Monday, 28 August 2017

The Doors Top 50 Countdown (#10-06) & This Week's Statistics

The Doors Top 50 Countdown is getting very near the end and our statistics are as vital as ever... Let's go on with the show!

At #10 is the perfect example of how the Doors could write an amazing pop hit if they chose to. Hello, I Love You, the opening track and lead single from Waiting For The Sun (1968) was a Jim Morrison song. Originally one of the six demos The Doors recorded at World Pacific Jazz Studios in September 1965, Morrison wrote this about a dark lovely he’d lusted after on Venice Beach. 

The song starts out as a jaunty pop ditty, with Morrison teasingly trying to attract the attention of his object of desire (even as he pokes fun at his own ambitions with lyrics like, “Do you hope to make her see you, fool?”). But by the end, he’s screaming in the frustration of one whose passion has been unreciprocated. It gives a harsher edge to what might otherwise have been just another slice of light-hearted teeny pop. Many thought the fuzz-toned melody was inspired by the Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night, but Krieger told Guitar World otherwise: “I told John [Densmore] to play something like Sunshine of Your Love. So, we ripped off the Cream, not the Kinks.”

But Ray Davies has continued to assert that the Doors' song was based on his. In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Davies suggested that an out-of-court settlement had been reached with the Doors. You can decide for yourselves. Here's All Day and All of the Night by the Kinks:

... And here's Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream:

At the time this 1968 single was released, stereo 45 rpm records were generally unknown - especially in the Top 40 format. This recording by the Doors was promoted as the first rock 45 rpm record in stereo. It includes a long musical sweep about 1:20 into the song, starting at the left channel and panning across into the right channel, in a very ostentatious demonstration of stereo effect.

The single was the Doors' second #1 hit in the US and their first in Canada. It also made the top 20 in the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Here it is:

There have been numerous covers of the song. Here are the Cure:

Here are the Eurythmics:

... And here's the late Cory Monteith from Glee:

At #9 is a song from the same album, in fact, the closing track. And it's oh, so different from the opening track. Five To One is such a raw, punch-in-your-gut song. ‘No one here gets out alive’ sang Morrison on a tale of open revolution, thickened by masculine lust and the immortally stuttered, ‘Ya walk across the floor with a flower in your hand...’ which is addressed to a prostitute.

By mid-1968, Strange Days had given the Doors their first chart-topping album and they were outselling the Grateful Dead fivefold, yet were undoubtedly also part of the emerging counterculture. As a student at Florida State University in the early 1960s, Morrison had become particularly engaged with the philosophies of protest and the psychology of crowds and brought these elements together in his performances of one of the band’s most powerfully political and controversial songs. The title supposedly refers to the ratio in the US between young and old, perhaps with a nod to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, “If our forces are 10 to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him”. The lyrics – “The old get old but the young get stronger, may take a week but it may take longer. They’ve got the guns, we’ve got the numbers” – recognize youth’s dormant power and reflects Morrison’s belief (as per many of the Summer of Love generation) that music could change the world. Perhaps his subsequent realization that American youth was inherently more conservative than it let on led – along with copious quantities of wine and beer – to the song’s infamous performance in Miami in 1969. With the stage swarmed by policemen, the star interrupts the groove to rail at the audience: “You’re all a bunch of fucking idiots, letting people push you around … You’re all a bunch of fucking slaves…” etc. Morrison was subsequently arrested and put on trial for drunkenness, indecency, and profanity. The Miami Five to One remains officially unreleased but I've found it. Let's not forget however the swinging take from Absolutely Live that captures the tune’s tumultuous live power.

This is the studio version:

This is the Absolutely Live version:

This is that performance in Miami in 1969:

Marilyn Manson covered the song:

Beyoncé used the song in a mix with Ring The Alarm:

At #8 is a song from the aforementioned Strange Days (1967). People Are Strange was the album's second single and it peaked at #12 in the US, at #6 in Canada, and at #9 in New Zealand. The song was a hit, which is strange indeed, considering its black, psychedelic mood is like tripping on an ice rink.

