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Get a backstage pass and see Judas Priest like you’ve never seen them before in this electrifying memoir by the band’s cofounder and former lead guitarist.
Judas Priest formed in the industrial city of Birmingham, England, in 1969. With its distinctive twin-guitar sound, studs-and-leather image, and international sales of over 50 million records, Judas Priest became the archetypal heavy metal band in the 1980s. Iconic tracks like "Breaking the Law," "Living after Midnight," and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" helped the band achieve extraordinary success, but no one from the band has stepped out to tell their or the band's story until now.
As the band approaches its golden anniversary, fans will at last be able to delve backstage into the decades of shocking, hilarious, and haunting stories that surround the heavy metal institution. In Heavy Duty, guitarist K.K. Downing discusses the complex personality conflicts, the business screw-ups, the acrimonious relationship with fellow heavy metal band Iron Maiden, as well as how Judas Priest found itself at the epicenter of a storm of parental outrage that targeted heavy metal in the '80s. He also describes his role in cementing the band's trademark black leather and studs image that would not only become synonymous with the entire genre, but would also give singer Rob Halford a viable outlet by which to express his sexuality. Lastly, he recounts the life-changing moment when he looked at his bandmates on stage during a 2009 concert and thought, "This is the last show." Whatever the topic, whoever's involved, K.K. doesn't hold back.
Downing, guitarist and founding member of the British heavy metal band Judas Priest, delivers a thoughtful account of his 40-year career with the group. He writes of his early life growing up amid the "grit and grime" of West Bromwich, near the industrial city of Birmingham. He developed an interest in music and, at age 15, in 1966, he dropped out of school, found a job as a chef trainee, and devoted his free time to playing guitar. Three years later he auditioned for and made the band that evolved into Judas Priest. Downing focuses on how he was "diligent about my craft" and the "more fixed idea of the direction I wanted the music to go in." The band signed with Sony and in 1978 released its breakout record, Hell Bent for Leather, and throughout the 1970s and '80s, turned out 11 records ("With Screaming for Vengeance we demonstrated that we were on an absolute roll from a song writing perspective"). Despite the band's success, however, Downing writes that it "massively underachieved" financially and creatively through many missed opportunities. Downing's detailed and earnest look at Judas Priest's career successfully shows how it achieved its main artistic goal to empower its audience with a "sense of freedom and power" through its music.