After leaving Judas Priest in 1992, Rob Halford formed Fight, a hard-hitting five-piece who released their full-length debut, War Of Words, in 1993. The album’s supporting tour flung the lads across the globe, with a stop in Australia in late-February, 1994. It was during this stop that Halford made a guest appearance on Midday — a daytime talk show hosted at the time by Derryn Hinch.
Though Halford is there ostensibly to promote Fight’s upcoming show in Sydney, the topic of the day is obscene lyrics and their effect on children. To the left of the Metal God sits a somewhat dour lady with an impressive barnet who begins by expressing passionate dismay after listening to one of her son’s cassettes. “I sat down and I decided to listen to what my son was listening to,” she says, “and I couldn’t believe it! These words are demeaning to women, they are violent, they’re racist… they’re anti-white. They’re totally anti-white in our society, I mean, you’ve got young white people who are anti-white! Anti-establishment. Anti-everything!”
And off we go.
At 1:10, when Halford asks the woman what music her son listens to, she replies with N.W.A’s full moniker: “Hardcore rap. N*****s With Attitude. Lynch Mob….” (presumably she means Da Lench Mob, an L.A.-based hip hop group associated with Ice Cube, who released two albums in the early-90s).
Although the woman appears to have little understanding of Halford’s fame or background (in addition to a black hole of understanding around race, culture and teenagers), the show’s producers clearly understood that the singer knew a thing or two about this subject. In 1985, two young Nevada men carried out a suicide pact after a day of reportedly drinking, smoking marijuana and listening to Judas Priest albums. Their families sued the band, claiming that Judas Priest had encouraged fans to commit suicide by inserting secret backwards messages on Stained Glass, like “Let’s be dead” and “Do it.” The band had, of course, done no such thing and the case was dismissed, but not before Judas Priest were dragged through a gauntlet of vilification in the American media.
Referring to that trial, Halford says, “The basic issue there was an accusation by the prosecution that we put in these so-called subliminal messages into our music, which was of course completely false. What we found out instantly when the trial began was that the real issue here was the fact that the parents weren’t doing the right job in looking after their kids, you know. These kids were running wild, drinking and smoking drugs and so forth. Now, for me, I mean I’ve been in the rock and roll profession for over twenty years of my life and I’ve been through that whole stage as a rebellious kid myself and so forth. And so I think I have a real understanding of the issues that we’re talking about here today.”
As his co-guest shoots him a less-than-impressed glance, a completely unbothered Halford continues, “I think that it’s just a simple stage of progression that most kids go through in growing up and I would say that 99.9% of them come out of it completely harmless. They enjoy their music, they get the pleasure, they get the entertainment, they get the enjoyment. What kind of message or factual involvement they get from it in terms of taking what they listen to and putting it into their own lives I think is a very small percentage.”
There’s plenty of hand-wringing and broad oversimplifications from the mother and Hinch, and Halford remains composed and polite throughout the show. Ultimately, he uses his time to do what he’s done so well over the years – defending the faith in a thoughtful, passionate and thoroughly authentic way. And he still manages to plug his upcoming show at the end. As Hinch announces that they’ve run out of time, the woman cuts him off to announce a meeting for parents who share her concern about obscenity in music. Just as she finishes Rob politely interjects, “And can I put in a plug for Fight? We’re playing at Selina’s (Coogee Bay Hotel) tomorrow night in Sydney. Come see us!” Cue. Massive laughter from the audience.
Watch the segment below (TW/racial slurs):