Iron Maiden admit songwriting credit for Charlotte the Harlot is wrong – but deny Hampstead rock agent Barry McKay has a case

Iron Maiden performing at Reading Festival in 2005. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Archive

Iron Maiden performing at Reading Festival in 2005. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Archive - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Iron Maiden have admitted the songwriting credit on one of their best-known tracks is wrong – in response to a legal challenge by Hampstead rock agent Barry McKay.

Barry McKay

Barry McKay - Credit: Barry McKay

But the heavy metal band still insist they did nothing wrong and that Mr McKay’s client Dennis Willcock had almost nothing to do with the lyrics for Charlotte the Harlot.

Since it first appeared on the band’s eponymous 1980 album, the song has been solely credited to the band’s guitarist Dave Murray.

Mr McKay has accused the legendary band of nicking the song’s words from early band member Mr Willcock, which they deny.

However, in a formal written response to the legal action, they claim founder Steve Harris, not Mr Willcock, actually penned the lyrics in question.

Documents served to the High Court by Mr Murray, Mr Harris and publisher Imagem state: “The lyrics for [the song] were written by Mr Harris in or around 1977 to accompany music written by Mr Murray, who had joined Iron Maiden in late 1976.”

McKay claims the band stole the lyrics from Mr Willcock, who he claims also wrote Prowler, Phantom of the Opera, and Iron Maiden.

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He has also said the band’s former singer co-wrote Prodigal Son.

The band, whose members have been together for more than 40 years, admitted only that Mr Willcock changed three words of Prowler, and two of Charlotte the Harlot.

In defence papers, Iron Maiden also question whether Mr Willcock can remember writing them.

It says: “[He] was, when he was a member of Iron Maiden, notorious for forgetting lyrics for the band’s songs, or missing out words, or singing the wrong words.

“He [...] even had to sing from lyric sheets at live performances.

“Accordingly it is implausible that Mr Willcock can now remember lyrics he allegedly wrote some 40 years ago.”

Mr McKay told us the claims were nonsense.

“Iron Maiden’s management are falsely and deliberately accusing Dennis Willcock – the singer and frontman for Iron Maiden for almost three of their formulation years, during which he also wrote most their lyrics – of never being able to remember words of songs,” he said.

And he claimed: “This is self-serving, totally untrue and an attempt to cover Steve Harris’s song thefts, which were exposed in the previous Hallowed Be Thy Name action.”

Mr McKay says that previous action cost the band £900,000 – in damages to two songwriters and legal fees for their own lawyers, and for the two writers’ own counsel. Iron Maiden have previously disputed the figure.