Reckless

“Coming At Gale Force Ten..”

Origins

After finishing the “Defenders Of The Faith” world tour in Japan late 1984, Judas Priest took their first ever lengthy time off. During 1985 Priest only played one live show, the famous Live Aid appearance in Philadelphia which took place in July. Although this was hardly a full show with only three songs played. Shortly after this, Priest headed for Bahamas to begin recording their new studio album with Tom Allom once again behind the producer’s desk. While this took place, changes in metal music around them were notable. Glam rock had taken over with bands like Mötley Crue, Ratt, Poison and Dokken scoring high on the record sales and charts all around the globe. Like with any genre there were some weaker bands, good ones often got undeserved bashing. No one can deny that records such as “Invasion Of Your Privacy” and “Shout At The Devil” were musically top notch.

Priest met these changes head on by working with synthesizer guitars for the first time and again pushing the envelope of their songs further. During the pre-production stages bands creativity was at all time high and new material was actually written enough for two full albums. For a while plans were made to issue a double LP, it carried a working title of “Twin Turbos” and would have essentially included a mixture of more commercial material and traditional Priest head bangers. However, this was not meant to be. The band originally hoped the album would be sold at the price of a normal LP. At that time when the digital CD era was just in its beginning, the costs of putting out a double album were huge and usually reserved only for compilations and live releases. So plans for a double album were scrapped and a decision made to put all commercial stuff on one cohesive LP.

Priest completed “Turbo” late 1985 and mixed the album in early 1986 while extensively rehearsing for the forthcoming tour. “Turbo” was released in April 1986 and initially caused controversy among critics and fans. The album presented a tight, focused set of new sounding Priest tracks. This concept, the nine tracks and single album strategy, had definitely worked on bands favour. However, not all embraced the different style and look of the band.turbo

A famous Finnish music magazine reviewed the LP: “When opening track “Turbo Lover” kicks in, first reaction is shocking. Old leatherjackets throw in synths and melodies reminiscent of ZZ Top.” The review did conclude with somewhat apologetic statement of there being “some good stuff to be found.” As usual, the movement which took place in 1986 and 1987 was not appreciated by many as it happened but nowadays most look back on it as with nostalgia. Yet what those people fail to see is that “Turbo” was and is not about nostalgia but about looking ahead – and still being Judas Priest.

What most gripe about this album, is of course its commercial approach, guitar synthesizers and songs about – instead of sci-fi monsters or technical warfare – lost love, lust and generally having a good time. Yet especially on “Point Of Entry” there are similar themes (albeit once again, plenty of other things going on as well – watch this space). And who could forget the classic “Living After Midnight?” Going back even further on songs from Priest’s debut album – “Rocka Rolla” and “Cheater” themes such as these were lyrically very much in place, while of course the music was almost completely different beast.

Although somewhat rising in stature for the past decade or so “Turbo” remains one of Judas Priest’s most misunderstood releases. Yet for this writer it’s one of the bands greatest releases ever, an album that was both a part of the time it was released and ahead of its era. What is also sadly often overlooked is that it featured arguably band’s finest song writing up to this stage. But more on that later.

The album begins majestically with its most well known song “Turbo Lover,” which of course is still featured in band’s live set list up until recent tours. The scope of the record then proceeds from metallic “Locked In” through epic “Out In The Cold” and lighter “Wild Nights, Hot And Crazy Days” until the ninth and final track. Outside of Priest maniacs, not too many are familiar with “Reckless.” However, in many ways this is the best possible example of the case I was arguing above about the band’s improved song writing, their understanding of song dynamics and the rich palette of lyrical and musical paths they continuously take.

The song begins with heavy guitar riff, first one, then the other guitar joining in impressive harmony. Drums kick in perfectly as both K.K. and Glenn execute the melody with style. The synth guitars introduced on “Turbo” and dominating some of the other songs are not as imminent here, thus this is arguably one of the more trademark Priest numbers on the album.

