|Better run for cover...|
This division was best articulated in the lyrics of the loinclothed and sword-wielding American heavy metal band Manowar, which sang loud and proud that the War was On, man, and it was time to choose a side:
Every one of us has
heard the call
Brothers of True Metal proud and standing tall
We know the power within us has brought us to this hall
there's magic in the metal there's magic is us all
Heavy metal or no
metal at all whimps and posers leave the hall
Heavy metal or no metal at all whimps and posers go on get out
Leave the hall
Now the world must
listen to our decree
We don't turn down for anyone we do just what we please
got to make it louder, all men play on ten
If you're not into metal, you are not my friend
(Manowar, “Metal Warriors”)
As an impressionable teenager and fan whose identity was tied to heavy metal music, I can tell you that I was in fact swept up in this faux conflict, and was a real man who played his boom box on ten. I knew with certainty which side I was on, and so I joined the ranks of those who mocked Judas Priest’s Turbo (1986). OK, so I did not actually outwardly mock the album, but I viewed it with a definite feeling of disappointment. It was hard to swallow that the same metal gods who gave us songs like “Beyond the Realms of Death” and “Victim of Changes” were in fact all too human, and could succumb to the forces of commercialism with an album that so obviously sought to capitalize on the popularity of the likes of Motley Crue and Def Leppard.
In short, Turbo felt a little like Priest had left the ranks of true metal and joined the false. There is nothing worse than a Benedict Arnold. I felt betrayed.
With the passing of years I look back on that old conflict with a feeling of bemusement and nostalgia, not bitterness. I will always prefer Iron Maiden and Judas Priest over the likes of Slaughter and Bullet Boys, and I also believe that the former have lasted and the latter have not, for reasons of integrity and quality. But I hold no hatred of “Fly to the Angels” and in fact I find it superior to just about anything heard on today’s Top 40.
Then again, I’m an old fart with a questionable taste in music.
But back to Turbo.
Just like my allegiances toward true vs. false metal have fallen away, so too have my opinions on this album softened and changed. I don’t believe it is anywhere close to Priest’s best, but I’ve come to appreciate Turbo as both a historical artifact and a unique album in their diverse catalog. Yes, teenage rebellion anthems like “Rock You All Around the World,” “Private Property” and “Parental Guidance” are still cheesy, but I like them nonetheless. The guitar synthesizers which Priest employed for the first time in their career give these songs a delicious nostalgic 80s sound. “Hot for Love” is probably the hardest track to defend and the one I’m most likely to skip. But I enjoy the heck out of “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days” and “Locked In.”
There is at least one stone cold classic track on the album, and it’s not what you think. Not “Turbo Lover” (which I hugely enjoy, and is guaranteed to make me exceed the speed limit when it comes on while I’m driving, without fail). It’s not even “Out in the Cold,” which is an excellent slow ballad, haunting and soulful and well-sung.
No. That song is “Reckless.” The guitar tone is so bloody savage, and Halford kills it. The solo at 2:35 brilliantly continues the soaring lyric, “heading like a rocket to the stratosphere” with exactly that sound of rocket-driven power mimicked by electric guitar. There’s even a stuttering sound of an igniting engine generated by the action of the guitar strings. This song is like watching the Rocky IV training montage, instilling that feeling of power and agency that only metal can truly do. Apparently “Reckless” was to appear on the soundtrack to the hit film Top Gun, but Priest declined as it would have resulted in the song not appearing on the album.
While it would have been cool and very apropos to see an F-14 Tomcat launched off the deck of an aircraft carrier with “Reckless” blazing along with the afterburners, I’m glad it is where it is. On an album I play today with great affection. With regrets to Manowar.