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December 1978 •
February 1979 •
July 1979 • August 1979
HELL BENT FOR LEATHER
"Judas Priest tears off the cloth
and puts on the leather."
"We felt that we wanted to put more tracks on this album and I think it had
got to the point where a lot of heavy metal bands were putting sort of three
tracks on one side with four on the other, doing great big dramatic numbers,
and we just wanted to get as much of our style across to the people as we
possibly could on a 12" platter; and so we did sort of five tracks a side -
10 tracks, which really is a good cross-section of our material. We feel
it's the best album to date. It gives people a really good inside and
cross-section of our music. We're really pleased with this album."
Direction: Dave Hemmings, Arnakata Ltd.
Produced and Engineered by James Guthrie; Co-Produced by Judas Priest
Certification: RIAA Gold November 10, 1989
Cover Design: Roslav Szaybo
Emphasizing the new look of the band, CBS Records' graphics designer Roslav Szaybo placed a studded leather biker headgear and bloodstained shattered goggles on a mannequin head to produce the cold "killing machine" look of the title. And when Columbia Records had the title changed for America, the image seemed to fit all the more!
Roslav retained the logo he created for Stained Class, but added another point to the "Judas" electric underline (giving it 6 "jaggies" instead of 5) and a shorter bridge to "Priest". This would go on to be the most well-known and celebrated logo in Priest's history.
Killing Machine is the first album that Judas Priest made actual lip-sync promotional videos for. Though never before publicly released, they have appeared on TV and as clips on the METAL WORKS video. Most of the footage is from the 1978 and early 1979 world tours. Some is from lip-synced BBC TV appearances on TOP OF THE POPS and some is "staged" footage.
The TOP OF THE POPS videos for "Take On The World" and "Evening Star" are currently available on the ELECTRIC EYE DVD 2003 Sony Music Entertainment/Columbia Music Video (UK Cat. # 2021939, US Cat. # CVD 51411)
OCTOBER 1978: Bring forth the leather!
The music was not all that was streamlined on KILLING MACHINE... As part of the rollout campaign, the band would have a new image to coincide with the album cover and songs within, thanks to an idea from Rob Halford. Though only the band members and management knew at the time, Rob had a personal bent towards a leather makeover:
The look would set the pace for other bands to follow, and follow they did! Many British heavy metal bands donned their leather armor; Iron Maiden's Paul Di'Anno for example, would even emerge dressed in an outfit quite similar to Rob's, while guitarist Dave Murray resembled a blond leather-clad K.K. Downing:
In spite of K.K.'s reservations, Priest did retain the rightful status of being the originators of the look. It was also important that metal now had an image, and it came not a moment too late!
The punk rock scene had reached its stride in England and heavy metal needed to make an impact at this opportune juncture. But with bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath falling apart, it was not going to be easy...
Then along came Halford, decked out in more leather, chains and studs than the punk crowd, and stealing the show. Almost overnight, a new wave had begun... No, not skinny ties and keyboards... This was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM for short, a term first coined by Sounds magazine editor "Big Al" Alan Lewis and printed by writer Geoff "Deaf" Barton in the May 19, 1979 issue), waving the metal banner and taking no prisoners! KILLING MACHINE even had enough of its own element of punk's reckless abandon and pop's radio savvy to help push heavy metal to the top of the charts!
Not only did this new order of metal invade England and Europe, but the following year, it would take a firm hold on America, whose hard rock acts would bow at the feet of the British masters. School was in session!
DECEMBER 1978: Priest "Take On The World"
In December, the label released the band's second single, "Take On The World" which broke the UK's Top 20 charts by the start of 1979:
Soccer fans also began chanting the anthem at matches around England, and it broke the band to TV for the first time since 1975. It was the band's first appearance on the weekly hit show Top Of The Pops, but the show's producer was against Rob using his bullwhip as a stage prop:
Even the stage show itself brought its share of controversy for Rob and the band:
During the 1979 tour, when the band played "Genocide", Rob would use his bullwhip on the front rows of the audience - or so it seemed to the media who were shocked at the seeming behavior! Consequently, there were bad reviews and outrages against the act in magazines such as Sounds, to which Rob responded:
Soon after, the band had buttons made up
that proclaimed, "I've been whipped by Rob Halford" and the fans went crazy for
Another prop used by Rob during the song "Genocide" was a machine gun, which he would "fire" upon the audience:
From October through November '78, the UK got to experience the reborn and fine-tuned Judas Priest, but the album had not yet been released to the US market. An early '79 US tour was set to coincide with the North American release of the album and CBS Records wanted to make a couple of changes to help promote things. The first change was to add a cover song to use for radio play. Of course Priest always liked to cover British hits with their own signature style, so after considering several titles (Gary Sharpe-Young mentioned the title Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" in Metal Forces magazine, though K.K. denies this song was ever attempted by Priest), they laid down Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac classic "The Green Manalishi", which went on to become a staple of their concert sets ever since:
The other change had to do with the album's title.
