Judas Kane # 1 (Gun for Hire
I missed that; I was too young. That's why we got Dodson to do the first two Prong major label releases, because he worked with them. That to me was enough for any credentials. I've still got the demos, very strong. But it wasn't recorded on the Rocka Rolla album; it was sort of held back. It was, of course, changed and joined onto 'Victim of Changes. Ken and Glenn would start off [sings it], and then it would come in really, really powerful and off we would go.
It would always go down; a really good opener for us. Once the song pro- gresses, the band settles into a grinding groove, punctuated by fastback bits laced with elegant twin leads of a classical nature. Comments Tipton on the drummer muddle, "Well, John. We got manage- ment interested in the band, or record companies, and they got voted out. If we were going to get signed, we had to get a new drummer or we weren't going to get signed. And we were living, really, in the face of poverty at the time, where we couldn't even really afford petrol to go in the van.
And some of these decisions are made for you, and it's unfair on individuals, but that's life. It could've been me, it could have been anyone. You're forced to go with it. With John, there were some personality problems. He didn't really see eye-to-eye with certain people in the band; I'm not going to say who. So it stemmed from that, unfortunately. But I'm not criticizing anybody, you understand. Of note, Tipton collars "The Ripper" when asked about Priest tracks he is most proud of, among those in which he had a bigger than usual hand in creating.
Yes, I would declare that one. Which is a bit odd though, because I never got any royalties for that, because Gull Records owns it [laughs]. I mean, I wouldn't ever state and claim the responsibility for a Priest classic, because even if it's only a small part of the song that you have, that you contribute, the magic is in myself and K. And that can spark up a simple idea and make it into a great song.
So I would never claim any of the magic for any particular song, because everybody contributes. And when we walk into a room, we never know quite the way it's going to go. It's that magic formula, really, that spark, the energy working off each other, the room suddenly lighting up, that makes Priest hit as a songwriting team. Much happens within the track's short timeframe, its Queen-like surges making for a smart, event- rich track that indeed captures the sense and sensibility of the Victorian era in which the actual Jack the Ripper performed his heinous deeds.
Moving on, "'Deceiver' is the title part to 'Dreamer Deceiver,'" says Hill of the two-fer that comprises the second half of the album's first side. So we just called it 'Deceiver. Backward cymbal swishes recall Sabbath, while a bit of acoustic soloing spruces up the track. Again, the band's Queen influ- ence can be heard in Rob's singing at the intro, as well as in the fact that when Priest played lightly, there was almost always a renaissance or medieval tone to the affair. I love this song though, and have just recorded it on my new album.
On subsequent reissues, Atkins' credit is dropped from "Dreamer Deceiver" and "Deceiver. The soloing is also wild, as is the hugely heavy and sinister break, o'er which Rob hits a pile of super high notes. The track ends with a shudder and a lurch, after which Iommi-like acoustic wake music sends the song off on a boat down the river. Drummer Hinch knows quality when he hears it. I used to love that song.
I mean, some nights it would choke me up. It was that good. As can be seen on the first two albums, those songs, by and large, are quite meaningful if you listen to the words. And you know, they do come from a sensitive person. Is this the dif- ference between a star and just another performer? Despite his screaming, wailing voice, he had a powerful voice and he did have a presence onstage — he had star quality; that is undoubtable. He could write songs, and he had this ability to ad-lib in the song and just come out with words that actually did make sense.
I mean, from the soul, from the heart. This appearance featured John Hinch still as the drummer for the band, as well as a battle with the producers over how loud the band was allowed to go. Tipton can be heard prominently, if not all that accurately, on backup vocals; K. We went through many, shall we say, contemporary images [laughs].
The leather and studs really came about British Steel time, about Before then, it was a whole catalog of different looks and styles, satins I know it doesn't look like it, but it was cool at the time, high-heeled boots and all the rest of it. We were individuals. There wasn't any real coherent plan. We didn't sit down and say, 'This is the image we have to portray' We just got on with our own images. It wasn't until the leather came along, when it sort of fit perfectly with what we were trying to do. The leather and studs and heavy metal were really made for one another.
But we were shocked when we saw the earlier tapes recently again, what people were wearing. But it was fine for the time; it didn't look out of place. It obviously looks dated now, but at the time it was very contemporary [laughs]. You'd spend a week trying to record it. But Old Grey Whistle Test was live. You would set up in the afternoon, do soundchecks. And I think there were only a couple of bands on. It wasn't too much of a nightmare getting in there with changeovers. But for Top of the Pops and miming, there are pads put on the drums and you use plastic cymbals.
And then there was a playback, not too loud. We were never really good at miming, I must admit. We were a live band and we hated doing it. It was against our philosophy. Says Rob, "I love 'Tyrant' simply because of its class and style and approach in its lyrics. It's an area that I want to re-explore actually.
