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1967 to 1969

JUDAS PRIEST rate as one of the most successful of the pure Metal acts to emerge from Great Britain. More than any other act JUDAS PRIEST have steadfastly stuck to their guns, preaching the cause of Heavy Metal even in some of the toughest of times for the genre. Their uncompromising ethos has seen the band sell over 30 million albums globally. Characterised by a superb interplay between guitarists K.K. Downing and GLENN TIPTON, both of equal technical ability and each with an immediately identifiable trademark signature, JUDAS PRIEST have also benefited enormously from some of the most extreme vocal courtesy of Rob Halford.

The present day line-up of this premier Metal act features none of the original line-up which first formed in early 1969 on the outskirts of Birmingham. However, it should be noted that in this early incarnation JUDAS PRIEST were firmly based in the Blues. The roots of the band trace back to 1967 and a collection of Birmingham Blues Rock acts. An act titled BLUE CONDITION comprising of ex-THE BITTERSWEET members vocalist AL ATKINS and bassist Bruno Stapenhill together with drummer Pete Boot provided the earliest outfit to hold a direct lineage. By 1968 BLUE CONDITION split, with Boot later joining EXTREEM and Atkins and Stapenhill forming HALFBREED; a band also featuring guitarists Barry Civil and John Perry and ex-JUG drummer Jim Perry. Civil left to join FROOT and with Jim Perry departing too for Blues band F.B.I. (later of STALLION, LION and BODIE & JINX) the group opted for a re-think. HALFBREED changed titles to THE CHAPTER OF LIFE then THE JUG BLUES BAND but ultimately folded.

Atkins and Stapenhill regrouped titled SUGARSTACK with guitarists Michael Reeves and Jeff Furnival and drummer John Partridge. SUGARSTACK split with Reeves joining the high profile Midlands act POSSESSED (reuniting with Boot) but he was to be killed in a road accident. Furnival joined EXTREEM.

Atkins, Stapenhill and Partridge remained together and the name JUDAS PRIEST (A pun on the BOB DYLAN track 'The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest', was suggested. The present day line-up of this premier Metal act features none of the original line-up which first formed in early 1969 on the outskirts of Birmingham. However, it should be noted that in this early incarnation JUDAS PRIEST were firmly based in the Blues.

Pulling in guitarist John Perry to form the first line-up and concentrating on a hard edged Blues Rock direction JUDAS PRIEST set about gigging. Tragic circumstances intervened as within days Perry was killed in a suicide related car crash.

Still reeling from the shock the band set about auditioning guitarists and one of those to attend the sessions was a youthful K.K. Downing. Despite JUDAS PRIEST recognizing that K.K. looked the part they passed in favour of the 17 year old Ernie Chataway. Downing had been passed on simply because the members of the band at the time were unable to imagine their act with such a heavy guitar sound, the blond guitarist having auditioned with an extreme variant on CREAM riffs and screaming solos.


In 1970, after prolonged gigging, their set often including covers by SPIRIT and QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, the band, comprising AL ATKINS on lead vocals, guitarist Ernie Chataway, bassist Bruno Stapenhill and drummer John Partridge, signed a management deal with Alan Eade and cut two songs in the studio 'We'll Stay Together' and 'Good Time Woman'. The tape led to interest from Immediate Records, the label owned by ROLLING STONES manager Andrew Loog Oldham. JUDAS PRIEST showcased for the label at a hotel in Walsall (among the audience was LED ZEPPELIN's singer ROBERT PLANT) and were duly signed up to a three year deal. Work progressed toward an album with the band recording the 'Holy Is The Man' / 'Mind Conception' acetate. However, early hopes were dashed as before any product could be released the company went bust. Undaunted, the band played the Midlands club circuit for many years, steadily building up an enviable live reputation. However, JUDAS PRIEST split in the summer of 1970.

Bassist Bruno Stapenhill formed RAM before joining a Soul act THE RYEGEE EXPLOSION. The bass man was subsequently to re-unite with ex-BLUE CONDITION drummer Pete Boot and ex-JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Ernie Chataway in BULLION then SUICIDE.

Following the break up of JUDAS PRIEST singer AL ATKINS joined forces with an as yet un-named trio comprising guitarist K.K. Downing, bassist Ian 'Skull' Hill and drummer John Ellis. Downing, real first name Kenneth, was born on 27th October 1951 in West Bromwich. The name FREIGHT had been suggested but at Atkins prompting once more the name JUDAS PRIEST was resurrected. With Downing now in control, the group moved swiftly away from the Blues and into territory which would later be defined as Heavy Metal.

The band's set now included covers by QUATERMASS and JIMI HENDRIX alongside new original material such as 'Mind Conception', 'Holy Is The Man' and 'Whiskey Woman'.

1971 to 1972

The new look band performed its debut concert on 16th March 1971 at Essington St. John's Hall, further engaging in supports to TRAPEZE, STRIFE and THIN LIZZY amongst others before John Ellis put in his final concert at the Derby Yeoman on 6th October. The band soldiered on, drafting former GLAD STALLION and TENDENCY JONES drummer Alan Moore, inaugurating this version of the band on stage at the Newport Community Centre on the 15th of that month. Amongst the now obscure bands the fledgling JUDAS PRIEST lent support to around the country included such names as ACE, WILD ANGELS, DR. ROSS, BURNT OAK, DANTA and even MAHATMA KANE JEEVES at the London Marquee. Moore stuck with the band until 1972 when he left to join PENDULUM and SUNDANCE. Moore was replaced by black drummer Chris 'Congo' Campbell.

The band had now signed a management deal with IMA, a Birmingham company run by Jim Simpson and BLACK SABBATH guitarist TONY IOMMI. Also on their books was THE FLYING HAT BAND (including in its ranks GLENN TIPTON), BULLION (Stapenhill's new act) and fellow Cumbrian heavyweights NECROMANDUS.

1973 to 1975

Following the departure of Atkins and Campbell in May 1973, erstwhile THARK, LORD LUCIFER, ATHENS WOOD and HIROSHIMA vocalist extraordinaire Rob Halford enrolled along with ex-BAKERLOO and HIROSHIMA drummer John Hinch (real name Frederick Hinch). The percussionist had missed out on BAKERLOO's success, leaving them just before their debut album. The group's new singer was born Robert John Arthur Halford on 25th August 1951 in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire and subsequently raised in Walsall.

AL ATKINS meanwhile teamed up with ex-JUDAS PRIEST bassist Bruno Stapenhill and former BUDGIE drummer Pete Boot to form LION, an act that gigged solidly until it's demise in 1978. Stapenhill formed SUICIDE in the late 70's with Boot once more then WARHEAD.

The Downing / Halford / Hill / Hinch JUDAS PRIEST line-up cut their first proper demo recording of 'Ladies', 'Run Of The Mill' and 'Caviar And Meths' in 1974, landing them a deal with Gull Records; a new Rock label set up by ex-MCA Records A&R man David Howells. The song 'Whiskey Woman' had by now evolved into 'Victim Of Changes' after Halford had made a marriage of the Atkins penned song and his own 'Red Light Lady'. This track, alongside 'Run Of The Mill', would form up part of a two track demo recorded at Sarm Studios.

The band, now managed by Midlands entrepreneur Dave Corke, although often using the pseudonym Eric Smith and whose office was a public telephone box, toured heavily, often supporting BUDGIE in the UK and even playing headline dates in Norway and Germany.

A Second guitarist in the form of GLENN TIPTON, Glenn Raymond Tipton born 25th October 1948 in Blackheath, was recruited just before recording of the band's debut 'Rocka Rolla' album. David Howells felt that in order to set the band apart from other Rock acts they needed a unique angle and a heavier version of WISHBONE ASH was to be the model. Tipton had made his name with fellow Birmingham outfit THE FLYING HAT BAND, an trio that featured Tipton on vocals / guitar, ex-GNIDROLOG bassist Mars Cowling (later to join PAT TRAVERS) and drummer Steve Palmer (brother of EMERSON LAKE & PALMER's Carl Palmer). THE FLYING HAT BAND had recorded an unreleased album for Vertigo Records. (Unreleased because it was "Too heavy!!").

THE FLYING HAT BAND had been regular competitors of JUDAS PRIEST's on the Midlands club circuit and had actually just come off a European tour supporting DEEP PURPLE when Tipton opted to join JUDAS PRIEST. This union of two guitarists with distinct sounds was to provide metal fans in the not too distant future with a twin guitar attack sound pushed to new levels of unparalleled ferocity beyond any WISHBONE ASH comparisons.

Producer Rodger Bain, who had made his name with BLACK SABBATH's early albums, apparently had a large say in the 'Rocka Rolla' album's production. Bain cut stage classic 'Caviar And Meths' from 8 minutes to a short instrumental and decided to leave off tracks such as 'Victim Of Changes', 'Genocide', 'Tyrant' and 'The Ripper'. Although unrepresentative, the debut album, crafted at at Olympic Studios in the summer of 1974 following a lengthy run of UK dates opening for BUDGIE once again, provided the band with a useful launch platform and despite lukewarm reviews the John Pasche designed album sleeve landed a graphic design award lending more valuable publicity.

'Rocka Rolla' was issued on 4th September and the band toured constantly, building up an impressive club following. Their British tour, supported by JAILBAIT and commencing at Huddersfield Arts Centre on 10th September, culminated in spectacular success at the 1975 Reading Festival. Incidentally, the bootleg of the Reading performance features the live favourite 'Mother Sun', which has never seen the light of day on vinyl. JUDAS PRIEST only recorded this song in an unfinished acoustic state for Gull.

John Hinch would be ousted from the ranks. According to the band, due to a lack of ability but this was countered by Hinch's assertion that he had been reluctantly forced to give up the drums due to a thumb injury sustained in a fight.


By 1976 JUDAS PRIEST were carving out a niche as the most aggressive Metal acts on the circuit. Their next album, 'Sad Wings Of Destiny', was recorded with re-enlisted drummer Alan Moore. During his tenure with SUNDANCE he had recorded two albums for Decca Records, 1973's 'Rain Steam Speed' and 1974's 'Chuffer'.

'Sad Wings Of Destiny', clad in an evocative Patrick Woodruffe artwork sleeve, would prove to be a groundbreaking album and songs such as 'Genocide', 'Tyrant' and 'Island Of Domination' proved JUDAS PRIEST were on their way. Also included was 'Victim Of Changes', a seven minute epic destined to be recognised as the band's all time classic and still performed in concert some 25 years later. The song had originated in the earlier track 'Red Light Lady' written by original band vocalist AL ATKINS. Combined with the newer 'Whiskey Woman' the songs fused together to create 'Victim Of Changes'. Overall the quality of material captured on 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' without doubt portrayed an enormous creative leap from the 'Rocka Rolla' opus. Oddly the bulk of the songs were available for the debut, the band having been performing them live for many years previous.

The tour and general response to the album led to a worldwide deal with CBS Records before the end of the year, being signed by Paul Atkinson. Unfortunately this new business arrangement was arranged whilst the band were still under contract to Gull Records. Nevertheless, the band scored a £60'000 advance and the landmark 'Sin After Sin' album, produced by DEEP PURPLE bassist ROGER GLOVER.


'Sin After Sin', laid down with drums by renowned session man Simon Phillips, provided the momentum CBS were looking for and with major label backing JUDAS PRIEST were truly ready to take on the world. Interestingly, JUDAS PRIEST re-worked a much heavier cover of the JOAN BAEZ track 'Diamonds And Rust' originally laid down for Gull Records. Pre-production for the record was conducted at Pinewood Film Studios before a relocation to London's Ramport Studios, owned by THE WHO, in January 1977 for recording. 'Sin After Sin' would musically prove to be an extension of the epic Metal stylings of 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' and hosted such concert classics as 'Starbreaker', 'Dissident Aggressor' and the KK Downing showcase 'Sinner'. Also onboard, and missed by most observers, would be the track 'Raw Deal', Rob Halford quite openly broaching his homosexuality in the lyrics which made a direct reference to the infamous New York gay resort of fire island.

Although Phillips's services were requested on a full time basis the drummer, citing tour commitments with the JACK BRUCE band, declined the invitation. To fill the vacancy the band eventually settled on ex-FANCY drummer Les 'Feathertouch' Binks. 'Sin After Sin's producer, DEEP PURPLE bassist ROGER GLOVER, had previously used Binks on his 1974 concept album 'Butterfly Ball'.

On the live front the band opened proceedings in March with Scandinavian gigs, including a showing at the Oulu 'Kuusrock' festival in Finland, prior to a headline UK tour. JUDAS PRIEST's first American shows in 1977, supporting FOREIGNER and REO SPEEDWAGON, climaxed with support slots to the mighty LED ZEPPELIN, at the personal invitation of ROBERT PLANT, at the San Francisco 'Day On The Green' festival. Following their British tour, with fellow Brummies MAGNUM opening, ended with fans destroying the London Victoria Theatre venue as trouble flared between audience and heavy handed bouncers. European shows in October saw valuable supports to AC/DC.


JUDAS PRIEST saw 'Stained Class', recorded at Chipping Norton Studios in the Cotswalds during October and November of 1977, add to their success with their first (heavily bootlegged) tour of Japan. The heavily Sci-Fi themed album, although thinly produced in the main by by Dennis Mackay, included the rip roaring acceleration of 'Exciter' and the majestic stage classic 'Beyond The Realms Of Death'. An additional track, a version of SPOOKY TOOTH's 'Better By You, Better Than Me', was conceived later with James Guthrie, known for his engineering work with PINK FLOYD, credited with desk duties at Utopia Studios in London. 'Stained Class' would be JUDAS PRIEST's first album to break into the Billboard top 200.

As North America beckoned, a rapid change in image occurred from the gothic and medieval to menacing black leather that was to become their trademark. The vocalist switched from flowing silks to a leather peaked cap and bullwhip and Halford would even take to the stage riding on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Rob Halford's prescient sense of theatrics at this juncture in their career would not only brand the group with a globally identifiable stamp but also influence the entire Metal genre as a whole for many years to come.

The next album 'Killing Machine' provided their first hit singles in the shape of the anthemic drum driven 'Take On The World' and also 'Evening Star'. The album as a whole saw JUDAS PRIEST's shift to more sci-fi lyrical themes. Two successive sellout British tours, the latter with LEA HART as guest, bolstered their support.

However, in America JUDAS PRIEST had to rename the album 'Hell Bent For Leather' as the record company felt the British title too violent. The band used this opportunity to add an extra track to the U.S. version, a cover of FLEETWOOD MAC's melancholy 'Green Manalishi'.


1979 opened in fine as the chest thumping tribal anthem 'Take On The World' gave the group its first hit single. In February the group returned to Japan for a sell out tour prior to engaging in US roadwork, acting as support to acts such as PAT TRAVERS, ANGEL and UFO. With demand in their home country unsatisfied, another round of shows in May had Marseille as openers before a return across the Atlantic to act as special guests to KISS throughout September.

JUDAS PRIEST's next album proved to be the band's undoubted classic, September's 'Unleashed In The East', the first of many to be produced by 'Colonel' Tom Allom. The band's new producer had made his mark as engineer on the first two BLACK SABBATH albums then producing HUDSON-FORD and PAT TRAVERS. Allom captured the band's live ferocity on stage in Japan, capturing two shows at Koseinenkin Hall, Tokyo on 10th February 1979 and Nakano Sunplaza Hall, Tokyo on 15th February, as JUDAS PRIEST truly became a world class act. As such, 'Unleashed In The East' is generally regarded as one of the genre's landmark live albums. In the UK 'Unleashed In The East' landed at an impressive no. 10 on the album charts and scored a no. 70 placing in North America.

However, with rumours circulating that the finished product was far from the fully live album it purported to be, being re-dubbed by media as 'Unleashed In The Studio', singer Rob Halford subsequently admitted that whilst the band played well on the Japanese dates he was suffering from a dose of laryngitis, necessitating a re-recording of the vocal tracks. The album cover 'live' shot too would be a studio shoot, photographer Fin Costello strategically placing the band members so as to obscure the drum kit, as drummer Les Binks had already vacated the band by this juncture.

The Japanese version, subtly re-titled 'Priest In The East', featured an extra four tracks, 'Rock Forever', 'Delivering The Goods', 'Hell Bent For Leather' and 'Starbreaker', spread over a 7" single, which would filter through to the UK market in the form of successive single B sides. 'Beyond The Realms Of Death' featured on a three track EP included on initial UK versions of the album whilst 'Evil Fantasies', in an undubbed form, appeared as the B side to the 12" 'Living After Midnight' single in 1980.

As if to seal the stamp of approval from their increasing fan following, the first JUDAS PRIEST bootleg album 'The Ripper' appeared at this point. Taken from a recording from the sound desk at a North American show in 1979 unfortunately for fans GLENN TIPTON's guitar is almost totally inaudible throughout. Another incident the band may want to forget from that tour was when Rob Halford rode his Harley Davidson onstage at St. Paul in Minneapolis and promptly drove straight into the orchestra pit! Fortunately for the singer, this nasty incident only resulted in cuts and bruises.


The Tom Allom produced 'British Steel' saw the arrival of drummer Dave Holland in favour of Les Binks, who went onto to work with TYTAN and LIONHEART before entering the world of session work. Holland, born on 5th April 1948 in Northampton, had joined JUDAS PRIEST in August 1979 and had previously made his mark in North America with GLENN HUGHES act TRAPEZE and had also worked with JUSTIN HAYWARD on his solo outings 'Songwriter' and 'Night Flight'.

'British Steel' had been recorded at Startling Studios, at Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, actually the in-house facilities of THE BEATLES drummer Ringo Starr, between January and February 1980. Allom was already in residence when JUDAS PRIEST arrived, having just mixed down DEF LEPPARD's 'On Through The Night' there. Industriously, the band, producer and engineer Lou Austin wrapped up the entire album in just 28 days.

Besides the gravitas of the actual song content, 'British Steel' was to become famous for its liberal usage of special effects. These sonic embellishments were actually conjoured up in ad hoc fashion. In 'Metal Gods' the rushing sound was a recording of Rob Halford swinging a billiard cue, a whip sound was in fact a guitar cable thrashed against a flight case, fake thunder was created by slamming doors and adding compression, whilst the marching beats were in fact the sound of kitchen cutlery being clanked onto a table. In 'Breaking The Law' the shattering glass sound found Tom Allom smashing Ringo Starr's milk and beer bottles for full effect.

The record's cover continued the disturbing photographic imagery of 'Killing Machine', as designer Roslav Szaybo concocted a now recognised iconic piece of Heavy Metal art. The hand holding a razorblade was not only powerfully simple, it's execution was purposely left vague enough to raise questions as to whether the blade was actually piercing the fingers. This image and title also held heavy symbolism for the band, as Birmingham's traditional industry had suffered greatly from the closure of British Steel smelting and manufacturing plants in the region. Indeed, Glenn Tipton had even worked at one of these factories producing razor blades. JUDAS PRIEST also succeeded in wresting the razorblade image away from another musical faction, the device previously having been associated with the Punk genre.

Even though JUDAS PRIEST had crafted a classic slice of Heavy Metal, the pre-launch publicity backfired in quite spectacular fashion. Unbeknownst to the band members, publicity agent Tony Brainsby had concocted a completely fictitious story in order to whip up advance press coverage. As such, in February UK Rock magazines published a story headed up by the quote "Judas Priest have paid up a £50,000 ($100,000) ransom to get the master tapes of their new album back from thieves who snatched them from a New York mixing studio." The story was factually inaccurate in every detail, further claiming the album had been recorded in France and that after the band had paid over a large ransom it was discovered some tapes had been damaged, necessitating a re-recording session. Fortunately for JUDAS PRIEST this ludicrous story was quickly forgotten.

The 80s caught JUDAS PRIEST favouring lengthy American tours. Nevertheless, a sell out British tour in March 1980, commencing on the 7th at Cardiff University, maintained their following at home, with support coming from fast rising Metal gods IRON MAIDEN. With the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal explosion at its peak, many fans attending the shows were more than mystified when it transpired that the support band looked remarkably similar to the headline act. IRON MAIDEN's guitarist Dave Murray was an almost copycat of Downing in dress and blond mane whilst vocalist PAUL DIANNO matched Halford for studded belts and wristbands.

On March 27th the band was scheduled to perform the second of two hometown gigs at Birmingham's Odeon venue but also booked in a 'Top Of The Pops' session in order to film 'Living After Midnight' at the BBC Studios in London. A helicopter was laid on to fly the band straight from the studios to the concert but fog halted flights and JUDAS PRIEST arrived late for the show. This was the second time this fate had befallen the band, the filming of 'Evening Star' for 'Top Of The Pops' also having caused a late arrival in Birmingham in 1979.

On April 1st, April Fools day suitably enough as it would transpire, JUDAS PRIEST were invited to perform at London's Finsbury Park Rainbow Theatre as part of Levis Jeans' 50th anniversary. Rob Halford generated plenty of press when the singer exposed himself onstage.

Original pressings of 'British Steel' had 'Rapid Fire' as the opening track but as the singles began to increase mainstream popularity, revised manufacturing runs placed 'Breaking The Law' first in the tracking order. 'British Steel', which peaked at number 4 on the British charts in April and number 34 in the USA, gave the band three sizeable British hit singles and TV appearances promoting 'Living After Midnight', a number 12 hit that March, 'Breaking The Law', also peaking at number 12 in May, and the anthem 'United', which hit number 26 in August.

The band's burgeoning status had CBS Records pre-empting single sales by marketing both 'Living After Midnight' and 'Breaking The Law' with Julian Temple directed promotional shorts, the first such videos the band had participated in. Although these film shorts dated quickly, at the time they scored a sizable impact. 'Breaking The Law's storyline had the band raiding a branch of Barclays Bank whilst 'Living After Midnight' was filmed onstage at Sheffield City Hall. 'Living After Midnight' hosted a live version of 'Delivering The Goods', culled from the 1979 'Unleashed In The East' sessions', plus 'Evil Fantasies', from the same tapes, exclusively for the 12" format.

The 'British Steel' record also played host to a crop of uncompromisingly heavy tracks with 'Metal Gods' and 'Grinder' remaining entrenched in the band's live set for many years to come and material such as 'Steeler' and 'Rapid Fire', oddly not given regular live airings, being swiftly touted as classics too. America too was beckoning ever brighter. As a point of historic interest, the album would be given a second wind in 2001 when a TV special prompted Scandinavian Rock fans to put the album back into the Swedish charts at number 17 - higher than it's original 1980 chart achievement.

In April the band put in an extensive run of German headline dates before heading off for a lengthy bout of North American touring with support from DEF LEPPARD and successive co-headliners with the SCORPIONS. This run included a date at the 'Grand Slam Super Jam' at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri on June 29th alongside SAMMY HAGAR, SHOOTING STAR and APRIL WINE. This live promotion and subsequent word of mouth would push 'British Steel' into Gold sales status and steady sales from then on eventually broke the million sales platinum marker during August 1989. JUDAS PRIEST rammed the point home with what many regarded as a show stealing performance at the first ever Castle Donington 'Monsters Of Rock' festival on August 16th headlined by RAINBOW and bolstered by SCORPIONS, SAXON, APRIL WINE, RIOT and TOUCH. On August 28th the band was back on the set of the BBC Studios in London to lip-synch a performance of 'United' for 'Top Of The Pops'.

CBS Records were obviously keen to maintain this rapidly escalating momentum and in September the band members were ensconced in London studios penning new material. Although tracks were roughly demoed, this material was scrapped in favour of a total re-think. Shortly afterward, JUDAS PRIEST retreated to an old farmhouse studio on the Spanish Mediterranean holiday isle of Ibiza, collaborating with Tom Allom and Lou Austin once again. The final sessions for the 'Point Of Entry' album were mixed at Startling Studios in Ascot.


February 1981's 'Point Of Entry' album saw JUDAS PRIEST mellow considerably, much to the plainly voiced disfavour of British fans. The band had noticeably watered down the aggression displayed on 'British Steel' and, under record company persuasion, presented an album laden with radio friendly fillers. Even the unusually bland artwork, an obscure point protruding into a sunset, came in for criticism. Unfortunately for the band the American label's insistence that the sleeve be re-worked for that territory resulted in an even worse compromise as a stream of computer paper laid out in the desert, on the front, and a collection of paper boxes, on the reverse, provided even more confusion.

'Point Of Entry' entered the UK charts at number 14. This lower than anticipated chart position was almost certainly the result of using the experimental 'Don't Go' as an opening single, this lacklustre track only attaining a number 51 placing on the charts. This odd choice mystified fans who, once they had heard the entire album, quickly realised much more immediate tracks, such as 'Hot Rockin' and 'Heading Out To The Highway', would have generated a far more favourable result.

Live promotion commenced in February with a trek through Europe with guests SAXON, the first show taking place at the Rodahal in Kerkrade, Holland on February 13th. The Amsterdam Jaap Edenhal show, held the following day, was recorded for both a radio show and to provide B side tracks for singles. Oddly, fan favourite 'Steeler' would be originally slated for appearance as the flip to the 'Hot Rockin' single, released in April, making it onto acetates, but then swapped for a rather predictable 'Breaking The Law'. Once again it seemed CBS had thrown away a valuable opportunity for a greater chart presence.

Fortunately the US single option had been thought through more carefully and the riff dominant 'Heading Out To The Highway' served the band well across radio. The ensuing North American Summer tour, again supported by IRON MAIDEN and also at various stages the JOE PERRY PROJECT, MAX WEBSTER, SAVOY BROWN, RANGER and WHITESNAKE, saw the band rise in stature with increasingly lavish stage shows featuring huge banks of lights and hydraulic risers and a star shaped rig, much of which was borrowed from PINK FLOYD. Although elaborate, the red and yellow box design gave the band reason to think it looked a little too close like a Chinese restaurant for comfort. The band opened the shows impressively with 'Solar Angels', Tipton and Downing rising through clouds of dry ice. Pointedly though, material from the new album was sparse. Rob Halford notably adopted a new denim n' leather persona for these dates. 'Troubleshooter' was quickly dropped although 'Desert Plains' and 'Heading Out To The Highway' held a tenacious grip in the set for many years to come. With US dates finalised, Rob Halford ran a competition in the August 1981 edition of 'Creem' magazine offering one lucky fan the chance to win his trademark Deluxe Edition Low-Rider Harley Davidson.

Writing and recording sessions for the band's next album were held in Ibiza during September through October before JUDAS PRIEST returned for a successful British and European tour with the German hard hitting Metal act ACCEPT as support act. The opening date of this expedition, generally acknowledged to be one of JUDAS PRIEST's finest concert experiences, was held at the Hull City Hall on November 6th, covering the UK until switching to Europe on the 27th, adding DEF LEPPARD to the bill, at the Wiesbaden Rhein-Main-Halle in Germany prior to concerts in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland.

1982 to 1985

It was to be the release of the July 1982 'Screaming For Vengeance' album that really cracked the States wide open for JUDAS PRIEST, providing the band with their first platinum album and hit single in the catchy 'You've Got Another Thing Comin'. (Such was the lasting impact of this song on the American public it was being used for Burger King adverts in 1999!) The album, sporting a robotic eagle dubbed 'The Hellion', contained an almost perfect mix of breathtaking aggression, such as on the complex title track, and commerciality. 'Screaming For Vengeance', solidifying the production relationship with Tom Allom, was recorded once again at Ibiza Sound Studios in Spanish Ibiza during September through October 1981.

A batch of original songs was scrapped in the early stages of recording as JUDAS PRIEST started from scratch. This process left the album short on material by the time they relocated to Beejay Recording Studios in Orlando, Florida for the mixing stage. It would be here that a quick fire 'You've Got Another Thing Comin' would be conceived and recorded in a matter of hours. The single, backed by a laser fuelled Julian Temple video filmed at Kempton Park water works, which included the lasting image of a council noise pollution agent's head exploding, lodged itself into the MTV play lists and gave JUDAS PRIEST their biggest US single hit to date. A point of curiosity for hardcore collectors would be the South Korean version of 'Screaming For Vengeance' oddly being pressed minus the title track.

During the tour, which following the lavish 'Point Of Entry' stage set had the band stripped down to the basic Marshall cab walls, JUDAS PRIEST broke off from their long term management Arnakatra and, under the auspices of Secret Management Associates, Inc., handled business affairs for themselves.

Once again IRON MAIDEN stepped in as opening act, later replaced by a pairing of URIAH HEEP and CONEY HATCH before Australian act HEAVEN took over. Whilst still on the road lengthy negotiations took place and JUDAS PRIEST finally teamed up with Bill Curbishly, manager of ROBERT PLANT and THE WHO. Plans for dates in Europe were scrapped as 'Screaming For Vengeance' sales in the USA accelerated. The tour was extended into the new year, eventually totalling more than a hundred gigs in the USA often with large arenas at sell out capacity for two night bookings. At one of these shows a young drummer, Scott Travis, approached GLENN TIPTON in a bar and inquired as to whether he enjoyed playing with Dave Holland. Travis' naive enthusiasm in 1982 would later pay dividends some seven years later.

JUDAS PRIEST rounded off their 'Screaming...' dates with a showing at the prestigious US Festival event laid on by Apple Computers mentor Steve Wozniak in San Bernadino where the band, sandwiched oddly between BRYAN ADAMS and CROSBY, STILLS & NASH, played to an awesome audience of over a quarter of a million people.

A matter of days later the band returned to the same Ibiza studios where 'Screaming For Vengeance' had been cut to craft the follow up with producer Tom Allom and engineer Mark Dodson. It is true to say that with the next album, the chest thumping 'Defenders Of The Faith' (released in Argentina as 'Defensores De La Fe'), JUDAS PRIEST gave the public more of the same winning formula with another cover monster, 'The Metallion', and an outrageous stage set for their North American tour. The supremely over the top 'Eat Me Alive', a song starting life billed as 'Bad Girls Wear Leather' with obvious references to oral sex, and the openly gay lyric to 'Jawbreaker', were quickly jumped on by the Tipper Gore led PMRC as a prime example of Metal's insidious influence upon America's youth. In the UK the band opened proceedings with the 1983 single 'Freewheel Burning', backed once again by a Julian Temple directed laser filled promo video. 12" single versions of this lead track, originally given the studio working title of 'Fast And Furious', featured an extended guitar solo section that would not be featured on the album. One song that was recorded but did not make the final album cut would be ''Heart Of A Lion', later donated by Halford to RACER X.

JUDAS PRIEST took to the UK for a short burst of dates in December of 1983 supported by QUIET RIOT, during which they also took time out to appear at the mammoth televised Dortmund Westfalenhalle 'Rock Pop' festival in Germany. This gargantuan festival saw the band ranked alongside IRON MAIDEN, KROKUS, DEF LEPPARD, OZZY OSBOURNE, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP and the SCORPIONS.

January and February of 1984 found the band traversing the European and Iberian continents with TED NUGENT and RAVEN in tow as guest artists. The North American 'Defenders' tour dates, running from mid March onwards and supported by GREAT WHITE and SAXON, found the band in more ambitious mode recreating the album cover in the stage set with a central huge head and mouth flanked by rising claws which plucked Tipton and Downing from the stage. The US dates rolled on successfully right through until August before the world tour closed with a rash of Japanese dates that September. JUDAS PRIEST plugged the new album with enthusiasm, the live set's opening number 'Love Bites' signalling the airing of no less than eight 'Defenders' album tracks. Despite the strength of the album material only the Bob Halligan Jr. penned 'Some Heads Are Gonna Roll' received any degree of radio airplay. Nevertheless, by the close of this latest extensive run of dates JUDAS PRIEST had chalked up yet another hot album and steady sales saw 'Defenders Of The Faith' achieve platinum status in September of 1988.

JUDAS PRIEST's status was further acknowledged by their billing on the Philadelphia stage of the global 'Live Aid' event in 1985. The same year Rob Halford would donate his services to the 'Stars' benefit record convened by DIO's Ronnie James Dio.

1986 to 1988

April 1986's 'Turbo', one of the very first digitally recorded Rock albums, heralded a new age of Metal for the band. Recording again with Tom Allom but this time in the luxurious climes of at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, once again the band had pushed the parameters of Hard Rock into controversial territory. Whilst some believed that the ZZ TOP inspired synth guitars heralded back to the Poppier tunes of 'Point Of Entry' days, the album actually drawing in many new fans.

Initially intended as a double set to bear the intended title 'Twin Turbo', apparently in honour of GLENN TIPTON and KK Downing's recent Porsche turbo purchases. Eighteen songs were cut for this proposed tenth anniversary release from which recordings of only the more commercial were finally chosen. Fans soon gleaned the titles of some of the overlooked tracks, one of which 'Heart Of A Lion' actually came into the public domain courtesy of RACER X, Rob Halford having given the American band permission to record the song. Other shelved material re-surfaced on the 2002 re-masters series as bonus tracks in the form of 'Red, White & Blue', 'Prisoner Of Your Eyes' and 'All Fired Up'.

'Turbo' actually enjoyed considerable success, gaining another platinum album accolade bolstered by lavish videos for 'Turbo Lover' and 'Locked in'. It would transpire though that JUDAS PRIEST had missed out on a golden opportunity afforded them when the track 'Reckless' was requested by Warner Bros. for inclusion on the soundtrack to the blockbuster Tom Cruise movie 'Top Gun'. The band turned the offer down and the soundtrack, fired by the BERLIN smash 'Take My Breath Away', would subsequently go quintuple platinum.

Live work found JUDAS PRIEST opening up proceedings in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 2nd May, this first US leg seeing DOKKEN as opening act. Oddly, 'Kerrang' magazine reporter Derek Oliver 'leaked' a story stating that LEGS DIAMOND man Jonathon Valens was in reality providing the drum patterns from behind the stage. A rash of July shows in Canada found BON JOVI as support before the band diverted back into the North American mainland for a round of dates with KROKUS as guests. JUDAS PRIEST's next destination, Europe, had German Metal newcomers WARLOCK sharing the stages. Strangely UK gigs would be absent from the calendar but 1986 was topped by December dates in Japan.

The 'Turbo' tour, which found JUDAS PRIEST playing to capacity arena audiences in the US, was recorded for the excellent 'Priest Live' album and also spawned a superb, Wayne Isham directed live concert video. Somewhat strangely for such a landmark album, the record company promotion seemed apathetic to say the least. The original plan was to see 'Priest Live' bolstered by the inclusion of studio tracks but this did not transpire.

In 1988 JUDAS PRIEST took time out to record some experimental tracks, including a DIANA ROSS cover version of 'You Are Everything' together with band originals 'I Will Return' and 'Runaround', with famed pop producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Ironically, the production team were being managed by David Howells at the time, the same man who originally signed JUDAS PRIEST to his Gull label in the early seventies. These sessions were never released as the band deemed the eventual results inappropriate and instead fell back on their instincts as successive albums would testify.

'Ram It Down', featuring tracks left over from the original 'Turbo' sessions such as 'Love You To Death', 'Hard As Iron', 'Monsters Of Rock' and the title track, plus a cover of CHUCK BERRY's 'Johnny B Goode', had JUDAS PRIEST back to basics. Unfortunately the overall quality of the record, bar the epic 'Blood Red Skies', failed to appease the detractors from the 'Turbo' era and 'Ram It Down' only scored Gold sales status in the USA.

Global touring, dubbed 'The Mercenaries Of Metal' dates, commenced in Sweden during May with support from German melodic Rockers BONFIRE. Initially 'Johnny B. Goode' featured in the set but would soon be dropped as it quickly became apparent the accompanying movie had flopped. Most of Europe would be covered on this trek, including the by now customary lengthy haul through Germany, before long overdue British shows. In their hometown of Birmingham JUDAS PRIEST packed the small Powerhouse Club. North American shows, featuring contemporary if ill fitting name acts such as CINDERELLA and SLAYER, who had recently covered 'Dissident Aggressor' from the 'Stained Class' album, kicked off in Canada during July running right through until October.

1989 to 1993

For the renaissance 'Painkiller' album, which saw the band back at their most ferocious, JUDAS PRIEST pulled in ex-HAWK and RACER X drummer Scott Travis, Holland having left due to "touring pressures". The ex-drummer was later to attempt a series of TRAPEZE reformations. JUDAS PRIEST also ceased their liaison with long term producer Tom Allom in favour of Chris Tsangarides bringing that relationship full circle as Tsangarides had actually engineered the landmark 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' album. 'Painkiller', issued in September 1990, would be JUDAS PRIEST's first album to receive a coveted Grammy nomination. The incorporation of Travis was viewed by many as having injected new life into the band and the blistering drum solo that opened the album certainly gave no illusions as to the band's intent. Both critics and fans alike hailed 'Painkiller' as one of the band's finest achievements.

The 'Painkiller' world tour proved hugely successful, with a long stint in America with support acts PANTERA, TESTAMENT and MEGADETH before playing the gargantuan 'Rock in Rio' festival in Brazil then hopping over to Europe with support act ANNIHILATOR prior to shows in Japan and Hawaii. JUDAS PRIEST would then hook up for another touring leg of America co-headlining the 'Operation Rock n' Roll' festivals with ALICE COOPER atop a billing of MOTÖRHEAD, METAL CHURCH and DANGEROUS TOYS. However, one show that JUDAS PRIEST did not do well attendance wise was Reno, Nevada, scene of the 'subliminal messages' court case. JUDAS PRIEST only pulled in 4'000 fans despite donating profits from the show to local charities.

Previously, the band had been cited in a $3 million law suit by the parents of James Vance and Raymond Belknap, who alleged that hidden messages involved in JUDAS PRIEST songs directly incited a suicide attempt by the teenagers. The allegation was that the two had tried to kill themselves with a shotgun after listening to the track 'Better By You, Better Than Me' from the 'Stained Class' album, probably one of the band's most innocuous songs recorded and a cover version of a SPOOKY TOOTH track at that.

Belknap succeeded in killing himself instantly whilst Vance survived, though horrifically mutilated. Having blown away the lower portion of his face, the teenager underwent more than 140 hours of surgery. He would survive for a three years after the attempt. Bizarrely, the assertions centred around Halford's breathing techniques during recording, the victim's families claiming this audible noise on the track was a barely hidden message of 'Do It'. The prosecution maintained that having reverse-engineered, they found them to be "packed with subliminals in the lyrics". The families lost the legal issue and sadly Vance died, apparently of a methadone overdose, a few months before the court case.

The whole affair was documented by in 'Dream Deceivers' by film maker David Van Taylor bringing the whole impact of the case to an international TV audience. Once the case was settled JUDAS PRIEST performed at the annual 'Foundations Forum' industry convention in California, performing 'Better By You, Better Than Me' for the first time in ten years.

The 'Painkiller' world tour closed in Toronto, Canada in August of 1991. For Halford it would not prove an ideal closing of events as, riding onstage in customary fashion on his Harley Davidson, he concussed himself on a faulty drum riser. After a temporary patch up the singer finished the show but would go into hospital afterwards. All in all though the 'Painkiller' album put JUDAS PRIEST back at the top of the Heavy Metal pile.

With the 'Painkiller' promotion fulfilled Halford announced his intentions to pursue a solo project, at first with the blessing of his band members. Giving some idea of the direction in which this project would take Halford joined PANTERA onstage in March of 1992 for a gig at the Irvine Meadows, venue in California performing 'Grinder' and 'Metal Gods'. This would provide the catalyst for the two forces to join together to contribute a track 'Light Comes Out Of Black' for inclusion on the 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' movie soundtrack that July. Not known for working outside of JUDAS PRIEST Halford uncharacteristically turned up onstage with SKID ROW for a rendition of 'Delivering The Goods' and even adding backing vocals to the track 'Goddamn Devil' on UGLY KID JOE's album 'America's Least Wanted'.

In a shock move, and to the utter dismay of fans world-wide Rob Halford left the band. The singer left the fold in September, as inter-band arguments raged. With PRIEST inactive Rob Halford stole the limelight during mid November 1992 in spectacular standing in as temporary vocalist for BLACK SABBATH at two now infamous gigs at the Pacific Amphitheater venue in Costa Mesa, California. Although Halford announced onstage that he would return with JUDAS PRIEST he then put all his energies into his new venture FIGHT.

1994 to 1995

Rob Halford busied himself with further FIGHT releases, 'Mutations' in 1994 and 'A Small Deadly Space' delivered in 1995, subsequently touring as guest to ANTHRAX and METALLICA. In general, the expected media response was unforthcoming and sometimes even hostile, leading to ultimately poor sales. In 1996 he formed a new act HALFORD before conjecture placed him in discussions with BLACK SABBATH guitarist TONY IOMMI. Although reports suggested demos were laid down this venture, unfortunately for fans of both Priest and Sabbath, in fact never got beyond the talking stage. The singer, much to the chagrin of his fan base, then went off in an Industrial direction for a project in conjunction with NINE INCH NAILS supremo Trent Reznor titled TWO. The experiment, dogged by a now regretful yet famous quote in which Halford declared "Metal is dead", soon floundered.

