Turbo turns 30 on April 14! In commemoration of this – a foray by Judas Priest into Glam Metal, I took a look back at the album to see how it holds up after all of these years.
Ten years after Sad Wings of Destiny Judas Priest had really come into their own sound as any owner of a Judas Priest greatest hits collection or any ‘80s metal will understand.
Whereas Sad Wings of Destiny was seen as straight heavy metal, Turbo is seen to have glam metal influences.
Check out the full retrospective on the album here.
The album opens up with (sort of) a title song in “Turbo Lover”. If you can ignore the opening lyric this song is not only a straight rocker, but a power anthem of companionship, adventure and escape.
But the first lyric is kind of creepy:
“You won’t hear me, But you’ll feel me // Without warning, somethings dawning, listen // Then within your senses // You’ll know you’re defenseless // How your heart beats, when you run for cover // Your cant retreat I spy like no other.”
It’s hard to know if the lyrical them is supposed to be similar to the Big Brother, Orwellian themes of “Electric Eye” or if this is more of an “Every Breath You Take” sort of situation. The second lyric takes the song in a different direction, however.
“Then we race together. We can ride forever // Wrapped in horsepower, driving into fury // Changing gear I pull you tighter to me.”
And this blasts into the chorus: “I’m your turbo lover! // Tell me there’s no other! // I’m your turbo lover // Better run for cover.”
The chorus has that one line that harkens back to the first lyric, “Tell me there’s no other … Better run for cover.” Controlling jealousy just isn’t cool.
The other two lyrics in the song are worth noting though: “We hold each other closer, as we shift to overdrive // And everything goes rushing by, with every nerve alive // We move so fast it seems as though we’ve taken to the sky // Love machines in harmony, we hear the engines cry.”
Halford has said that the song was just about his experience falling prey to the pure rock-n-roll excess that was the 1980s – driving fast cars and having all that money and all. But as a poor woman from the Deep South this lyric just makes me think of that time in high school I asked my girlfriend to run away with me.
Before a double chorus the song ends with: “On and on we’re charging to the place so many seek // In perfect synchronicity of which so many speak // We feel so close to heaven in this roaring heavy load // And then in sheer abandonment, we shatter and explode.”
One way or another; jealous, abusive love or hedonistic excess, the moral of the story is that if you don’t slow down, there will be hell to pay.
The second song “Locked In” starts with some heavy synth guitar. I can definitely see where this album is considered to be glam metal. In this track Halford employs a straight-forward singing style, plowing straight ahead while Tipton, Downing and Co. pound full speed ahead around him. Except for the beginning of the song there isn’t any guitar frill, nothing atmospheric, no screeching beltings. Still, it’s damn good.
“I can’t stand the way you move it // You drive me crazy with that walk // You get me so excited // I tremble and I shake // When you make the moves you make”
“I can’t stand it when you touch me // Feels so good I could explode // You’ve got me in a frenzy // I tremble and I quake // When you shake the things you shake”
What I love about this song is that there is no pretense. And it isn’t a sex song. It’s foreplay, it’s flirtation, it’s desire. It’s screaming for release and without any resolution, the song fades away as Halford sings, “You’ve got me locked in/ Locked inside your love” about half a dozen times.
“Private Property” is a fun song. The protagonist of the song is rejecting the (probably cocky) advances of an optimistic suitor.
“You think you’re cool and got it all // You think you run the scene // I don’t believe how you’d conceive // That you’re good enough for me // You think you’ve got it all sewn up // But I’ll cut you right down to size // The way I figure you don’t exist // So you’d better realize.”
This album is definitely defined by a stronger focus on choruses, which was a response of Judas Priest to the sounds at the time, but Judas Priest also folded back in and inspired that sound and kept things driving.
The instrumental work at the beginning of “Parental Guidance” seems quintessentially ‘80s; a sonic propulsion stuck somewhere between “Teenage Wasteland” and Damn Yankees.