It's a combination of fantasy and reality, but I love the musical composition because it's a real roller coaster. There are twists and turns, and a lot of information and a lot of musical directions hap- pening within that one moment. For example, I wrote a song with the title 'Tyrant. We come onstage to play high energy rock, and if people like it, then I don't give a shit what they do afterwards. Whether they go and buy guitars, or knock each other's heads in on the way home, or whatever it is that they do.
We've done our music, with all the power and energy we have, and that's it! We also don't give a shit whether we become rich and famous through our music. Obviously, you need money in order to survive, but we'll never change our music [just] because we could earn this or that much more money. What we write, and what we play, is genuine and authentic, and it pleases us to play rock music. But I'm con- fident that we'll make it! Why do I believe that we'll make it?
It's very simple to explain. As long as there are cities like Birmingham, cities without room for an idyll, as long as the chil- dren of these cities have to grow up between those large buildings and dirty roads, without any place for real development, it also gives birth to frustrations, which rock — or, in former times, rock 'n' roll — lets out into the open, and represents their discharge. We grew up in Birmingham, and our childhood wasn't any different from that, same as any childhood in any other industrial city with an insane population density.
And the music we make today is nothing but the expression of these feelings and frustrations.
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It's like that in any form of personal self-manifestation; whether you're a painter, a musician or a writer, your whole background obviously shines through. It's obvious that the imprinting you get from your family, your friends, your whole environ- ment, gets a focus in your work. It's an interpretation of what you are — aggressive, gentle, sentimental or whatever. I can explain very well who we are. Most importantly, we're not a band like Kiss.
We put on a good show, but our music comes first. When we're onstage we physically express who we are. With bands such as Kiss the music is secondary, the show is more important for them: I don't want that — that would be bad. When we're onstage, every- thing we do is genuine; nothing is rehearsed, apart from the music. You're standing there upon the stage and the audience is staring at you; no matter if it's 50 or 10, people, the energy, the tension, which is released in us is just uncontrollable.
Although I personally admired Sabbath very highly, I don't think I own one of their albums, to be honest. I was more into the progressive side of things like Cream. We just missed that boat. They were the first wave of metal bands and we came on just afterwards. There was never any rivalry. We didn't want to sound like them and they didn't want to sound like us. We didn't want to sound like anybody else.
We just wanted to get on with our own thing and do it the best we could. I have some ideas that, from time to time, I stick down on tape. Who knows? One day I should be doing a solo album, I would imagine, when I get a little time on my hands. There's no reason why not. And singing, no [laughs]. It's one of those things. I can stand up there and play bass to thousands and thou- sands of people but you put me in front of a microphone and I freeze.
I'm just one of those people that can't put myself across. Like wed- dings and things like that, a best man doing a speech, I'm petrified. But I'll stand up there and do a rendition of one of the bass lines if they like, no problem [laughs]. What's more, the song coughs up the title to the next album, Rob speaking, like Moses on the mount, the words "sin after sin. When they're listening to these things, I want them to see what I'm trying to express. I leave the listener up to their own choice of what they wish to do with them.
That's one of the great things I love about the power of music, that you can either take it in and enjoy it, or take it to a deeper level. But again, 'Genocide' has a very strong story to tell. Some of the great unfortunate moments in history have come from genocidal situations. But again, it's great, too, because of the complexity of the song and the journey that it takes you on.
Glenn and Rob both spoke at the time about how kids should get out and have themselves a good time, but also realize that the world is about to go through some cata- strophic changes.
Both Tipton and Halford also seemed proud of the fact that they applied a liberal dose of contrast to the album, with "Epitaph" and "Dreamer Deceiver" there to represent a terrifically quiet and delicate side of the band. Case in point, second-to-last track "Epitaph" is another nod at Queen, with Hal- ford singing in an odd sort of voice to solo piano, plush Queen-like harmonies present for added class. It's a touching track, a reverie on the ravages of age, and a nice foil to the mayhem around it.
Said Rob with respect to "Epitaph," back in , "As there are no places for children in our modern cities, there's also no place for the old. And it's simply frustrating for me to see how these old human beings are forced to live their lives. From these feelings developed the song 'Epitaph. The words have to mean something for me; they have to help me articulate my feelings. Just like Glenn can make you happy or sad with his guitar playing, it has to be exactly the same with the lyrics.
The sound must express what is stated in their log- ical content. Jokes K. Probably better to speak to him about that song [laughs]. But Sad Wings as a whole was comparatively easy, being that the majority of the songs were already written. But in the early days, we couldn't afford to do that [laughs]. Up-and-coming band, we had to get in there and do things as quickly as possible. So in that way, it was quite easy, and the pro- duction wasn't as elaborate as future albums.
The songs were quite new, except for 'Victim of Changes' of course. Astonishingly, the esteemed but usually anti- metal Rolling Stone ran a review of the album, with Kris Nicholson calling the record, "chock- full of ear-piercing vocals and the thick, sensuous rhythms of a Fender Strato caster," adding that the album "recalls the intensity of the Deep Purple of Machine Head! Recording had been conducted under the harshest of circumstances, the boys allowing themselves one meal a day, and eventually get- ting jobs to support themselves after Gull wouldn't cough up anything for the band to live on.
