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The Old Wolf: Judas Priest

Recorded because it is the album that divided once and for all blues and hard rock from what we call heavy metal. But let's take things from the start.
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Parents Name:
KK Downing: guitars
Glenn Tipton: guitars, backing vocals
Ian Hill: bass guitar
Les Binks: drums
Rob Halford: lead vocals

Found in their possession:

JudasPriest 1. "Exciter"
2. "White Heat, Red Hot"
3. "Better By You, Better Than Me"
4. "Stained Class"
5. "Invader" ;
6. "Saints in Hell" ;
7. "Savage" ;
8. "Beyond the Realms of Death"
9. "Heroes End"

Recorded because:

It is the album that divided once and for all blues and hard rock from what we call heavy metal.

But let's take things from the beginning:

We are in Birmingham, the town where the industrial wonder of England occurred. In the town dominated by heavy industry then, in 1969 two childhood friends KK Downing and Ian Hill form the band "Freight" with John Ellis on drums (the drummer would never be stable in this group). At that time dissolves another band called JUDAS PRIEST (the name taken from a Bob Dylan song called The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest) and vocalist Al Atkins is hired to complete the quartet. The band immediately changed its name to JUDAS PRIEST. With Atkins on vocals, the group recorded only one untitled demo which is near extinct.

Till 1973 the band is constantly changing. When Atkins leaves the position is filled by Rob Halford who was the brother of his Ian Hill's girlfriend. The group is complete with the advent of Glenn Tipton as "second" guitarist since Downing chose to have another guitar "talking" than to have someone on keys.

But the point is that Judas Priest along their course did not play with a first and second guitar, but with first two in perfect harmony. That choice not only determined by far their sound but also effected later bands with Iron Maiden the most successful.

Three albums followed Rocka Rolla (1974), Sad Winds of Destiny (1976) and Sin After Sin (1977) in which the band essentially tries to find its way. Within these were from moderate to great songs (The ripper, Victim Of Changes, the stunning cover of Diamonds and Rust). But all left in the end an impression that there is more to be said. A feeling that this band has nothing to do with the other Hard Rock bands from which it may be affected, but it's not alike. The production of these albums, however, surely did not do them justice. They look like wanting to rein in the beast.

JudasPriestBut everything changed in 1978 with STAINED CLASS and when we say everything we mean it. First of all changed the logo of the band. Abandoned was the gothic and replaced by the sharp. The cover changed. Unlike the previous (two) impressive covers there is a futuristic well polished "aggressive» artwork, which fits perfectly with the tone of the album.

But all of this is the wrapper. The essence is in the content. So we have nine tracks seamlessly tied together. The production finally not only managed to free up the momentum and energy gained in previous albums, but also to reveal the possibilities that had then this well oiled machine with the name Judas Priest.

Starting with bold Exciter, the group actually presents itself to their audience. Halford in grand form claims a well deserved place among the major voices of Rock while the guitarist duo gives its own show. The fiendish White Heat Red Hot follows and third track is an adaptation of an older piece by Spooky Tooth the Better by you Better than me, a rhythmic track changing a bit the tone from the first two. The song, however, has been linked with the greatest effort to exploit music in judicial proceedings.

In the mid-80s two youngsters after drug and alcohol abuse made a suicide attempt. In fact one of them committed suicide while the other survived after shooting himself in the head. The families of the victims then felt that Judas Priest were responsible because in the song Better by you Better than me there are hidden messages that move young people to suicide.  Halford has said about this that if the band could pass secret messages to the public it would urge them to buy all their albums rather than commit suicide. The trial eventually did not delivered the expected for the complainants result because the court finally ruled that although there are hidden messages in the song (?) there's no evidence whatsoever that they are connected to the acts of the youngsters.

Stained Class , Invader , Saints In Hell and Savage follow dominated by the melodies and the galloping characteristic pace of the band. The issues of the lyrics are mostly fiction except Savage

" ... .. You poisoned my tribe with civilised progress
Baptising our blood with disease
You christened our bodies with sadness and suffering
Saying then that your god is well-pleased
What have we done to deserve such injustice
Explain to us please if you can
But you can't, no you can't, we can see it in your eyes
Of us both who's the primitive man Savage, who is savage
Leave your morals, stake your claim
Savage, you are savage
Modern man can take the blame .... "

JudasPriest And this brings us to the epic track of the album: "Beyond the Realms of Death"
The track stands out from anything else and that is because the main part was written by drummer Les Binks. As Downing says "one day he entered the studio turned a guitar upside down (he was left-handed) and played the main riff of the song, I didn't hear him play the guitar ever again".

Rob Halford has described it as their personal "Stairway To Heaven" and he's probably not wrong. The song begins quietly, almost apologetically, and then explodes like anything with repressed energy and finishes with atoned.

The album closes with "Heroes End" a song with clear references to the loss of Janis Joplin and Jimi Iendrix:

Heroes End
I heard a human voice who sang like no one else
I heard a proud lady singing loud
Lived her life as she liked, didn't give a damn
But soon she found she was underground and wasted

I watched her hitting notes as she strutted stage
Her body shook oh, she did her stuff
She screamed and quake, give and take, maybe took too much
If you take the smooth you gotta take the rough

Why do you have to die to be a hero
It's a shame a legend begins at its end
Why do you have to die if you're a hero
When there's still so many things to say unsaid

I heard a man's guitar electrify a crowd
I felt the sound shower 'round
And he would take you with him where no music's been before
As you merged the power surge together

His music knew no limits if you were in it's wake
You had no choice, no, but hear its voice
And you would listen hypnotised, and in a dream
But once so strong survive or become weak

Why do you have to die to be a hero
It's a shame a legend begins at its end
Why do you have to die if you're a hero
When there's still so many things to say unsaid

If you gaze across timeless years you'll find them always there
And many gods will join the list compiled with dying care
Hungry mouths are waiting to bite the hand that feeds
And so the living dead carry on immortal deeds

I saw on silver screen an actor's rise to fame
But fast car user lose
That legend's born from death and that is such a shame
'cos every year new ones appear

Why do you have to die to be a hero
It's a shame a legend begins at its end
Why do you have to die if you're a hero
When there's still so many things to say unsaid

Other elements:

The album was released in February 1978 by CBS. Production was signed by Dennis Mackay and Judas Priest except the third piece signed by James Guthrie.

The album may not match the next two but is record that marked a change of the band and of the group in general. A few years later will break out the NWOBHM movement and Stained Class had contributed to that.

Judas PriestIt's worth it to mention a couple of words for the dress code of the band. Little after the release of this album in the same year came their next one Killing Machine and its tour brought on the change in dress code. Unlike our times where only Lady Gaga makes an impression with her appearance the 70s where ideal for extreme look, and most artists made sure they were as different as they could from the rubble. So there had to be a way for the group to distinguish itself from what came before.

So they left behind bell-bottom trousers and dress shirts and all started dressing with extreme leathers full of nails. As Rob Halford has said in an interview , the idea came when they saw dressed in this way showcase dolls in a sex shop... It is said he first adopted this style in clothes and other members followed.

The overall artwork from covers to dressing
followed them since then throughout their career with very small deviations from the original idea. In the same town about the same time with Judas Priest also Black Sabbath had been formed ... coincidence?

It has been quite rightly said that if the Sabbath were responsible for the term Heavy, Priest were responsible for the term Metal. Halford has said: "I grew up in a neighborhood where the only thing I heard was the sound of hammers and pistons from a factory, what music did you expect me to play?"

The dismantling of the gang continues....

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