Andy ‘Bez’ Berry from UK

Name: Andy “Bez” Berry
Age: 45 (09/02/1966)
Location: New Milton, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Production Manager

Tell us something about your history as a Judas Priest fan?

I guess my first real introduction to Heavy Metal started way back in 1979. I was watching a weekly episode of Top of the Pops on TV, when a band clad all in leather came on to perform their latest single.
I remember jumping about the living room like a headless chicken and screaming out how good the song was. I also remember that my mum was less than impressed, and telling me that it was total rubbish, and me proclaiming how great it was.
This was not the last time I had a disagreement with my mum over metal music. She cut the plug of my Hi-Fi many years later because I was cranking it too loud.
Anyway, I have to be honest and admit that I soon forgot about the band on TOTP.

Fast forward about one year, by which time I was listening to a lot of Rainbow.
A friend of my brother did a copy, on cassette tape, of British Steel by a band called Judas Priest.
WOW!!! When the first track, Rapid Fire, cranked up it was the heaviest, most awesome thing that I had ever heard. It blew my socks off. My brother and I played that tape to death; I don’t think we listened to anything else for several months.

From that point on I was totally hooked. I sought out the Judas Priest back catalogue. The first Priest album that I actually bought myself was Unleashed in the East, which to this day I still rate as the best live album of all time.

After UITE I acquired a copy of the Killing Machine LP. Imagine my utter joy when I realised that the song that I had seen performed on TOTP a year or so earlier was on the album. Take on the World. The band I had seen all clad in leather was actually Judas Priest. It was like all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting together. Priest was my band. I couldn’t get enough.

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You have quite a big record collection. When did you start collecting old records?

I suppose if I had to nail it down, I started collecting in a small way right back in 1980 / 81

As I have already said I was hunting down the Priest back catalogue, going to record stores in the hope that I might find something to add to my embryo collection.

Of course new albums and singles were also being released. I almost lived at the local record store, where they knew me very well, and would keep a copy of anything new by Priest for me. Albums like Point of Entry and Screaming for Vengeance would be there waiting for me on the day of release.

By the mid eighties I had what I thought was the biggest Priest collection in the world. It consisted of about 14 singles and 10 vinyl albums and a couple of tour programmes!!

However, I really started to become a serious collector in the early 90’s when I started going to record fairs. That’s when I realised that other countries such as USA, Spain, Germany, Japan and Holland pressing their own versions of the Priest 7″ releases with different picture sleeves, and boy were they expensive. I could blow half a week’s wages on just one 7″ single back then, but I still had to buy them.

Then of course by the mid 90’s the internet had come along and with it on line auction sites. It was like opening up a treasure box; all of the things that I had only ever heard of and didn’t even know if they really existed were now easily available to me and for much nicer prices that UK record fairs.
I was like a kid in a sweet shop, in the beginning I was receiving about 10 packages a week from all over the world.
I think my mail man was getting pretty fed up with me!!

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In an earlier Fan Profile Markus from Germany shared a funny story about buying a rare bootleg picture vinyl (Live in Suisse 18-2-84) from you. It would be interesting to hear your side of this story…

Ahhh… my very good friend Markus. I had very briefly met Markus for the first time at the legendary Royal Albert Hall gig back in 2006 and several months later sent him a message through his website with a few pictures of my collection. From the pictures Markus could see that I had two copies of the LP, and that’s when it began… the stalking.

I had never actually been cyber stalked until that point. The man was obsessed. Every time I logged into my AOL account he was there on messenger, waiting to ambush me.

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I am normally very protective of my Priest collection, and at first refused to sell the record to him, but after several months of talking to Markus on messenger we had struck up a good friendship, and I thought what the hell, he will give the LP a good home. So I finally sold it to him.

The moral of this story is that I might have lost a rare LP, but I gained a very good friend. When Priest played Düsseldorf in 2008 and Dortmund in 2009 Markus invited me over to Germany and I stayed at his place with a whole bunch of other Priest fanatics and had a blast.

Besides records, do you collect other Priest related stuff as well?

I pretty much collect anything that is Judas Priest related. I have LPs, 7″singles, Maxi singles, CDs, Cassettes, Posters, Tour Programmes… you name it, if it’s Priest I collect it.

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So you obviously got the new Single Cuts box set as well… I was just wondering, is it true that at the time there was no CBS/Columbia UK single release from Ram It Down? Johnny Be Goode came under Atlantic label, but at least the title track was released as a single elsewhere in Europe…

Yes, I had the box set pre-ordered and it was delivered the day after release. It is funny you should ask the question about Ram It Down, as the same thing was recently asked by an American member of the Halford Quorum, who also wanted to know why the single was not included in the box. The answer that I gave was simply that the box set is supposed to reflect the UK vinyl releases, and for whatever reason Ram It Down was not issued here as either a 7″ or 12″ vinyl, only as a CD single.
Of course, as you say, Ram It Down was released in other countries on vinyl, most notably in Holland where it was issued on both 7″ and 12″ formats, and there is also a Spanish 7″ promo version as well.

