Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Woody is right. It’s been a minute since the last time there was a Spine of Overkill column featured here, but truth be told, his stint has lasted much longer than any of the other contributors in that little experiment, and since his stories are so cool, I’m happy to post them whenever he wants to send them over. Once every six months? Fine. Not like I’m working on a schedule. I’ll take what I can get.

This time around, the Mighty High guitarist/vocalist brings us a quality tale of seeing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest together at Madison Square Garden in 1982. Enjoy:

Jeez, it’s been six months since the last time I did anything for the Obelisk? Sorry H.P. You deserve better than that so I’m coming back with a big one. I could have sworn that I already wrote about the Judas Priest/Iron Maiden U.S. tour of 1982 but I did not. Thanks for your patience and to the dude on Twitter who reminded me of my metal duty to the Obelisk.

I’ve been a full blown Priest fanatic ever since hearing a live radio broadcast on WLIR from the British Steel tour. (I Rippled about that monumental day here). Next to Motörhead, Judas Priest was THE band for me. Every time I went to the record store I would discover yet another great album from them. The string of records they pumped out in the ’70s and early ’80s is fuckin’ impressive — Hell Bent for Leather, Sin After Sin, British Steel, Sad Wings of Destiny and so on. Not to mention the monumental live powerhouse of Unleashed in the East. Come on! It doesn’t get any better. 1981’s Point of Entry was a pretty big disappointment. “Heading out to the Highway,” “Solar Angels,” and “Desert Plains” kicked ass but crap like “You Say Yes” and “Troubleshooter” was totally bogus. When they played the Pier on the west side of Manhattan that tour I didn’t bother to go see them.

Then in July of ’82 Judas Priest released Screaming for Vengeance. I could tell by the album cover that it was going to be a lot better than Point of Entry and the opening priest and maiden-1400double barreled assault of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” confirmed that. The title-track, “Riding on the Wind,” “Devil’s Child,” “Bloodstone” and, of course, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” were added to the list of my mother’s least favorite songs to hear thudding through my bedroom door. I usually skipped over “Fever” and “Take These Chains.”

Earlier in ’82 Iron Maiden released their third album, Number of the Beast. The first two Maiden albums were flat out incredible and this was the first one with new singer Bruce Dickinson. While I preferred the raw vocal stylings of Paul Di’Anno I had no problem rocking out to the new album. Hearing songs like “Number of the Beast,” “The Prisoner,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and “Run to the Hills” for the very first time was special. It was obvious Maiden were influenced by Priest but they had a Deep Purple/Rainbow/UFO angle that made them totally unique.

Priest started getting some pretty heavy radio airplay with “You Got Another Thing Comin’.” One day at the end of the summer I hear a radio ad that Judas Priest was coming to NYC to play Madison Square Garden. Who’s opening? Iron Maiden. Holy shit. My heart was pounding. It seemed to good to be true — the two best metal bands on the same bill and it was happening on a Saturday night, Oct. 2. A couple days later I’m at work. The plan was to hop on the MetroNorth train into Manhattan as soon as I got paid at the end of the day. My friend Gavin (R.I.P.) from school was working with me that day and he decided to come along with me. He asked me who I was going to the show with and I said I didn’t know. Then he came up with the idea that he would go to the Priest show if I went to see Santana with him, also at the Garden. Alright, what the hell. I always liked the first few Santana albums even if I wasn’t into their current album Zebop, featuring the big hit “Winning.” We hit the city, scored our tickets and most likely bought lousy pot in Bryant Park.

That Santana show turned out to be really cool. The crowd was full of rowdy Mexican low riders and ’60s burnouts. Just about everyone had a massive afro and a thick mustache (even some of the ladies). I will never forget the enormous cloud of pot smoke hovering over the crowd at the top of the arena. Still the biggest cloud I’ve ever seen. Carlos and his band boogie’d hard with plenty of percussion discussions amongst the drummers. As good as it was, I knew Priest would be even better.

Saturday October 2nd finally rolled around and I was fuckin psyched. I’d played the hell out of my Maiden and Priest albums all Zeptember but didn’t listen to any of them all day Friday and Saturday. That remains a rule for me – never listen to the band you’re going to see on the day of the show. It’s bad luck. For some reason Gavin decided to bring along a girl named Pam to the show. Nice girl but not metal at all. Neither was Gavin. He was into Neil Young (UGH) and the Grateful Dead (BLECH). Suddenly I realized this wasn’t such a great arrangement after all. I didn’t want to be the third wheel on their stupid date! At least they brought some weeeeeeeeed and shared it with me. The train was full of wasted teenagers screaming out band names and song titles. One guy kept yelling “lick my butt!” I thought it was hilarious but my companions thought it was atrocious behavior.

