When I think of all the heavy metal bands the UK has produced, my absolute favourite is Judas Priest.
And Judas Priest are very metal. They sing about metal. Metal Meltdown. Metal Gods. The former is about a metal meltdown. The latter is about, well, metal gods. You can even hear the metal gods’ footsteps during the song – something they created rather wonderfully by banging a cutlery draw up and down on a kitchen work surface.
They even invented a new word: “Desolisating” – in the song Rapid Fire which is probably my favourite word ever, and is something you do to curses, according to the song. Like many made up words, I come back to it interfrastically. I’m anaspeptic, thrasmotic, even compunctuous to have heard such pericombobulations about it.*
The photos that accompany this eulogy were taken by me on 14th June 1989 and have sat in a photo album ever since. I had a front row ticket to see Judas Priest at The Hammersmith Odeon (now Apollo) for the Ram It Down tour, and I risked taking my new Pentax pocket zoom, sneaking it past the door undetected. They were pretty sniffy about that sort of thing back in the day before phone cameras made the whole camera confiscation thing a logistical impossibility.
The seat was slightly to the side of the stage, which meant I spent the entire gig looking to my left, right in front of a searingly loud Marshall Stack which had been turned up to at least eleven, if not ‘one’ more. As a consequence, my right ear took the pounding of its life and I spent the next day as deaf as a teenager being asked to tidy his room. When I see Chris Martin‘s tinnitus campaign (see my previous “news story”) I have some sympathy, but can’t help give a rather hollow laugh: when a rock singer is telling you to turn your music down you know the World’s Gone Mad.
Halford drove onto the stage at the end on his Harley Davidson (pictured) whilst singing Hell Bent For Leather. A great encore…
Priest have a long and illustrious history. They are one of those bands with an “old” and “new” period: a sort of unwritten and ephemeral honour that some long-standing bands are awarded. The live album Unleashed In The East caps off their earlier albums superbly. Unleashed… captures everything that’s great about the band. Fewer daft lyrics (sort of – we’re not talking Shelley here) and every song pounds along at a hundred miles per hour, except the masterful Victim of Changes which is heavier than a pair of concrete shoes.
What made the band unique was a combination of the twin-guitar sound (compared with Sabbath or Zeppelin’s single guitar sound), faster beats (compared with Sabbath) and a less blues-based approach. This, and Halford’s aggressive, soaring vocal style also differentiated them from US contemporaries such as Blue Oyster Cult.
Needless to say, this night at Hammersmith was an amazing gig. They’re a powerful live band and Rob Halford one of the great frontmen. Priest return to The Hammersmith Apollo this weekend, nearly twenty three years after these pictures were taken. That makes me feel old. I’m off for a nap…
Record #48: Judas Priest – Victim of Changes (live)
Pictures copyright: EveryRecordTellsAStory
*(thank you to Blackadder’s dictionary episode for those words)..
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