybe would´ve been a different story. Whereas Iron maiden was something to be commited to. I dunno why - maybe because I could still drink beers and see birds (HA HA HA)!"
The similarities between football and having a band are fairly numerous though, expiains the affable Harris.
"You´re playing in front of a lot of people, you have to be really dedicated and determined, and both are fairly short-term careers."
Give us a run-down of Iron Maiden FC as players.
"Well, Dave Murray doesn´t really play football that much. He´s only played for the Maiden team two or three times. He scored a blindin´ goal in Poland when we played there - but it was one if those that could just as easily have ended up hittin´ the corner flag! He´s pretty quiet, shy, smilin´and all that, which doesn´t really match up with most players, who tend to be tenacious types. Bruce is a Billy Bonds-type: he can be aggresive, he´s as fit as f**k and if he played football more often he´d be a midfield dynamo. The few times he had played for us we usually tell him to mark the best opponent on the pith, cause he just goes out and kicks the f**k out of them! Nicko was a goalie for us until he got injured playing against Rainbow; it was a 50-50 ball and Nick smothered it, but the geezer followed through and wacked him in the back and wasn´t allowed to play any more. He was quiet a good goalkeeper, and a bit of a nutcase all round, a psycho-like Vinny Jones! Janick´s a good keeper to but we can´t let him play in case he does his fingers in. He played in goal AGAINST a Maiden 11 once and had a blindin´game... I nearly didn´t give him the job beceause of that!"
What about yourself?
"I dunno..." He says bashfully, it´s a bit difficult to talk about myself."
Harris has written the song Weekend Warrior on this latest album about hooliganism, and I wondered if he had in his youth ever been a bit of a lad, so to speak?
"Yeah, well, when I was 13-14 I had the boots and braces, y´know? Never a skinhead haircut though, I was never into the violence, it was more of a fashion thing, I suppose. I never went out looking for fights because I was always more interested in the football. If you´re, I always think it means you´re not a hooligan. As far as I´m concerned football ´ooligans are wankers. I was in Holland once when it was their Queen´s birthday or something. It was a national holiday so we were in this bar all day drinking and this punter comes in. He´s a Maiden fan but he goes to me, "You´re into West Ham, are you a football hooligan?". I said, "Excuse me? No!". He goes, "Oh, I´m a football ´ooligan, I foolow PSV Eindhoven and I love gettin´into rucks..." Then he started tellin´ me how proud he was to wear a Union Jack and all this. So I says to him, "Look mate, you´ve got it all wrong, that´s not what it´s all about.". I couldn´t belive he was so proud to be an ´ooligan-obiously not a well boy! But things have got better. I got to quit few West Ham this year even though I play Saturday myself, and I didn´t see any trouble down there. I even took my eight-year-old doughter to a game - I didn´t think she´d be that interested but she really enjoyed it! I can´t wait ´til my boy grows up... He´s only 18 months and he´s kickin´a ball around - got to teach him to say, West ham, y´know?"
Indeed I do. Having just become a dad myself whith Zak Chirazi, I understand completely. My boy wore a Spurs T-shirt home from the hospital...
"Yeah, same here - ours had a T-shirt whith "I dribble better than the Hammers"." I have no doubt that when it comes to fanaticism, Iron Maiden fans take all prizes. Maiden are to them what the Hammers are to Harry, what the spurs are to me. "Yeah, and that´s another thing that´s similar between football and us; they follow the band like we follow a football team. Did you hear about the guy who hade his name changed to Iron Maiden? We actually got the geezer down to our record release party. At first I didn´t think anybody was that crazy to do that, but he loved the band that much he changed his name to Iron Maiden. I talked to 'im and he didn´t seem to be a nutter or stupid, he seemd like a nice, quiet, normal bloke. That sort of thing can be a little frightening, to know you have influence like that. I can relate to the fanaticism but I wouldn´t change my name to West Ham or anything. The funny thing is, no matter where we go in the world you´ll se a West ham scarf out there at least once a week. Once we had a Union Jack thrown up on the stage in New York with West ham written on it. And some geezer in the New York area had a tattoo put on his arm with an Eddie and "Up the Hammer" underneath it but he didn´t know what the f**k it meant! I told ´im and he didn´t care. I must admit I love West Ham enough to have a tattoo done. In fact, I´m seriously thinkin´about havin´one. But for me. West Ham´s there for life, I´ll be watching them forever. But Maiden´s not going to be around forever..."