I got my usual Fosters oil can when we hit Grand Central for the walk over to the Garden. The streets were clogged with metal heads and peddlers selling nickel bags, mesc and bootleg shirts. I bought a killer black jersey with red sleeves. On the front was the cover of Screaming for Vengeance and the back had Number of the Beast. Later when I unrolled mine I discovered that it said “IRON MAID” on the back and “EN” was silkscreened on the elbow. It must have been folded under when they made it. Fuck it, I didn’t care. It was still mint as hell.

Finally the lights went down and Iron Maiden hit the stage. Ourpriest ticket seats were pretty crappy — up high and off to the side but I could care less because the sound was loud as hell. Maiden opened up with “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and everyone went nuts. Everyone except for the two people I came with. They sat their holding hands and trying to talk. I ignored them and just rocked out. “Wrathchild,” “Run to the Hills” and a few more from the new album were blasted out. Then Eddie himself came out during the song “Iron Maiden.” I had seen lots of pictures of him onstage in Kerrang magazine but had no idea he’d make an appearance. So cool. They finished up the set with a big singalong on “Drifter.”

The crowd was so fired up on metal and you could hear a lot of headbangers say that Priest might not be able to top that. Soon enough the lights went down and the opening notes of “The Hellion” blasted the Garden. The stage set up was massive. Two levels with the drummer upstairs and the rest of the band downstairs. All you could see was stack upon stack of Marshall amps. Since my seats were on the side I could see Halford crouching down behind the amps on the upper level ready to make his entrance. “Up here in space I’m looking down on you” he sang as he rounded the corner. Dressed completely in black leather he had the cover to Screaming for Vengeance painted on the back of his vest. Impressive.

Priest’s set was flawless. “Riding on the Wind,” “Heading out to the Highway,” “Metal Gods,” “Sinner,” “The Ripper,” and so on. The regular set finished with an absolutely stunning “Victim of Changes.” “Livin’ After Midnight” was the first encore and they left the houselights on so everyone could see how hard the crowd was fist pumping and singing along. The pot cloud hovering above was not as big as the one at Santana but still impressive. “Green Manalishi” was up next and, finally, the Harley revved up and hit the stage for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Fucking unreal.

Over the years I’ve discovered that some of my friends were at the show before we knew each other. My friend Vinny came to the show from Queens. He said there was a girl behind him who screamed “K.K. I wanna have your baby” all night. Another friend Eric was there and enjoyed lighting banners on fire with his crew of derelicts from Brooklyn.

32 years later, almost to the day, Priest will be playing Brooklyn. Vinny and I will be there. It’s going to be a great night but a far cry from ye olde ‘82. You just don’t get nights like that anymore.

Iron Maiden, “Drifter” Live in 1982

Judas Priest, “Victim of Changes” Live in 1982

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5 Responses to “Spine of Overkill, by Woody High”

  1. ucsteve says:

    My 1st concert was a day or later I think at The Meadowlands in NJ. My Mom dropped me off and my sister picked me up. i was like 15 and sitting in a row with all adults who gave me a drink. ithink it had rum in it. i felt very grown up heh. I didnt know priest very much yet, but I was a very new and obsessed Maiden fan so I will never forget seeing my hero Clive Burr lay out the opening roll to Murders In The Rue Morgue. Pinnacle childhood moment to say the least. Thanks for reminding me as well about ltrying to get LIR in on my stereo at night, and hearing things like 2112 on it. Nice read, Kudos!

  2. Woody says:

    Thanks for reading. Rock on, mutha!

  3. goAt says:

    “Percussion discussion.” Awesome. I’m wondering how your experience was this year by comparison. K.K. being absent made it easier for me to justify skippin’ it and saving the dough…still had the thought of going in the back of my mind though.

    • simon says:

      What a night, My first concert Oct 2 MSG….the mighty Maiden opening for the Metal Gods, The Priest….20th row and I remember the Budweiser banners aflame, seat cusions flying and m80s going off every now and then…..What a night.

  4. simon says:

    I was at same show…Oct 2 my first concert at 15….one of the greatest nights ever….20th row on floor and all i could see was the Budweiser banners on fire and seat cusions flying every where oh and a m80 going off now and then.

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