Rhythm pattern is straightforward and very heavy, proving that this side was not lost on “Turbo.” Rob begins singing long melodic vocal lines, somewhat unlike anything he’d done before. His voice had gone through a notable change in 1985 sounding now sharper and reaching even higher scale than few years before. Many claim he peaked as a vocalist during late 1980’s and this is certainly a valid claim. There’s also an extra emotional evidence to support this. Check out how he sings the line “charging out with power” and guitars answer in perfect unison – classic Priest.

The character in “Reckless” is indeed gearing up power all through the verses, as Rob invests just that little bit more emotion with every line. Most clearly in second verse’s “first placed in everything I do” – note how the music moves with the singer and comes to a halt exactly as vocals reach their peak. When Rob shouts “look out!” listener is fully engaged. Note the drum fills before chorus, guitars take a back seat here and come back more forcefully during chorus and second verse.

Chorus is effective four-line attack, with backing vocals nicely complementing Rob on the song’s title. Bridge brings a short departure from the straight forward rhythm. Several Halfords again create a nice sound picture and join in on the end of the last line “stratosphere.” Drums are pounding hard and setting the stage for solo section.

Main guitar solo by Glenn is pure melodic ecstasy, the part from 2:49 onwards is awesome and several notes after this move in the same territory as many songs on follow-up albums “Ram It Down” and “Painkiller.” Interesting how notes carry on the everlasting sense of freedom – the culprit of the song. Again not a second is wasted, you feel you could extend the music for several minutes but of course it wouldn’t work – it is perfect just as it is. Over four minutes of magic.

Elsewhere K.K. plays several licks in his trademark style throughout the song, they support the melody and flow of the tune and especially Rob’s vocals. For further proof, one can listen to a short lick at 1:47, a good example of a guitar lead supporting the story along with the singer. Something Priest have always excelled in.

At the core of it however, lies one of the greatest performances by Rob Halford, and one of the most outstanding vocals in the whole heavy metal history. He moves from verses onto chorus effortlessly considering the breath taking rhythm and some insanely high melody lines. The final lines before fade-out begins have Rob peaking with “coming at gale force, coming at gale force ten”. He makes a stand of absolute power and freedom right here, the word “ten” is stretched out for seven seconds.

The song gradually fades out with Halford seemingly topping himself with every chorus, every line. Surely this is a certain illusion created by the fading music which only highlights the intense vocal delivery, yet it is also the absolute truth. A powerful way to close the record. Closing numbers on most of Priest albums are epic in scope and structure and indeed quite a few of them have been discussed on these very pages. It proves how important sequencing the record is. The songs on “Turbo” certainly flow together and create a journey through different peaks and valleys.

Examining “Reckless” and its message, it becomes obvious to a careful listener that we are entering into a much deeper territory than what’s often given credit for this particular phase in Judas Priest’s career. In the most obvious way the lyrics are a full celebration of person’s inner power and self confidence. The adjectives describing the individual’s emotional high follow each other – no can stop him now, he’s “young, lethal, alive and kickin’ rarin’ to get up and go.”

In the chorus protagonist proudly announces he’s “coming at gale force ten.” The term can be traced into fighter pilots, but basically comes from what is called the Beaufort Scale. The Beaufort scale is an empirical measure for describing wind speed based mainly on observed sea conditions. Its full name is the Beaufort wind force scale. Gale force ten on that scale marks a point when winds blow over 100 km/h. So the character on “Reckless” is indeed pretty fast.

Bridge lyrics bring forth more reference to fighter planes and other aircraft with “shootin’ through the atmosphere” and “heading like a rocket through the stratosphere.” “Reckless” is also an excellent example of a track where how the lyrics are sung is equally important for the song’s message as the actual content of the lyrics. Protagonist in the song sings with each line conveying the full sense of recklessness and you completely believe every word he says, even if it’s literally impossible task such as surrounding yourself with a force field. And of course the meaning here is rhetorical, it could be any person’s inner force field against the world. There’s room for interpretation as always.

