When I was in high school Judas Priest was at the peak of their musical and commercial power and between my friends and I we had copies of almost all of their albums. But there was a legendary long out-of-print album called ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ that was told to be more rocking, more mighty than any other Priest work (except possibly ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ of course).
There was no Internet and our little town did not have a thriving used record market, so when a title was out of print, you were out of luck. Whereas everyone had heard about the legendary awesomeness of ‘Sad Wings’, no one we knew had heard even one note of it. The studio release was like a holy metal grail. And the terrible power in the album’s name: ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. How could you not spend all your time and energy trying to track that sucker down? Answer: you can not. You must find that lost metal codex. And the album rocked indeed. It lived up to every ounce of anticipation.
I invited my good friend from back then and today, Andy Welker, to talk about the day he and his brother finally completed the quest to recover a copy of ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’.
### The quest as recalled by Andy
Doug asked me to describe what I could of the day I bought a used cassette copy of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny–their second full-length album. This was over twenty years ago, so I am grateful that I can remember any of it.
I think I bought that cassette in the spring of 1986. I sort of remember using my little brother’s money. If it wasn’t that cassette, I know that I wheedled him into spending his money on some cassette or another in those years. Neither of us had much cash then, so it took no small amount of pressure from my friends and me to make deals like that happen. Make no mistake, my brother was a Judas Priest fan, but I’m certain he would rather have spent his cash on treats. And I can’t now ascribe ersatz nobility to conning my brother, as if we’d taught him tough lessons. It was only conning.
In those years, some combination of the following people would have been party to any cassette-buying trip: Me, Doug Manis, Sean Florance (who surely was there, because he was always driving everybody for every reason), Bryan Fuller, Lem Gaswint, and David Welker (my aforementioned little brother). My brother and I only bought cassettes then and we only had a few, a great percentage of which–probably 4 out of 15–were Judas Priest cassettes. Like Screaming for Vengeance. Like Sin After Sin. Defenders of the Faith, I think. We knew about Sad Wings of Destiny, but hadn’t heard any of the songs from it. But we were eager to know.
We ultimately found the Sad Wings of Destiny cassette at the now-defunct Roadrunner Tapes and Records. Roadrunner didn’t stay in business long. I think they suffered from the same problem many used stores have–suck-ass inventory.
I’m sure we tried Kelly’s Comics before Roadrunner. Kelly’s Comics was in the converted living room of a house just a few doors from the Florance family home. Was the inventory at Kelly’s suck ass? Check. I remember wondering, before my first trip to Kelly’s Comics, if the store was operated by Kelly Slaybaugh. Anyone who grew up in Clarkston during that time knows what a stupid, adolescent fantasy that was. Kelly Slaybaugh was my age and a cheerleader from 7th grade through 12th. Probably not a fan of either comics or used music. The real Kelly of Kelly’s Comics looked a bit like a shorter, fatter, and homelier version of Peter Jackson. He was also always grumpy. I wish him good luck.
Anyway, we got the cassette from Roadrunner. What I remember best about that trip was that a kid my age farted near where I was browsing. He walked away and someone I was there with came up to see if Id found anything good. He smelled what he thought I dealt.
That fart was unforgettable. So was the cassette. Sad Wings is a Priest fan favorite and certainly my first or second fave of the Priest oeuvre. I remember, however, thinking my copy was inferior because it was used and released not on Columbia but on Gull Records. It looked like a bootleg, with a yellow sticker for a label vs. the superior direct-to-case printing found on most cassettes.
And the cassette was inferior. Gull or whoever hadn’t punched the safety tabs on that tape, rendering it recordable. And some previous owner taped over a portion of the song Island of Domination–a rocking romp of a song that is best heard without interruption. The interruption on my cassette was the voices of two dudes, one of whom said I’m tired. The other responded by saying, Man, I was tired when I woke up. These dudes sounded like typical dudes from the 1970s-1980s. Possibly both were stoned a little. I picture them looking like Refugee-era Tom Petty.
That’s it. I remember more than someone my age has a right to remember. I can’t recommend Sad Wings enough. Some of it (Epitaph) is laughably somber; some of it rocks quite hard. The themes are familiar to any early metal listeners–quasi-occult references, sadism, and love. Good listening.
Somehow the two sleep-deprived stoners on Andy’s cassette just added to the charm.
I subscribe to emusic.com where I pay them $15/month and they give me 90 MP3 downloads each month. Indie rock dominates the catalog, but there is also lots of blues, jazz, classical, bluegrass, and other non-mainstream music that the big labels don’t provide much of. They also have a lot of oddball stuff like film soundtracks, spoken word, and just one-off out-of-print recordings from tiny labels that I think are trying to squeeze a little more revenue out of back catalog.
One day I logged in and spied ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ listed in the ‘Newly Added’ column. I clicked one button, waited 10 minutes, and just like that I had ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ on my iPod. I hadn’t heard that record in at least 10 years, probably closer to 15, and it rocked so much that I let it loop all afternoon. I can’t get over that 20 years later, after all the work Andy and Dave did to research and excavate that metal relic, I was just bopping around the Internet one day and *boom* I was enjoying ‘Island of Domination’ on my iPod, sans sleepy stoners. God bless the Internet, man.