THE ARCHIVE: Judas Priest Breaking the Law New Zealand 7” single (1980)

This 7” New Zealand pressing of Breaking the Law single has a slightly different layout compared to the UK version which is why Steve picked it up. The B side is ‘Metal Gods’. Breaking the Law was a hugely successful single taken from the album British Steel released in 1980. This was Judas Priest’s 6th studio album. Prior to releasing British Steel, Judas Priest had been making moves toward streamlining their music into a simpler, less processed sound. That approach came to full fruition on British Steel. Breaking the Law combines a recognisable minor-key opening riff and a rhythmic chorus as its main hooks. There is a change-up on the mostly instrumental bridge, a new chord progression with Halford shouting “You don’t know what it’s like!” before the sound effect of a police car’s siren leads back into the main riff (made using a Stratocaster by Downing). More recent live performances of the song have featured a short solo by KK over the bridge. The outro of the song is the main riff played repeatedly with Halford singing the chorus and Downing playing power chords.

The music video to accompanying the single release also became very popular and is well recognized. Directed by Julien Temple, the video starts with vocalist Rob Halford singing from the back of an open-top Cadillac car travelling along on the A406 North Circular in North London. The car eventually parks outside an unnamed bank near Oxford Street (The decor suggests it is a branch of Barclays Bank Plc). Halford meets with two men dressed as priests carrying guitar cases and they enter the bank together. For the breaking the law chorus the two men remove their disguises and are revealed to be guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. They are then joined by bassist Ian Hill and drummer Dave Holland. The people in the bank are incapacitated by the guitars. Meanwhile, the security guard (who has only just awoken) watches on in amazement on the CCTV screens. The band breaks into the safe (with Halford showing ‘extraordinary’ strength in pulling apart the iron bars). Halford takes from the safe a golden record award for the British Steel album. They soon leave the bank with the record, get back into the car and drive away. Concert footage of Judas Priest is now on the CCTV screens and we see the security guard miming along with a fake guitar very much lost in the music. The video ends with the full band driving back along the A406 repeating the chorus until the song is finished. In recent performances of the song live the band have sometimes (for example on the Angel of Retribution) played the opening riff with Halford picking for Downing, Downing picking for Tipton and Tipton picking for Hill, then quickly spreading apart to their respective usual positions on the stage for the verse. Over time, the band have raised the tempo of the song during live performances, and a solo was added by Downing (since his departure, Richie Faulkner, his replacement, composed a new solo, replacing KK’s). In live performances, Halford ends the song by screaming the words “Breaking the Law”. The song made VH1’s 40 Greatest Metal Songs making the list at 40. In 2009 it was named the 12th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. Info Source: Wikipedia.

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