One night in early ’67, Krieger and Densmore found Morrison on their doorstep in a depressed state: “A really lousy, talking-about-killing-himself mood.” They walked him to the top of Laurel Canyon and dropped acid, before returning to Sunset Sound Recorders to capture his epiphany. Morrison state of mind explains the unease and paranoia in a lyric that addresses the fear and isolation of being alone, beautifully depicted in the line “Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted.” It was probably the closest The Doors ever worked as songwriters, with Manzarek providing a crisp honky tonk piano. The unsettled mood is heightened by the song ending on an unresolved note, leaving the listener hanging in the air as much as the song’s narrator.

Here it is:

Here is a good cover by Echo and The Bunnymen, produced by Ray Manzarek himself. It was a hit in the UK and in Ireland.

Here's another good cover by Tori Amos:

Here's a little live acoustic rehearsal video of the song by the great contemporary musician (and good friend) Martin Del Carpio, with Juan I. Garcia on guitar:

The two other songs in our list today both come from the album L.A. Woman (1971), the last studio album to feature Morrison, who died three months after the album's release. Let me just say that I love the songs in positions three to seven just about the same, so until the last moment I didn't know which song would end were. It was an extremely close race.

Riders On The Storm ended up at #7, although it could easily have been at #4. It was the Doors' last big hit single: #1 in France, #7 in the Netherlands and Canada, #10 in Australia, #14 in the US, #20 in New Zealand, #22 in the UK, and #28 in Germany.

During one of the early rehearsal jams that fueled L.A. Woman, the Doors began riffing on Stan Jones' galloping 1948 country-western hit "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend," made famous by Vaughn Monroe. "Robbie was playing his twang guitar," Ray Manzarek recalled in Mr. Mojo Risin. "And Jim went, 'I got lyrics for that!' And he had Riders on the Storm." The moody words fit the equally foreboding music, and Manzarek's driving keyboard figure shifted the melody from a Morricone-esque "yippee ki-yay" to a lonely desert highway.

Here's (Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend by Vaughn Monroe:

Characteristically, Morrison's lyrics drew from a myriad of sources. The title was adapted from a passage in "Praise for an Urn" by poet Hart Crane, and other lines were inspired by his tumultuous relationship with long-term partner Pamela Courson. But the most memorable verse is culled from a self-penned screenplay inspired by the spree killer Billy Cook, who murdered six people – including a family – while hitchhiking to California in 1950. Though executed for his crimes, he is immortalized as the "killer on the road."

Speaking with Krieger and Manzarek, the philosopher Thomas Vollmer argues that the line "Into this world we're thrown" recalls Heidegger's concept of thrown-ness (human existence as a basic state). In 1963 at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Jim Morrison heard an influential lesson for him, where philosophers who had a critical look at the philosophical tradition were discussed, including Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.

Morrison’s words were dredged from memories of hitchhiking down dusty Florida roads as a teenager en route to visit his girlfriend Mary Werbelow. The idea of a solitary road trip also emerged in his unfinished film HWY: An American Pastoral, where he looms like a deranged Charles Manson – the killer on the road. Ray Manzarek and bassist Jerry Scheff hit upon the loping A-minor-to-A-major riff underpinning a dark jazz figure. Engineer Bruce Botnick raided his effects library for the distant desert thunder that appears as a motif.

Krieger’s vibrato guitar solo is the perfect pathway leading from the deadly image of a slaughtered family to the invocation: "Girl, you gotta love your man" – which is possibly the most romantic few seconds in Morrison’s 27 years on the planet. Viewed as either a paean to his partner Pamela Courson or as lyric poetry, it’s a snapshot of a man who knew he was leaving The Doors and moving to Paris to woo his lover back.

