Long live rock, I need it every night

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hell Bent For Leather

My first official rock concert was Judas Priest, at the Capital Center. It was Summer 1984, morning in America. A young Joe Piscopo taught us how to laugh. Young nerds exercised their brains with the Rubik's Cube, which led to the invention of the computer shortly thereafter. And most importantly, Judas Priest released their classic album, Defenders of the Faith. My dad was stationed in Beirut for the year without us so my mom gave me the permish, not knowing that this exposure to live heavy metal would send me down dark paths. David Rogers's dad drove Dave and I to Landover and waited in the parking lot while we rocked out (yes, the very same parking lot where the classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot was filmed, a year prior during Priest's Screaming for Vengeance tour).

The band had a huge monster built on stage, called the Metallian. Rob Halford rode a Harley out of its mouth onto the stage and started the show. Wow! He strode out in all his leather, like he was cock of the walk, and announced he had never seen so many heavy metal motherfuckers in one place before. I'd never heard an adult curse in public like that. At the end of the show he asked us all to scream and cheer if we wanted Judas Priest to come back next year, and we all yelled, and he said they'd come back. That was a nice gesture, it really felt like we had a made a difference. And the opening band? Great White.

"The Metallian":
this was recreated on stage, and Halford rode a motorcycle out of its gaping maw

I remember finding out Halford was gay and being surprised, not so much at his gayness, but that he actually came out and admitted it. Maybe I underestimated the tolerance of the metal scene. The rest of Priest kicked him out of the band, then replaced him with a singer from a Priest tribute band (as loosely detailed in the 2001 movie Rock Star, with Marky Mark). That sucked so they brought back Halford.

It was a bit rich that the rest of Priest booted Halford for being gay, because it was Halford's gay leather fetish wear that helped them all carve a distinct niche in the metal scene. They were the first band to wear that stuff and shortly after nearly all the bands were wearing leather.

I spotted this clip on one of my favorite TV channels, VH1 Classic--this is Judas Priest prior to their leather makeover. They look ludicrous, like some sort of Led Zeppelin rip. If they hadn't changed their look there's no doubt in my mind that, as good as they were, they would have been forgotten and left behind. Enjoy:

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