Breaking the Law

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This article is about the song by Judas Priest. For violations of law, see Crime.
"Breaking the Law"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album British Steel
Released 1980
Recorded January- February 1980
Startling Studios
Ascot, England
Genre Heavy metal
Length 2:35
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Rob Halford
K.K. Downing
Glenn Tipton
Producer(s) Tom Allom
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Living After Midnight"
(1980)
"Breaking the Law"
(1980)
"United"
(1980)
British Steel track listing
"Metal Gods"
(2)
"Breaking the Law"
(3)
"Grinder"
(4)

"Breaking the Law" is a song by British heavy metal band Judas Priest, originally released on their 1980 album British Steel. The song is one of the band's better known singles, and is recognized by its opening guitar riff.

Composition[edit]

Example of a typical heavy metal Aeolian harmonic progression in I-VI-VII (Am-F-G): the main riff of Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law". About this sound MIDI sample 

Prior to releasing 1980's 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 lyrics tell of someone who gets tired of everything that comes with an ordinary life-that life has become boring. This leads the person to take a chance and start breaking the law.

The song featured some sound effects, including the sound of breaking glass and police siren. The band were recording British Steel at Tittenhurst Park, which was the home of The Beatles's drummer Ringo Starr. For the breaking glass effect, the band used milk bottles that a milkman brought them in the morning, and the police siren was actually guitarist K.K. Downing using the tremolo arm on his Stratocaster.

Live performances[edit]

The song has been played live almost constantly ever since its release, and has slowly evolved over the years, for example with an added guitar solo by K.K. Downing over the bridge, but Judas Priest have expressed a desire to try touring without some of their obvious classics, including this song.

Music video[edit]

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 Westway section of the A40 in West 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 A40 repeating the chorus until the song is finished.

Performances[edit]

Since British Steel was released, "Breaking the Law" has been a popular staple at some of Judas Priest's most famous performances. The performance version of the song has changed since it was first performed on the 1981 World Wide Blitz Tour for the follow up to British Steel, Point of Entry : at first, the band would play it the original way it was on British Steel. More recently, the band have sometimes (for example on the Angel of Retribution tour) 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".

Critical reaction[edit]

The song made VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs making the list at 40.[1] In 2009 it was named the 12th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[2]

Covers[edit]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1990s, the song was both used and parodied in an episode of the MTV show, Beavis and Butt-head, when the title duo are washing a neighbor's dog in a washing machine and repeatedly chanting a parody of "Washing the dog, washing the dog" to the tune of the song and sing the actual song later on in the same episode.
  • The song is featured in the soundtrack to the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours.
  • The comedian Noel Fielding pretended to sing this song into a baby's face as a lullaby, on the British musical comedy TV show Never Mind the Buzzcocks in November 2013.
  • The song was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons. Homer has gained asylum in a Swedish apartment building, as the FBI is after him for pirating movies, and the FBI attempts to get him out by bringing in Judas Priest (egregiously referred to as a death metal band) to sing an piracy-minded version of the song, which included the lyrics "Respecting the law, copyright law."

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by VH1.com; last accessed 10 September 2006.
  2. ^ "spreadit.org music". Retrieved 7 February 2009. 

External links[edit]