"Judas Priest deftly defy death on their latest volcanic
eruption, British Steel. It rocks with a classic heavy-metal vengeance, fueled
by the machine-gun rhythms and crackling guitar attack of punk offspring like
the Ramones and the Damned. The result is a collection of killer cuts.
Management: Mike Dolan, Jim Dawson, Arnakata Ltd. (UK); Arnakata Management Inc. (US)
Recorded at Startling Studios, Ascot, England January - February 1980
Certification: RIAA Gold August 23, 1982; Platinum August 9,
Album Design: Roslav Szaybo
For the band's tribute to their British roots and the defining album of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, CBS Records' Roslav Szaybo created perhaps the most famous and defining of all the Judas Priest album covers for British Steel.
Though a tribute to the Priest's British roots, the cover also made clever use of the most well-known company name where many Midlands folks became part of the workforce. In fact, Glenn Tipton even worked a brief period for the British Steel Corporation, whose stainless steel division produced the popular razor blades depicted on the cover:
British and cutting edge was Roslav's message that won many fans, but the establishment saw too much controversy in the original draft/design idea:
But the band members were not without their own initial reservations about using a razor blade, though for a different reason all-together:
British Steel is also the only album cover where the band's logo was incorporated right into the artwork. All other album covers before and after added the logo as a separate element from the artwork, but for this one, Roslav Szaybo cleverly stretched his Priest logo across the razor blade itself:
Absolut Vodka ran some 'Album Cover Series' advertisements - a collection of famous album artwork modified with the Absolut Vodka bottle incorporated into the images. In 2001, Absolut added an ad featuring the British Steel cover, in which they placed a cutout of their vodka bottle in the center of the razor blade and titled it Absolut Priest:
The BRITISH STEEL album cover was even made into a Chu-bop mini bubble gum record that included the lyrics:
British Steel's campaign included the first full budget concept videos - a full year before there was even an MTV! Directing the videos was Sex Pistols videographer Julien Temple, who has also gone on to direct films such as EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY and video collections for bands such as the Kinks.
Funny enough, the art department made a mistake on this video: They built a cardboard V-neck guitar for the security guard to play, but had placed the "V" upside-down!
Thanks to the rise of both videos on the newly formed MTV, heavy metal and Judas Priest remained popular into the '90s pop culture through two cartoons:
These videos are currently available on the ELECTRIC EYE DVD 2003 Sony Music Entertainment/Columbia Music Video (UK Cat. # 2021939, US Cat. # CVD 51411)
JANUARY 1980: Turning silver (ware) into gold
The band members were quite pleased with the results they got mixing Unleashed In The East at Startling Studios, so they returned to Ringo Starr's house and called in Tom Allom to produce again. Tom had just wrapped up recording the Def Leppard debut album ON THROUGH THE NIGHT earlier that month at the same house.
In a mere 28 days, Allom and Priest would pull out all the stops and record the album that would earn Priest several US firsts, including gold certification and a break into the US Top 40. It would also become their highest ever chart position in the UK at #4!
To fully usher in the new decade and establish themselves further as the prime leaders and innovators of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Priest and Tom Allom wanted to add a visual impact to their sonic pallet, painting pictures through sound effects added to their songs... But as sampled sounds did not yet exist, "Colonel" Allom had to become quite creative and inventive:
The sound of a robot's scythe slashing through the air on "Metal Gods" for example, is actually Rob swinging a billiard cue through the air, with very heavy compression added on by Tom. And the thunder sound at the intro of the song was actually a large door in Ringo's house being slammed, with reverb and compression added. Yet another sound effect was made by whipping a guitar cable against a flight case on the kitchen table, though at first, they tried using Rob's famous bullwhip...
And what of the clanking rhythmic sound of an army of marching robots at the end?
Then there's the shattering glass sound heard in "Breaking The Law". That was the band and producer Tom Allom breaking Ringo Starr's milk and beer bottles on his porch! And the police siren in the song was actually K.K. using his Strat guitar and the whammy bar, along with some of Tom Allom's reverb and compression magic.
The hard work would pay off and Priest would soon be basking in American fame (ironic for a decidedly "British" album title!) and their first gold record.
Unbeknownst to the members and management of Judas Priest, London PR agent Tony McBrain fabricated a story about the upcoming Judas Priest album's master tapes having been stolen and held for ransom (such pranks led to McBrain earning the nickname "No Brain")! Several publications ran the story, such as this reprint by Steve Wall a couple of months before the album's release:
Pounding the world
2. Metal Gods
We've taken too much for granted
Breaking The Law
There I was completely wasting
straight and narrow
So give me hope
6. You Don't Have To Be Old To
I've had enough of being programmed
I go as I please
Living After Midnight
Living after midnight
8. The Rage
From a fire ball we came
Catch the flame now
Red, White & Blue
When I'm far away
All songs published by EMI Songs Ltd.
All songs published by EMI Songs Ltd.
TOUR DATES 1980: British Steel Tour
Rob Halford - v, Glenn Tipton - g, K.K. Downing - g, Ian Hill - b, Dave Holland - d
SETLIST (Orange titles are from the current album)
From the July 7 Calderone Hall, Long Island, New York show:
From the August 16 Monsters Of Rock show at Castle Donington:
Curiously, "Metal Gods" and "Breaking The Law" did not appear in the setlist until the following year!
Steel & Leather Productions, U.S.A.