Of Turbo and Lovers


Year: 1986

Song: “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest

So “Turbo Lover” is my favorite Judas Priest song because who among us can resist a three-verse extended metaphor that likens sexual intercourse to motorcycle riding. For three verses. Sometimes a beloved song does not a compelling video make, though. Fortunately, that is so not the case here.

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I, too, thought he was about to play an air violin.

Compelling, yes. Sense-making, no. I don’t even know where to start. One could argue about Judas Priests’s inclusion on a blog entitled “The Big Hair Video Lair” and I would concede the point, but do you want to talk about that or do you want talk about a video whose concept can perhaps be most accurately summarized thusly:

“You know what I really love? Tron. That was cool.”

“Yeah, the light cycles were so boss.”

“That should be the ‘Turbo Lover’ video. Light cycles!”

“Only instead of light cycles, make them motorcycles. And instead of the grid, make it an open road in the desert.”

“Isn’t that just…motorcycle riding?”

“Add a skeleton.”

“….”

“Make the skeleton a robot.”

“Nailed it.”

Literally this is the plot. Some dudes drive motorcycles in the desert. They appear to be in pursuit of the robot skeleton. Rob Halford undulates menacingly in front of a sign explaining that there’s no speed limit but that helmet laws are enforced. Because safety.

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This gives rise to another robot skeleton. A second robot skeleton. Robot first, skeleton second, becoming sentient by affixing a skull to its form. There are some gears around the chestal area. It’s unclear if this will be a male robot skeleton that will chase after a female one, but the first one definitely had boobs. That seems physiologically and technologically possible and not in any way strange or excessive.

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Literally every time one attempts to make deeper plot connections something like this fills this screen, blocking out the robot skeleton/biker action:

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Or this:

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Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about robot skeleton anatomy.

NB: I think it is worth mentioning that this video was directed by Wayne Isham, who brought us a number of Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, and Metallica videos, the entire Ricky Martin oeuvre, and also “I Want It That Way.”

Back to the action at hand. Along with the motorcycle riders, there’s a hot biker babe, because how the hell do you make this video without one, but her job is limited to this:

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Like many women before her, she does the most with the material she is given.

It’s possible that she’s the one the gang is chasing but it’s difficult to determine as the video is filmed in a style reminiscent of 80% of my childhood photographs, ie, headlessly.

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Also in addition to the two robot skeletons, there’s also a robot skeleton segway that plays the flute. If you don’t think the inventor of the segway watched this video and was like, yes, this is what transportation should be, you’ve got another thing coming. JUDAS PRIEST PUN WHOOOOA.

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Somewhere around the 3:30 mark, it becomes apparent that these storylines have to converge in order to wrap this thing up, so one by one, all of the robot skeletons get destroyed. One gets its foot run over, which seems like a strange way to take down a robot skeleton, but in the words of the great philosopher/cooler Dalton, “Opinions vary.”

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Also it is very clear why there are helmet rules. Are those skull sticks? Do we want to know?

Fortunately, the biker babe is given one more thing to do. Chase after an exploding bike and pick up a tire. Backwards and in heels. You got this, girl.

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There seems to be one robot skeleton left, who chases the bikers off the road all except for one, who’s like screw this, I’m not stopping riding for you or anybody. And the other bikers try to make sure their friend is okay through use of binoculars, but Rob Halford keeps popping up into their field of vision, all haha, can you see now, how about now, what about now. And they look at each other, wondering what even is this hellscape, and that’s the end.

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Here’s the thing. This is a video that includes multiple robot skeletons. A skeleton segway. A tissue thin plot resolved by exploding the aforementioned robot skeletons. And that’s not even the most important part.

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Since this blog began, I’ve been examining the plight of the instrument-less frontman. Rob Halford has no such problem. Rob Halford looks at his fellow lead singers playing air guitar or hovering around their bandmates just trying to be part of it and he laughs. He laughs and he rhythmically pumps his arms back and forth and everything, from the passion in his clenched fists to the golden wave of his hair says, This. This is how it is done. He does not need to hide behind a guitar. He inspires drunk uncles on the dance floor at weddings the world over. He is here. He is dancing. He is your turbo lover. There is no other.

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