Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury.
“I’ve always found it ironic that a certain aspect of gay culture has also chosen to dress this way. I’m not into that kind of thing though. I guess it’s whatever floats your boat y’know? I’m what you’d call a very vanilla kind of gay guy.”
—Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford on his fashion choices.
Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford is known for many things. Aside from being one of the greatest metal vocalists of all time, Halford’s cultivated image of head-to-toe leather and spikes is synonymous with heavy metal itself. In fact, when the band performed on Top of the Pops on January 25th, 1979, Halford’s badass bondage-style getup spread like wildfire across the world and would soon become the go-to look for headbangers. Another thing Halford is widely known for is his love of motorcycles and if you’ve seen Priest live, then perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see Halford ride out on stage on one. Which brings me to another mythical story involving Halford and a man he refers to as his “ultimate hero,” Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury.
Rob Halford circa 1979/1980.
The year was 1980 and Queen had just released their eighth record The Game in June. Audiences went completely bananas for the album and showed a particular affinity for two songs you likely know all the words to, “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The band would later earn a reputation for releasing unique videos for their songs, and the video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is no exception. In the video, Mercury is dressed up like an outlaw biker in a stage production of the 1961 film West Side Story complete with an authentic but stationary motorcycle which Mercury straddles along with his blonde video girlfriend. And Rob Halford was having none of it.
According to Halford, after he saw the video he went on BBC Radio 1 and challenged Mercury to a real “motorbike race.” I know I’m not going out on a limb saying if the event had actually transpired, it would have been one of the greatest moments in TV history. Sadly, Mercury never responded to Rob’s challenge. Here’s more from the Metal God who walks among us on that:
“I never heard back from him. Freddie is my ultimate hero. The closest I ever got to Freddie was in a gay bar in Athens on the way to Mykonos with some friends from London. We kind of glared at each other across the bar, in a kind of smiling, winking way. When we got to Mykonos, I was determined to track him down, but I couldn’t because he’d rented this huge yacht. It was festooned in pink balloons and it just kept sailing around the island. He’s someone I wish I’d really met.”
I know you probably need a minute after reading Halford’s quote because your mind conjured images of a sad Rob Halford sitting on a beach looking longingly at Freddie Mercury’s fancy yacht floating on the Aegean Sea. But don’t shed a tear for Rob, he didn’t stay mad at Freddie (or more likely never really was) and continues to cite Mercury as a primary source of inspiration. If this has you wondering what Judas Priest might be up to, I have good news. The band is set to release their eighteenth record, Firepower in March as well as a world tour that kicks off on March thirteenth in Pennsylvania. Right on.
A shot of Freddie Mercury on his stationary motorcycle from the video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Epic footage of Halford riding out on stage on his motorcycle during the US Festival in 1983.
One of Rob Halford’s most recent Facebook posts that proves he is cooler than we will ever be. Then, now, and forever.
The official video for the latest single from Judas Priest “Lightning Strike”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Judas Priest’s racy photoshoot with a Penthouse Pet
Metal Gods: Rob Halford of Judas Priest fronts Black Sabbath in 1992
Metal gods Judas Priest cover Joan Baez, Fleetwood Mac, and Spooky Tooth
The time that Judas Priest looked like a hippie band back in 1975 (Rob Halford had HAIR. Lots of it)
Could this be the earliest live concert footage ever shot of Judas Priest?