Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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JUDAS PRIEST

UK heavy metal band formed '73 in Birmingham by Rob Halford, vocals (b 25 Aug. '51); Glenn Tipton (b 25 Oct. '48) and K. K. (Kenneth) Downing, guitars. With rhythm section of drummer John Hinch and bassist Ian Hill, they caused a stir on the small Gull label with Rocka Rolla '74, LP of promising songs but tinny production (by Rodger Bain). Sad Wings Of Destiny '75, with new drummer Alan Moore, was prod. by the group, Max West and Geoffrey Calvert: fulfilled promise with standout tracks 'Tyrant', 'Victim Of Changes', 'Ripper', etc; twin-guitar attack of Tipton, Downing was perfectly complementary, with Halford's shrill vocals the icing on the cake. Left Gull for CBS, who gave necessary push to career, but Sin After Sin '77 disappointed, despite presence of ace session drummer Simon Phillips, prod. by ex-Deep Purple Roger Glover: their former aggression and beefy sound were lacking. Tour with new drummer Les Binks supporting Led Zeppelin in USA spread live reputation; New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Saxon, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden etc) threatened UK position, but Stained Class and Killing Machine (aka Hell Bent For Leather in USA), both '78, rectified things, with anthems like 'Beyond The Realms Of Death' and 'Take On The World' respectively, latter in a football-chant style they soon copyrighted (no. 14 hit UK). Unleashed In The East '79, live LP from Japan, was first US top 100 LP, united them with best prod. to date in Tom Allom. Ex-Trapeze drummer Dave Holland replaced Binks for British Steel '80 (top 40 USA), Screaming For Vengeance '82, Defenders Of The Faith '84; first of these was highest-ever UK LP at no. 4, helped by hit singles 'Living After Midnight' and 'Breaking The Law' (both no. 12 UK); all LPs beginning with Unleashed were top 20 in UK; Vengeance first gold LP in USA. They underwent changes in musical tack (now heavier, more considered) and image-wise (Halford had shorter hair than most punks); they also showed good taste in covering others' songs on stage (e.g. Joan Baez's 'Diamonds And Rust', Fleetwood Mac's 'Green Manalishi'); Turbo released '86. Their 'thinking man's metal' (if that is not a contradiction in terms) made them all but equal to the other famous Birmingham HM groups, Led Zep and Black Sabbath. A live album '87, Ram It Down '88, Painkiller '90 continued top 40 in USA; compilation Metal Works '93 summed up 20 years.