Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest

Heavy Duty, memoir of Judas Priest cofounder and former lead guitarist KK Downing

by K.K. Downing

with Mark Eglinton

When a band member leaves an iconic band it’s then you’ll get the true story on the said band. Such a book is the splendidly named Heavy Duty – the autobiography of K.K Downing, formerly guitarist in Judas Priest. And it is unputdownable!

K.K. comes across as a very nice chap, too much so for his own good. I always assumed (wrongly) that he and Glen Tipton were great pals. Since K.K. left Priest, there has been no contact between him, Rob, Glen and Ian. After over forty years that is very sad indeed, but there can be few people reading this who haven’t had similar experiences in their own lives. So often a working relationship gives the illusion of genuine friendship.

Heavy Duty features lots of tales of gigs, tours, groupies, and the recording of now iconic albums, but what comes across is how like a job being in a band is, a very hard one at times.

K.K. feels he was never given his due in the band, something there is an element of truth in. He also feels Priest underachieved in terms of sales, certainly by comparison to Metallica, AC/DC and Iron Maiden. K.K feels a better management team would have helped, and again there is an element of truth in this. He talks about poor attendance on the Nostradamus tour. I was there and he is telling the truth.

But reading the book, certain undeniable facts come to light. Firstly, inter-band communication was hopeless. It so often is – look at the sad fate of Jason Newsted in Metallica.

Secondly, while bands like Metallica and Slayer were upping the ante on heaviness in the 80s, Priest recorded Turbo and Ram It Down, and by the time they recorded the now classic Painkiller, it was too late to capitalise on this, which shows a band living in a bubble.

Thirdly, Rob Halford’s departure robbed Priest of several successful years and the band never regained their early ’80s momentum. K.K. is right – Priest should have retired; time and sad ill health is proving that.

All in all, a great read.

Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest (Da Capo)

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).