Here it is:

Carlos Santana covered the song in 2010 with the recently deceased Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on lead vocals and Ray Manzarek on keyboards:

Earlier this year, Jazz vocalist Kama Ruby covered the song as a mash-up with Ghost Riders in the Sky. Here's an excerpt:

At #6 is the title track from the album L.A. Woman. By 1971, bloated and bearded, troubled by post-Miami litigation and something of a bete noire after various onstage incidents, Morrison looked like a man grown old before his time. Which makes it all the more remarkable that he managed to rouse himself for what may be his best set of performances. L.A. Woman, the Doors’ final album with him, finds the band returning to the blues but with a new, urban raw edge. The title track pays homage to their City of Angels. For Manzarek – who didn’t exactly shy from making grand pronouncements – the song was about “driving madly down the LA freeway. You’re a beatnik on the road, like Kerouac and Neal Cassady, barreling down the freeway as fast as you can go”. Densmore, meanwhile, finds the depiction of the city as a woman a “brilliant metaphor, ‘Cops in cars, never saw a woman so alone’ – great stuff. It’s metaphoric, the physicality of the town and thinking of her and how we need to take care of her, it’s my hometown”. The “Mr. Mojo rising” in the lyrics is often believed to refer to Morrison’s penis: in fact, it’s an anagram of Jim Morrison and a name for a voodoo charm widely used in the blues. Whatever one makes of the lyrics, beginning with an automobile noise and building to a driving pace, the song certainly captures the unique atmosphere of a city mythologized by everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The propulsive music barely gives you a chance to catch your breath before cruising into oblivion.

Here's a cover by Billy Idol:

Now, let's continue with last week's statistics. The number of total visits fell 28% from last week - the second decrease in a row. Neither Rob Halford (#3) nor Small-town Songs (#4) helped increase the site's traffic, in fact, last week's Doors' countdown and statistics is the most popular recent story, landing at this week's #2. At #1 is that gift that keeps on giving, George Maharis - and the top 5 is completed by another evergreen, Labi Siffre.

The country that impressively entered this week's top 10 for the first time was South Korea, while Canada, Spain, and Australia also had a good week, which meant that Belgium, Brazil, and the Philippines were forced out of the top 10, although they put up a good fight. As far as the all-time list is concerned, there was no movement and only limited fluctuation. The United Kingdom and Italy are still increasing their overall share, the United States, France, Russia, and Cyprus fell a little, while the rest remained steady.

Here are this week's Top 10 countries:

1. the United States
2. the United Kingdom
3. Greece
4. France
5. Italy
6. South Korea
7. Canada
8. Spain
9. Australia
10. the United Arab Emirates

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, and Ukraine. Happy to have you all!

And here's the all-time Top 10:

1. the United States = 41.4%
2. Greece = 9.0%
3. the United Kingdom = 8.3%
4. France = 7.3%
5. Russia = 4.4%
6. Germany = 3.9%
7. Cyprus = 1.36%
8. Italy = 1.25%
9. the United Arab Emirates = 0.66%
10. Belgium = 0.65%

That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

Throughout this series, we've examined artists from most genres of music. We haven't encountered any heavy metal hero yet though. The closest we've come was with Andy Fraser, but Free was more blues rock than hard rock, much less heavy metal. This, however, is about to change: Rob Halford, the lead singer of iconic British heavy metal group Judas Priest, was voted number 33 in the greatest voices in rock by Planet Rock listeners in 2009. AllMusic says of Halford: "There have been few vocalists in the history of heavy metal whose singing style has been as influential and instantly recognizable", possessing a voice which is "able to effortlessly alternate between a throaty growl and an ear-splitting falsetto". Halford publicly came out as gay in 1998.

Let's get the facts of Halford's early life first hand, from an interview he gave for Metal Hammer. "I was born on 25th August 1951. I was born in my aunt’s house in Sutton Coldfield – that’s the place where I popped out without any warning! And then, of course, my mum and dad moved to Walsall where I still have a house."

I got along with my siblings "really, really well. My sister is a year younger than me and we’ve never acted like brother and sister – we’re just best mates. We were always looking out for each other and supporting each other. When our younger brother came along we were both in our early teens and we had this outsider arrive – not that I want to call our Nigel that! But when you’re in your teens, you’re off exploring the world, and then another family member comes along and you become very home orientated again and you feel very protective of your family. On the whole, we’ve always been like a typical family though. There’s always been a bit of friction between us – which there should be. I think that’s when characters develop and that’s how you help each other through life’s hurdles."

"Everybody knows that there are some parts of the West Midlands that are incredibly poor, but they’re honest, hard working people. When I was born in the early 50s, the Second World War had only been over for a few years and there was still rationing going on. But people were very proud and very determined to come back and come back strong. Life was really tough. My dad worked in the steel industry and my mom worked from home and also in the factories and stuff, but it was a good childhood."