Glenn became a gardener, K. A trip to the U. After the release of Sad Wings of Destiny, a headlining tour began in April of , run- ning through May, with a single Roundhouse show in June supported by Isotope and Alcatraz. And that would be it for the band's modest, limited, anticlimactic but character- building Sad Wings of Destiny tour. That would also be it for the band's relationship with Gull Records, and good riddance, as far as the guys were concerned.
And so they threw Priest a bone, giving this ambi- tious band a major label contract, removing the boys from the skinflint machinations of the guys at Gull. Crucial to this turn of events was the fact the boys had canned their previous manage- ment, signing on with David Hemmings of Arnakata Management, who engi- neered the move away from Gull, essentially a breaking of their contract which resulted in the band losing all rights to that material and any demos that might be found scraping about.
In contrast, Gull's budget for the band's first two albums was pounds apiece. Lots of things were happening, changing producers, changing studios. We were still struggling to get the band's sound onto record, onto vinyl, so to speak. Obviously it's much easier now with today's technology. But we were still struggling to do that.
And changing drummers, I might add as well. But we were doing well.
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We were still trying to find our feet, really, with those early recordings. A little bit of frustration that we couldn't get the sound of the energy and the strength of the band on record. Obviously, being able to remaster those recently, it's helped us satisfy ourselves a little bit. The Sad Wings of Destiny album was a very suc- cessful album for the band, you know, and we felt very let down and disappointed in the record industry, because Gull Records really weren't doing what they should do for the band.
They were kinda milking us a little bit. So obviously we moved to what was then cbs, which was great. But we really didn't know what we were supposed to do, I don't think, musically, to try to achieve success. It was a dark period in the band's career is what I think. And I think it shows with the songs on that album — if you listen to it, it's really very dark [laughs] and quite moody.
And I think the title fits — Sin After Sin! In fact, the band aborted their first sessions, leading the label to call on Deep Purple bassist and up-and- coming producer Roger Glover to bail out the production. And in those days, we had to listen to the record company, so they suggested Roger. But we didn't mind that suggestion because Roger had always been involved with production, and had been with Deep Purple.
It was the first album we did with CBS as well, so they had a lot of influence on us at the time.
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You know, I think when you look back on any- thing, you can be critical about it. At the time we were happy with it. They had two albums out before that, and it was actually the record company that approached me, 'We want you to produce Judas Priest,' and I said fine and I went along to a rehearsal. It was at Pinewood Studio in London and I went along and said hi, introduced myself. It's very odd meeting five people for the first time. You don't know who's who and who's what. Anyway, they set up and I said, c Play me some of your stuff.
And I got the feeling that they weren't really interested in what I had to say. And it was kind of a strange atmosphere. So at the end of the day I said, 'Come on lads, let's go have a drink. We don't want you to produce us. And they said, 'It's the record company.
They want you and we don't want anybody. And that was the end of it; we parted on good terms. They'd been in the studio for like two weeks, and in the process they had sacked the drummer and they had six studio days left. So I got in the car and went down to the studio and said, 'Well, play me what you've got. There was nothing really worth sal- vaging. And I said, 'Right, what do you want to do? So we recorded everything again. But it was done really, really quickly and listening to it now, there are things I would change in an instant, but then again, I think that about most of the albums I've been involved in.
What metal is to me is a kind of It's the extreme end of the screaming part and the loud part and the riff part, and it doesn't take into consideration the jazz, funk, the pop, the folk, the classical.
How This Came to Be
It's one- dimensional music. And sometimes you get strength by being that simple, and Judas Priest were that kind of a band. They're obviously good musicians, but good musicians do not great albums make. Great writers make great albums. And they were finding their feet.
They found their feet and they became heavy metal with the whips and chains, which eventually overtook them. No question, Judas Priest were a precursor of the heavy metal thing. Nazareth had run out of songs. They were going to do 'This Flight Tonight,' but they were going to do it the way I don't know, Rod Stewart might have done it on a solo album. And I said, 'No, that's kind of boring, let's do something different. And it was on the strength of that, I think, that Judas Priest wanted me to do 'Diamonds and Rust,' which, you know, if you listen to it, you see the simi- larities.
So I can't remember particularly what suggestions I had. We also had Roger, of course. Everything seemed to run quite smoothly. It was a bit strange working with Roger at first, but once we got to know him and vice versa, things seemed to go along — easygoing guy, smashing bloke, really. It was also the first album that we ever used a session drummer on. Alan Moore left us for one reason or another, and sort of left us in the lurch — we had an album to record and there was no one to help us put it down [laughs].
