KK Downing - Judas Priest

 

Formed in the early 1970's by guitarist KK Downing and bassist Ian Hill. In 1974 Judas Priest toured abroad for the first time in Germany and the Netherlands, and returned home to a record contract with the small UK label Gull. The band made their vinyl debut with Rocka Rolla in September 1974. Disappointed with the recording, the band failed to make any impact, and drummer John Hinch left to be replaced by Alan Moore. In 1975 the band's appearance at the Reading Festival brought them to the attention of a much wider audience. The second Priest release, Sad Wings Of Destiny was a huge advance for the band on all fronts, with production assistance from Jeffrey Calvert and Max West. Sad Wings Of Destiny not only heralded in a new sound for the band, but is considered by Metal historians to be the first modern Metal album, in that the plodding bluesy roots of Hard Rock and early Metal were for the first time shed, and gave way on Sad Wings Of Destiny to a new, harder edge sound not previously heard. At the forefront of this sound was the metallic, balls out twin guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, who were the first bonafide guitar team, and who would be widely copied in years to come. However, despite good reviews, their financial situation remained desperate, and Alan Moore left for the second and final time. A worldwide contract with CBS Records saved the day, and their first major label release, Sin After Sin was a strong collection, with session man Simon Philips sitting in for Moore. The band then visited America for the first time with drummer Les Binks, who appeared on Stained Class, an album that showed Priest at a high watermark in their powers. Killing Machine(released as Hell Bent For Leather in the U.S.)  yielded the first UK hit single, "Take On The World", and featured shorter, punchier, but still familiar, heavy rock songs. The formidable live album, Unleashed In The East was recorded on the 1979 Japanese tour, and in that year, Binks was replaced on drums by Dave Holland of Trapeze.

After major tours with both Kiss and AC/DC, Judas Priest's popularity began to gather momentum. British Steel smashed into the UK Top 5, and included the Top 20 singles "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight". After appearing at the 1980 Donnington Festival, they began recording Point Of Entry. It provided the hit single "Hot Rockin", and was followed by sell-out UK and US tours. The period surrounding Screaming For Vengeance was phenomenally successful for the band. The hit single, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", was followed by a lucrative six-month US tour, with the album achieving platinum status in the USA. Defenders Of The Faith offered a similar potent brand of headstrong metal to Screaming For Vengeance. Turbo, however, proved slightly more commercial and was poorly received, Judas Priest's traditional metal fans reacting with indifference to innovations that included the use of synthesized guitars. Ram It Down attempted a return to Heavy Metal, but by now the band's popularity had begun to wane. Scott Travis (ex-Racer X) replaced Dave Holland for the screaming 1990 return to form that was called Painkiller. Although no longer universally popular, Judas Priest were still a major live attraction and remained the epitome of Metal, with screaming guitars matched by the ultimate screaming vocalist, Rob Halford, and remain to this day Metal icons clad in studs and black leather.

The band was taken to court in 1990 following the suicide of two fans in December 1985. Both CBS Records and Judas Priest were accused of inciting suicide through the "backwards messages" in their recording of the Spooky Tooth classic, "Better By You, Better Than Me". They were found not guilty in June 1993 after a long court battle, Downing admitting: "It will be another 10 years before I can even spell subliminal". Soon afterwards, Halford became disheartened with the band and decided to quit. He had temporarily fronted an Ozzy Osbourne-less Black Sabbath and recorded "Light Comes Out Of The Black" with Pantera for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer soundtrack, as well as working on his Fight project. He debuted his new band, the electronic rock outfit Two(produced by Trent Reznor) in 1996, and later returned to his Metal roots by forming the highly successful Halford, which would ultimately pave the path for his rejoining Priest several years later.

Judas Priest continued to record during Halfords' absence with 1997's Jugulator, and 2001's Demolition, featuring new vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens. Owens had spent several years performing in a Judas Priest tribute band, and was recruited after performing just one song at an audition in London. 2004 marked a monumental moment in the history of the world's greatest Heavy Metal band, as Halford and Judas Priest repaired their broken ties thereby reuniting the band. A triumphant return to the world stage was set by headlining the 2004 Ozzfest tour, and 2005 saw the band unleash a new album, titled Angel Of Retribution and a full scale world tour that reaffirms the bands dominence atop the Metal landscape.

 

 

KK circa 1980

 

 
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