“AIDS kills fags dead”. That’s the t-shirt Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach wore in 1989. Stupid and offensive, for sure. But not so different from what the average heavy metal fan thought at the time.
But you’d have a hard time telling the difference between heavy metal fans in the 1980s and the crowds at the local gay bar for leather night.
For this delicious bit of irony you can thank Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford.
Judas Priest is one of the biggest heavy metal bands of all time. Their lead singer also happens to be gay. Not what you would expect from a band playing aggressive music for hyper masculine guys bashing heads in the mosh pit.
Halford didn’t come out until the late 1990s, but that didn’t stop him from bringing his sexuality to heavy metal.
In the late 1970s Halford changed the look of the band. He rejected the floral-print shirts and bell-bottom jeans popular at the time. He replaced them with the leather and S&M look popular throughout gay bars. It was Halford’s attempt to find an outlet for his angst over his latent homosexuality. And as a bonus it gave him an excuse to shop at S&M stores for his job.
The look spread across heavy metal. Soon everyone was wearing skin tight leather. Everyone was wearing a look straight out of the gay bars. Even the homophobes.
Much like George Michael’s “Freedom”, people should have realized the connection much sooner. Judas Priest’s “Raw Deal” isn’t hiding much.
All eyes hit me as I walked into the bar
And seeing other guys were fooling with the denim dudes
A couple cards played rough stuff, New York, Fire Island