Thursday, November 21, 2019

Judas Priest: This Is Spinal Tap

You guys know that Judas Priest was widely considered a joke, right? I mean, you don’t need me to tell you this, but when Beavis was singing “Breakin’ the LAW, breakin’ the LAW,” that was a Judas Priest song. That’s who the band was thought to appeal to: degenerate Arizona high-school truants.

Somebody must have liked them, because the Priest was allowed to release a dozen albums by the time Beavis and Butt-Head rolled around. Then in 1998 lead singer Rob Halford, a pioneer of the leather-and-studs look, came out, and rendered the entire band’s career retroactively more deserving of attention. Unfortunately, it didn’t make their music any better.

What Makes Them Different: Obviously, Halford’s sexuality is the most culturally impactful thing about the band at this point, and I don’t mean to downplay that. The band always had a streak of barely contained violence about it – their 1978 album Killing Machine was renamed Hell Bent for Leather in the U.S., which I suppose is a little better – which becomes much more interesting when you know the songs are being sung by a closeted gay man.

That violent streak got them noticed by Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Research Center in the mid-1980s, notably for the lyric “I’m gonna force you at gunpoint to eat me alive.” “In a uniquely British way,” guitarist K.K. Downing later explained, “Rob’s S&M lyrics were intended to be tongue in cheek.”

When he was preparing to make This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner went to a Judas Priest concert as part of his research.

By the Numbers: Four platinum albums, although they never had a Top Ten album in the U.S. until the inevitable sporadic reunion albums started coming out in the last few years. No Top Forty hits; the Priest’s biggest single, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” peaked at Number Four on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts in 1981.

Will They Go In? This is the Priest’s second nomination, but if they didn’t get in the first time, I don’t know what’s going to be different this time. If you like 1970s-style metal, there are better choices on the ballot.

Should They Go In? Judas Priest is extremely not my cup of tea, but even given that, I don’t see the case here. Being a poor man’s Black Sabbath is not something to write home about. Ordinarily, my top priority for a band is their cultural influence, and Halford has certainly made their career – and the fans they drew in through the late 1970s and 1980s -  more fascinating to think about. But he hasn’t made the music fun to listen to. If Judas Priest gets in, the door is wide open for Uriah Heep. I vote NO.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I guess you can dislike a band. I dislike great and influential bands! But it is just not right to write about a group knowing shit about them. We the people don't deserve to waste our time reading shit like this article, I mean, there are better ways to throw our miserable lifes to a bin. Priest (as lots of metal bands) can be absolutely ridiculous, but their influence in the heavy metal genre is huge. I mean, it's 2020. If you still don't know how Priest influenced the whole world of heavy metal you barely know rock music.

    Do yourself a favour, check this, I guess you could learn something: