Judas Priest is easily one of the most celebrated and influential metal bands of all time. With eighteen studio albums and counting, the band helped to set the foundations of heavy metal way back in the early seventies, along side Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. As the decades changed, so did their sound, made evident in the bluesy licks of 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and double bass intensity of 1990’s Painkiller. Even 2018’s Firepower still packs a punch, showing that age is irrelevant to these Gods of metal! Sure, most are familiar with the hit singles “Breaking The Law” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, but only the hardcore fans will know these five strange facts from the group’s extensive career.
01. The Original Judas Priest Lineup Had No Familiar Faces
– Judas Priest was actually founded by vocalist Al Atkins, bassist Brian Stapenhill, guitarist John Perry and drummer John Partridge. The name “Judas Priest” was thought of by Stapenhill and taken from the Bob Dylan track “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.” After a brief dissolution in 1970, Atkins incorporated the band Freight into the new Judas Priest lineup, which included longtime members Glenn Tipton and Ian Hill on guitar and bass respectively.
Sadly, Atkins had to leave the band in 1972 to support his young family, leading to his replacement by the now legendary Rob Halford. But his legacy remains in a few co-written tracks on their first two albums Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny, including the fan-favourite “Victim of Changes”.
Watch Glenn Tipton playing “Breaking The Law” with Judas Priest in New Jersey last month
02. The Band’s Trademark Leather-Clad Image Comes from Underground Gay Culture
– By 1979, the band shed their psychedelic imagery in exchange for their iconic leather style that came to define 80’s metal fashion. Rob Halford was inspired by some the fashion seen in the gay community, which he was then secretly a part of. Since coming out in 1998, Halford had commented that the leather was simply a means of matching their image to their sound and was not meant as a statement on the gay community as a whole. Either way, the leather look remains widespread in metal, not to mention pretty bad-ass.
03. The Band was Accused of Placing Subliminal Messages that Lead to a Fan’s Suicide
– In 1984, fans James Vance and Raymond Belknap turned a gun on themselves in a suicide pact after consuming alcohol, smoking cannabis, and allegedly listening to the Priest’s 1978 album Stained Class. Severely disfigured, Vance survived the attempt and claimed to have heard a message telling them to “do it” within the Spooky Tooth cover “Better By You Better Than Me”. Vance later died from complications caused by his injuries in 1987. In 1990, the band was cleared in a highly sensationalized civil action, which was likely motivated by moral panic surrounding heavy metal music at the time.
04. Former Drummer Dave Holland was Later a Convicted Pedophile
– Dave Holland played on every Priest album from the 80’s, which included some of their most iconic hits. In 2003, Holland was found guilty of attempting to rape a wheelchair-bound teenager with a learning disability who was receiving drum lessons. He spent eight years in prison and continued to maintain his innocence until his death in January of 2018.
05. Glenn Tipton had Been Dealing with Parkinson’s Disease for 10 Years Before Going Public
– Priest’s legendary and influential guitarist Glenn Tipton was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. He had kept his diagnosis a private affair during a 10-year period, which included three albums and multiple tours. Back in February, Tipton revealed his condition and announced he would not be present for the remaining dates of their current tour, though he has made a couple of appearances. At age 70, Tipton is still an official member of Judas Priest and will possibly write and record with the band on future albums.
See Rob Halford singing “Better By You Better Than Me” during the court proceedings.