Rob Halford – Confess
Released: 29th September 2020
Robert John Arthur Halford. The Metal God, lead singer of Judas Priest, heavy metal gay icon and now author. There’s been a lot written about Rob Halford, but aside from in song lyrics he hasn’t ever written about himself. In fact, he’s on record as saying he’d never write an autobiography – you know what they say kids “never say never”.
Some of the reason for not wanting to write may come down to the fact he is such a humble person, this comes across in Confess. A humble working class bloke from The Black Country in northern England. Halford takes us through the early years growing up in an industrial town, of steel works and choking black coal dust. There’s many an artist who have come from such humble beginnings, back in the 50’s and 60’s where men were men, hard-working and hard drinking. As a young lad you were expected to follow in your father’s footsteps and get good honest work in the local factory. Rob takes us through that time, his exploits at school and the early realisation he was gay. It’s on this subject where the book stops being just another rock stars autobiography and becomes a tale of heartbreak, confusion and tragedy.
Some of the most jarring moments are when Rob, in his own way, details the sexual abuse he encountered at the hands of older men. With the help of alcohol and drugs a young confused boy was stupefied and sexually assaulted. Rob doesn’t use those words, but that exactly what it was. To be honest, it was hard to read. The thing about this book is it’s written in Rob’s voice, humble, honest with lashings of self-deprecating humour, but when you look past that, the words on the page are at times horrific and heartbreaking.
It’s not confined to Halford’s early life either. Detailing his struggles with being a gay man while fronting one of the world’s biggest bands is equally frustrating and heartbreaking. More than once I was screaming in my head “just tell them you’re gay, fuck the haters!” But hindsight is a wonderful way to make complex situations simplistic. Rob didn’t do that, and was never going too. As we find out he hates confrontation – sometimes to the detriment of his own career. This is a fascinating insight into a seemingly larger than life heavy metal icon. Watching Halford on stage it’s easy to get caught up in the theatre and see this omnipotent indestructible metal god, as it turns out he’s just like the rest of us. When I interviewed Rob, (revisit that here) I asked him about his mental health and what he did to stay healthy. He gave a very small insight into his daily regime, saying he has a set of tools he uses to get through. Little did I know what those tools were and what it’s like to survive each and every day as a former drug addict and alcoholic.
Rob also details the very public fight the band had against censorship lobby group the P.M.R.C (Parents Music Resource Center). Spoiler Alert: the P.M.R.C no longer exist, Judas Priest are still going strong! Halford wears the number three spot on the “Filthy Fifteen” for ‘Eat Me Alive’ as a badge of honour, and so he should. We also get a further insight into the equally ridiculous and tragic lawsuit over a teenager’s suicide – Judas Priest wearing suits to court, or as Rob put it “…a stupid circus” fighting the fight for music, metal and common-fucking-sense.
But the book is not all doom, gloom and Scarface amounts of cocaine, there are plenty of funny stories of life on the road, mishaps and mischief. Highlights and hilarity include a metal queen meeting The Queen, going gaga over Lady GaGa and learning to drive. This may be a cliché but this book will make you laugh out loud and cry the odd tear.
It’s Rob Halford, honest, raw and with sometimes a little bit too much glory hole detail. Confess might not win the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction but it will win the hearts of Judas Priest and music fans the world over.