The DEFINITIVE Steve Harris Bass Rig – Know Your Bass Player – 2024

Steve Harris Bass Rig

Explore the iconic Steve Harris Bass Rig, the setup behind the legendary bassist of Iron Maiden. Dive deep into the components and secrets of his renowned gear, a topic of much debate and fascination among fans and musicians.

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Steve Harris’s introduction to music

Steve Harris was born on 12 March 1956 in Leytonstone, Greater London. He grew up in a home filled with music, along with his three younger sisters.

Living in his grandmother’s house, Steve listened to all kinds of music, from the Beatles to Simon and Garfunkel.

Beyond music, Harris harboured a deep passion for sports. However, he soon recognised that his true calling lay not on the sports field but in the world of music.

Steve Harris becomes a musician

By age 17, Steve had caught the Rock n Roll bug and was in hot pursuit.

Initially, he had planned to play drums, but he soon realised that it was not feasible due to the noise.

Why did Steve Harris choose the bass?

Steve explains why he chose the bass in an interview with Tony Bacon.

“I really wanted to play drums originally.
But there’s no way.
So I thought, well, next best thing is to play along with the drums.
I’d always liked the beat and the power of the bass and drums.”

Steve Harris on Iron Maiden’s Foundation | Bacon’s Archive – 1992

Steve Harris first bass guitar

In 1973, the journey of the Steve Harris Bass Rig began when Steve acquired his first bass, a Shaftesbury copy of a Fender Telecaster for £40.

Printed and web sources differ in the details. However, the earliest most accurate source cite;

“I went out and bought myself a Shaftesbury copy of a Fender Telecaster Bass.”

Steve Harris on Iron Maiden’s Foundation | Bacon’s Archive

“I picked up a copy of a Fender Telecaster Bass—a Shaftsbury, I believe— for £40.”

Steve Harris: Running Free – Bassplayer Magazine by Brian Fox – 16 Jan, 2013

“Harry fancied learning bass and he shelled out $30 to buy a copy Fender Telecaster”

Iron Maiden – Running Free by Garry Bushell and Ross Halfin – 1985

“I got myself a Fender copy bass for £40.”

Run to the Hills: Iron Maiden – The Authorised Biography by Mick Wall 2004

“Harris bought a Fender Precision Bass for £40.”

Iron Maiden – The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Beast by Neil Daniels 2016

Which bass Steve Harris used in Gypsy’s Kiss and Influence

After ten months of play, Steve had already traded his Telecaster copy for a Hayman 4040.

He influenced some local friends to start a band called Influence.

The group soon renamed itself Gypsy’s Kiss. They played three gigs around the East End. Breaking up due to musical differences.

This picture shows Steve playing a Hayman 4040. It is believed to be among the first to capture him on bass. Believed to be taken at a Gypsy’s Kiss rehearsal in 1973 or 1974.

Steve Harris Bass Rig - Hayman 4040 in 1974

The Genesis of the Steve Harris Bass Rig

As a massive Genesis fan, Mike Rutherford inspired Steve to use the Hayman.

Steve explored and played various basses, including a Rickenbacker, inspired by Chris Squire from Yes. And following John Entwistle from The Who, he played a Gibson Thunderbird.

“I tried out loads of different basses.
I had a Rickenbacker for a while,
I had a Gibson Thunderbird.
You tend to try different guitars like that because of people you like.”

Ultimately, Steve was unconvinced and shared that;

“All [these basses] had totally different sounds,
and I thought I’d try [them] out because I really liked their playing and their sounds.
But when I got one, I hated it.
It was horrible; it just didn’t work for me at all.”

Steve Harris starts Iron Maiden

According to Mick Wall’s official Iron Maiden biography, “Run To The Hills,”. The band spent the winter of 1975 refining their craft. Iron Maiden was officially formed on Christmas Day, 1975.

Iron Maiden’s first show

The band’s early lineup experienced many changes. Biography, “Run To The Hills” provides a a detailed account of all these changes.

Steve Harris first bass in Iron Maiden

A sunburst Fender Jazz bass would join the Steve Harris Bass Rig.

Appearing in photographs at the earliest Iron Maiden shows between 1975 and 1976.

Not long after, a Fender Precision bass soon took its place.

“I just found the Precision’s were best for me,
and I still use them now.
I really like the roundness on the bottom end of a Precision.
I can get a real lot of top, and real lows,
the midrange, everything, and all really solid.”

Steve Harris main bass the 1972 Fender Precision

Steve Harris Bass Rig is renowned for a 1972 Fender Precision with a maple neck.

This first Precision, reported by Steve, is said to be an early 1970’s model.

Steve dates the bass from 1971 or 1972, depending on the interview.

Other sources suggest the manufacturers range from as early as 1969 to as late as 1976.

