It’s hard to remember a time when the motorcycle wasn’t part of Judas Priest‘s image, but it actually came about fairly early in the band’s career. In a recent interview with Goldmine Magazine, Rob Halford explained how the motorcycle became part of their live show and his thoughts on what it added to their overall presentation.
Halford recalled, “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. [They responded], ‘Yeah, yeah. But his isn’t that big. Use mine.'”
Halford recalls, “So, I had the bike, and I had a leather jacket. 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.”
He continues, “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.”
That said, Halford’s motorcycle arrivals haven’t always gone as planned. On the last show of the tour supporting Judas Priest’s 1990 Painkiller album, Halford was knocked off the motorcycle he famously rode onto the stage at the end of each show by a misplaced prop. He broke his nose and was rendered unconscious, causing him to miss the last song of what would be his final show with the band for more than a decade.
In 2011, Halford also toppled off his Harley after driving it onstage during a show in Brazil. As he attempted to get his balance after stopping the Harley, Halford toppled over to his side as the weight of the bike got the best of him. Luckily the singer was uninjured from the stationary wreck, quickly getting back onto the bike with some help from his crew.
Judas Priest are currently on tour in Europe during a year that also will include their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction for musical excellence. See all their stops and get ticketing info here.