In the February/March 2022 issue of Goldmine, we caught up with Judas Priest’s iconic frontman Rob Halford for an extensive, in-depth look back on the influential band’s 50 years of metal excellence.
Halford and Priest were fresh off the release of their career-spanning Reflections box set, and the singer was eager to share some wild stories from throughout the years. One particularly interesting anecdote was Halford’s first-ever onstage motorcycle ride, a bit that has become a beloved staple in their live shows.
Throughout the years Halford has roared onstage astride a Harley-Davidson for the intro to “Hell Bent for Leather.” It’s a stunning moment, as well as a somewhat dangerous one. The singer has experienced a couple spills, most notably in 1991 at the Toronto stop on their Painkiller tour where he collided with the drum riser and suffered a broken nose. But mostly, it's awesome, classic Judas Priest theatricality that cause the fans to go wild.
Below, Halford takes us back to ground zero, and recounts his first-ever transformative ride.
“There was a moment when we first had the song 'Hell Bent for Leather,’ and we’re at a club, somewhere in U.K., still making our sound happen in any venue we could play in. And we pulled up and there were bikers parked outside the venue, down the alley and stuff. I said out of the blue, ‘It would be very cool if we could bring a motorcycle out during “Hell Bent for Leather.”’ I go and speak to a couple of bikers and told them what the idea was. ‘Yeah, yeah. But his isn’t that big, use mine.’”
“So, I had the bike, and I had a leather jacket,” he continues. “I put a leather jacket on, and it was like an epiphany. It was a very unplanned epiphany. Everything seemed to feel 100 percent connected at that particular show. And then, that was it. You walk off stage going, ‘Something’s happened’ — you know. Now we have the whole manifestation of the look, the sound, the feel, it has all coalesced through that bike. It was like a simple On the Waterfront moment. Marlon Brando and all these things that have already preceded you, but in a non-musical way. Here it is. And that’s all she wrote. The fans loved it. They totally went ballistic.”