"Like most council estate communities everybody looked out for everybody else. Everybody also knew everyone else’s business in a way too. I’ve got a lot of good memories from that time. It was a good place to start life and it taught me the value of hard work and I think that ethic is still ingrained in Judas Priest today. We’re still hard working musicians. We never take anything for granted and we’ve all still got that connection to why we wanted to be in a band in the first place."

Halford was introduced to co-founding Judas Priest member Ian Hill by his sister, who was dating Hill at the time. Halford, a former cinema manager, joined the band as the singer, bringing with him drummer John Hinch from his previous band, Hiroshima. However, the band went through a number of drummers, each lasting for a year or two until David Holland lasted for a decade (1979-1989) and then Scott Travis took over and he's still with the band. Ian Hill was the band's bass player, while the two guitarists were K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. The latter joined the band a few months after Halford did.

Rocka Rolla (1974) was Judas Priest's first album. According to the band, the album was entirely played live, in the studio. However, there were technical problems in the studio, resulting in poor sound quality and a hiss through the album.

From this album, here's Rocka Rolla, the band's debut single:

Here's Run of the Mill, which displays Halford's unique vocal range:

The album was released to very little reception selling "only a few thousand copies". Because it flopped, the band found themselves in dire financial straits. In particular, they talked of nights in which they were starving and didn't know when they were going to get their next meal.

Sad Wings of Destiny was the second album by Judas Priest, released in 1976. It is considered the album on which Judas Priest consolidated their sound and image. The album had little commercial success at first, but eventually, it  was awarded a gold record.

The album's opening track, Victim of Changes, has come to be regarded as one of the band's classics, and Martin Popoff listed it at #17 in his "Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time". Adrien Begrand, writing for PopMatters, claimed the song changed the course of metal history.

The Ripper was released as a single; it's one of the band's most Queen-inspired songs.

Dreamer Deceiver is a power ballad, a favorite amongst hardcore Priest fans.

Sin After Sin (1977) represented several major milestones in the group's career; the band made their major label debut and were able to work with a famous musical artist as their producer, former Deep Purple member Roger Glover. The band also fully embraced an aggressive metal sound with this release, significantly toning down the arena rock and blues rock influences shown in their past work. They achieved widespread popularity on the radio stations for their first time, oddly enough with their hard-edged version of Joan Baez's Diamonds & Rust:

Another song from this album, Dissident Aggressor, won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance after being released again on A Touch of Evil: Live, 33 years after its original release:

Sinner became a concert staple and K. K. Downing describes it as one of his favorite songs:

Stained Class was released in February 1978. It is the first of three albums to feature drummer Les Binks. Stained Class was ranked as the greatest Judas Priest album on, and was described by Steve Huey on as “Judas Priest’s greatest achievement.”

Exciter is the opening track and is an early example of speed metal. During the 1990 civil action brought against the band, Exciter was played backwards to the court. Lead vocalist Rob Halford demonstrated that, when played in reverse, the song appeared to contain the phrase: "I asked for a peppermint, I asked for her to get one." This action showed that by playing any song in reverse, phrases could be formed by the human brain. The same point applied to Better By You, Better Than Me, which had a sound that could be interpreted as "do it". More of that in a minute.

Judas Priest's rendition of Better by You, Better than Me is faster than Spooky Tooth's original and adds a short vocal bridge. The song was a last-minute addition to the album when CBS Records insisted on including another more commercial track to liven up a record of which the majority of the songs have a very dark and sinister undertone.

Ironically, it was this song that got them into trouble: In the middle of 1990, the band was involved in a civil action that alleged they were responsible for the self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 1985 of 20-year-old James Vance and 18-year-old Raymond Belknap in Sparks, Nevada, USA. On 23 December 1985, Vance and Belknap, after hours of drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis and allegedly listening to Judas Priest, went to a playground at a church in Sparks with a 12-gauge shotgun to end their lives. Belknap was the first to place the shotgun under his chin. He died instantly after pulling the trigger. Vance then shot himself but survived, suffering severe facial injuries. Following numerous complications, Vance too died in 1988, three years after the suicide pact.