CBS/Columbia Records did not like the violent title Killing Machine for the American market, citing the title as having "murderous implications" that were too offensive to have displayed on store shelves (department store such as K-Mart were big opponents to the title), so the title of the Glenn Tipton song "Hell Bent For Leather" (appropriate for the band's image) was chosen instead, and the album was released in the States in February 1979, along with the US tour as planned.
A little known fact is that Rob also wrote a book around this time that never has been published. Sebastian Bach brought it up in his interview with Rob on VH1's Forever Wild, but that portion was cut from the show:
JULY 1979: Tom Allom comes aboard; Les Binks leaves
"Colonel" Tom Allom had engineered the first four Black Sabbath albums and was working for the same management company as Judas Priest (Arnakata Management) in the summer of '79, when Priest decided to make their first live recording. Allom was asked to be the producer because of his heavy metal experience, but it would form a relationship that would last a decade:
During this period while the live recordings were being mixed, the band and Allom noticed something they wanted to change in both their live and studio approach: The live show was where Priest had their most dynamic impact, but the drumming of Les Binks was from a more technical approach that had served them well in the studio, yet was not in step with the live energy of their performance. It was also decided that Priest wanted to bring the assault of their dynamics into their next studio releases as well, but the change would not be suited to Les Binks, who agreed that he would not be able to alter his style. Therefore, Judas Priest and Les Binks amicably parted company:
AUGUST 1979: Dave Holland joins
Dave came to Priest from a recording background, having a hit with Pinkerton's
Assorted Colors ("Mirror, Mirror") as well as albums and touring with Trapeze,
Justin Hayward and Glenn Hughes. Upon joining Judas Priest however, he was
immediately put to the test on a US tour as openers to the renowned Kiss!
Delivering The Goods
Hell Bent For Leather
Take On The World
Delivering The Goods
Feeling like we're, ready to kick tonight
Well we don't pull no punches, we aim where the crunch is
3. Evening Star
In the early '80s, Paradise Valley, Arizona resident Danny Zelisko started up what would become one of the biggest concert promotion companies in the southwest states of Arizona, New Mexico and Las Vegas. Is it any surprise where he came up with the name EVENING STAR PRODUCTIONS? OK, so it may have been the clear desert skies that inspired the name, but Zelisko was also a fan of rock music, including this song by Judas Priest! Danny is now president of Clear Channel Entertainment's Phoenix office and a partner with Alice Cooper in Alice's COOPER'STOWN.
I traveled to a distant shore
4. Hell Bent For Leather
Seek him here, seek him on the highway
5. Take On The World
You got to leave your seat, you gotta get up
upon your feet
You stitch me up good, and you cut me down
The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)
Now when the day goes to sleep and the full
I never give no answers, I never tell no lies
What manner of man am I?
9. Running Wild
I move as fast as I can
Before The Dawn
Before the dawn, I hear you whisper
Lead: licks K.K., slide lead Glenn, end K.K.
Performed live in: 1979
Available live versions: "Living After Midnight" 12" B-side (1980)
We turn and face each other
For Your Life
Get a grip on the action
All songs published by EMI Songs Ltd.
TOUR DATES 1978:
Rob Halford - v, Glenn Tipton - g, K.K. Downing - g, Ian Hill
- b, Les Binks - d
The setlist is unknown, but "Killing Machine" was played during this time.
TOUR DATES 1979: Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather Tour
Rob Halford - v, - Glenn Tipton - g, K.K. Downing - g,
Ian Hill - b, Les Binks - d
SETLIST (Orange titles are from the current album)
From the February 15, 1979 Nakano Sunplaza Hall,
Tokyo, Japan show (Recorded for Unleashed In The East):
From the November 4, 1979 Palladium
New York, NY broadcast:
Steel & Leather Productions, U.S.A.