An argument can be made that Judas Priest is the second-most important metal band in history behind Black Sabbath.
What's inarguable, though, is that the British metal titans are indirectly responsible for the greatest 16 minutes of film ever produced.
In 1986, filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn brought a camera to a Priest tailgate in Landover, Md., and came out with Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a short documentary that distills '80s metaldom down to its essence. It's essentially just a string of interviews with wasted diehards, but it became a bootleg classic before finally getting an official DVD release in 2006.
The movie has no shortage of fans, including Nirvana, who watched it repeatedly on their tour bus. But there might be none bigger than Craig Giffen. A Portland computer programmer, he became so obsessed with Heavy Metal Parking Lot that in 2011, he launched a website dedicated to cataloging every T-shirt that appears in it, necessitating that he crawl through nearly 30,000 frames of film.
With Judas Priest returning for their first Portland show in more than a decade—and, given the ravages of age, potentially their last—we asked Giffen to provide a running commentary on the band's most significant contribution to mankind.
Feel free to follow along at home.
00:08—The parking lot attendant in the opening shot seems just as high as everyone else in the parking lot.
01:10—For years, I just assumed the woman in the leopard-print body suit looks like she is giving the "devil's horns" hand gesture. She was located a couple years ago, and it turns out that her parents are hard of hearing, so she is giving the camera the American Sign Language sign for "I love you."
02:13—There is a guy sitting out the window, riding on the door of a Ford Granada while it drives through the parking lot. It's such a perfectly captured shot. Why the guy is doing this I have no idea. Related, my wife's VHS copy of the film was such a high-generation copy that when she watched the official DVD for the first time she said, "Wow, that car is yellow!"
02:54—The shirtless "Graham o' Dope" is quite a character. I like how he and his friend come up with the notion of "Joints Across America" right there on the spot, then expand upon it with a vision of a joint that stretches end to end across the U.S.A. One night, I actually did the math and determined the joint would be about 2,982 miles long and require $81,240,242 worth of weed.
04:41—There is a guy in a DC 101 shirt, singing "Living After Midnight" into the microphone, followed by a nice breakdown of the band members. I love the way he draws out the word "arounnnnnnnd" as he draws a circle in the air with his finger. Fun note—DC 101 Guy was located last summer, and he had no idea he was in this cult film.
05:22—Related, my wife said that when she and her old boyfriend were driving through Maryland, her boyfriend saw a road sign reading, "Glen Burnie next left," and he started yelling, "GLEN BURNIE! GLEN BURNIE! HELL YEAH! PARTY! HELL YEAH!"
06:00—Right after Hell Yeah Girl is a shot of a group of kids—I believe this shot has the highest single concentration of Judas Priest shirts in a single frame.
06:20—Both my wife and I swear up and down Matthew McConaughey's character from Dazed and Confused was modeled after the "older" shirtless guy holding a "Nuke the Bastards" T-shirt. Wooderson seems like a composite of this guy's whole demeanor, how he says the word "bazonkers," plus the way his friend says, "This is the sixth time I've seen the Priest."
07:27—There needs to be more people hanging homemade banners at shows. This is a lost art.
08:52—Big 1980s hair is all over this film. Look for a super-quick shot of a girl with what looks to be a case of mousse in her hair. The hairstyle of Hell Yeah Girl was very popular at my small rural high school in the early 1990s.
08:55—Zebraman is probably the most notable person to appear in the film. Although I'm a fan of punk rock, him saying, "This punk shit circle of shit with all the dicks and all that can all go to hell," is probably my favorite line in the whole film. From recent photos I've seen, Zebraman has aged really well and has a nice, calm demeanor and charming smile. Still no word on what happened to that outfit, though.
09:46—Seventy-five tickets and backstage passes is quite a nice gesture from the band.
10:31—I'd like to think that Will Oldham makes a cameo in this film as the guy wearing the half-shirt, holding a probable screwdriver drink in a jar, and his sole line is, "Blah blah blah, I get around, I get around," while he plays air guitar on a girl. Unrelated, did you ever see the 1989 ABC-TV movie about Baby Jessica falling down the well? An 18-year-old Will Oldham played the dad!
11:00—I have lived my whole life on the West Coast, so about the only smaller towns on the East Coast that I can name are Reston, Va., Glen Burnie, Md., and Ocean City, N.J.
11:28—Just prior to the scene with the Jamaican parking lot attendant, watch how the guy says, "We love his mom," slaps his friend, and they both fall out of the frame.
12:02—It wasn't until writing this that I realized that Timmy isn't the only person not to make the show and had his friends there in spirit. The three drunk guys inform us they are celebrating their friend Michael Foster, who is in the hospital, as they fall out of the camera frame.
12:19—Just after the scene of the three drunk guys talking about how they are going to jam out for their friend Michael Foster, there is a shot of a young kid in a Mötley Crüe T-shirt. This looks to be his first time holding a cigarette. The guy behind him and to his left shows up in around four different places in the film.
12:24—There is a guy wearing a shirt that reads "Fuck Off" that looks to be made at one of those iron-on T-shirt shops that were popular in the 1980s. If you want one, someone is selling them on eBay right now for $18—shipping included!
14:05—Using this film as an unscientific analysis sample based on feedback from patrons in the parking lot, it seems that only Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton have the potential for sexual liaisons. Sorry, Dave Holland, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill.
SEE IT: Judas Priest plays Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 N Winning Way, with Saxon, on Tuesday, April 17. 7 pm. $41-$91. All ages.