Rocka Rolla

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For the music magazine, see Rock-A-Rolla.
Rocka Rolla
Studio album by Judas Priest
Released 6 September 1974
Recorded June – July 1974 at Island, Trident and Olympic Studios
Genre Heavy metal
Length 42:04
Label Gull
Producer Rodger Bain
Judas Priest chronology
Rocka Rolla
(1974)
Sad Wings of Destiny
(1976)
Reissue cover
Singles from Rocka Rolla
  1. "Rocka Rolla"
    Released: August 1974

Rocka Rolla is the debut album by 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.

Background[edit]

According to the band, the album was entirely played "live", in studio (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).[1]

According to the band there were technical problems in the studio, resulting in poor sound quality and a hiss through the album. Glenn Tipton had just recently joined when recording of Rocka Rolla began and did not contribute any songwriting except on the title track. He did come up with the songs Tyrant, Epitaph, and Ripper, but Rodger Bain considered them not commercial enough and rejected their inclusion. Bain also rejected the concert staple "Whiskey Woman" which with contributions from Tipton morphed into "Victim of Changes". These songs were eventually all included on their next album. In addition, "Winter", "Deep Freeze" and "Winter Retreat" form a suite, however they are listed as separate tracks and divided as such on the CD release.

"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.

The songs on the album were mostly written by previous Judas Priest frontman Al Atkins, Ian Hill, and K.K. Downing, and had been regular parts of their live performances in Manchester, where the band had achieved a cult following during the past few years. The track "Caviar and Meths" was originally a 14-minute epic penned by Atkins but due to time constraints, only the intro is recorded for the album. A longer version of the song appears on Atkins's 1998 album Victim of Changes. Though not the full-length version, it is notably longer at seven minutes. That later album also contains covers of "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. This makes the album's style virtually unrecognizable to later Priest albums, although "Rocka Rolla" does feature dual guitars, and "Run of the Mill" is the first song that was explicitly designed for Halford's, rather than Atkins', vocal range.

Drummer John Hinch would be dismissed in 1975 before the next record was to begin being recorded. Glenn Tipton would later refer to him as being "musically inadequate" for the band's future plans.

Rob Halford made a brief explanation before performing "Never Satisfied" during the Epitaph Tour, as there were "a few blank stares" from the audience while performing the song.[2]

The album was reissued in 1987 with a different cover. The original "bottle cap" album cover art was initially intended by designer John Pasche for use with an unspecified Rolling Stones album. The band had filed a lawsuit with the Coca-Cola company.[3] The re-issue cover art (by artist Melvyn 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.[citation needed]

Most of the songs from Rocka Rolla have not been performed by Judas Priest live since the mid-late 1970s, although Halford's solo band performed "Never Satisfied" during live shows in 2003, and the same song is part of the setlist of the Epitaph World Tour.

The tour for Rocka Rolla was Judas Priest's first international tour[4] with dates in Germany, Holland, Norway and Denmark including one show at Hotel Klubben[5] in Tønsberg, one hour from Oslo, Norway which scored them a somewhat negative review in the local press.[6]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[7]

The album was released to very little reception selling "only a few thousand copies". Because of the flop of the album, the band found themselves in dire financial straits. In particular, they talked of nights in which they were starving and didn't know when they were going to get their next meal. They tried to enter into an agreement with Gull Records to pay them 50 pounds a week, but Gull, which was also suffering economic woes, refused.[8] In a retrospective review, Allmusic gave Rocka Rolla a rating of 2.5 out of five stars, and said that while it was a "sketchy and underfocused debut," the album "definitely hints at Judas Priest's potential and originality."[7]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "One for the Road"   Rob Halford, K.K. Downing 4:34
2. "Rocka Rolla"   Halford, Downing, Glenn Tipton 3:05
3. "Winter"   Al Atkins, Downing, Ian Hill 1:42
4. "Deep Freeze"   Downing 1:21
5. "Winter Retreat"   Halford, Downing 3:28
6. "Cheater"   Halford, Downing 2:59
7. "Never Satisfied"   Atkins, Downing 4:50
8. "Run of the Mill"   Halford, Downing, Tipton 8:34
9. "Dying to Meet You/Hero, Hero"   Halford, Downing 6:23
10. "Caviar and Meths" (Instrumental) Atkins, Downing, Hill 2:02
1987 Remaster bonus track
No. Title Writer(s) Length
11. "Diamonds & Rust" (Joan Baez cover, 1975 recording) Joan Baez 3:12

The original UK LP has a longer version of "Rocka Rolla" than the version used for the US LP release, and most CD releases. It has an extra verse and chorus at the beginning of the song.

On some versions of the CD release, "Rocka Rolla" is timed at 4:00 and "Winter" at 0:45, becoming a mashup but remaining on separate tracks. Some releases, e.g. Hero, Hero also combine "Winter", "Deep Freeze" and "Winter Retreat" into one track. The iTunes version combines those three plus "Cheater" into one track.

The version of "Diamonds & Rust" that appears on the re-release is actually from the Sad Wings of Destiny sessions and not the version that appears on Sin After Sin. It was probably included to provide interest in Rocka Rolla, an album that would have been unknown to many of the band's fans due to the band not playing songs from it live after the 1970s.

Rocka Rolla features Judas Priest's longest track, "Run of the Mill", prior to "Cathedral Spires" from Jugulator (1997). It is also the longest track co-written by Halford, Downing and Tipton prior to "Lochness" from Angel of Retribution (2005).

Personnel[edit]

Judas Priest
Production

References[edit]

  1. ^ Post on the official Judas Priest Facebook page. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  2. ^ Hartmann, Graham "Gruhamed". JUDAS PRIEST’S ROB HALFORD AND IAN HILL TALK ‘CHOSEN FEW,’ UPCOMING ALBUM + MORE. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Judas Priest logo history". Kkdowning.net. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  4. ^ "Judas Priest Info Pages - Forging The Metal". Thexquorum.com. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  5. ^ "Hotell Sentralt i Tønsberg - Quality Hotel Klubben". Nordicchoicehotels.no. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  6. ^ "Newspaper cutting : Lydsjokk pa Klubben". Kkdowning.net. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  7. ^ a b Huey, Steve. Rocka Rolla at AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Judas Priest Behind The Music Remastered: Judas Priest". MTV. Retrieved 2014-05-18.