Cassius Clay was hated
More than Sonny Liston
Some like K.K. Downing
More than Glenn Tipton
Some like Jim Nabors
Some Bobby Vinton
I like 'em all.
* * *
But I especially like K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. I can't remember whether I was watching Bert Sugarman's Midnight Special or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, but it was past my bedtime in 1979 when I saw Rob Halford drive a Harley Davidson out onto the stage as Judas Priest pounded out "Hell Bent for Leather". To the extent it's possible, my tastes back then -- I was not yet old enough to drive to the record store -- were more pedestrian than they are today, although I was not as self-consciously proud of my vulgar leanings then. Judas Priest would have played that song -- with Glenn and K.K. trading leads, as was their practice -- and the show would have cut to commercial. I was transfixed by the spectacle to the point that I can't remember who played next. Probably Christopher Cross or the Atlanta Rhythm Section or some such. Maybe it was something good though. There was a lot of great music that came out that year. 'The Wall' was everywhere, and all the cool people were listening to 'London Calling' (I knew one Clash song then). The Police and Joe Jackson were actually becoming famous. But 1979 saw some classic albums by less famous bands like The Specials, Joy Division, and Gang of Four. It would be some years before I'd ever hear of these people. Johnny Rotten already had formed a new band. Cheap Trick did their Budokan record.
For me, though, 1979 happened when Judas Priest came back for their second song, 'Green Manalishi'. To me, it was, and in many ways remains, pure heavy metal. And I don't even know what the hell a manalishi is. Oh, and to the extent you don't know, K.K. Downing is the one who looks like David St. Hubbins.
It would be decades before I came to know that this song, with such ridiculously awesome lyrics like "the night is so black that the darkness cooks", was a freaking cover! Of a Fleetwood Mac song! It was from the Peter Green version of the band, and is just a phenomenal piece of psychedelia. I found a beautifully stretched out version of it, which is below.
I love it when bands cover other bands' songs, especially, as here, where they respectfully rearrange a great song and then play it like they mean it.
Anyway, Judas Priest was a true music milepost for me. And it ended up being the only brush I had with parental censorship. A year or so later, I asked my mom to take me to the mall so I could go to the Record Bar and buy a new album. She waited in the car while I ran in, and in a couple of minutes I came out with my copy of "British Steel". My mom looked sourly at the hand with the razor blade emblazoned with "JUDAS PRIEST".
"What is that? Some sort of devil worshiper music?"