How many of the players that you´ve met or know are Heavy Metal fans?
"Terry Butcher (Coventry City manager until last year) is a big Maiden and metal fan; he used to come and see us when we played for Ipswich and we´d play the Gaumont. Then when we went to Rangers he´d see us in Glasgow, a real fan. Paul Mariner (ex Ipswitch, now coaching in north America) is another real fan, been to a few gigs. I´ve heard that Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest) is into rock, and Charlie Nicholas (Celtic) likes a bit of hard rock too. I tend to meet a lot of players from beeing in these charity games..."
Some of the other players Steve harris has played on the same pitch with include Glenn Hoddle, Gerd Muller, Rene and Willie Van der Kirkhoff, Frank McAvennie, Paul Allen, Nayim, Archie Gemmill, Steve Coppell, Frank Worthington...
"Yeah, for Old England against Old Scotland. We were in full kit and we lined up for the National Anthem. It was a couple of years ago before this Freight-Rover trophy final, I think; it was a 1-1 draw and fantstic to play at Wembley. See, I know Dave Watson really well (Quo fan and ex-England centerhalf)..."
Is he a Maiden fan?
"Funnily enough his son is, so David brought him to one of our shows and I became friends with him! He´s the one who gets me into lots of these charity games. But half the time I can´t believe the players I´m on the field whith - I feel embarrassed sometimes. I imagin people thinkin´, "Oh he´s only here because he´s in the band, the long-harrid git.", and I suppose they´re right. So I do feel a bit intimidated. I played in a game against Palace last week which was intimidating because the players were all current - but I more than held my own... I´ve been relly lucky, what can I say? Same for Joe Elliot... (who was originally to be part of this story until Leppard´s schedule precluded it) ...he played in that England game as well and he plays in quit a few of the games. We both call each other if there´s a game on. In fact, we played in Ireland in a game before the Ireland vs Wales match. At the start of the season I went up to Sheffield with him to see West Ham up there at United - he sponsored the matchball! Indeed, Joe´s another total fanatic, making the trek to Sheffield for every home game when off tour... from Ireland!
So are you still a terrace-man or have you become a "seats" gentleman?
"I must admit I´ve come to that point where I´m fed up being on the terraces standin´ on tip-toe trying to see; I´m a bit of a short-arse. I prefer to sit these days, although I stood at Arsenal way early in the year which is great fun because we won - it´s always great to beat Arsenal, isn´t it?"
What´s the best game Steve Harris has seen as a West Ham fan?
"The one where they beat Sunderland 8-0 at home. I can´t remamber what year it was but Geoff Hurst got six goals and Brooking/Sissons got the others. It was just incredible. They completely blow me away that day, a perfect performance. They were almost tears wellin´up."
Which England game has got to you the most?
"That World Cup semi-final against Germany. We were on the road somewere, otherwise I would´ve gone".
And the best game Harris himself has played in, either whith Maiden FC or for charity?
"It´s got to be that one at Wembley against Scotland. I wouldn´t say it was my best personal performance but just to play for England at Wembley is everybody´s dream. I was number seven and I played up front. I didn´t score, Tony Woodcock scored our goal".
When you play against Joe Elliot and "Sav" Savage, or Ritchie Blackmore, how hard does it get?.
"Oh, everyone gets stuck in - it´s serious! Leppard´s goalkeeper broke two of his fingers; it was a 50-50 ball and I hammered the ball right of his hand. Y´don´t do it on purpose, you don´t go out there to kill people or try to break legs but you get stuck in."
Who are some of the best you´ve played against?
"Joe´s a good player and Rick Savage is really good; he had trials whith Sheff Wednesday. Blackmore´s a bloody good player... certainly would´ve been when he was younger. I´ve played with him and against him; he laid on a couple of goals for me in Germany. When he gets the ball it´s very difficult to get it of him. His work-rate isn´t what you would call high, but once he´s got the ball it´s tied-to-his-boot sort of thing..."
A bit of a Hoddle then?
"Yeah, he´s a very good player."
So come on Stevie and don´t be shy: your best ever goal scored?
"Well you can ask Joe (Elliot) this. It was one of the goals I scored against Def Leppard and it´s going back a few years, but I´m not alone in saying it was a bit of a corker. I got the ball about 25 yards out, went around a couple of players and whacked it with my left foot right into the top corner..."
Steve harris: a man who had his dreams and won. God on him.