The men's parents and their legal team alleged that a subliminal message of "do it" had been included in the song Better By You, Better Than Me. They alleged the command in the song triggered the suicide attempt. The trial lasted from 16 July to 24 August 1990, when the suit was dismissed after the judge ruled that the so-called "do it" message was a result of an accidental mix-up of background lyrics. Comedian Bill Hicks ridiculed the lawsuit as part of his act, pointing out the absurdity of the notion that a successful band would wish to kill off their purchasing fan base.

Beyond the Realms of Death is considered a Judas Priest classic. The song describes a man who suffers from depression and eventually dies.

Killing Machine (known as Hell Bent for Leather in the US due to controversy at the time of release) was released in October 1978. With this album, Judas Priest began moving to a more accessible, commercial format that abandoned the complex, fantasy-themed songs of their previous three albums. While this album still had dark undertones, it was more grounded in realism. This was reflected in their change of stage costumes from flowing Gothic robes to leather. It was Halford that came up with the band's leather-and-studs look, famously borrowed from the gay S&M scene. As Halford himself said to The Guardian: "it's funny because I've never been into all that stuff, quite frankly. Forget your sling, you know: it's never appealed to me. I don't think in all honesty I've ever put anything from my own sexual side into my life with Priest because, much like everybody else, it's private." Astonishingly, no one straight seemed to cotton on to the look's connotations – "of course, my gay friends were immediately like, 'What's all this about?'"

The album's first single was Before The Dawn:

The follow-up single, Take On the World, was the one that did the trick: it became their first hit single, reaching #14 in the UK in early 1979. The song was an attempt at producing a stadium shout-along tune in the mold of Queen's We Will Rock You. It eventually sold around 400,000 copies.

Here's a live version of the song:

Their next single, Evening Star, only managed to reach #53 in the UK:

The fourth and final single from this album, Rock Forever, made even less of a commercial impression:

Their first live album, Unleashed in the East, came out in late 1979 and six months later, in April 1980, it was time for British Steel, their most successful album ever. It would be their only top 10 studio album in the UK (#4) and their first top 40 album in the US (#34). It was also a big hit in Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It's considered to be the album that kick-started the heavy metal influence.

The first two singles from this album were their biggest UK hit singles, both peaking at #12. First, there was Living After Midnight:

Then came Breaking The Law, which was named the 12th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1 in 2009:

For the first (and only) time in their career, Judas Priest had 3 consecutive singles hit the UK top 30; United peaked at #26:

Finally, here's an album track called Metal Gods:

Their next album, Point of Entry (1981), was recorded in Ibiza with multiple distractions, glorious sunshine, and extremely low-cost alcohol. The album was nearly all spontaneously written and performed in Ibiza - it was an experiment in the sense that before this they had already written the majority of the songs before going into the studio. The album was regarded with mixed feelings because it was different from what people expected.

The first single, Don't Go, only made #51 in the UK:

Their next single, Heading Out to the Highway, made the top 10 in the US, on the Billboard Top Tracks chart:

The next single, Hot Rockin, made #60 in the UK:

Screaming for Vengeance (1982) showcased a harder, heavier sound than British Steel, and sold as well, in excess of 5 million units worldwide. The album includes the hit single You've Got Another Thing Comin', which became one of the band's signature songs and a perennial radio favorite.

Electric Eye has become a staple at Judas Priest concerts, usually played as the first song:

Another popular track from Screaming for Vengeance is the title track:

Next came Defenders of the Faith (1984). It was another platinum album for them. Stylistically, Defenders of the Faith did not greatly depart from its predecessor and contained the same mix of short, up-tempo metal anthems with stadium shout-along choruses, although progressive elements returned on some tracks such as The Sentinel and the album also introduced some hints of speed metal into their sound. Here's The Sentinel:

Eat Me Alive was listed at number 3 on the Parents Music Resource Center's "Filthy Fifteen", a list of 15 songs the organization found most objectionable. PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore stated the song was about oral sex at gunpoint. In response to the allegations, Priest recorded the song Parental Guidance on the follow-up album Turbo.