During the lengthy lull GLENN TIPTON released his first solo album, 'Baptizm Of Fire', on Atlantic Records. Initially the guitarist had cut tracks with THE WHO's John Entwistle on bass and former BLACK SABBATH, RAINBOW and WHITESNAKE drummer COZY POWELL. However, Atlantic deemed these songs too "old School" and requested Tipton work in Los Angeles with a younger set of players. The final album found the guitarist working with old and new guns such as MR. BIG bassist Billy Sheehan, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES man Robert Trujillo, UGLY KID JOE's Shannon Larkin, BAD 4 GOOD member Brooks Wackerman and C.J. De Villar.

The prior union with COZY POWELL prompted many rumours in regard to a possible new band formation. However, JUDAS PRIEST got back into gear with Scott Travis Although Travis had been working with Halford's FIGHT he had remained loyal to the JUDAS PRIEST camp.

Meantime JUDAS PRIEST were honoured by not one but two tribute albums. Titled 'Legends Of Metal- A Tribute To JUDAS PRIEST' the Century Media two volume set featured JUDAS PRIEST classics covered by the likes of HELLOWEEN, SAXON, U.D.O., TESTAMENT, RAGE, MERCYFUL FATE, ICED EARTH, BLIND GUARDIAN, NEVERMORE, KREATOR, ANGRA and STRATOVARIUS among others. Although a commercial success it was readily pointed out by critics that none of the alternate versions matched the originals.

1996 to 1998

Rumours were by now in full force as to who was to occupy the still vacant vocal position, with ex-GAMMA RAY singer Ralf Scheepers being constantly put in the frame. The German did not exactly help matters by touring in a tribute band titled JUST PRIEST! Former ACCEPT vocalist David Reece would also audition. Another acknowledged close contender was Pennsylvania born DC COOPER, later to join Danish Rockers ROYAL HUNT.

May 1996 JUDAS PRIEST finally announced their new vocalist to be American born, 28 year old Ohio native 'Ripper' Owens; previously with WINTER'S BANE, BRAINICIDE, TWIST OF FATE and Grunge tribute act SEATTLE. The singer had also been employed fronting a JUDAS PRIEST tribute band BRITISH STEEL, a video tape of which had secured the audition.

1997's 'Jugulator' heralded the return of undiluted Heavy Metal from JUDAS PRIEST in spectacular fashion as not only, and quite incredibly, had Downing and Tipton surpassed themselves with their most extreme music to date. For some, 'Ripper' even outstripped the recent accomplishments made by Halford, a feat many longstanding JUDAS PRIEST fans had thought impossible.

Owens inaugural live shows threw the newcomer straight in at the deep end with an ambitious tour of America where healthy audience attendance verified the fact that JUDAS PRIEST fans had not drifted away in the 7 year hiatus. Later shows on this tour saw British perennials MOTÖRHEAD as openers. After a string of very successful dates in the United States JUDAS PRIEST hit continental Europe again, this time with Dutch label mates GOREFEST as openers. The band were set to return to the stage in early 1998, although only two shows were arranged for the United Kingdom, in London and Wolverhampton.

The latter half of 1998 had the band basking in the glory of their quite awesome double live CD 'Live Meltdown' and resuming live dates in America and Mexico, including dates with MEGADETH. Meantime the Ranch Life label pulled off a coup with the issue of the 'Concert Classics' live album culled from a vintage 1980 show. Although PRIEST fans were quick to snap copies up its release was swiftly cancelled thereafter due to objections from the band's management.

1999 to 2003

The return of JUDAS PRIEST had done much to reinvigorate the European Metal scene, the impact creating a number of bizarre releases. Not only has Ralf Scheepers released the JUDAS PRIEST sound-a-like PRIMAL FEAR album (including an album cover that more than evokes memories of 'Screaming For Vengeance') but ex-JUDAS PRIEST men AL ATKINS and Dave Holland resurfaced with the 'Victim Of Changes' album. a record made up of reworks of ancient JUDAS PRIEST numbers.

With interest high the band found themselves nominated for a prestigious Grammy award for the track 'Bullettrain'. JUDAS PRIEST seemingly were to get back into the thick of it in mid 1999 when they were confirmed as special guests on the touring 'Ozzfest' extravaganza in America. Hopes for further dates were dashed however as JUDAS PRIEST announced the suspension of these date, the band being in the throes of negotiating a new record contract, this time with Atlantic Records in America.

A further tribute album emerged in 1999 titled 'Hell Bent For Metal' comprising more extreme acts such as AGENT STEEL, ANGEL CORPSE, STEEL PROPHET, VITAL REMAINS and paradoxically WINTER'S BANE.

Although out of the limelight themselves JUDAS PRIEST remained in the public eye due to the movie 'Metal God'. The film, based on a New York Times article in 1997 by journalist Andrew Revkin titled "Metal Head Becomes a Metal God' on Ripper's ascendancy to stardom, was to star Brad Pitt and 'Friends' actress Jennifer Anniston, and was to portray the rapid rise to fame of Ripper Owens from warehouse clerk to frontman for his all time favourite band.

Fans were kept in anticipation with a projected new JUDAS PRIEST album scheduled for late 2000. An American summer tour was announced with an arena billing combining forces with NAZARETH and the SCORPIONS but by April these proposed gigs would be pulled as the band maintained they needed further studio time. Meantime the embers were kept stoked by the release on Century Media Records of a repackaged WINTER'S BANE album 'Heart Of A Killer' featuring Ripper. Travis has also kept busy having reformed RACER X as a side project for a fresh album.

By late 2000, with no new JUDAS PRIEST album on the horizon, the rumour machine was in full flight suggesting in fighting between Ripper and the rest of the band about the new material. Wilder allegations had Ripper ready to take the vocal position in PANTERA paving the way for Halford's return. Halford meanwhile was on the road in America guesting for IRON MAIDEN and including numerous JUDAS PRIEST songs in his repertoire including 'Running Wild', 'Electric Eye', 'Tyrant', 'Genocide' a welcome rarity in 'Stained Class' and 'Riding On The Wind'.

Quite bizarrely news emerged in 2000 that one of IRON MAIDEN's earliest guitarists Tony Parsons had created an IRON MAIDEN tribute band named METALWORKS 2000 including former ALICE COOPER and THE ALMIGHTY guitarist Pete Friezin and ex-JUDAS PRIEST drummer Les Binks!

The band name was kept in the headlines throughout November 2000 when German Metal band IRON SAVIOUR gave a high tech overhaul to 'Hellion / Electric Eye' and premier American band ICED EARTH issued their take on 'The Ripper'.

JUDAS PRIEST were honoured once more on the 'Punk Goes Metal' tribute compilation when DIVIT covered 'Breaking The Law'. U.S. Girl band THE DONNAS would also spruce up 'Living After Midnight' on their 'Turn 21' album. Another leftfield tribute witnessed an all star cast of Los Angeles Rockers participating on the Cleopatra tribute album 'Breakin' The Law', a record made up of industrial and electronic reworks of PRIEST staples. Featured were WARRANT's Jani Lane, BANG TANGO's Joe Leste, FASTER PUSSYCAT's Taime Downe, LOVE / HATE's Jizzy Pearl, QUIREBOYS Spike, CIRCUS OF POWERS Alex Mitchell, UNION's John Corabi, WARRIOR SOUL's Kory Clarke, BULLETBOYS Marq Torien and L.A. GUNS Phil Lewis. Perhaps the most enlightening track on the album was ELECTRIC HELLFIRE CLUB's radical interpretation of 'Green Manalishi'. In spite of all this related activity though one singular fact remained that frustratingly JUDAS PRIEST themselves appeared publicly to be on hiatus throughout 2000.

Travis would manage to squeeze in a solitary RACER X gig in support of their 'Superheroes' album at the Hollywood Whiskey in May of 2001 as PRIEST fans limbered themselves up for release of the 'Demolition' album. Touring in Europe would see a run of dates in Spain supported by SAVATAGE as well as European festival headlining slots such as the German 'With Full Force' and 'Bang Your Head' events.