He was going through a divorce, one or two things. But he's a legend, and Purple was one of the first bands I sup- ported, as a guitarist and singer in a three-piece, throughout Europe, and I still get hot flushes when I think about it. That was my real baptism of fire. Purple were always one of my favorite bands in the early days. So we've got a lot of respect for him; he was a good guy to work with.
He got behind this enormous drum kit, and you can hardly see the bloke, and you're giving hand signals to him and everything and he started to play and he blew us away. And of course that set a precedent then. We had to go find somebody who could replace him [laughs]. Unfortunately Simon couldn't join the band; he had committed him- self to Jack Bruce. No, I got along great with Simon. We wanted him to join the band, but as I said, he had previous commitments so he couldn't even do the tour. So we had to search high and low to find someone as good as Simon.
And of course, Les Binks came along, and he was in excellent standing. I mean, he's magical; really you just can't fall out of time with him; he's so solid and capable of so much. And of course Les came in and filled Simon's shoes, which were big shoes to fill. And Les did it admirably, but Simon is magical. And at the time, we did ask him if he wanted to come out and tour, but he had other commitments, so we just had to leave it at that. No digital reverb, and you all just sat in a room together and you played. Roger Glover was producing it, and it was really down to him that he asked me to do it, because I played on his solo album Elements, which also had Cozy Powell on it, and also on the original Whites- nake album.
And we went to a rehearsal room for one day, and we started playing. There wasn't listening to any demos, because there weren't demos. Glenn just had all the songs in his head, and we went through them. And in those days, not everybody had demos. With Pete Townshend, he had a finished record and used to play that to the band [laughs]. Yes, he made incredible demos. But with Priest, I would play along, and when there was a riff to learn, we would stop, he'd show me the riff a couple of times and we would carry on. And that's how we moved it along.
They had all their stage gear, and Rob Halford was in a booth, actually, the vocal booth where Roger Daltrey used to sing all those songs. And that's how we made the record. Very straightforward, simple and fun; it was great. So that was the reason I didn't join them. And it's funny, because I bumped into the tall guy who plays with them now, Scott Travis. I bumped into Scott in S. They were rehearsing next door and I was rehearsing with Joe Walsh and Keith Emerson and John Entwistle [laughs]; we were putting a project together. It was funny, because I hadn't seen any of those guys since And here we are ; it was amazing, not actually running into each other for so long.
But obviously, compositionally, I didn't write any of the songs. And I think that's why people ask me to play on their records — because they know they're going to get some- thing pretty radically different. It's not conscious at all. It's very strange; I hear a song and then I play it, like I say, the way I figure it should be. The only thing that I used to find. I mean, we're going back to the '70s, early '80s, where I used to do a lot of sessions and a lot of records, and I was pretty — as Pete Townshend used to call me — 'anarchic' And I think that's why he liked the way I played, because I did things that weren't safe.
I really pushed the envelope. To me, it was the funk factor that really made it work. What it does is it grounds and puts groove to heavy rock, which most people were pretty light on at that time. John Bonham with Zep, same thing. But there were a lot of rock 'n' roll bands where the groove was Actually, nobody had any idea that's what I was thinking, but that's what I was thinking: let's place it in a groove that is more funk than metal.
Now obviously, you probably can't hear that, but what it does is gives it a really good grounding. And vice versa when I used to do sort of the funk sessions — I played with Edwin Starr, Olympic Runners and all sorts of things like that — I used to put more of a thrashy rock 'n' roll approach to it, more splashy high hats, more openness, especially the open sound, which I really like, which is totally wrong for funk.
You see what I mean? That's where, I guess, in terms of any influence or any style, that is what I brought to it. And I had my 20th birthday; I do remember that [laughs]. It was February of '77, and I don't think it was any longer than a week. And with Michael Schenker, we did one rehearsal, one afternoon, and the record, again, was probably about a week. Typically in those days, tracking used to be seven to ten days.
They were doing great," recalls Simon, asked about Priest's chemistry during his tenure. They are the writers, they know where everything is. And it's no slight to the other guys; they are the backbone of the band, but they tend to be a little quieter, because they know where the music is coming from. The problems you get, usually, are with the main artist, which in this case is Glenn. He's the guy that really drives it.
Rob obviously had a hand in all the lyrics and a big part of the writing, and K. And Roger. Every single album you make, there are differences of opinion and it can get quite heated, quite pas- sionate. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't get unproductive. And normally, a good healthy disagreement and a rethink is not bad, because sometimes you're both going down the wrong path. But in terms of that project, everybody was great. I got on very well with the band. I knew Roger as well, so maybe in some ways, it was quite handy because we had one guy, like myself, who was very experienced in making records, and being in that position, joining a band for a week — that was sort of what I was doing quite a lot of, I guess [laughs].
In a certain way, I could be the leveler or the cat- alyst between the producer and the lead guy. Fnull SSL '. Because Glenn wrote the songs and I just played them from my perspective and from the experience I had playing music. As mentioned, rehearsals for the album had been conducted at Pinewood Stu- dios, known for James Bond and Superman production work. Accommodations were at a nearby convent, with nuns running a bed and breakfast. Apparently, perhaps taking a liking to the band's religious name, they had asked Priest to play at a garden party they were putting together, a gig that did not come to fruition.
