In 1986 Judas Priest released their tenth studio album “Turbo.” Known for being one of the premiere hard rock/metal bands Judas Priest is expected to write and perform songs that are heavy and hit hard. Like any good band Judas Priest evolved over time, and by the time their reached their tenth studio album it should have been expected that the sounds and atmosphere might be a little different from the original concepts offered by the band. However as unreasonable as some people always tend to be, there are some in the hard rock/metal community who consider “Turbo” a controversial album; controversial because it was a more electric synthetic sound than the previous nine Judas Priests albums.
I would have been two years old when “Turbo” came out so it is kind of funny looking back on the supposed controversy surrounding “Turbo.” It is easy to take for granted the subtle changes in a band like Judas Priest because they never strayed far from their core concept, and also because when I look back I see the whole picture, all at once, and I think “That’s Judas Priest, that body of work is Judas Priest.” I cannot imagine Judas Priest without my favorite song of theirs “Turbo Lover” they just would not be the same to me, and as you can easily put together “Turbo Lover” is the flagship song on the album “Turbo.”
The way I feel about “Turbo Lover,” and the hate directed towards it, is similar to the way I feel about KISS’s “I was made for Loving You.” I have often heard criticisms about “I was made for Loving You” as being a disco song, which I always thought was odd because I felt that “I was made for Loving You”, was one of Kiss’s best songs. Technically those critics are right; there are disco influences in “I was made of Loving You” but even knowing that my opinion on the matter is not swayed. I see KISS as a band that created many good songs and all of those songs together sums up KISS... sort of, KISS is complicated.
Judas Priest are not exactly poets so there is not a lot of deep conversation surrounding a song like “Turbo Lover.” “Turbo Lover” is a hard rocking song and there is little more to say about it than that. Or is there?
The first and most obvious interpretation of “Turbo Lover” would be that it is an aggressive love song. The fast rising tempo and heavier moments in the song fit well with the mood of aggressive lustful intense love. But then comes the second obvious analogy, the intensity and aggression of this “love” might be a little too much, and maybe this is a song about lust. “Then we rise together” this line makes a lot of sense if you recall that lead singer Rob Halford is a homosexual, so him and his lover rising together, well you get it.
“You won't hear me,
But you'll feel me
Without warning, something’s dawning, listen.
Then within your senses,
You'll know you're defenceless
How your heart beats, when you run for cover
Your cant retreat I spy like no other.”
These opening lyrics are very suggestive of our third and darker interpretation. Perhaps the intensity and aggression of this song about lust is a little too much, and maybe this is actually a song about stalking. I don’t want to compare “Turbo Lover” to Police’s “Every Breath you Take,” but that is what I am going to do. There is an unhealthy dominance/desire for control in both relationships being described to us in both songs. Whereas “Every Breath you Take” is clearly about the emotional mind set of a stalker and meant to be taken seriously, “Turbo Lover” is a little more light hearted in addressing the dark subject matter more or less celebrating the hunt and obviously a playful song not meant to be taken seriously.
A forth, and yet again obvious, analogy for “Turbo Lover” comes from the metaphorical use of machine references.
“Wrapped in horsepower, driving into fury
Changing gear I pull you tighter to me”
“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”
There are many songs about comparing vehicles to sex, so this is hardly new grounds Judas Priest are treading on. When you remember all the leather and biker culture Judas Priest was part of this analogy fits perfectly. This last interpretation is the best bet for getting into the minds of the song writing behind Judas Priest. Heavy machinery love making is both awesome and fun.
So which is it, love, lust, stalking or machine metaphor? All the above I think, a hot soup of many things?
So is “Turbo Lover” a meaningful song? No, not really, but it is a great song, and I would go so far as to say “Turbo Lover” is a subtly clever. “Turbo Lover” plays with fun ideas of love and lust in a hostile yet celebrated way, and while we might think such topics as shallow I must ask this, what is metal if not a celebration of power, fury and lust? It is a song about love machines what more could you want? It is hardly fair to forge a criticism out of that. The world needs cock rock songs!
Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.
- Colin Kelly