Meantime in America the band's name was being kept in the spotlight by Boston Pop Rockers AMERICAN HI FI whose video for their hit single 'Flavour Of The Weak' had the band members reverting to their teenage years waiting in the parking lot for a 1981 JUDAS PRIEST gig!

'Demolition' finally arrived in July 2001 backed up by the single 'Machine Man'. Japanese fans would be treated to an extra track entitled 'What's My Name'. For such an important release the omens for 'Demolition' did not look good as many critics savaged the album. However, as the dust settled the Rock media in general began an about turn with many journalists claiming 'Demolition' to be one of the band's finest works. The band put in a sell out London gig upfront of American tour dates due to commence on the 14th September at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre. Running mates for the first two month leg were slated as ANTHRAX and ICED EARTH.

Also arriving was the movie 'Rock Star'. The film had seen many changes from its inception and JUDAS PRIEST fans were now in the quite surreal position of seeing a movie on public release about Owens but officially nothing to do with the band. The lead role had switched from Brad Pitt to Mark Wahlberg, who had previously made his name in the music world as teen rapper MARKY MARK. The 'group' also boasted the talents of OZZY OSBOURNE and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY guitarist ZAKK WYLDE, DOKKEN and WAR AND PEACE bassist Jeff Pilson and BONHAM, VIRGINIA WOLF and AIRRACE drummer Jason Bonham.

In the movie, echoing Ripper's tenure with BRITISH STEEL, Wahlberg heads a STEEL DRAGON tribute act BLOOD POLLUTION. The real life drummer for BLOOD POLLUTION is played by another bona fide genuine Rocker Blas Elias of SLAUGHTER. The movie was mooted in its original form to have the members of JUDAS PRIEST contributing music and acting as advisors but strong disagreements as the direction of the story lines led to the formation of an all new band and revised film title. Promoting their 'Demolition' album JUDAS PRIEST would state for the record that 'Rock Star' was not the Owens story and if the film made any implications or statements to that effect they would be sued. A quite bizarre situation for fans of the band and Rock fans in general who all knew the behind the scenes story.

In light of the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11th JUDAS PRIEST, then performing in Mexico, cancelled their entire American tour, re-scheduling the dates for 2002. In the meantime the band put in a December 19th gig at the London Brixton Academy supported by SAXON. This event would be both filmed for a DVD release and also be preceded that afternoon before the show with a promotional video shoot for the ballad 'Lost And Found'.

Meantime, the classic 1980 'British Steel' album would be given a second wind in 2001 when a TV special prompted Scandinavian Rock fans to put the album back into the Swedish charts at no. 17- higher than it's original 1980 chart achievement!

JUDAS PRIEST, together with ANTHRAX, resumed their American tour in January 2002. In light of recent tribulations the tour was deemed a huge success performing to capacity crowds. As well as including new 'Demolition' material the band would resurrect some rarely performed vintage tracks such as 'Desert Plains' and the 'United' anthem. Meantime the Columbia Records re-issue campaign concluded in March with the last clutch of four albums, all with extra tracks. 'Painkiller' added an unreleased studio take 'Living Bad Dreams' plus a live version of 'Leather Rebel', 'Ram It Down' offered live tracks 'Bloodstone' and 'Night Comes Down', 'Live' added three further live cuts 'Screaming For Vengeance', 'Rock Hard, Ride Free' and 'Hell Bent For Leather' whilst 'Turbo' came with the unreleased 'All Fired Up' and live 'Locked In'.

JUDAS PRIEST would announce another exhaustive set of U.S. tour dates throughout the Summer and Fall of 2002 commencing in Toledo, Ohio in early July. Longstanding fans would be pleased at the inclusion in the set of the rarely performed classic 'Exciter' as well as 'Devil's Child'. Included in the tour would be an August date at the Sunken Garden Theatre in San Antonio, Texas supported by BUDGIE and REVEREND.

A further heavyweight JUDAS PRIEST tribute album was delivered by the Nuclear Blast label in September. Amongst the track inclusions would be ANNIHILATOR's 'Hell Bent For Leather', PRIMAL FEAR's 'Metal Gods', WITCHERY's Riding On The Wind', ICED EARTH's 'Screaming For Vengeance', SIEBENBURGEN's 'Jawbreaker', HAMMERFALL's 'Breaking The Law', BENEDICTION's 'Electric Eye', DEATH's 'Painkiller', SILENT FORCE 'All Guns Blazing' STEEL PROPHET's 'Dreamer, Deceiver', ARMORED SAINT's 'Never Satisfied', THERION's 'Green Manalishi' and THUNDERSTONE's 'Diamonds And Rust'.

The band's long established leather clad image came under fire in August when P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent an open letter to the band requesting the lyrics to 'Hell Bent For Leather' be changed to 'Hell Bent For Pleather', pleather being a hide substitute. On a more concrete note the DVD 'Live In London' topped the German national charts in its first week of release.

During downtime in October Ripper Owens aided THE SICKNESS for a short burst of club dates, this band re-uniting the singer with his erstwhile WINTER'S BANE colleague bassist Dennis Hayes and drummer Tim Semelsberger, also of an early Ripper fronted act U.S. METAL.

As media and fan conjecture had widely predicted throughout much of 2002 Ripper Owens, according to statements given by Scott Travis, had seemingly exited the band. The report, published in the Canadian site 'Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles' apparently found the drummer hoping for the re-instatement of Rob Halford. However, within hours an official management statement quashed this statement.

JUDAS PRIEST split away from the Atlantic label following disappointing sales of 2002's 'Demolition' opus, the record had barely sold 50,000 copies in the USA, signing to the SPV Steamhammer label for North American territories for a double live album and DVD set 'Live In London' issued in January 2003.

2004 to 2007

Early July 2003 brought news that all JUDAS PRIEST fans had been awaiting with the reunion of band and Rob Halford. Although rumours and conjecture had been in free flow for many years, apparently this decision was only taken just weeks before the announcement. A new studio album was plotted for 2004, the band's 30th anniversary. Also in July, it was revealed that the new ICED EARTH singer was none other than former JUDAS PRIEST frontman Tim Owens. However, ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer soon made it known that Owens had been hired to record vocals for 'The Glorious Burden' album on a session basis and, indeed, even before he had lost his position with JUDAS PRIEST. As time progressed, Owens, who revealed he had received his notification he had lost the JUDAS PRIEST position by way of an email, would settle into the ICED EARTH line-up for subsequent tour work too. Owens was also known to be cutting material with 13 FACES guitarist John Comprix.

As 2004 dawned came the disturbing news that ex-JUDAS PRIEST man Dave Holland had been convicted at Northampton Crown Court of trying to rape a special needs youngster. The 55 year old musician, sentenced to eight years in prison, denied all charges. The offences occurred at the drummer's Stoke Buerne home between June and December 2002 when he was giving the seventeen year old drumming lessons.

As the reformed band unit settled down to write material for a new album, projected for 2004 issue, Rob Halford made time to participate in a VH1 television documentary 'AIDS: A Pop Culture History'. Meantime the band busied themselves with recording of a comeback album, with Halford subsequently revealing enough material for two albums had been laid down.

The first concrete signs of JUDAS PRIEST's return to the scene came with the announcement the band was confirmed as headliners of the Sölvesborg 'Sweden Rock' festival in June of 2004. Sony Music, with whom it was being strongly rumoured the band was set to re-sign, revealed plans for a lavish 4 CD 'Metalogy' box set for March issue. The 7 inch box came clad in leather and studded with 54 metal spikes.

European headline dates, with the debut reunion show being on 2nd June at the Stadiumsporthalle in Hannover, Germany, would see Canadian Thrashers ANNIHILATOR as support. A headlining performance at the Italian 'Gods Of Metal' festival would go ahead despite an earlier storm which had cancelled supporting acts UFO and STRATOVARIUS.

JUDAS PRIEST would be announced as co-headliners alongside OZZY OSBOURNE of the North American 'Ozzfest' travelling festivals in July, topping a bill of SLAYER, SLIPKNOT, DIMMU BORGIR, SUPERJOINT RITUAL and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. The band also scheduled 'Off-fest' headline dates aligned with SLAYER and HATEBREED along the way. On a rather less than grand scale the band's original singer, AL ATKINS, announced a band union with ex-IRON MAIDEN guitarist Dennis Stratton in a new unit dubbed THE DENIAL. Also on the road would be an addition to the burgeoning ranks of JUDAS PRIEST cover bands, the US NUDIST PRIEST fostering publicity by performing onstage naked!

