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While not an original member of Iron Maiden, guitarist Adrian Smith proved to be one of the missing pieces to the puzzle (singer Bruce Dickinson being the other) early on — resulting in the band obtaining elite status among the metal masses soon after. Born on February 27, 1957, in Hackney (located in East London), Smith was captivated by such renowned hard rock guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore early on, while his sister's boyfriend's record collection only intensified his appreciation of hard rock. It wasn't long before a school chum and guitarist, Dave Murray, convinced Smith that he should take up the guitar himself. Murray and Smith began to play together in bands, and with Smith's decision to pursue music full-time, he opted to drop out before graduation. Smith's first serious band, Evil Ways, eventually evolved into Urchin, a group that Murray would sometimes be a part of as well. But Murray's main focus was his other group, heavy metallists Iron Maiden, who were making quite a name for themselves locally during the late '70s. Smith was even asked to join Maiden at one point during this time, but opted to pass due to his commitments to Urchin.
Meanwhile, Maiden quickly became one of England's top metal outfits, as the band's 1980 debut, Iron Maiden, nearly topped the charts back home. With Urchin disintegrating, Smith had a change of mind, and finally agreed to join Maiden in time for the recording of the group's sophomore effort, 1981's Killers (supposedly beating out Phil Collen for the spot, who would soon turn up in Def Leppard). Automatically, Smith and Murray formed one of heavy metal's top '80s-era guitar duos, as they took Thin Lizzy's twin-guitar setup to a whole other level — especially on such subsequent releases as 1982's classic Number of the Beast (which saw the arrival of singer Dickinson), 1983's Piece of Mind, 1984's Powerslave, 1986's Somewhere in Time, and 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Smith also turned out to a valuable songwriter as well, as he completely wrote or co-penned such Maiden classics as "22 Acacia Avenue," "Flight of Icarus," "2 Minutes to Midnight," "Wasted Years," and "Can I Play With Madness," among others (Smith even sang lead on the Somewhere in Time-era B-side, "Reach Out").
However, by 1989 it was becoming increasingly obvious that Smith was growing disenchanted with Maiden, as he issued an obscure solo album, credited to A.S.A.P., titled Silver and Gold. Despite the album not exactly lighting up the charts, Smith exited Maiden in 1990, replaced by Janick Gers. Little was heard from Smith throughout the '90s, until he reappeared alongside Dickinson (who had followed Smith's lead and left Maiden) on the releases Accident at Birth (1997), Chemical Wedding (1998), and Scream for Me Brazil (1999). With Smith and Dickinson working together once more (and with Maiden's popularity sagging), the duo reunited with their old Maiden pals in 1999, resulting in further sold-out tours and new studio albums, including 2000's Brave New World and 2003's Dance of Death. The 21st century edition of Maiden is also one of the few in metal to include three guitarists — Smith, Murray, and Gers.