Nimetön

Top Gun

The song “Reckless” is of course mostly known as it’s connection to one of 1986’s biggest films, “Top Gun.” As the story goes, Priest were approached in early 1986 for a possibility to offer a theme song for the movie as the soundtrack was due out via Columbia Records. Thus the band played them “Reckless,” which seemed like a perfect fit because of its content and style. Producers of the film liked the song and were ready to attach it over the closing credits, however what sank the deal was their demand that the rights of the track would exclusively go to films soundtrack. It meant Priest could not include it on their forthcoming album and that was just a price too high to pay at the time. Of course no one also knew how successful the film would become.

K.K. remembers the process: “We were down in the studio mixing the album and everything was just working out. The producers of the movie “Top Gun” wanted to use the song ‘Reckless’ for the movie, but we decided not to take it off the album. We thought the album flowed really well, but that was a big mistake on our part. Obviously, it would have been cool to have that in the movie, but we didn’t. We offered them three other songs, but the producers didn’t want them.”

Eventually Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” was chosen for the film’s closing credits and while not bad pop tune, it certainly wasn’t in the same league with “Reckless.” The movie became one of Paramount’s most successful blockbusters ever and made an international star out of its leading actor Tom Cruise. The film accumulated over $350 million worldwide and broke home-video sales records. Of course it also spawned countless of parodies from “Top Secret” to “Hot Shots-“ movies, ironically the star of “Top Secret,” Val Kilmer also appeared as Tom “Iceman” Kazanski in “Top Gun.”

The “Top Gun” soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date and went to number one on Billboard charts. After the release of Loggins’ “Danger Zone”, sales of the album exploded, selling seven million in the United States alone. Other artists beside Judas Priest were considered for the soundtrack project but did not take part. Bryan Adams was considered as a potential candidate but refused to participate because he felt the film glorified war. Likewise, REO Speedwagon was considered but backed down because they would not be allowed to record their own composition.

Two years later Priest would take another stab at soundtrack work and recorded a title song for the movie “Johnny B.Goode.” Even though the inclusion of Priest-song in “Top Gun” would have undoubtedly brought more attention to the band, there was no shortage of interest as the group unleashed “Turbo” to eager audience. After the release Priest prepared intensively for 1986’s “Fuel For Life” world tour. Setlist was revamped to focus mostly on material recorded after 1980 and “Turbo” was extensively featured, Only two out of its nine songs never made it to their live set and “Reckless” was one of them, yet its merits against say “Private Property” or “Rock You All Around The World” cannot be disputed. “Reckless” being one of the most vocally demanding tracks in Priest’s back catalogue might have been one of the factors for its exclusion from the show.

Legacy

When one thinks about the massive legacy of Judas Priest’s music the casual fan will most likely embrace the unrestrained fury of “Painkiller” or be swayed by infectious “British Steel” or classic metal of “Screaming For Vengeance.” At the time of its release and especially throughout the bleak and industrial 1990’s, most labelled “Turbo” as misstep. During the current millennium, however “Turbo” has enjoyed more praise and many fans have been forced re-think their stand. And now exactly 30 years after, there is a lot to talk about regarding the album’s heritage as well.Fuel For Life Japan 1986

What cannot be disputed is the album’s modern production and excellent digital sound. Listening to it today, the synth guitars work greatly within the context of the songs and strengthen them. And like mentioned before, title track, “Out In The Cold” and “Reckless” are brilliantly written anthems, song structures very cleverly executed and individual performances all standing out. There’s even a guilty pleasure to be found on “Hot For Love” – one of my personal favourites. Go past the lyrics and this is just awesome piece. Imagine this in “Painkiller” arrangement and we are at speed metal roots!

Going further songs like “Hot For Love” and “Turbo Lover” established sci-fi metal as we know and love today, references to it are everywhere for the ardent listener to find but most obviously bands like Crimson Glory might have taken an inspiration or two from “Turbo’s” grooves.