Freewheel Burning, the band's lead single from this album, peaked at #42 in the UK:

Another single from this album, Some Heads Are Gonna Roll, only just made the UK top 100:

In Turbo (1986) Judas Priest experimented with synthesizers to yells of horror by those who were expecting to hear the sound they were accustomed to. Here's the aforementioned Parental Guidance:

Turbo Lover is featured in the video game Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (2001) and Watch Dogs 2 (2016).

The music videos supporting Turbo Lover and Locked In enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV, furthering the success of the album commercially. Here's the latter:

Reckless was asked to be on the soundtrack of the movie Top Gun, but Judas Priest declined because they thought the film would flop.

The album would be Priest's final platinum-selling album. Sales tapered off and the subsequent live album from the otherwise successful Fuel for Life tour did not sell as well, only going Gold after a string of Platinum certified albums.

Ram It Down (1988) was the last album to feature longtime drummer Dave Holland. It contained a surprise version of Chuck Berry's classic Johnny B. Goode:

The title track was also a single; it features both a powerful high pitched scream by Rob Halford that opens the song and a dual guitar solo by Glenn Tipton and KK Downing:

The band recorded three tracks with pop producers Stock-Aitken-Waterman – two originals, Runaround and I Will Return, and a cover of The Stylistics' hit You Are Everything. However, they were ultimately not included on this album due to a management decision. Pete Waterman calls them "probably the best tracks we ever did" and admits that "I occasionally dig the record out and play it to people, and they're amazed that we made heavy metal."

How did Halford feel about this collaboration? He told The Guardian: "Oh, I was a huge Rick Astley and Bananarama fan. I remember saying at the time, 'You're probably going to think I've lost my fucking mind, but what if we did something with Stock, Aitken, and Waterman?' And the rest of the band went, 'Oh, that might be interesting.' You know what song we did? You Are Everything, the Stylistics song. A Priest version of that! It's absolutely stellar! It totally worked! I was dead chuffed, but in my heart, I thought, 'This is never going to be released,' because there would have been a huge kickback."

Here's the demo for You Are Everything:

Painkiller (1990) is the last Judas Priest album to feature lead singer Rob Halford until his return for the 2005 album Angel of Retribution and the first to feature drummer Scott Travis. The critical reaction to Painkiller has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the metal community.

The title track is also the opening track and was released as the first single off the album later that year.

A Touch of Evil was the next single. It is the only song on the album that was co-written by producer Chris Tsangarides (British of Greek origin).

During the tour for Painkiller in August 1991 at a show in Toronto, Halford rode onstage on a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle, dressed in motorcycle leathers, as part of the show. He collided with a half-raised drum riser and fell off the motorcycle, breaking his nose. After regaining consciousness, Halford returned and performed the whole concert. In the band's Behind the Music episode, Halford named the accident as one of the events that caused the rift between him and the rest of the band that would eventually force them apart. However, during an interview with Bernard Perusse of Montreal's The Gazette (1 August 2007), he is quoted as saying "And it absolutely did not [lead me to leave the band]. It was just an accident." Today, he calls his departure "my mid-life crisis". Judas Priest would record two albums with Tim "Ripper" Owens in the place of Halford, Jugulator (1997) and Demolition (2001). They weren't received with great enthusiasm.

In the meantime, Halford formed the band Flight and recorded two albums with them. From the very well-received War of Words (1993), here's Into the Pit:

... And here's Little Crazy, the album's single (US, #83):

The second Flight album, A Small Deadly Space (1995), was a grungier affair. From it, here's Legacy of Hate:

Immediately before this, Halford had recorded a track called Light Comes Out of Black for the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The song featured music provided by Pantera, although their contribution is uncredited.

Halford and guitarist John Lowery aka John 5 formed the industrial metal band 2wo in 1996 and were signed to Trent Reznor's Nothing Records label. Reznor produced their sole output, Voyeurs, which sold poorly. Halford disbanded the group two years later. From Voyeurs, here's I Am a Pig:

... And here's Deep in the Ground:

During an MTV interview in 1998, Halford came out. As he later admitted, it was less an act of defiant bravery than a slip of the tongue. "I just say what's rattling out of my brain, you know, and I just happened to go, 'Well, speaking as a gay man …' and then I heard this noise, and it turned out the producer had literally dropped his clipboard when I said it."