Mixing would take place at Wessex Studios, Highbury, London. For artwork, cbs art director Roslav Szaybo hired on Irish-born art school grad Bob Carlos Clarke as illustrator — Clarke went on to become a top erotic photographer, working mostly in black and white, and produced five photography books before dying in March of at the age of Cause of death was reported as suicide via a leap in front of a London commuter train, although his publi- cist has called the death accidental.
Once inside the record, the listener got to hear the new, gleaming, impressive and finessed Judas Priest through opening track "Sinner," a song one might liken to Deep Purple's "Flight of the Rat" given its hummable, serviceable chug, its immediacy and its melody. A gor- geously groovy mellow respite occurs, strafed by bluesy, noisy guitars, before an eventual return to the previous premise and an intelli- gent heavy metal rise to crescendo.
Ian is wont to joke that "Sinner" was Ken's "party piece," given the theatrics he would inject into the back section of the song when performing it live to the max, Hill adding, "That's another epic song, a production piece. There are two or three different solo parts in it, intricate rhythm parts. It was a very involved track to put down.
And it's another one we played onstage for a long time. But obviously, it always sounded like Priest, with the same musicians, same vocalist. We were really conscious of saying, oh yeah, we've got to do this, got to do that, to stay ahead of the game. It was a natural thing that came to us. Obviously, you listen to other people's material, but I don't think we looked at it from a competitive point of view at all. I try to go to the areas of the instrument that hopefully no man has ever gone before [laughs].
I always try to be as innovative as I possibly can, and try to generate as much energy and excitement as I can. And I must say, the great Jimi Hendrix I knew how that affected me. Because he literally was going to places no one had been before. So basically, in his footsteps, I try to do something a bit dif- ferent, but pretty wild and frenzied: I like that sort of stuff. On record, in most cases, I just pick up the guitar and wail away. And the recorders are going, and often I'm thinking, c Yeah, that's cool,' and I'm not generally happy to do too much more research.
I might go in and refine a couple of parts. I try to keep it as natural as pos- sible. Because I need to do it when I feel like doing it, so whatever naturally comes out, comes out. I like it to be as me' as much as possible. As Roger mentioned, the polite metal gallop of the song necessarily recalls what Glover achieved with "This Flight Tonight" for Nazareth three years earlier.
There isn't much bottom end. It's pretty much an "intellec- tual" sound. Nonetheless, the guitars are molten on this one, with Rob spitting out his curious, ambiguous tale with venom, but from some- what of a remote area within the mix. Bluesy of vibe, it's actually not a funeral dirge as was the band's predilection one and two albums back with lighter music another habit Priest may have picked up from Sabbath. Still, lyrically, one can look upon this song as in the same family as Atkins' morose "Winter" sentiment, winter of course being the most heavy metal of seasons.
Priest continue to raise the bar with respect to fireworks, acro- batics, dexterity and sophistication, goaded on by the dynamo behind the kit. Hill keeps pace, K. Some of his best lines are in there and amus- ingly, it was the reference to Fire Island that eventually started to raise eyebrows , plus some innovative phrasing, a necessity due to Glenn's innovative rifflng and Phillips' funk end around. An admirable, lesser celebrated Priest composition, this one's a smart cookie, demonstrating the band's skill and courage to break rules like their cohorts in Queen or Sabbath or Zeppelin.
It all serves as pre- amble to "Dissident Aggressor" a corker of a heavy metal construct, a furnace blast of brainiac metal, a critical tour de force that also crushes. Arguably, this right here is the pin- nacle of Priest's front-edge writing, even if three decades of records have come to pass since its impressive jag. One wonders if Glenn saw the song becoming what it did, for really it is Simon Phillips that sends it into the jazzo- sphere.
Phillips plays the song as Neil Peart might, also introducing the trashed cymbal effect most attributed to Bill Bruford on King Crimson's Red album. The song tugs and shoves, just like the lyric, just like Rob's guttural-to-soaring vocal, just like the violent leads. The band continues to raise its game and press on to the track's all-too-soon close, and that's it — Sin After Sin ends on a sym- phony of highs. I mean, that was one of the last things we did, and that would've been a great starting point, if the album would have opened with that song. On that one, Glenn and myself were there solely for the musical side, whereas Rob was really reaching out on an international level, really, to be heard with his lyrics.
So this is the best-drummed record of its kind in history. The writer of the article, Hannah Spitzer, as well as Rob, briefly acknowledge that punk was garnering all the attention at the time in the music industry. True, Sin After Sin was issued smack at the point of punk's peak, yet history would record the genre more as a curious cultural movement, with the record and ticket sales still going to all those bands we call classic rock today. Also of note, the piece erro- neously listed Alan Moore as Priest's drummer.
