In 1986, Judas Priest intended to release a double album entitled Twin Turbos, of which half would consist of melodic, more commercial hard rock, and the other half would be heavier and less synth-driven. Columbia Records objected to the double album concept, and the project was ultimately split into two separate releases, 1986's Turbo, and 1988's Ram It Down. At least three songs, "Hard as Iron", "Love You to Death" and "Monsters of Rock", were written for the Twin Turbos project.
Drummer Dave Holland experienced health problems during recording, and the band elected to utilise a drum machine on much of the album rather than bring in another drummer. Ram It Down would be the final Judas Priest album recorded with longtime drummer Holland, as well as producer Tom Allom. Allom would later return as co-producer to the 2009 live release A Touch of Evil: Live.
The band recorded a rendition of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", intended for inclusion on the soundtrack for the 1988 Anthony Michael Hall comedy film Johnny Be Good; the song found its way onto Ram It Down and was the album's first single. It was also played during the first few concerts of the band´s 1988 tour, along with the title track and three other songs from the album. The only Ram It Down songs to have been played on later tours are "I'm a Rocker", during the Retribution Tour; and "Blood Red Skies", during the Epitaph World Tour.
Originally, the song "Thunder Road" was to be put on the album; however, after the album producers were asked to do the cover of "Johnny B. Goode", "Thunder Road" was replaced. Some of the parts from the song made it into the cover of "Johnny B. Goode". The original was placed on 2001 remaster of Point of Entry.
Although Judas Priest's fanbase was big enough to push the album to gold status in North America, critical reaction was fairly negative, arguing that the band failed to produce any new creative ideas, and the songwriting was inferior to their past efforts.
Halford said that Ram It Down was harmed by the inclusion of the "Johnny B. Goode" cover, which he called "silly". His take on the rest of the album is that it was "a very heavy record", with Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing "really rip[ping] it up on a lot of those riffs". Halford said the band recorded a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire"; he said it was "a shame" that the song did not make the album.
An unknown song was recorded for inclusion on the album but the tape was lost during a chaotic period which resulted from Halford's decision to leave the band following the group's next album, Painkiller, and Tim "Ripper" Owens' hiring as his replacement. For this reason Ram It Down is the only remastered Judas Priest disc with no added bonus studio tracks, just two added live tracks.
The song "Blood Red Skies" was released as a promo only single with a 4:51 radio edit, the album version and a 10:33 extended remix.
The band recorded three tracks with pop producers Stock-Aitken-Waterman – two originals "Runaround" and "I Will Return" and a cover of The Stylistics' hit "You Are Everything. However, they were ultimately not included on this album due to a management decision. Pete Waterman calls them "probably the best tracks we ever did" and admits that "I occasionally dig the record out and play it to people, and they're amazed that we made heavy metal." Around this time, Glenn Tipton also recorded guitar solos for songs by another Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced artist, Samantha Fox, and was officially credited on the track "Spirit of America".