Priest themselves took another swing at it by re-introducing “Turbo Lover” to the live-set for 2001 “Demolition” tour and playing it through following reunion and “Angel Of Retribution” shows. Hopefully some other songs off “Turbo” get an airing one day, even if “Reckless” remains a very unlikely case.

“Reckless” was ultimately released as a B-side of the “Locked In” single. It reached #25 in the Billboard charts. It isn’t as instantly commercial song as “Turbo Lover” for example but in the pantheon of Judas Priest recordings more than fitting work. It also continues the grand tradition of Priest songs which explore the inner power of the individual. Albeit the framework was lighter than some of Priest’s previous outings, the same themes heard on “Defenders Of The Faith’s” brilliant “Rock Hard Ride Free” can also be found here and specifically in lines such as “I’m goin’ from here until eternity.” And they reappear on the 1988 LP “Ram It Down’s” (unsurprisingly as the songs originated from the same sessions) impressive ”I’m A Rocker.”

“Reckless” as it stands may not be known among the general public but it is one of Judas Priest’s best songs – a spine chilling performance filled with drama and versatility as any great Priest number. It’s rewarding experience from start to finish and well worth revisiting time and again.

With acknowledgements: Judas Priest Info Pages

turbo

“Reckless” stats

• Written by Glenn Tipton, K.K.Downing & Rob Halford
• Recorded at Compass Point Studios, Nassau, The Bahamas June-November 1985
• Produced by Tom Allom
• First released on “Turbo” album in April 1986
• Also released on the B-side of “Locked In” single in May 1986

K.K.:

“I will start by saying that this song has never been played live by the band, as of yet anyway! It is one of those songs I guess that were somewhat overshadowed by, yes you guessed it “Turbo Lover,” “Out In The Cold,” “Locked In” etc. But many, including myself, feel that it has more importance than being just an album filler.

I especially like the sentiment in the lyrics of throwing caution to the wind. In actual fact the producers of the movie Top Gun wanted the song exclusively for the movie but we had already decided that we wanted to put it on the record. It remains a mystery today, if we made a mistake or not as the movie soundtrack went on to sell many millions of copies. But I guess for Priest it’s kind of nice knowing that it belongs to us and us only. And it will be forevermore a part of our cherished Priest legacy. I must say that now that I have read Ville’s amazing write up I have gone back and listened to the song again after many years and I can certainly say that it has wet my appetite to play the song live one day soon. After all who’s to say that just because we are not as young as we were that we can’t still be Reckless!!!!!

Thank you for feeding the flames.”

“Reckless” lyrics

No one can stop me know
I’m like a human dynamo
Live wired and chargin’ out with power
This time I won’t hold back
I’m rarin’ to get up and go
Fueled up and growin’ by the hour

Look out
I’m blastin’ through the lines
Alive and kickin’
Watch out
I’m young and lethal
I’m goin’ from here until eternity

I’m feelin’ reckless
Way outta hand, a real survivor
Reckless
Comin’ at gale force ten

Around me I feel the shock waves,
Building for the energy
A force field no one can break through
Solid as rock no wonder
I am indestructible
First placed in everything I do

Look out
I’m blastin’ through the lines
Alive and kickin’
Watch out
I’m young and lethal
I’m goin’ from here until eternity

I’m feelin’ reckless
Way outta hand, a real survivor
Reckless
Comin’ at gale force ten

Radioactive
I’m shootin’ through the atmosphere
Takin’ off
I’m headin’ like a rocket through the stratosphere

Look out
I’m blastin’ through the lines
Alive and kickin’
Watch out
I’m young and lethal
I’m goin’ from here until eternity

I’m feelin’ reckless
Way outta hand, a real survivor
Reckless
Comin’ at gale force ten
I’m feelin’ reckless
Way outta hand, a real survivor
Reckless
Comin’ at gale force
Comin’ at gale force ten
I’m feelin’ reckless
Way outta hand, a real survivor
Reckless
Comin’ at gale force
Comin’ at gale force ten

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About Ville Krannila