What can I tell ya ... I was just never into Metal.
Some of my all-time favorite bands pioneered Metal (Who, Zep, Hendrix, some Sab), but, Metal Metal ... nahhh ... just way too Spinal Tap for me.
Until the Summer of 1984.
That July/August/September, every Wednesday and Thursday, my two days off from the record store I was helping run in the East Village, I'd be lounging on the beach out on Fire Island. I had a time share on a bedroom in a beach house a two minute walk to the ocean. Every week, I had the house to myself. Everyone else was a normal weekend person. That summer, it rained nine out of twelve Saturday/Sundays and only two out of twelve Wednesday/Thursdays. By September, everyone in that time-share hated me. Anyway, all that summer, as I lay on my towel watching the waves come in and almost naked people stroll by, I listened to two, and only two, cassettes. Prince "Purple Rain" (The Album of 1984), and ... Judas Priest "Screaming For Vengeance."
I don't recall exactly how this happened.
Maybe it was the fact that the Judas Priest "Point Of Entry" album six months earlier had been a pleasant surprise. Maybe it was the fact that I'd gone back to "British Steel" when a used copy floated into the store and was pleasantly surprised by that album, too. The first time we got a promo copy, I put on a "Screaming For Vengeance" at the record store and had my mind blown! I was deeply impressed ... and I was not alone. Every guy working that day was like Whoa! Even a few Punk-ish customers wanted to know who we were playing.
Every single track was a beautifully written and arranged hard hard gem. The production and mix was state of the art at that moment. And, for a change from virtually all Metal, the lead guitar work was really SMART and remarkably melodic while being as tough as nails. My biggest problem with Metal was the ridiculous histrionics of the singers. Priest's Rob Halford did it all elegantly somehow. I couldn't get enough!
I saw Judas Priest live for the first time at The Palladium that fall. Iron Maiden opened and, sorry, I was distinctly underwhelmed. The audience loved them. I was not enjoying myself and started to wonder if I was gonna wish I'd stayed home when Iron Maiden got an encore.
I spent intermission enjoying the Metal crowd the way an anthropologist would, staring and studying. For the record, it's not a pop culture myth ... Metal crowds are scary!
One quick personal example ... I went to see Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent at Madison Square Garden in 1976, coincidentally, with the same pal, David, who I went to see David Bowie with at Radio City Music Hall in 1973 . Between Nugent's set and Sabbath taking the stage, someone threw a lit M-80 (an 1/8 of a stick of dynamite) from the nose bleed seats. I happened to be looking up at the time and saw it fly over my head and land about eight rows down from us. It went off about two seconds later. Two kids, one of them screaming, had to be taken out by EMTs.
Anyway, half an hour after Maiden left the stage, the lights finally went down and ... truth be told, within about 30 seconds, Judas Priest frickin' obliterated Iron Maiden. Like dropping an anvil on a cockroach. I could sense that all the kids who'd been going bonkers for Iron Maiden felt it too. There was a suddenly subtle awe-vibe in the air, like everyone gasping together. And ... in a very confident and ballsy move, Judas Priest started with a dark molasses-slow song.
I was already an utterly jaded guitar playing ass, and I was awestruck.
Singer Rob Halford strolled out of the wings about 60 seconds into the opener's intro. A genuinely commanding presence. He was dressed exactly and precisely like a Tom of Finland leather-and-bondage freak down to the little retro 1950s/60s-gay-porn motorcycle cap. That his fans didn't twig to him being gay is a riot. I knew what was up as soon as he got to center-stage. He proceeded to sing in a voice that was so shockingly good, so ultra on-pitch, so clear and strong, that I actually started wondering if he was lip-syncing ... and no, he wasn't. This same thing happened when I saw Halford years later at the Whiskey in LA with his short-lived Avant-Metal band, Fight. Even in a small club, his voice was almost eerily perfect. Technically, the best singer I've ever seen in a rock band, period.
From my 20th row center seat, which I stood on for the entire show (like the rest of the audience), I could see all three right wrists of guitarists and bassist, Glen, KK and Ian. They chugged like a machine. Each in actually perfect sync with the other. These guys must've drilled 4/4 pounding for hours at a time. They were tight to the point of inhuman! So so powerful!! It was one of the heaviest and most entertaining shows I'd ever seen ... and Priest fans were outright WORSHIPFUL! Always a fun vibe to be immersed in.
Anyway, fast forward two years ... to the Summer of 1986 ...
On its very first day, June 22, my girlfriend of nine years calmly and coldly announced that Sunday morning that she no longer loved me and would I please move out. On cue, I went into the worst tailspin of my life.
I stopped eating. I lost weight. I stopped shaving. I stopped playing guitar. I started fistfights with strangers on the streets. I lived on reefer, Stoli in the freezer, green peppers, eaten like apples, and Cheerios out of the box. Raw misery.