Quite sensationally Rob Halford took over the lead vocal role from OZZY OSBOURNE for BLACK SABBATH's 26th August concert in Camden, New Jersey. Ozzy was forced out of action by an attack of bronchitis. 'Ozzfest', despite the last show in West Palm Beach, Florida being cancelled due to an impeding hurricane Frances, was deemed to be an enormous success for the band with much of the US media JUDAS PRIEST had consistently been the premier act.

Initially announced for a 31st December 2004 release, the reunion album, with a title of 'Angel Of Retribution', was then pushed back to 4th January 2005, then to 1st February and finally 1st March. A European and UK tour, seeing JUDAS PRIEST performing in many major venues, witnessed a strong union with the SCORPIONS whilst IN FLAMES and PARADISE LOST supported in Europe. Notably the schedule included a stop at the Birmingham NEC, their hometown's biggest concert hall and a long time ambition for the band.

Despite much of 2005 being taken up with JUDAS PRIEST activities, Halford was keen to announce that a fresh HALFORD album, retaining his last cast of musicians guitarists Metal Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z. with bassist Mike Davis and drummer Bobby Jarzombek, was projected for a late 2005 recording. Intriguingly, the singer also voiced the possibility of a live FIGHT DVD package and the prospect of FIGHT reuniting to record new material. Even Ian Hill got in on extracurricular activities, landing credits as producer of Cannock Rockers THE NEW BLACKS 'Sound Of Loud' EP. Meantime, ex-JUDAS PRIEST vocalist Tim Owens would be tracking solo material with 13 FACES and SPAWN guitarist John Comprix and the SPASTIC INK, HALFORD and ICED EARTH drummer Bobby Jarzombek under the project billing BEYOND FEAR. The singer also lent vocals to a version of BLACK SABBATH's 'War Pigs' included on the MICHAEL SCHENKER 'Heavy Hitters' covers album.

As the launch date for 'Angel Of Retribution' drew nearer, Sony Music tempted fans who pre-ordered the album with a limited edition bonus DVD, featuring footage filmed in recorded in Barcelona and Valencia, Spain during 2004, plus four "collectable" JUDAS PRIEST postcards. The band's first opportunity to perform material from the new album came on 23rd February at the Valbyhallen in Copenhagen, Denmark. 'Angel Of Retribution' songs included in the set list numbered 'Judas Rising', 'Revolution', 'Deal with The Devil' and 'Hellrider'. Surprise inclusions would be 'Hot Rockin' from 1981 and 'I'm A Rocker' dating to 1988. However, 'Hellrider' would be dropped after this inaugural gig, then subsequently added back into the song roster.

JUDAS PRIEST's long held ambition of headlining the giant National Exhibition Centre venue in their home town of Birmingham took place on 19th March. This show, replete with additional pyrotechnics and video screens, would be filmed for DVD release.

'Angel Of Retribution's first chart impact came in Japan, where the album impressively landed at no. 4. The album debuted in the UK at a rather disappointing no. 39 nut in the USA gave the band it's highest ever chart placing at no. 12, selling over 58,000 copies in its first week of sale and prove its strength by shifting a further 100,000 copies in the following two months. 'Angel Of Retribution' notably entered the national Greek charts at no. 1. This would actually be JUDAS PRIEST's first ever career no.1. North American arena gigs commenced in June with support from QUEENSRŸCHE.

JUDAS PRIEST's first Polish gig, a sold out event scheduled for Katowice on 6th April, was cancelled due to the death of John Paul II as the President of Poland declared all entertainment venues must cancel their shows in respect of five days of official mourning. Unfortunately the gig was unable to be re-scheduled. Spanish gigs in Madrid, Coruña, Zaragosa and Barcelona saw fellow veterans BARON ROJO as openers. Japanese headline dates in May included a show at Tokyo's Budokan on the 18th, this gig, in front of 10,000 fans, being filmed for DVD release entitled 'Rising In The East'.

Following the US tour, launching 30th May at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a second round of shows was projected for Europe, including headliners at Germany's 'Wacken Open Air' festival and the Spanish 'Metalway' event, but these gigs never transpired. As it transpired a second US leg would be followed up by South American gigs in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Puerto Rico and Argentina allied with WHITESNAKE in September. North American shows in October had ANTHRAX as openers.

KK Downing broke tradition by putting in his first ever non-JUDAS PRIEST guest session on an album when he appeared on the tracks 'War No More' and 'Deceiver' on the YNGWIE MALMSTEEN/ex-BLACKMORE'S NIGHT bassist Mick Cervino's VIOLENT STORM album 'Violent Storm'.

JUDAS PRIEST, ROB ZOMBIE and ANTHRAX teamed up for a one off "Priest Feast" on 30th October at the Long Beach Arena. JUDAS PRIEST rounded off the year by hitting new territories for the band, with shows in Ukraine, Russia, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

JUDAS PRIEST's only 2006 show came at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall on 31st March. The show, backed by the SCORPIONS, IAN GILLAN and BONED, was held in tribute to the late Radio One DJ Tommy Vance, host of 'The Friday Rock Show' and to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust. The band closed their set with a rousing 'Take On The World', not performed onstage since 1979, featuring onstage guests such as Klaus Meine of the SCORPIONS and IAN GILLAN.

On April 6th JUDAS PRIEST put out an announcement that their next album would be an entirely conceptual work based upon the prophecies of Nostradameus. The band performed at the first annual VH1 'Rock Honors' televised show, to "salute the groundbreaking bands of rock, the once-in-a-lifetime events and the influential people who made a lasting mark on the history of hard rock", held on May 26th at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Events Center to pay tribute to the achievements of KISS, QUEEN, DEF LEPPARD and JUDAS PRIEST. GODSMACK delivered a medley of 'Hell Bent For Leather', 'Metal Gods', 'The Hellion', 'Electric Eye' and 'Victim Of Changes' before JUDAS PRIEST took the stage for 'Breaking The Law' and 'You've Got Another Thing Coming'.

In February 2007, whilst JUDAS PRIEST busied themselves on new album recordings, former singer Tim Owens laid down his vocals on a cover version of JUDAS PRIEST's 'Exciter' at Diamond Recording and Productions in Houston, Texas for a tribute set. Owens was accompanied by Bobby Blotzer, RATT drummer and co-owner of the Diamond facility, Jerry Scott and Gregg Gill on guitar.

In June 2008 'Nostradamus' sold 42,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at no. 11 on The Billboard 200 chart. This marked the band's highest-ever chart position in the USA. Elsewhere in the world 'Nostradamus' hit no. 3 in Finland, 9 in Canada, 16 in Australia, 26 in Spain and 30 in the UK.

In what was undoubtedly the strongest Heavy Metal touring package in many years, JUDAS PRIEST teamed up with HEAVEN AND HELL, MOTÖRHEAD and TESTAMENT for a 16 date 'Metal Masters' North American tour kicking off on August 6th 2008, by which juncture 'Nostradamus' had shifted over 80,000 copies in the USA. By the close of the year 'Nostradamus' had sold in excess of half a million copies worldwide.

Summer 2009 US concerts, commencing 29th June at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, were conducted as a package with co-headliners WHITESNAKE. The group also announced an intention to celebrate 'British Steel's 30th anniversary with a series of concerts performing the classic album in its entirity. Somewhat strangely as it transpired 'British Steel' was originally released in April 1980, making the tour marking its actual 29th anniversary.

The concert album, 'A Touch Of Evil: Live', was released on 14th July. 'A Touch of Evil: Live' sold around 5,300 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at no. 87 on The Billboard 200 chart. Meantime, lavish plans to deliver the entire 'Nostradamus' concept live were scrapped.

Rob Halford, guitarist SLASH, of GUNS N' ROSES, drummer Jason Bonham, guitar player Steve Lukather, of TOTO, and KEITH EMERSON performed as an "all star" band at the 95.5 KLOS Mark And Brian Christmas Show at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday 16th December 2009.


Garry Sharpe-Young

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