For the Sin After Sin tour, Priest would end up collaring one Les "Feathertouch" Binks to pound the skins, Les being a percussionist of similar technicality to Simon, also a double bass drum player, a rare commodity back in the late '70s. Curiously, like Simon, Binks would also claim earlier Roger Glover connec- tions, having worked on Roger's Butterfly Ball project, as well as plying the skins for Eric Burdon. Butterfly Ball morphed toward Eddie Hardin's Wizard's Convention project, and Les was there for that too, as well as two records with obscure pop act Fancy.
Bob Catley from U. And we thought it was a good idea. And we had a great time, 'Oh, here we are, we've arrived, we're on a proper stage with a lot of people in front of us. And it taught us a lot about how to get on in the busi- ness. What we do now, we take for granted. You make an album, go out on tour, and you do interviews and all that, but we didn't know about any of that at the time. It was all new to us. So it was a bit of an eye-opener, the Judas Priest tour. I used to have a couple chats with Rob Halford on occasion, when they were soundchecking, and when we went in to sound- check ourselves.
We would talk on occasion and have a beer. But you don't really mix, you know? You have your own band and your own crew and kind of leave people alone. Nice guys though, all from Wolverhampton. And over the years, you meet them again and you talk about stuff you'd done together years ago. Dates were also logged with Ted Nugent, For- eigner, Head East and Starz, with the highlight of the trip being Day on the Green in Oakland, playing to 60, at a show at in the morning, later headlined by the mighty Led Zeppelin.
It is said that Robert Plant personally had asked for the baby band from his home- town of Birmingham to help fill out the Bill Graham spectacle, and in retrospect, Priest look upon their two shows with Zeppelin as the crystallizing moment of the band's career, despite Rob earning himself a hail of boos by greeting the Oakland crowd as San Franciscans. It was done in Chipping Norton, Coxwolds, that beautiful place [laughs]. And on that album of course was the infamous 'Better by You, Better than Me,' which actually Dennis didn't produce that one. That was an extra track that we ended up putting on, as the album was a little bit short.
In essence, here we had Priest repeating history. A jazzy drummer helped turn Sin After Sin into an upmarket oddball of a record, a pioneering note-dense heavy metal album of high construct. For Stained Class, it would be a producer from that same world who would serve much the same function, and oddly, most pertinently in the drum area, for this was not the way you pro- duce heavy metal drums, but the heavy metal world was somehow better for it.
The recording of Stained Class took place in October and November of ' The mix would be handled by Neil Ross at Trident. It is said the label wanted to try their luck again with a cover version, so the Spooky Tooth obscurity was recorded after the original sessions, at Utopia in London, at which time Dennis MacKay was unavailable for the job. Still the sound, for all intents and purposes, matches up, the entire album stepping politely out of the speakers with upper-crust high fidelity, featuring meticulous separation, scin- tillating treble, measured, pinpoint bass, and in totality, a level of precision not normally asso- ciated with heavy metal records.
Stained Class opened in explosive fashion with a legendary Les Binks drum intro, fea- turing a barrage of double bass drums — rare in that era — after which "Exciter" proper kicks in. As well, the religious overtones and feel of Rob's pomp- filled phrasings lend the song the gravitas it needs, else it would likely fly off the rails. I think we just set out to write the fastest track ever written [laughs]. And the one before that would have been 'Call for the Priest' on Sin After Sin — that was the progenitor of it all, I think. Stained Class also saw the change of the band really going for the leather and the studs.
We're very, very proud of that record, and proud of everything we've ever done. We had great times, obviously, recording the record. It was obviously full of great songs. Priest change it up for a ven- omous double-speed chorus, before settling back into a funky groove the band's last drummer might have appreciated. It dovetails so nicely with the rest of the mate- rial, one might not notice it was a cover. It's quite riffy, the chorus is aptly grand and "reli- gious" of vibe, like many high-minded Priest moments, and with those gorgeously tuned toms of Binks much like Peart , the song bears enough of a Priest stamp that it doesn't disrupt the sequence of events.
The track was issued as a single a month before the release of the album backed with "Invader" but failed to chart. The title track is next countless times in the press, this album was called Stained Glass and once again, Priest stuff a pert and perky, modern metal rocker with all sorts of "A" riffs, shifts in tempo, corners and creases. Rob does some of his highest singing, also using some of the sing-songy vocal melodies he had written seemingly effortlessly back in the golden era of the band.
Of note, Glenn has called the quieter noise intro to this track, which features Echoplexes, "a bit timid. Lyrically, this is a colorful one, with all manner of man and beast joining in yet another apocalyptic battle, one that seems to involve good and evil in a religious sense, but also includes beings and creations from science fiction. It's a smart, poignant lyric, helping to underscore this band and this album as something a few notches above stan- dard heavy metal fare. Next up was "Beyond the Realms of Death," a dark and pure heavy metal "power ballad" of a serious type that would give rise to classics from Metallica like "Fade to Black" and "One.