We will continue to call it a 1972 model as that date seems consistent from both Steve and press interviews.

1972 Main bass colour changes

According to Steve, the 1972 bass started its life painted in white.

But when we first see it, it’s painted matte black. The bass appeared in a photograph during a rehearsal in 1976.

The 1972 Fender Precision changed colour four times over the years;

  • Prior to 1976 – White
  • 1976 – 1982 Matte black
  • 1982 -1992 – Blue sparkle
  • 1992 – Present – White with West Ham colours

First amplifiers in Steve Harris Bass Rig

Early rehearsal photos show Steve’s earliest choice of amplifier in the background.

Recording the bass on the Soundhouse tapes (1976)

The Soundhouse tapes were recorded using the 1972 Fender Precision.

Amplifiers used include a Hiwatt NCA, Peavey Mark IV and Marshall 4×12″ cabinets.

This simple bass rig was used during the pub circuit days.

It was likely used recording the Soundhouse tapes on New Year’s Eve 1978.

Steve Harris Bass Rig recording Iron Maiden (1980)

The first self-titled studio album, Iron Maiden, was released in April 1980.

Steve Harris confirms in a Guitarworld article.His matte black “Seventies-era Fender Precision” was used in the studio.

Amplifiers used to record Iron Maiden

The very first music video release was “Women In Uniform”.

The backline in the video consists of amplifiers used by the band.

These amplifiers and cabinets were likely also used to record the self-titled album.

The first two stacks belong to Davey or Dennis from left to right. Then Steve’s equipment begins.

  • SUNN Coliseum 800 with Marshall 4×12
  • Peavey Mark IV with Marshall 4×12
  • Drumkit (Clive Burr)
  • Hiwatt NCA 108 and DBX 160 compressor with Marshall 4×12 (Steve)
  • HH amplifier with Marshall 4×12 likely belongs to (Davey or Dennis)

Iron Maiden’s first tours in 1980

The band embarked on three successful tours, including standout performances supporting Judas Priest and KISS.

Steve Harris Bass Rig included use of his matte black Precision bass during the British Steel tour in March 1980.

Orange or Marshall 4×12″ cabinets were used depending on the shows.

The 1980 tour program confirms that Acoustic brand bass bins sit underneath the cabinets.

In addition, Steve Harris Bass Rig included;

  • Hiwatt NCA 108
  • Peavey Mark IV
  • SUNN Coliseum head
  • Unnamed 800-watt slave head, likely made by SUNN.

The basses used by Steve included a Fender Precision and a Gibson Thunderbird. However no pictorial evidence proves this.

Backup basses in Steve Harris Bass Rig

Steve Harris Bass Rig had a backup Fender Precision in white with a rosewood neck.during the tour.

One of the earliest times we see it is with Dennis Straton, who left the band in October 1980.

The bass is seen in pictures from the “Live at the Rainbow” concert, which took place on December 21, 1980.

Reports suggest the white Precision could be a 1969 or 1970 model, but many interviews lean towards 1970. For simplicity, this series will also adopt 1970 as the model year.

Steve Harris Bass Rig from 2017

Steve Harris was the first video release from WhichBass, the original video can still be viewed on YouTube.

Coming soon to WhichBass

Kick-starting Killers and Breaking Down The Beast

In this pivotal episode Iron Maiden faces the departure of two key members amidst the creation of their iconic albums ‘Killers’ and ‘Number of the Beast.’

Steve meanwhile, gets creative, upgrading his rig with more basses, more amplifiers and more modifications.

Iron Maiden’s Bahamas Breakthrough: Recording Piece of Mind & Powerslave

Steve gets a bunch of new precision basses, with some strange choices appearing from Ibanez and his first ever signature Lado.

Steve Harris Bass Rig – Part 4

Steve, Adrian and Davey all experimenting for the first time with the latest generation of guitar synthesisers that had then just come on the market.

Steve Harris Bass Rig – Part 5

The iconic transformation of Harrys legendary 1972 Fender Precision Bass.

We witness its metamorphosis from the classic Blue Sparkle to the vibrant West Ham United colours against the electrifying release of ‘Fear of the Dark’.

Steve Harris Bass Rig – Part 6

Iron Maiden enter the new millennium with the return of Bruce Dickenson.

Heres how Iron Maiden recorded;

  • Brave New World
  • Dance of Death
  • A MAtter of Life and Death
  • The Final Frontier

Steve Harris Bass Rig – Part 7

In the final episode of the Steve Harris Bass Rig.

We get first hand confirmation of all the gear he’s been using since the Book of Souls right up until the Days of Future Past tour.

Steve Harris Bass Rig – Signature Basses bonus episode

Exploring all the signature basses put to the market.

Steve Harris Bass Rig – British Lion bonus episode

How Steve Harris Bass Rig  changed recording in British Lion.

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