Breaking the Law: Judas Priest’s Anthem of Rebellion

Few songs capture the spirit of rebellion and the essence of heavy metal like “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest.

The Birth of an Anthem

“Breaking the Law” is not just a song; it’s a statement, a rebellion, and an anthem that resonates even today. Released on Judas Priest’s 1980 album “British Steel”, the track’s inception can be traced back to a drizzly day in a Staffordshire farmhouse. It was here that guitarist Glenn Tipton first conceived the idea. The band’s choice of recording location, Tittenhurst Park, added another layer of history to the song. This estate, previously owned by John Lennon, witnessed the birth of this iconic track.

Innovative Techniques and Lyrics with Depth

Judas Priest never shied away from experimentation. For “Breaking the Law”, they employed innovative sound effects, smashing milk bottles, and even using a police siren, achieved by guitarist K. K. Downing’s Stratocaster tremolo arm. The song’s iconic opening guitar riff is instantly recognizable, setting the stage for its rhythmic chorus. The bridge, with its change-up and Halford’s emphatic “You don’t know what it’s like!”, adds depth to the track.

The lyrics, reflecting the U.K.’s tumultuous times marked by government issues, strikes, and street riots, resonated with many.

The lyrics, reflecting the U.K.’s tumultuous times marked by government issues, strikes, and street riots, resonated with many. Halford’s insight reveals that the song’s inspiration was spontaneous, yet it connected deeply with the feeling of breaking free from an oppressive cycle. The band members, hailing from working-class backgrounds in Birmingham, found a personal connection with the song’s theme.

A Groundbreaking Music Video

The music video for “Breaking the Law”, directed by Julien Temple, was distinctive in its approach. It depicted the band members as vicars trying a bank heist using guitars as their tools, filmed on the Hammersmith Odeon flyover. This conceptual video, among the early ones in metal, highlighted the band’s sense of humor in a distinctly British style. Halford mentioned that the video was created with the intention of utilizing the then-emerging MTV platform, reflecting the band’s proactive mindset.

The Lasting Echo of “Breaking the Law”

“Breaking the Law” stands tall as one of Judas Priest’s most iconic tracks. Its influence extends beyond music, finding its way into popular culture, including a humorous nod in “The Simpsons”. The episode’s playful reference to Judas Priest as a “death metal” band sparked fan reactions, leading to a light-hearted apology from the show.

The song’s legacy is further cemented by numerous covers from artists like Therapy?, Doro Pesch, and Pansy Division. As a testament to its enduring appeal, “Breaking the Law” remains a staple at some of Judas Priest’s most iconic performances, echoing the rebellious spirit of a generation.