Judas Priest release Rocka Rolla
Rocka Rolla is the debut album by the British heavy metal group Judas Priest, released in 1974.
It was produced by Rodger Bain, who had made a name for himself as the producer of Black Sabbath's first three albums.
This album was played entirely "live" (i.e. all musicians playing simultaneously as in a concert, vs. the more popular method of each musician's parts being recorded separately and then mixing them).
According to the band there were technical problems in the studio, resulting in poor sound quality and a hiss through the album. The band further claims that the producer had too much control over track selection, and omitted their more popular stage classics- in particular, "Tyrant", "Genocide" and "Victim of Changes". These songs were eventually included on their next album. In addition, the songs "Winter", "Deep Freeze", and "Winter Retreat" form a suite, however they are listed as separate tracks and divided as such on the CD release. The song "Dying to Meet You" contains a clear break before an unlisted song (often known as "Hero Hero") begins. It may be possible that the record company insisted on there being ten tracks on the album which led to this decision. Alternatively, this unlisted song may simply be the second half of "Dying to Meet You", as this is how the lyrics were printed on their 1978 "Best of..." compilation. Many of the songs were written before Rob Halford joined the band. The track "Caviar and Meths" was originally a 14-minute epic penned by Halford's predecessor, Al Atkins, but due to time constraints, only the intro is recorded for the album. A longer version of the song appears on original vocalist Al Atkins's 1998 album Victim of Changes. Though not the full-length version, it is notably longer at seven minutes. The album also contains covers of the songs "Winter" and "Never Satisfied".
At this point of the band's career, they had not yet developed their signature look of leather and studs. They had appeared on a British television programme called The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975, performing "Rocka Rolla" and "Dreamer Deceiver", and their wardrobe was very "hippified" as journalist Malcolm Dome put it. This footage was included on the "Electric Eye" DVD. In addition, the album has some slight progressive rock influences that would continue through to Stained Class, but to a lesser extent, and would be abandoned in later releases. Although those same progressive rock influences are resumed again and can be heard on their latest albums Angel of Retribution, which features their longest song at 13:28 with "Lochness", and the concept album Nostradamus.
Drummer John Hinch would be dismissed in 1975, before the next record was to begin being recorded, for what Glenn Tipton would later call him being "musically inadequate".
The album was reissued in 1987 with a different cover. Reportedly the band was unhappy with the original cover art and logo, as it did not fit with their image as a heavy metal band. There are also rumours that the Coca Cola Company brought legal pressure because the original album art too closely resembled their most famous brand. The re-issue cover art (by artist Mel Grant, and originally used as the cover for the novel The Steel Tsar) was also used for the US cover of Ballistix for the Turbo Grafx 16 and Commodore Amiga. The band, apparently, considers the "bottle cap" cover to be the official one, as it is the one that appeared on video screens during performances of Never Satisfied on the Epitaph tour.
Since the album was released during the period when K.K. Downing was the band's frontman, this remains the only album on which he is the primary songwriter. On future albums, songs were usually written by Halford, Downing and Tipton, most songs being written by either two or all three of them. This is also one of the only two albums where bassist Ian Hill got a songwriter credit, for the tracks "Winter" and "Caviar and Meths". He would later help write the track "Invader" on the group's fourth studio album Stained Class.
Judas Priest have not performed any of the songs from Rocka Rolla live since the mid-late 1970s, although Rob Halford's solo band performed "Never Satisfied" during live shows in 2003, and the same song is also part of the setlist of the Epitaph World Tour.