An early shot of Judas Priest before all the leather and studs.
The answer to that question is quite possibly, yes. The vintage footage posted below features Judas Priest in action at the Reading Festival in 1975 and was shot with a Super 8 camera.
In 1975 Priest joined the surreal lineup of Hawkwind; UFO; Lou Reed; Thin Lizzy; Soft Machine, and Yes among others at the three-day festival. The band was still sort of under the radar after the release of their 1974 debut Rocka Rolla produced by Rodger Bain, who’d also produced the first three albums by Black Sabbath. Despite Bain’s groundbreaking success with Sabbath, his heavy metal magic didn’t necessarily cast the same spell for Priest on Rocka Rolla which the band recorded live at Olympic Studios in London. During this time the group was still playing small rock clubs and were struggling quite literally just to find money for food.
According to Rob Halford, things were so bad that Gull Records (their label at the time) handed out food tickets to the formative Birmingham band to use at a local cafeteria which truly gives perspective to the hard-luck notion that rock ‘n’ roll don’t pay. Here’s a little more from Mr. Halford on those early days and his thoughts on their first album which ended up being a flop, from author Steve Gett’s 1984 biography of the band HEAVY DUTY:
It simply wasn’t Priest. We allowed ourselves to be influenced and maneuvered by people who suggested that it would probably open up more of a market for the band because we wouldn’t immediately be stigmatized as a heavy metal group. In actual fact, it probably did us more harm than good.
All this brings us back to Judas Priest taking the stage on day one of the fifteenth-annual Reading Festival led by a short-haired Halford (who preferred to wear fancy bohemian shirts on stage back then instead of head-to-toe studded leather), as well as some choice shots of vintage hippie-looking headbangers in the audience. What’s also incredibly cool about this footage is that you can hear the future sounds of Priest coming directly from that stage including Halford’s signature octave-smashing vocal range. Another curious observation is a lone cameraman shooting the show from the front row. Which means that at some point, perhaps even now, other footage of this important heavy metal moment probably exists. As it is often the case, the audio and the Super 8 footage from this performance has been bootlegged and can be found easily on the Internet if you’d like to add this rarity to your collection.
An ad for the 15th annual Reading Festival, 1975.
Judas Priest performing at the Reading Festival, August 22nd, 1975.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The time that Judas Priest looked like a hippie band back in 1975 (Rob Halford had HAIR. Lots of it)
Judas Priest’s racy photoshoot with a Penthouse Pet
5 minutes of Judas Priest’s frontman Rob Halford holding that high note of his