As you correctly point out Johnny Be Goode was released through Atlantic, so even though it was released in the UK on 7″, 12″ and CD single formats, I can only assume that it was omitted from the box set as it was not originally a Sony release.

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Besides Priest, are there any other bands you keep on collecting?

I am a huge fan of many, many other Metal / Rock bands, bands such as Kiss, AC/DC and Iron Maiden to name a few, but although I am a fan of these bands, not one of them has inspired me to collect on the same scale as Priest has. To be frank and honest I did have a very small collection of Kiss, Maiden and AC/DC stuff until recently, but decided to sell it all on eBay, as it was just sitting in a cupboard, gathering dust and I didn’t really appreciate.

Are there any special items in the collection you perhaps consider more valuable than others? For example some rare hard-to-get items?

I have many rare items in my collection. Quite a few factory test pressings, the rarest of which are probably of the original 1974 UK of Rocka Rolla and 1979 Japanese Unleashed in the East LPs.

The Swedish five LP box set. It took me years to hunt down a copy of this little beauty. The LPs are actually the Dutch versions, but it’s the box that is so hard to find as they were only produced in a very small numbers specifically for the Swedish market.

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Another rare item that I recently bought from a UK dealer is alternative artwork for the USA release of the Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather) LP. It was acquired from a Priest roadie who toured with the band back in the 70s and is probably a one off.
Apparently the record company thought that the original artwork for the LP was too murderous for the American market, and wanted to tone things down a bit. Alternative cover art was mocked up and submitted to the band, but it was rejected in favour of the original, after which the mock up was given to the roadie as a present.

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Although I have many items in my collection, the things that I enjoy collecting the most are the Japanese pressed LPs and CDs,
I just think that the Japanese put so much more effort into the quality the sound and packaging.

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How many times have you seen Priest live, and of those, what was the best experience?

I recently saw Priest twice on the Epitaph tour and that was the 19th and 20th time that I have seen Priest live.

Every time that I see Priest live it is the best experience, but there are a few real stand out occasions that I have seen them.
The first time was way back in 1981 on the POE tour. Thinking of that gig still gives me goose bumps. I was 15 years old, a huge fan and came out of that show mesmerised. I stood right on the barrier in front on KK that night, and there are two things that really stick in my mind about that show. The first was that KK kept poking his tongue out at the crowd!! The second was that Rob slipped down the stairs of the set and had to go off stage for treatment to a leg injury.

Then there was the first time that I saw them on the 2004 Reunited Tour with Rob back in the fold. I travelled to the Arrow Rock Festival in Holland for that show and seeing Rob, KK and the others all back together for the first time in 14 years was just awesome.

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Are there any other special Priest related moments that you remember?

I actually won a competition through the official Judas Priest website back in 2001 for a meet and greet at the Brixton Academy show on the Demolition Tour. The same show that was recorded for The Live in London DVD. I couldn’t believe my luck, this was the first time that I got to meet KK and the boys and I was totally wired about it. In fact so wired that unbeknown to me at the time, the meet and greet was being filmed and the footage made it onto the extras of the Live in London DVD. I nearly choked the first time I watched the DVD and saw myself in the extras section taking photographs, with Ripper pulling funny faces as I took a picture of him.

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Speaking about K.K.’s departure, how does it feel to see the band without him on this Epitaph tour?

Well, like every true fan I was totally stunned by the news that KK had left, and at that point I really didn’t think that Judas Priest could continue without one of its most important founding members and vital cogs of the band’s mechanism. However, that said KK and had made his decision and stuck by it, and at that juncture, in my opinion, Judas Priest really only had two options open to them. They either had to call it a day; all retire and cancel the imminent Epitaph tour or find a replacement and carry on.
KK was and always will be a fan favourite, and when the news of a replacement was announced there was a considerable backlash from the fans. I actually know of people who refused to go and see Priest play live because KK was no longer in the band, but this is not what KK wanted. In one press release he clearly urged fans to go and see the Epitaph tour and to carry on supporting Priest. This was something that I was more than happy to do. Admittedly it didn’t quite seem the same without KK on the stage the first time, but Richie Faulkner, who in my opinion is a very gifted guitarist, has come in and done an admirable job of trying to fill the huge shoes vacated by KK.

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What does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?

To use a clichéd expression Judas Priest music has been the soundtrack to my life and without it I would not have met Diana and been gifted with my beautiful daughter.

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What is your favourite album and song?

That is almost impossible to answer. To me all Priest albums and songs are my favourites. In fact it would be easier for me to list the tracks that I don’t like, which out of all the many tracks they have recorded would only amount to a total of about 4.
If I was really put on the spot I would say that Killing Machine is my favourite studio album. Not everyone’s first choice I know, but I love that album.

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Your message to K.K. and the Millworkers?

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Wonderfully Happy 2012.
Keep Feeding The Flames!!

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