Saturday, June 20, 1987 is a very special day in my metal history. That was the day before the mighty JUDAS PRIEST would release their second live album, Priest…Live! What’s funny about this is that even though I didn’t have any kind of connections with bands or PR firms the way I do now, I STILL managed to get it in my hands a day ahead of release. One of my local vendors hooked me up and sold it to me a day before it came out. I biked home top speed and immediately put it on my turntable. THIS was a Holy Grail of an album for me. A two-record live set with gatefold cover of fucking JUDAS PRIEST??? I would have cut my wrists and signed in blood for this one!
As an added bonus, this was the day before my Ames Junior High School graduation, and one of my closest friends and brothers in this world, and at the time my across the street neighbor, Frankie was sleeping over that night. You best believe we listened to this fucking thing over and over till we finally passed out. We also snuck downstairs while Mom was asleep to catch the premiere of a live video on Headbangers Ball before we fell out. Oh, and we ALSO made copies on the trusty Maxell XL-II 90’s for Walkman listens that night, you kidding me?!? This had all the makings of an amazing weekend, people.
Now, before we go any further, know this: I don’t really give a shit what your gripes may be about Turbo, the ensuing Fuel For Life Tour, or this outstanding live album. Because this was a very special time for me, and one that came with a ton of heartbreak. You see, I lost my father on May 16, 1987. It was less than a month after he was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer, and both Turbo and Priest…Live! will always remind me of him. Because those are the albums that helped me get through him being in the hospital and his passing. So…do we understand each other? Good. You can keep reading or check out now, no one will be mad at you.
The songs on this record, recorded at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia, and Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas (my second home!) just hit you right in the chest and you can simply FEEL there’s something magical happening. From opener “Out In the Cold”, through “Heading Out to the Highway” (my favorite version), “Metal Gods”, and “Breaking the Law” (THE best version of this song EVER fucking recorded!!) the band simply grabs and shakes the shit out of you. Guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are on fire, while bassist Ian Hill and drummer Dave Holland hold down the thunderous bottom end, and of course The Metal God Rob Halford wails away like a banshee!
Think about this, okay? A double live album on vinyl means you get to flip not one, but TWO records over and hear that sweet, sweet sound of the needle hitting vinyl…there’s nothing like it. Side Two of this amazing concert opens with “Love Bites”, which is one of my all-time favorite JUDAS PRIEST songs for 31 years now. And Halford’s final scream still gets me every time. “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” and “The Sentinel” are next and they are both mind-blowing. In fact, the lead breaks on “The Sentinel” are every bit as fast and furious as they are on tape. I know, because I’ve witnessed it live, and it is life-changing.
“Private Property” and Side Three opener “Rock You All Around the World” are two of my favorites from Turbo, so to see them represented here in such ass-kicking fashion is pretty cool. Shortly after this record came out, my Uncle Ronnie (my Dad’s best friend) had me come out to Manorville to spend the weekend with him and his family. This was the first of many great weekend visits, and something he did to help me have a father figure after mine passed, and I am forever grateful to you, Uncle Ronnie, for doing that. It means more than I can ever put into words. “The Hellion/Electric Eye” is absolutely amazing, the band is firing on all cylinders, and quite frankly I was sat there waiting for my speakers to explode.
“Turbo Lover” is one of the greatest songs in PRIEST history (Keith’s favorite), fuck you if you don’t get it. And here, live, it is fucking awesome!! Oh, and we follow that with “Freewheel Burning”?? Well, let’s just singe everybody’s eyebrows off while we’re at it, hey?? Side Four concludes with “Parental Guidance”, long a favorite of mine, and the one-two punch of “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” Those last two songs are seven and eight minutes respectively. Why? Because Rob Halford is gonna get you into a sing-along, and you’re gonna sing at the top of your lungs. Every fucking time. When this album ends, I always have to start it again because back in 1987 I felt like I was there. And the same holds true today.
The weekend I picked up Priest…Live! was one of highs and lows. I was so happy that I got the record in my little paws a day early, and that Frankie was gonna sleep over the night before we graduated. But at the same time I missed my Dad. And when no one was looking, I cried. I cried a lot. I didn’t want Mom to see me because I wanted to be strong for her, but yeah, this was a tough time for me. I will always be happy for the memories that me and my boys back home shared rockin’ to this album, and this will always be one of those records that makes me think of my Father. Daddy, I miss you so much to this day, and I wish I could be half the man you were. For all of these reasons, Priest…Live! will forever be enshrined in Classic Albums Live. ~dc