Why Judas Priest’s ‘Turbo’ Was Doomed to Fail
Judas Priest reigned supreme as heavy metal’s self-proclaimed “Defenders of the Faith” during the first half of the ‘80s. So when they plunged into pop-metal on 1986’s Turbo, the results were more than a little divisive among their loyal fans — and the album failed to give Judas Priest the pop-crossover smash they were looking for.
After releasing a string of critically acclaimed progressive heavy-metal opuses in the ‘70s, Judas Priest launched to stardom with 1980’s lean, hard-rocking British Steel and 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance. They kept their metallic hot streak going with 1984’s furious Defenders of the Faith.
The glam-metal craze was in full swing by the middle of the decade, however, and Judas Priest saw younger bands like Quiet Riot, Van Halen and Def Leppard outselling them by the millions. The band decided they wanted a piece of the pie, as well.
At their core, mid-tempo singles like “Turbo Lover,” “Locked In” and “Parental Guidance” aren’t so different from Judas Priest’s previous hard-rocking efforts, and album cuts like “Hot for Love” and “Rock You All Around the World” are full of massive gang vocals and razor-sharp guitar solos.
But the songs are bathed in synthesizers and the lyrics deal with love, lust and partying rather than the fantastical, sci-fi imagery of past albums.
Turbo was a bald-faced attempt to court the MTV generation, but Judas Priest sabotaged their crossover attempt by bouncing between numerous studios to record the album and ramping up their substance abuse. The album went gold less than two months after its April 1986 release, but sales quickly plateaued and it took three more years to go platinum, becoming the last Judas Priest album to do so.
Their mainstream crossover bid was a bust, and Turbo became the most polarizing album in their discography. Watch the video below to learn more about Turbo, and tune into our "Doomed to Fail?" video series each week as we dust off ill-fated classic rock albums and determine whether they're hidden gems or best left forgotten.