Opinion: If Judas Priest Get Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, More Metal Acts Will Follow
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame... where do we begin? Established in 1983, the Hall has been at the crux of the rock world each year, inducting a select few nominees who enjoy rock ‘n’ roll immortality within the pyramid walls of its Cleveland, Ohio, destination. While there’s been a great service done for recognizing revolutionary artists who forever changed our musical world, the ones who have been egregiously left out often cast a hulking shadow over all the good the institution has done, especially when we venture into heavy metal, which we’ll address in a bit.
In recent years, we’ve seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right some high profile wrongs, hopefully indicating a trend that will continue as Judas Priest have finally been nominated for 2018’s class, the closest they've been to the point of entry. An artist becomes eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first significant recording, meaning KISS could have made it in as early as 1999, Yes in 1994 and Deep Purple even earlier, back in ‘93, which, coincidentally, was the last year Ritchie Blackmore was with the group.
KISS changed the face of the live rock experience, putting on bombastic concerts with dazzling effects that were simply insurmountable for any other act at the time. Yes were the perfect storm of virtuosic musicianship and hit writing, demonstrating the two sides could co-exist while never forgetting to indulge the nerdiest of prog fans, putting all their cards in at times. As for Deep Purple, they were instrumental in the development of what would become heavy metal and enjoyed a few years as the world’s biggest rock band, selling over 100 million albums throughout their ongoing career.
KISS’ induction came in 2014, Deep Purple’s moment finally arrived two years later in 2016 and Yes checked another box of regretfully omitted artists last year, much to the relief of rock fans around the globe who had cried foul for decades. Unfortunately, Yes bassist Chris Squire was not around to experience the honor, having died from acute erythroid leukemia in 2015. While the recognition for these bands was finally acknowledged, for fans, it still felt hollow and did little to restore the collective faith in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s awareness of heavy and progressive music — but there’s one way the establishment can rebound from these various oversights: induct Judas Priest and let the metal dominos fall.
It’s one thing when shoe-in rock acts are left out because their realm has already been permitted entry. Hell, it’s the whole reason the Hall even exists! Ever since starting up in 1983, which the committee should firmly remember as a time when heavy metal was in the midst of world domination, they’ve largely ignored metal entirely. Frustration still stems from the organization's failure to recognize essential metal artists, but it’s slightly more palatable when the entire club isn’t allowed in.
Yes, we know Judas Priest wouldn’t be the first metal band to get the nod from the Rock Hall, but it would be monumental for the genre. Black Sabbath and Metallica are the sole acts representing heavy metal at the present time, but their inclusion isn’t so much of a milestone for the genre and its seemingly arm’s length relationship with the institution’s committee. These bands are household names. They’re mainstream. They’re larger than life and certainly much larger than the world of metal. Ozzy Osbourne is one of the most recognizable figures in all of pop culture and Metallica have become worldwide favorites acting as the gateway to metal or one of the very few metal acts who have transcended the genre. Their impacts are too obvious and too undeniable, even for the stingy Rock Hall.
Sure, Judas Priest get a fair amount of radio play stateside with more rock-leaning hits like “Living After Midnight,” “Heading Out to the Highway” and You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” but it pales to the heavy rotation of non-thrash ‘Tallica (‘Black Album’ material and other ballads) and the same three Paranoid staples on Sabbath’s end — "Iron Man," "Paranoid" and "War Pigs."
Perhaps we’re being disingenuous here, but if you were to poll people at random, odds are they’re familiar with “Enter Sandman” and “Iron Man,” even if they aren’t fans of the music. What’s likely is that more than a few non-metalheads will remember Judas Priest’s name from the ‘80s, but have little inclination that the band remains active and is a big draw to this day with a 66-year-old Rob Halford still capable of singing f--king “Painkiller,” not that they have a clue about that song or its imposing vocal demand. Judas Priest are not the mainstream band Metallica and Sabbath are and their induction would be the Rock Hall’s first genuine step toward legitimizing heavy metal.
When looking at metal’s history and evolution, Judas Priest are THE heavy metal band. Even Zakk Wylde, arguably the world’s biggest Sabbath nut, told us so. Were Black Sabbath the first to truly distance their sound from (hard) rock? Absolutely, but the classic, traditional heavy metal sound of screaming twin guitars in conjunction with searing vocal highs emanated from Judas Priest, whose ‘70s catalog went on to influence an entire decade of bonafide metal acts.
And how about “the look?” You don’t get the leather and studs without Judas Priest and we all know metal is predicated on image. It needed an exterior that aligned with its speeding tempos and explosive instrumentation and Rob Halford implemented it. Yeah, he borrowed an image from an already thriving subculture, but from biker bars and underground sex shops came the look that would become synonymous with the band’s burgeoning and influential sound. And the fans liked it too. It gave them something to identify each other by and empowered them to feel like the metal gods they worshipped. Just look at the infinitely quote-worthy rockdoc Heavy Metal Parking Lot for proof.
If this Birmingham bunch rightfully gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that others like Iron Maiden, Motorhead (let’s leave the rock / metal debate for Lemmy’s band out of this - it’s irrelevant), Ronnie James Dio and maybe even Slayer and Megadeth all start getting the call in subsequent years or at least a nomination. Bottom line: Judas Priest’s induction is the catalyst we metalheads have been yearning for.
What else do Judas Priest need to prove to show that they’re worthy of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame upon their first nomination. They essentially created an entire genre of music, in sound and appearance, that has weathered all trends and still stands as a global force. Priest are still releasing new material, never having gone more than seven years without putting a new studio effort on the shelves and that was during a singer changeover as traditional metal was in the throes of its lowest point, having almost been hunted to extinction by grunge and alternative rock. They’re still touring and remain dominant live. Can all of this be said for all of the Hall’s still active inductees? Definitely not.
Once Judas Priest’s accomplishments are recognized, the Rock Hall will then have to further honor the genre that the band has influenced. Metal isn’t going anywhere, so why wait any longer? Let’s get these artists in the Rock Hall before they’re all sitting in the great hall of Valhalla. Induct Judas Priest and the hammer will fall!
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