“You say I waste my life away // But I live it to the full // How would you know anyway // You’re just mister dull // Why don’t you get into the things we do today // You could lose twenty years right away // So we say.”
“Parental Guidance” takes shots at Tipper Gore and the PMRC while celebrating the fountain of youth that is heavy metal, always cranked up loud enough to break the knob and blow the speakers.
“Every day you scream at me // To turn the music low // Well if you keep on screaming // You’ll make me deaf you know. // You always chew me out, because I stay out late // Until your three-piece suit comes back in date // Get one thing straight – “
A youth anthem for the moment. As Judas Priest made it to the near-top of the PMRC’s “Filthy Fifteen” they had as much reason and more to write in retaliation to what the Washington Wives were hoping to accomplish.
The song’s dismissive attitude takes a different approach from Dee Snider up on the hill testifying before the PMRC.
“There’s no communication // I’m tired of explanation // Is this message getting through // You went through the same thing too // Don’t you remember what it’s like to lose control // Put on my jacket for you get too old // Let’s rock and roll.”
Of course, I don’t blame Judas Priest. The PMRC probably wasn’t anything but an extension of the Moral Majority and the Christian Right and damn it all to hell if the capitalists didn’t get rich either way – with albums like Turbo going platinum. The only ones who were affected were the disaffected kids who had a harder time getting their hands onto records worth a shit. The way I had to listen to country music growing up and my dad polka before me. Bullshit.
I always notice when people try to differentiate between Rock ‘N’ Roll and Heavy Metal. Particularly metal musicians or bands who don’t want to be seen as rock. Well, Judas Priest is an exception to this divisiveness in either direction and they show that off in “Rock You All Around The World”:
“In the cities of the world // You know every boy and girl // Goes crazy to the beat of rock n’ roll // And as the volume is soaring // All the crowd is roaring // Let it roll // Well, we don’t care in the least // Cause our metal is a feast // But there’s always someone trying to put it down // So we crank the music louder // And our voices turn to power // With a wall of sound we’ll blow ’em all away!”
Get ten thousand kids of all ages and walks of life into a stadium with Priest up on stage and there will be one hell of a raucous chorus of: “We’re gonna rock // we’re gonna rock you // Rock you all around the world.”
I’m just upset I’ve never witnessed it myself.
But for all the petal-to-the-metal freewheel burning this album has been doing it stops you suddenly with the six track (if you have the vinyl that’s the first song on side two).
That song is “Out In The Cold”.
The presence of “Out In The Cold” on this album solidifies the albums place in the Glam Metal pantheons; a ballad lost among rockers (of course, I use the term “ballad” very loosely). It’s probably the most musically complex song on the album. The intro is heavy as shit, even with the guitar synthesizers.
The lonely protagonist is calling out for an absent lover.
“I’m layin’ awake at night // I can’t get you out of my mind // All I can hear is my heart beat // And a voice in the dark of some kind // Where are you now // The fears are comin’ back to me once again // Oh, I wish you were here // Takin’ good care of me // I want you // I feel as though I’m out in the cold!”
Even though the protagonist is dealing with this internal struggle it’s hard to feel bad with the pounding of the music commanding your head to bang.
“Give me a chance baby // There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make it alright // Just for one more chance baby // I need all your lovin’ tonight // Where are you now // The fears are comin’ back to me once again // Oh, I wish you were here // Takin’ good care of me // I want you //I feel as though I’m out in the cold.”
And just like that, we’re snapped back into hedonistic excess with “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”. This chorus may be one of the most underrated in the Judas Priest catalog.
Turbo ends with a song I had never actually heard before – “Reckless”. It’s a pretty strong song to finish on. Seems to possess that timeless Judas Priest quality.
Overall I’d say this album rates 3 out of 5 turbo lovers. I was originally going to give the album a 2.5, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for that synthy guitar, that glam metal sound and those youthful, rebellious, finger-in-the-face-of-your-parents anthemic lyrics.