K.K. Downing – Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest
Author: K.K. Downing and Mark Eglinton
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Release Date: September 18, 2018
To get me to sit down and read a book today, it really has to catch my attention. It’s got to be well written, compelling and honest. With a memoir like the K.K. Downing Book – Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest, it’s also got to tell me something I don’t already know. With my love of music and the respect for the legendary metal bands and when it’s someone who’s part of the reason I myself fell for live music, I was definitely willing to give this book a read.
In October of 1988, a seventeen-year-old in Seattle, I stood side stage at a live Judas Priest show. To me, it alone was the defining moment that I knew working around live music was my calling. From that angle, seeing what the band saw as they performed, forever hooked me on live music. The audience, with their reaction to the music and the intensity of the interaction between the band and the fans rocked me to my core. It was in that instant that I knew I had to be a part of the music in some way.
Bands like Judas Priest and innovative guitarists like K.K. Downing do not come along often. Heavy metal music fans were molded as they pioneered their way in the early 1970s and through the 1980s. It wasn’t only the music, they also created the studded, leather-clad look that’s known all too well to metal fans today. But in 2011, Judas Priest fans were saddened to learn that founding member and guitarist, Downing decided to quit the band.
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Many fans were left wondering why Downing decided to quit the band. Management announcing his retiring with the presumption he had another focus, his golf course, wasn’t the exact truth. So seven years later, Downing has broken his “silence”, to set the record straight by writing his memoir.
Some of you may have followed along since his departure and have seen a few stories in the media. Also, few callous statements by band members have been said along the way. So one would have had to assume that at some point, we might get Downing’s side of things. That’s exactly what happened in September 2018 as Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest was released.
I thought I might merely read through it’s pages, maybe find a couple of things I didn’t know and one day finish it as I have with many other books. That wasn’t the case. Instead, I sat down to give the book a glance and a few hours later found myself halfway through his book. I didn’t want to put it down, I had too many questions I still needed answers to, but I had to put it down due to an early workday morning. The entire next day I kept wondering what was in between where I’d left off and up to Downing’s decision to quit the band. That evening, I ended up finishing the book. In just two days I had completed the book, something I rarely do.
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Having spoken to Downing for an interview, just a few days prior to diving into his book, I thought I had a good grasp on a number of things. But as I found from the book, he and the story are much more complex than one may think. Sure, there’s the typical “Rock Star” persona in his story! Many, many women he’s bed along the way. Lots of drinking and partying. Writing, touring and dealing with labels and management. So much of the typical life of a successful working musician in the 70’s through the 90’s.
What fans don’t know about him is very complex, much more of a tragedy that started out with his earliest of years. Like so many of us, Downing came from hard family circumstances. Circumstances that molded him in life and even today still have an effect on some personal areas of his life. Whether he realizes the depth of that hold completely or not, he does talk about it in the book, but never fully states how deeply he grasps it. He really doesn’t have to tell the readers, anyone who’s keen at connecting the patterns throughout his life will see it. It’s all there.
The book starts out with his earliest years and progresses through his life. You can see where the disconnect in his personal life started and how it has played out through his life. It’s also what gave him the focus, drive and direction to be a musician. It’s clear he had the desire to create and need to get away from his day-to-day life.
The book was written honestly and at times crudely as he reminisces over his many dalliances with groupies, all while in and out of relationships. It’s also a bit melancholy and painful as he lays out what happened with the band. He could have chosen to lash out harshly over the injustices he felt happened, but instead remained a gentleman. Or as he put it, his willingness to avoid conflict.
As his book progresses he talks about the intricacies of the band and the relationships between the members. How his part in the band slowly eroded, how he just felt left out and disregarded which ultimately led him to the decision to quit the band and move on with his life. In his opinion, he and Glenn Tipton never truly worked well together and that further eroded as their manager appeared to make decisions based on Tipton’s wants, instead of the full band.
As a long time fan of Judas Priest, some parts of his story hurt for me to read. We all know and expect, that there’s more going on behind the scenes in a band than we will ever know. So many people involved and quite often, things go sideways. What I appreciated about this book was how open and honest Downing was with his life story. It wasn’t an easy story to tell. To open one’s self up to the public when there’s been darkness and faults in your life, it takes courage to share those stories. It makes a legend, a human being. An average Joe! It also takes a great writer to take that story and mold it.
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Mark Eglinton did an exceptional job in getting the story out of Downing and laying it out so eloquently. Putting his words down with pen and paper in such a compelling way that readers with feel the excitement, emotion, sadness, frustration and regrets as if they personally know Downing. It’s not an easy task, but he managed to do just that.
I really enjoyed Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest. It’s a candid book from a man of simple beginnings, who made his dreams see the light of day, while answering questions fans have had since his departure in 2011.
Downing told me that he has no regrets about his decision to leave Judas Priest. He feels he made the right decision for himself. He’s not completely out of the scene either. He’s got his own venue in Wolverhampton called the Steel Mill. So if you happen to be out that way, look it up and take in a live show. He’s also not ruled out reuniting with Judas Priest somewhere down the road for a few shows if the opportunity arises. So who knows what the future really holds.
Go grab a copy of Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest. It’s out now and you can get it most places books are sold. If you fancy an autographed copy of the book, head over and order it here directly while he’s still selling personalized, autographed copies of his book. And keep defending the metal faith!