Wednesday, March 4, 2009

hell bent for pleather

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Judas Priest rocks "The Ripper"

As you might tell from the title of this blog, I enjoy the musical diversions of Judas Priest. As soon as Tipper Gore and her PMRC idiots put them on the hitlist for songs like "Eat Me Alive" and "Devil's Child," I decided to buy everything I could find. See, parents? Banning stuff doesn't work. If you don't remember the PMRC, Al Gore's wife decided that "porn rock" was a threat worth Congress's time, and soon the Senate was reading lyrics by obscure bands like The Mentors into the record. Frank Zappa immortalized it by making a song of politicians reading profane lyrics called Porn Wars, after he was one of the few rockers to stand up and speak before Congress. It was a sham to get people scared about their children, and thanks to that, those tiny "Parental Guidance - Explicit Lyrics" appear on some CDs.
Rob Halford

Judas Priest responded with "Parental Guidance," a song declaring that we don't need none. In 1998, after 24 years of heading Judas Priest, Rob Halford came out of the closet. But let's face it, we all knew. How could we not? Rob's stage persona is somewhere between the biker from the Village People, and Wez from The Road Warrior (who's gay, if you recall). He's as hell bent for leather as they come. And yeah, that title is a lyric from the manly theme song to Rawhide, where Clint Eastwood played ramrod Rowdy Yates. His job title was actually listed as "ramrod."
The dude from the Village People

So Rob's gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's actually pretty cool that Judas Priest remain the Metal Gods, having sold 35 million records, with an openly gay lead singer. I think it shows that Joe Headbanger is more tolerant than the Oscars, who flipped Brokeback and Milk the bird, to honor good, but lesser movies. Speaking of Metal Gods, the movie Rock Star with Markie Mark was originally titled Metal God, and was based on Judas Priest's search for a new lead singer when Rob took a break for a few years and did solo stuff. He's back with the band now, and their latest two albums- Angel of Retribution, and this year's Nostradamus, a 2-disc concept album based on the life of the famed seer- are some of their best.

Diamonds and Rust

Milky clued me in to the amusing anecdote that gives this post its title. It's told on Wikipedia (so it must be true!!!) that PETA approached Judas Priest and asked them to change the title of their album to Hell Bent for Pleather, to dissuade their fans from wearing leather. Apparently, the band all wear fake leather on stage. That probably has more to do with the smell of sweaty leather than veganism, but I wouldn't care if the Priest were all vegans either. As long as they don't sing about it. After all, one of their early rockers was called "Grinder," which is what they call a sub sandwich in some parts of the country.
Grinder
Looking for meat
Grinder
Wants you to eat
We also have Judas Priest to thank for putting a nail in the coffin of the "Subliminal rock lyrics" urban legend. In 1985 two idiots got drunk while listening to Hell Bent for Leather and got hell bent to eat shotgun. One died and the other was too stupid to even kill himself properly. He and his family sued Judas Priest, alleging that subliminal lyrics in the songs urged their fans to kill themselves. It was never said why the band would choose such a bad business model, but thankfully it got thrown out of court. That ended that, and the only backwards message I remember finding on a record in the '80s was on Weird Al's "Nature Trail to Hell in 3-D," where he says "Satan eats cheez whiz."


The Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown)

Rob Halford and Judas Priest- which takes its band name from a Bob Dylan song, the Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"- continue to make some of the best heavy metal out there. Yeah I still say "heavy" metal. Old farts never change. If you want to hear a rockin' reworking of a Joan Baez or Fleetwood Mac song, or listen to a singer with a 4 octave vocal range rock his heart out, dipping into prog rock now and then but never betraying their metal roots even when a synthesizer was added in the mid-80s fro Turbo, Judas Priest is your band. They never take themselves too seriously. The Green Manalishi would not approve.

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