White Label Wednesday: Judas Priest, “Turbo Lover”

Written by Music, Popdose, White Label

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Meet the rarest of beasts: the heavy metal dance mix.

After the “disappointing” sales figures for Judas Priest’s 1984 album Defenders of the Faith (it merely went platinum), CBS Records gave the band the kind of visionary direction that has made the major labels the shining beacon of business savvy they are today: sell more records. In 1986, that meant ‘add keyboards,’ and Priest, good lads that they were, obliged for their 1986 album Turbo, though whether that was willingly so is not known. Ah, but such concessions are a slippery slope, and one wonders, when the band turned “Turbo Lover” in to the label, if they had any idea that the label would turn around and commission a remix of the track for play in dance clubs.

The move was “too little, too late” on a number of levels. By 1986, rock radio was phasing out the extended mixes that were all the rage two years before – we’re guessing it was those god-awful mixes from ZZ Top’s Afterburner that did the trick – and there wasn’t a club on the planet that was about to give any mix of “Turbo Lover” heavy rotation. The remix was only half the problem, though; Judas Priest was permanently linked to a scene that had simply run out of time. English metal was dead, and not even the bands that were still putting out interesting work (Iron Maiden) could escape it. Casual metal fans were moving on to the Replacements, and the hardcore metal fans hated those goddamn synthesizers. Priest’s goose was cooked before the “Turbo Lover” 12” single left the pressing plant.

In all fairness, the idea of a Judas Priest remix is more offensive than the remix itself. The song is more or less an update of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” the band’s sole foray into the Billboard Hot 100 (it peaked at #67, which means it will surely be in the ‘J’ episode of Bottom Feeders), with a little “Rebel Yell” mixed in for good measure. In other words, it was not the naked ploy to appeal to clubgoers that, say, “Sleeping Bag” was. It was just a rock song with keyboards, and the 12” mix is just a rock song with keyboards and a longer outro. It also had a hilariously bad video, contained below for your amusement.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/lAumLiAVAuQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Check out those groovy cutting-edge special effects. When the Harryhausen road warrior puts his skeleton hand over his face and shakes his head in shame, our first reaction was, “Couldn’t agree more.” Wow, Rob Halford looks like Simon LeBon’s biker brother. The drummer, meanwhile, just looks bored.

Still, as bad as the video is – and as boneheaded as the idea to issue a dance mix of a Judas Priest song was – “Turbo Lover” wouldn’t even crack the top 100 on a list of the embarrassing things bands (or their labels) have done for the sake of prolonging a career another five minutes. Maybe that’s the problem: they didn’t try hard enough to sell out. Had they made a bigger spectacle of themselves, the song may have done better. (Remember, bands, your responsibility as rock stars is to amuse as well as entertain.) On the plus side, the band’s subsequent tour gave birth to the seminal rock doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot, so while “Turbo Lover” has been lost in the mists of time, the Landover gig will live forever.

Judas Priest – Turbo Lover (Hi-Octane Mix)