Judas Priest were storming the gates at the start of the 80s. The band's sixth album, British Steel had carried the band into the Top 10 of the UK music charts (peaking at no. 4) and Top 50 (no. 34) in the US, while their look of leather and motorcycles quickly became a defining image for heavy metal as a whole.
"As a decade, the 80s were phenomenal for Priest," admits former guitarist KK Downing. "The 70s were all about trying to consolidate what we do, this unreal genre that needed to be etched in stone for posterity. It wasn't until the 80s that it all exploded; we came out with British Steel, went on Top Of The Pops and started to get on the radio in lots of different countries."
Unfortunately, British Steel's successor didn't receive as much acclaim. 1981's Point Of Entry was derided by critics who felt the band had ventured too far towards radio friendliness, while the band themselves later admitted they had buckled to label pressure to perform covers and write 'hits', Downing explaining: "we gave them what they wanted."
Thankfully, this being Priest in the 80s, it wasn't long before they were taking another shot at the title and 1982's Screaming For Vengeance gave a whole new life to the band, turning them into megastars in the US, ultimately achieving double-platinum status.
Ironically, for all the complaints about radio-friendliness that Point Of Entry had received, it was the massive singles of Screaming For Vengeance that truly helped the band get a foothold in the US. Although they had again acquiesced to feature a cover on the album - Bob Halligan Jr.'s (Take These) Chains - it was one of their own compositions that became a breakaway radio hit.
"It was a pretty consistent listening experience, except we did have one track on there that obviously poked out," KK admits. "That was the Bob Halligan Jr. song (Take These) Chains. Back then, record companies always pushed to have a cover version or extra songwriter appear on an album, so there would be one song that would get big radio play. But lo and behold, it actually ended up being You've Got Another Thing Comin’."
One of the last songs written for Screaming For Vengeance, You've Got Another Thing Comin' was envisioned to balance out the other tracks on the record. "Myself and Glenn [Tipton, guitarist] were always taking stock," KK explains. "Like, 'is there something we can really add to the album'? Over time that could be a really up-tempo, aggressive song, or it could be a ballad, or even an anthem that would complete the whole experience."
Hearing a rough mix for the album, KK remembers both he and Glenn were excited, but still felt something was missing. "We were kind of happy, but still talking about that extra song that we hadn't really come up with yet," he recalls.
"We wanted something that would do a completely different job to the blood and thunder of tracks like Screaming For Vengeance and Electric Eye. We got the embryo of the idea going up to Glenn’s house near Stafford and got it in our minds that we needed extra ingredients and flavours to throw into the pot that would make it more appetising for radio. Obviously it really took off!”
With a strutting riff from Priest's dual guitarists and a steady beat from drummer Dave Holland, KK remembers that right from the off You've Got Another Thing Comin' felt like a great addition to the Priest canon, "a real driving song - you put it in and you're off".
Clearly, the band's label agreed - when Screaming For Vengeance was released in July 1982, You've Got Another Thing Comin' was selected as its lead single, debuting on the US Billboard Hot 100 in June 1982, before achieving its peak position of no. 67 in November that same year, also reaching no. 4 on the US Mainstream Rock chart that same month.
Typically, Priest weren't able to rest on their laurels; they had been booked for a US tour in August 1982 that would see them crossing the States and Canada for the remainder of the year. It was on the road they first became aware that You've Got Another Thing Comin' was becoming a radio hit.
“We kicked off our tour and the bus driver would have local stations on, we’d hear it pretty much everywhere we went," KK recalls happily. "It was being played by local radio stations, played in supermarkets, shopping malls... whatever!”
At that point, the closest Priest had come to radio success had been no. 12 positions in the UK for both Living After Midnight and Breaking The Law, but this was something else entirely. Seemingly overnight, the band went from relative unknowns in the US to a Big Thing, venues having to upgrade to accommodate the swelling demand for tickets.
"We became an arena band and that was just wonderful, a massive boost of confidence," KK says, beaming. "We were new kids on the block in so many ways, but we felt that we had the edge, we weren't afraid to play anywhere with anyone. We'd worked hard and it was time to start to enjoy our confidence. The audience could feed on that when we came out all guns blazing and we did, every night. We're a force to be reckoned with, giving 110% and more."
It didn't hurt matters that Judas Priest were joined on some dates of their US tour by fellow British metal sensations Iron Maiden, themselves riding high on the success of 1982's Number Of The Beast and the arrival of new singer, Bruce Dickinson. Both bands were headed for superstardom, and naturally there were some clashes.
"It was a bit sticky to start with," KK says sheepishly. "Obviously those guys were equally very proud of themselves. But it was wonderful to have compatible bands on the bill, it really optimised what the audience wanted."
"The fans who got to experience that got something few others ever did, or will. It was competitive and we were really fighting for the same space. We were there going ‘no, no, the crown’s ours – you can’t take it’ ha ha. But you look at the mighty Maiden now and I’m extremely proud to have travelled the world with that band, at least in part.”
Over 40 years later, You've Got Another Thing Comin' has seldom left the band's setlists. It has also resurfaced in pop culture numerous times, featured in everything from TV shows like Californication and Archer (with a killer "Screaming For Vangeance" pun, no less), to movies (Bad Teacher) and video games ranging from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Rock Band to Major League Baseball.
It remains one of the band's most iconic songs, its lyrical message testament to the undefeatable spirit of Priest as they clawed their way to heavy metal stardom. It was the song that broke Priest in America and established them as worldwide heavy metal icons, a classy 'fuck you' to the critics who tried to write the band off after Point Of Entry - as vocalist Rob Halford himself put it, 'Out there is a fortune, waiting to be had/if you think I'll let it go you're mad... You've got another thing comin'.
"In America, Screaming For Vengeance was and still is our biggest ever selling record," KK says happily. "We partied every night! We would have a hotel room and just give the details out to friends and girls, ‘we’ll see you there!’ We’d be working very, very hard in the day travelling and doing interviews, being pushed around basically, so we needed the wind down and our reward was to live after midnight, naturally! The whole thing was a blast, we were such a force to be reckoned with."