Slip of the tongue or not, he says, it was "the greatest thing I could have done for myself". Now he wonders why he didn't do it sooner. "I think I just built in this delusional fear that I was going to destroy myself, no one was going to look at me anymore as a metal singer, I'm going to destroy Priest because of my attachment with them. It was all self-imposed paranoia. It didn't affect Priest one iota: the record sales didn't plunge, the show attendance didn't plunge. Unconditional love will accept you for who you are, and I think that was the blessing I had from the fans."

What was his parent’s reaction like when he told them he wanted to be in a band? And was it worse than when he told them he was gay?:

"I think they sensed it was coming – the band I mean. I really didn’t become totally serious about being a professional musician until I was in my late teens. And by the time I was 20-21, I was already a part of that world. But my mum’s philosophy for everything was, ‘Are you happy? Well, if you’re happy I’m happy.’ Which is a very simple kind of mantra isn’t it? My parents always encouraged me and supported me with whatever I did. I sang in the school choir and I was always singing in school productions and I think they sensed I felt a great deal of joy in singing."

"As for coming out, it’s either a case of confronting the issue head-on at an earlier stage or, as it was with my lot, it’s something you don’t really discuss. Y’know, ‘If he is… so what? As long as he’s happy.’ But again that comes back to their open-mindedness and their hope that everyone in the family would find contentment wherever they were or whatever they were doing. I think it would be terrible to be like that little lad in that movie, Billy Elliot, where his dad can’t accept that he wants to dance and decides to either kick him out, to never speak to him again or to tell him he’s going to hell."

What about his mates in Judas Priest? As Ian Hill said: "Oh no, we knew. I think most of the people that knew him knew as well. It's always been his choice. He chose to keep it to himself for a lot of years and he had his reasons for that. He thought it would be better if he kept it under wraps, maybe. None of us were going to stand in his way but he decided he wanted to keep it to himself."

Halford returned to his metal roots in 2000 with his band Halford and the widely acclaimed album Resurrection (2000), produced by Roy Z. The album was ranked #54 on a list of "The Top 100 Heavy Metal Albums" by online magazine From this album, here's the title track:

The album features The One You Love to Hate, a duet with Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson.

A live album in 2001 was followed up by 2002's Crucible. It was an intentional effort to depart from the traditional metal themes. The album has been described as "hard[er], darker, and moodier than Resurrection". Here's the title track:

... And here's Golgotha:

After eleven years apart, faced with an ever-growing demand for a reunion, Judas Priest and Rob Halford announced they would reunite in July 2003, to coincide with the release of the Metalogy box set. He did not dissolve his personal band, Halford, temporarily suspending its activity instead.

The reunited Judas Priest did a concert tour in Europe in 2004, and co-headlined the 2004 Ozzfest, being named as the "premier act" by almost all US media coverage of the event. Judas Priest and "Ripper" Owens parted amicably. A new studio album, Angel of Retribution, was released on 1 March 2005 to critical and commercial success. The leadoff track, Judas Rising, promises great things - the swirling guitar intro that slowly reveals a mammoth, multi-tracked Rob Halford scream is positively goosebump-inducing:

Eulogy is a ballad that makes references to numerous songs from the group's past, like Stained Class and The Sentinel:

The band's follow-up, Nostradamus (2008), was a concept album that cast away both speed metal and hard rock in favor of a more symphonic metal approach. The title track was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 51st Grammy Awards:

The song Visions was also nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Hard Rock Performance:

Disc one closer Persecution, after a lengthy organ/guitar intro, unleashes Nostradamus' finest six minutes, boasting one of the best choruses the band has produced since 1988:

In 2009 Judas Priest released a live album, while Rob re-activated his band Halford and released Halford III: Winter Songs. It was a collection of Christmas songs!!! Get Into The Spirit was penned by Rob and co:

Along with Halford's own compositions, there are traditional holiday favorites, like Oh Holy Night:

Halford's next album came a year later; it was called Halford IV: Made of Metal. So far it's their last. Here's the title track:

... And here's The Mower:

In 2011, Judas Priest embarked upon what was billed as their final world tour as a group, titled the "Epitaph" tour. Subsequent to the tour's announcement, Halford stated that he would continue to move forward with his solo band. Despite the "final tour" announcement in 2011, Halford and Judas Priest (minus K. K. Downing, who left the group prior to the Epitaph tour) recorded another album, Redeemer of Souls, which was released in 2014, and Halford and Priest were on the road in support of that album through much of 2014 and 2015.