I had to go to court every day in a suit, because they wouldn't let us in without a suit. And we had to listen to bare- faced lies. But we were victorious in the end, so in a way we flew the flag for heavy metal. Because every book, film, article afterwards would have come under fire. It would have been unbearable for everyone, had we lost. Well, we wouldn't musically anyway, because they're all our babies. One friend died and another was greatly disfigured, dying later of a drug over- dose. Stained Class's cover art was even called into play, with the bar pattern some call it a laser beam seen as the path of a bullet.
Strictly speaking, it was "Better by You, Better than Me" that was cited for subliminal messaging — i. Obviously I think about my times with Priest. I also reflect on some of the unfortunate situations that hap- pened with people in rock 'n' roll, and of course to some extent the fans, people who have difficulties in life and for one reason or another, want to end their life in different ways. But also it's a song that has a lot of strength, because it's talking about an indi- vidual surviving those difficult times. Halford's vocal is almost punky, sassy, and is a big part of the song's success, as is the additional, typically high-quality riffing that adds dimension to the track.
Richard Galbraith Hitting the road, the band played a little over half the record, with the omissions being "Invader," "Saints in Hell," "Savage" and "Heroes End. January and February of '78 saw the band blanket England and Scotland. Spring saw them in the U. Glenn has bad memories of supporting a none-too-sociable or helpful Foghat , after which five milestone dates would be logged in Japan from July 25th to August 5th of ' Now with three superlative, groundbreaking heavy metal master- pieces to their name, they were still pretty much without commercial suc- cess.
Unfortunately, the band's next record, called Killing Machine in the U.
But what it would do is provide the band with a bridge concept, the bridge to a sound that would bring them the success they so long deserved. How much the band in retrospect appre- ciate the beauty of Hell Bent for Leather is essentially. Perhaps blinded by actually making some money for once, the guys tend to look upon its dumbed-down follow-up, British Steel, most fondly. In this writer's opinion, however, some of the greatest records in rock are such bridge albums, records that seem to contain the underground striving vibe from earlier records, combined with some sort of new spark or excitability that is all the more rich because it finds an old band making new discoveries.
Pick a Day
Ergo, I consider Hell Bent for Leather to be the greatest Priest platter of them all, because it possesses the perfect blend of the band's feverish old school technicality, and the sturdy, chopped-down songfulness — the new "discovery" — of say, British Steel or Screaming for Vengeance. What's more, I consider this record to be the best-sounding Priest album of them all, for the first time, heavy, but wholly exempt from the trendy '80s and '90s production traps the band would stumble into on every record going forward, save for Angel of Retribution.
Indeed, the sound on Hell Bent for Leather is carnal, dirty, but still loaded up with all the fre- quencies you want covered. It even has adequate bottom end, which to some extent was missing on its two prim predecessors. Oddly, the productions of Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings are almost more "correct" and full range than those afforded the extreme, eccentric third and fourth from the band.
Killing Machine would be recorded in August of at Utopia and at cbs studios in London, with the mix handled at Utopia. Shortly, he would distinguish himself as the producer for Pink Floyd's The Wall, and later Queensryche's full-length debut, The Warning. The album was issued two months later in October of in the U.
The framing at the time was that the title's "murderous impli- cations" would have been too much for the large record retailers to want to put the album on its racks. I think if you look at those three albums back to back, there is a tremendous growth. So we wanted a producer who would be able to accommodate all of the things we were thinking of doing.
If you look at some of the songs on there, they are pretty diverse. And I just recall that it was a really cool experience recording with James Guthrie. It was just another one of those things where the band was specifically at, at that moment in time. Featuring a slight update to the Priest logo debuted one record back as well as slight text color variations for the two territories , the sleeve included an introduction to the leather and studs of heavy metal, but through a classy, artistic, oblique presentation. On Hell Bent for Leather, for that effect with the sunglasses, he actually got an air rifle and he had dozens of pairs of sunglasses and shot them with the air rifle until he got the right effect.
And then he lit it from behind to get all the colors right. I think that probably is the definitive beginning of heavy metal — maybe. Maybe I'm wrong, but definitely for Judas Priest, that says it all. Here we are, the ultimate metalheads. It is perhaps the perfect Priest expe- rience, the track delivering the goods of which Rob speaks in every way, from overall produc- tion, to effects, guitar sound, heavy and grooving drum performance, and above all, watertight construction — witness both its smart start and the "Rock and Roll"-inspired drum barrage finale from Binks.
Saxon and a dozen New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands would take this defense of their music concept further, but with this quick, perky number, Priest were setting the stage for a decade flooded with metal music. Rocky but not all that creative, or even attractive from a hook point of view, it is a song that seemed destined for launch as a single by those who wanted to play it safe — a little melody, a little hard rock, not much of anything.
