Thunderstick

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This article is about the Samson drummer. For the noisemaker, see Thundersticks.
Thunderstick
Birth name Barry Graham Purkis
Also known as Barry Graham
Born (1954-12-07) 7 December 1954 (age 59)
England
Genres Heavy metal
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Drums
Years active 1974 - present
Labels Heaven and Hell Records
Associated acts Iron Maiden
Samson
Thunderstick (band)

Thunderstick, real name Barry Graham Purkis (7 December 1954), is an English drummer who wore various masks and used to perform on-stage closed in a cage. He was in the popular cult-band Samson which his name is most associated with.

In 1979 he developed his persona modelled on horror icons such as The Rocky Horror Show, Dr. Phibes and the old Hammer horror films, alternatively wearing black and white make-up, an old man/schoolteacher mask, a black cotton mask and his trademarked rhinestone covered mirrorball mask.. He played inside a cage, including during a brief Samson reunion in 2000. With Samson he enjoyed a certain degree of success, especially when their album Head On was released in 1980 and reached No. 34 in the UK charts. The following single Riding With The Angels, from the album Shock Tactics, charted in the UK at No. 54.

In a rare occurrence his face was seen when he performed the main-role in the b-movie Biceps of Steel, featuring his band at the time Samson. In the film his then brother-in-law Ben K. Reeves performed as Thunderstick in his stead, only for the shots where Purkis and Thunderstick were set to appear at the same time.

In the June 2005 issue of Classic Rock Magazine, Thunderstick was listed as no. 36 in the "50 Greatest Drummers in Rock" feature.

Early days and Iron Maiden[edit]

Purkis started playing drums on a semi-professional level when joining the highly successful English-born band The Primitives (also known as "Mal Ryder & The Primitives" - not to be confused with the eighties UK band) in 1974. They extensively toured south-Italy.

Then he became a drummer for the English band Iron Maiden briefly in 1977, long time before he would create his masked persona. A lot of fantastic stories about the behaviour of Purkis during his tenure in Iron Maiden exist, one of which was that during a gig he fell asleep whilst on stage. During his early Samson tenure, Purkis was also asked to rejoin Iron Maiden in 1980 after the band had been touring with Samson but declined in favour of staying with Samson. This was mainly because his bizarre theatrical image had gained recognition, and he was then seen to be "the face of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal". His Samson predecessor Clive Burr eventually took the Maiden position.[1]

Self-named band and beyond[edit]

After he left Samson for artistic divergences, Thunderstick then went on to form his own eponymous band called Thunderstick consisting of two guitarists, bass and female vocalist. They recorded two hard rock albums, the EP Feel like Rock 'n' Roll? (1983) and a full feature LP Beauty and the Beasts (1984) via Magnum/Thunderbolt Records. These have been restored and remastered for a 2011 CD release, an anthology called Echoes from the Analogue Asylum which also features previously-unreleased material.

The band disbanded in 1986, after having recorded their yet-to-be-released final album Don't Touch, I'll Scream. Both Thunderstick and vocalist Jodee Valentine went to the United States to try to secure a new deal. A new American line-up was considered, but was soon abandoned in favour of maintaining their identity within the NWOBHM scene. Both returned to the UK. A fifth incarnation emerged in 1988, secured by a high profile management contract, but Thunderstick disbanded again after failing to sign a major deal with a label.

As Barry Purkis, in the late eighties he worked with Bernie Tormé and the Electric Gypsies, and other artists.

He performed as Thunderstick again in a series of Paul Samson solo gigs in America along with bassist Eric Mauriello, in 1989. Ace Frehely jammed with them during an encore at the New York Roxy. Thunderstick rejoined Samson twice, once in 1990 to write and record new material (later issued on 1999's Past Present & Future) and then again in 1999-2000, for reunion gigs either in Japan and on the Wacken Festival set in Germany. His songwriting input is present on Paul Samson's posthumous solo album P.S... 1953-2002 originally scheduled to be Samson's new album with the title of "Brand New Day".

Purkis still writes music, and is involved in production for other artists. On April 25, 2009 he played at the Keep It True Festival in Germany with a reunion of various New Wave Of British Heavy Metal artists, marking the return of his Thunderstick persona.

Thunderstick band line-ups[edit]

1981-82: Vinnie Munro (vocals), Neil Hay (guitar), Colin Heart (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1982-83: Ana Marie Carmella Borg (vocals), Wango Wiggins (Neil Hay's new stage name, guitar), Cris Martin (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1983-84: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Wango Wiggins (guitar), Chris Martin (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums), Ana Marie Carmella Borg (vocals for the 1983 EP were provided by Ana but the cover featured a photo of Jodee Valentine who had by then replaced her and was touring with the band).

1984-86: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Wango Wiggins (guitar), Bengt Sorenssen (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1987-88: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Dave Kilford (guitar), John Slight (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

Discography[edit]