Redeemer of Souls was largely praised by critics and has been hailed as a return for the band, following the lackluster response to its previous album. Here's the rousing title track:

"Welcome to my world of steel" sneers Rob Halford on the punchy, surprisingly spartan Dragonaut, the opening track:

In October 2016, Richie Faulkner (Downing's replacement) stated that the band would begin recording in January 2017 and also said that they would not go on tour until 2018. In an April interview with Planet Rock, Halford issued an update saying that the band was "still tracking" and "coming to some of the final moments" of completion of the new album and also promised, "a very exciting 2018 period" with a "big world tour" taking place next year.

Halford has been clean and sober since going to rehab following a painkiller overdose in 1986, stating that, before that point, he heavily abused drugs and alcohol. In a 2015 interview with Western Canada's Rock N' Roll Breakfast Show, Halford gave a more detailed explanation looking back on the day he quit drugs and alcohol and how it affected his live performances and emotional well being since then: "It's a trail of sobriety that I really know for a fact has helped me in my career and in my life as a musician and as a person. I'd like to feel that I'm better in both worlds in that respect. I think I've improved in a lot of ways because of being able to stay clean and sober. But, you know, it is remarkable. And you can't do it by yourself - you have to use the tools that you're given by other people who have got your back and look out for you. And, again, it comes back, a lot of it, to my fans."

In a 2016 interview with The Washington Times, he was asked what part sobriety has played in the band's longevity. He responded: "Without it? Oh, I'd be dead. Literally, I would be dead. I wouldn't be talking to The Washington Times now. I wouldn't be here. The place where I got to, the next step, was lost. I love people. I love being in a band. I love making music. I had to figure out that was way more important than being addicted."

Let's go back to Rob's Metal Hammer interview:

In the 80s when it was all pretty boys with lipstick fronting bands and going hell bent for leather to get chicks, how did you fare in the groupie stakes?

"I never got any! [laughs] And that’s the sad thing. I’ve been celibate practically all of my musical career. I know it’s supposed to be sex, drugs, rock’n’roll… Well, I used to do the drugs and I still do the rock’n’roll but the closest I came to sex was going back to my hotel room for a wank! [laughs] I don’t want to shatter anyone’s idea about the lifestyle, but basically, you play a show, get cleaned up, have some food and go back to your hotel room… alone!"

Back to The Guardian interview, he affirms that he has lost none of his enthusiasm for the genre he helped create: "We haven't become jaded or cynical, we love what we do, we have a great relationship with each other and the metal just keeps on coming." In fact, he talks about heavy metal with a kind of fervor that seems vaguely evangelical, in every sense of the phrase: "It doesn't matter whether you're a beggar or a king, metal will find its way into your heart if you accept it."

As of 2012, Halford lived in Phoenix, Arizona, USA though he also maintains residences in San Diego, California, and Amsterdam, Netherlands as well as a home in his native Walsall in England.

Living in the US, he says, has turned his thoughts to unfulfilled musical goals outside of "my metal heart". Perhaps unexpectedly, given that he describes his own vocal style as "screaming your tits off for two hours a night", he is a huge fan of Michael BublĂ©. "I've said before that by the time I'm 70, you'll find me in a little joint just off the Vegas Strip and I'll be going" – he bursts into crooner-style singing – "'breakin' the law, breakin' the law'." He hoots with laughter. "Remember this one, folks? 'Livin' after midnight, rocking to the dawn … 'I'll be drinking and smoking again, which I haven't done for 30 years, and I'll be leaning on the bar stool, like, you know, whatshername out of EastEnders. I've said it jokingly." He frowns. "Or is it jokingly? Stepping outside of my comfort zone … I think maybe, as I'm in my senior years I don't give a fuck now, whereas maybe I used to."

I think that this is a healthy attitude to have. Don't you?