Still, Ian's bass line is a funky blast, as is that little torn fill from Binks. Next up is the album's short, shocked rocker, "Hell Bent for Leather" being note- dense speed metal with attitude — something missing from previous fast ones from a band formerly a bit behaved and looking down their spectacles. Purple-ish recline, an over-the-top pre-chorus and a hugely anthemic chorus.
Come solo time, Priest gives us a nod to its religiously toned past, the melodies here almost baroque. It is said that the title might have been a lift from the Blues Brothers, and that project band's covering of a song called "Rawhide. The song ended up becoming a bit of a soccer stadium staple, much like its brethren anthem from Queen, "We Will Rock You.
They were just recorded as rock anthems. The fact that they were com- mercial is because of the lyric, 'Take on the world. But we never con- sciously went out and wrote a single per se. Again, there's a confidence and a swagger there, as musicians, frontman and producer conjoin for an upper crust metal experience. The break is a bit of a psychedelic respite similar to Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," from which the band emerges vicious and delicious, molten guitars battling and caterwauling until one final, victorious lapse into a reprise of the song's magical first verse.
Again, unsur- prisingly, the label thought it might be a good idea to record a cover to float as a single. This leaden heavy metal behemoth barely resembled the early Fleetwood Mac original. Its celebrated Priest chug is an instant invitation to headbang, and it's been a live favorite ever since. Quips Glenn, "It was a song we liked. Peter Green has always been a bit of a hero to me anyway, a great white English blues guitar player and a great songwriter.
I don't know whether I suggested it. In fact, I don't think I did. But it would have been one of us, I think, as opposed to 'Diamonds and Rust,' which I think was suggested by the record company, and then we kicked it around. We went away, and again they were asking us to do a cover version with a view toward getting it on radio, and somebody came up with that. We thought, yeah, that's great. We were all into Fleetwood Mac and Peter Green. And I think it was Ken and Glenn who got their heads together and revamped it.
And someone suggested 'Green Manalishi. A strong argument can also be made that it refers to acid and acid flashbacks, Green once saying that he "took acid and never came back. Green once intimated that the Manalishi was an elastic-banded wad of paper money he once saw, proffered as payment for a gig. The wad was stood up on end and then fell away in two directions, looking like a crown, after which the word "manalishi" came to him. In other interviews, Green has more plainly explained that it was simply a song about money, about a working guitarist getting more of it than he deserved, more of it than he per- sonally could handle.
The band's original title track came next, "Killing Machine" being another one of these lesser known Priest gems, the band going for a minimalist, down-wound rhythm, again, illustrating the adventurous nature of this album, this idea that, as Glenn has suggested, the record contains an astonishing range of emotions and styles. Asked if Hell Bent for Leather represented a move away from the fast, scientific writing of Stained Class, he concurs, "Yes, an easing off a bit.
Because you can actually try too hard in the studio, that's for sure. You can become a victim of your own endeavors, really. They always say you can get sucked up into your own ass if you're not careful in the recording studio. And there's a lot of truth in that. I think it's just because I have this mental ability.
I have a very, very broad mind for anything that's interesting or I could find potentially enter- taining as a lyric, both from what goes on inside of me as a person and from what I've witnessed in the rest of the world, whether it's on the street, the TV, or the radio, conversations with friends. I'm just absorbing all of this stuff. I mean, there's no rules. That's what I like about it. There really are no rules about what you can do with lyrics in music. But even though there's always been a certain portion of metal being this kind of escapist, fantasy, illu- sion world, I was always looking for some real issues to talk about.
Everybody wanted to do everything else. I would have liked in Priest, at that point, to go in the direc- tion of a band like Queen, for example. If you really sit down and have a complete under- standing of the mind and the music of Judas Priest, it's very much that kind of Queen-like approach. You can do anything. Just look at what Judas Priest has done, the different kinds of music that we've created.
It's remarkable, really.
And God Said to Cain & Twice a Judas
I think a lot of people miss that. They just look at it from album to album. But if you look at the diversity and all the adventures that Priest has had, it's remarkable. I don't think there's ever been, or will ever be, another metal band that can make those kinds of things happen, and make them stick. When you look at what Priest did in terms of the great writing and the experimentation that it pursued, there were similar elements to what Queen was doing.
There is always a moment where you can go further. I've always believed that you don't set rules for yourself. You should be pre- pared to push and stretch and take risks. And that's what that band did continuously. Although in their mind, Queen weren't taking risks, they just continued to do what they do. But they were carefree about what people thought about where they went with their music, and I just admire that.
But that's the way it should be. I don't care who they are. It's never smooth sailing. It's always about pushing for what you want to hear, and what you want to try, and get- ting the other person to think the same way as you do, to make a good song better. That was always the approach. We always said, c Well, ok, I'm not quite getting this yet, but let's work on it a bit' and we'd massage it and make it com- plete. One thing I do recall is that over all my time with Priest, when we went into the studio, we said, 'Let's start from scratch. Let's see what we can do with new ideas,' although we would pull a riff from a previous Friday and work it into something new.
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