How the Who Got Judas Priest on Live Aid Bill

Rob Halford recalled his memory of playing Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985, explaining how Judas Priest came to be one of only two metal bands that appeared during the global charity event.

Priest and Black Sabbath performed alongside Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, Madonna and others at the John F. Kennedy Stadium while Queen, the Who, Elton John and others played at Wembley Stadium in the U.K. In a recent interview with Classic Rock, Halford said it was “ironic” that two legendary British metal bands played the stage in the U.S. rather than their home country.

“There were no metal bands at Wembley that day. How mad is that?” he said. “Bill Curbishley was managing us, and they said they wanted the Who. Bill turned around and said, ‘OK, but you’re also having Judas Priest.’ Bob Geldof knew us, so that was fine. … But the fact that you had two of the prominent British heavy metal bands playing a stadium in America and being beamed around the world was another milestone for metal. We were being heard in some people’s living rooms for the very first time!”

Halford added that he “spent most of the day with the punters out the front, banging my head and screaming, ‘Madonna! Mick! Planty! Jimmy!’ It was one great talent after the next. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I was there. I was there, man!”

Elsewhere in the interview, Halford said his band was never wary of associating itself with the metal genre in its early days. “The first thing we did was embrace this term ‘heavy metal,’’’ he said.

“We’d get asked and we’d say, ‘We are a heavy metal band.’ There weren’t many places to look at, to judge, or level yourselves with. But you have to hone down who you are with the instruments you’ve got – finding your own character is vitally important.”

He added that “we knew there was enough distinction in the sounds that we were making to know that we were pulling away from everyone else. People were saying, ‘There’s this band, Judas Priest. They’re doing stuff we’ve never heard before, with screaming vocals and pummeling riffs,’ and this was before the image was even fully formed.”

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Eighteen tracks that prove the British veterans never abandoned their core principles.

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