It was the summer of 1987. Judas Priest was about to release Priest…Live! – the second live album in the band’s illustrious history, and their first since the classic Unleashed In The East was released in 1979.
A friend and I managed to score tickets to the record release party at Sundance Rock Club on Long Island, which was no easy feat considering Priest’s popularity and the limited capacity of the club. The ticket is packed away in a box somewhere, but even though it has been nearly three decades, I can still picture it in my mind. It was unlike any other ticket that I have ever seen (about 3” x 6” on index card stock with the album logo emblazoned on the front).
As a diehard Priest fan, the opportunity to hear the album before it came out was worth the price of admission alone, but the highlight of the night was the chance to meet Rob Halford and K.K. Downing.
With no barriers set up, it was hard to imagine how the club planned on keeping order in a room filled to capacity with Priest fans. It didn’t take long to find out that there really was no plan, but because of serendipitous timing, my friend and I were among the few that actually got the chance to meet Halford and Downing before they were ushered out of the building to avoid the crowd closing in on them.
As my friend and I were walking towards the bathroom, staff members set up two tables for the meet and greet right in front of us, and Halford and Downing emerged shortly thereafter. The frenzied crowd all pushed towards them, and had us pinned against the tables. My friend got a can of Budweiser signed by Halford, and I got my ticket signed by Downing.
As the crowd converged on the tables, Downing had a stunned look on his face as he undoubtedly feared for his safety. There are some moments in life that you never forget no matter how much time has elapsed. This was one of them. I can still remember handing my ticket back to Downing after he signed it and shouting…“K.K., give this to Rob!” as if he were a friend doing me a favor instead of a legendary guitarist figuring out how he was going to avoid being trampled by the crowd.
The meet and greet didn’t go as planned, but I was one of the lucky ones who ended up getting an autograph from both members of Priest.
A lot has changed since that fateful night in the summer of ’87. Halford left the band for a number of years before his return in 2003, and Downing was replaced by Richie Faulkner after retiring in 2011. The friend that was with me that night and I are no longer on speaking terms, but one thing remains the same…
Judas Priest is still making incredible music and flying the heavy metal flag with pride. They released their 17th studio album today entitled Redeemer Of Souls. A review of the album will be featured on Hard Rock Daddy this week, and a review of the live show in support of the new album will be featured in the coming months.