The godfathers of heavy metal, Judas Priest have been around a long time and influenced countless metal and hard-rock acts. Birthed in the bleak industrial environs of Birmingham, England, Priest’s rise to fame was a long, arduous journey, thanks to a revolving-door lineup in the early ‘70s and little help from producers. Guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill founded Priest, and 1973 brought big changes, as Alan Atkins and Chris Campbell left the band after a rugged U.K. tour. One of the replacements was Rob Halford, whose operatic vocals established him as one of metal’s greatest singers. More European touring was in the offing, before Priest signed a record deal with the independent U.K. label Gull. They added guitarist Glenn Tipton prior to making their debut LP. In 1974, Priest released both Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny, and three years later, Sin after Sin arrived. Growing increasingly prolific, Priest was beginning to peak creatively in the late ‘70s, churning out such classic LPs as 1978’s Stained Class and Killing Machine, as well as 1979’s Hell Bent for Leather and the live album Unleashed in the East. The stage was set for 1980’s British Steel, a landmark album in heavy metal history. Boosted by the singles “Living after Midnight” and “Breaking the Law,” British Steel was the second Priest album to achieve platinum status. Point of Entry came out a year later and kept the momentum going. By the early ‘80s, Priest had become a huge concert draw, and in 1982, their Screaming for Vengeance album established them as “metal gods,” rising all the way to No. 17 on the U.S. album charts. Defenders of the Faith was launched in 1984, just as metal was undergoing a transformative period, with speed/thrash metal acts like Metallica taking over. Priest would not go quietly, however, despite losing some of their commercial appeal in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, as Halford departed to pursue other projects. Halford returned in 2003, replacing Tim “Ripper” Owens, and Priest has experienced a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Promotional materials distributed to record stores for Priest albums are interesting, and often inexpensive, collectibles, as are logo patches and vintage pins. Concert memorabilia, including t-shirts, tour laminates, tour programs and other items vary wildly in price, with some pieces being as cheap as under $10 and others breaking the $1,000 mark, depending on provenance, condition and rarity. Signed photos and instruments could also be worth big bucks.
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