Now, by mid-1986, The Palladium had been revamped from the old standard-issue theater (where I'd seen The Rolling Stones with Brian Jones in 1965, and dozens of other bands, including Judas Priest), into what was, that summer, quite literally the most glamorous, prestigious, and Ultra-In disco on Planet Earth. And the decor and lay out was truly innovative. Haring and Scharf and Basquiat decorated entire rooms and hallways. The place was state-of-the-art stunning. You could actually see how much money they'd spent.
By now, every major DJ at The Palladium and the other ultra-hip clubs, Area, The Saint, Boy Bar, were all regular customers of mine at the record store on St. Mark's Place (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/binky-philips/keith-richards-amy-carter_b_780434.html). I'd even gotten to the point where some DJs were bringing in their dozens and dozens of promo 12"s and having me pick out the ones they should keep while selling me the rest. All of them had become friends of mine and all of them concerned about my heartbreak and dishevelment. I was such an obvious casualty! All of them tried to get me out of my hell. All of them permanently put me on their guest lists every weekend that summer. God bless 'em!
So, after closing up the record store at midnight every Friday and Saturday, I'd walk home, get blasted, eat a raw pepper, and wander over to The Palladium, a whole block away from my apartment on 13th St and 3rd Avenue (Fun fact: This particular building, an early 60's "white elephant" with turquoise trim, was known for many years, throughout the music industry as "The Drug Building" because there was at least one major drug dealer on each floor. They were long gone by the time I moved in.)
Sometimes I'd take a cab 2 miles downtown to Area, the other truly hip-chic joint.
Wherever I wound up, Justin or Frankie or Richard or Johnny would immediately give me 3 or 4 drink tickets and I'd then spend hours in their DJ booths watching them spin three records at once, staring at the dancers, and nursing my emotional lacerations with regular infusions of beer and/or vodka. People like Boy George and Princess Stephanie of Monaco and Grace Jones and Run/DMC and Linda Evangelista would stop into the booths and hang around and I wouldn't even acknowledge them... God, I was a mess! But, a very very hip mess in very very hip surroundings.
One night, as I drifted around the full-tilt-at-2AM Palladium, bored with the DJ booth and furtively ogling Sweet Young Things, I spotted a guy with shoulder length shag hair in a very expensive-looking white linen suit jacket and jeans standing in the edge of the dance floor just kinda taking it all in.
As I got closer, I was jolted.
It was Glen fucking Tipton, the fucking lead guitarist of fucking Judas fucking Prieeeesssst!
Without hesitating a nano-second, pleasantly ripped on beer and reefer, I strode up to him, grabbed his left arm, and shouting into his left ear over the deafening dance music, said... and after all these years, I can still do this practically verbatim...
"Mr. Tipton, I'm 33 years old and I'm fucking being a fucking groupie asshole sucking up to a fucking Rock Star. And, I don't give a shit whether you're in the mood or not, motherfucker. I have to tell you this! Your fucking band is the only Metal band I like. Metal fucking SUCKS! Priest is INCREDIBLE! I play guitar, I'm fucking good, kinda sloppy Jimmy Page style. I fucking HATE guys who work out their solos and play them the same every night the way you do... and I fucking LOVE your solos. You're brilliant! I work in a record store on St. Mark's Place in the East Village, the center of the Punk and New Wave Universe. I play Priest all the time down there and I don't give a shit whether anyone gets pissed off. And the fact is, all these green-haired moron holier-than-thou punks and skinny tie New Wave dipshits always come up and ask who I'm playing and then cringe in embarrassment when they find out they were digging Priest. Fuck 'em all! Your singer is one of the best in the world, Dave Holland's drumming makes me dance, you guys are brutally tight, just fucking magnificent! And, now... I'll leave you the fuck alone..."
Glen Tipton looked at me, slowly raised his right hand for me to shake and said, "What... the... fuck... is... your... name, mate!?"
I told him and he said, "I won't be forgettin' you, Binky, you crazy fucker!"
I smiled, said good night, and went on my hazy heartbroken way.
Coda: About 6 months later, a guy from Columbia Records who shopped at the record store gave me a pair of tickets to see Judas Priest at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. Later, that same day, this absolutely ravishing Goth brunette came into the store; imagine Jennifer Connelly or Cindy Crawford with Vampira eye make up and head-to-toe in high-end black leather, rings on every finger, a stunning female figure. She asked me a question about some album, I answered with a joke, and we instantly hit it off. She hung around awhile and I flirted like mad, although still in the throes of my break up. As she was leaving, I took a deep breath and asked her if she liked Judas Priest.
"What?! Of course! I love Judas Priest!"
"Well, I have a pair of tickets to their show tomorrow night. Come with me."
She replied, "Wow, I wish I could. But, I'm in the middle of breaking up with my boyfriend and it might be a bad idea."
"Hey, you're breaking up with him, right. So, come."
She sighed, "My boyfriend is Glen Danzig."
"Yeah... Never mind."
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