Reviewed: September, 2020
Published: 2020, Hachette Books
CONFESS by Rob Halford is likely one of the most anticipated Metal autobiographies of 2020 and/or even recent memory.
Rob Halford, The Metal God has come down off the mountain-top and has bestowed on us a detailed and explicit look into his life. Like most autobiographies, it starts in the beginning describing his life as a poor, young lad in post-war Britain and growing up in the Birmingham area. Halford is an entertaining story-teller and has a good memory for little details that add colour and character to the tales. The book is loaded with British slang, which I had no problem with due to my family history but some readers might struggle a bit, but Halford tries to explain the slang as he goes along.
Halford methodically follows his career and the development of Judas Priest from the very early days. Much of the material is pretty familiar as many of the stories have been told in the various books about Judas Priest on the market and I’ve read them all. This book follows quite closely on the heels of KK Downing’s autobiography of late 2018, HEAVY DUTY, so there was a bit of a sense of déjà-vu at times. Halford respects the privacy of his band-mates and does really talk about them much other than occasionally referring to the bickering of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton.
Despite his exotic career and life, Halford is a bit of quiet homebody. He still lives in the town he was born in and has been in a stable, loving relationship for years now. Not too many people can say that. At 70 (as of time of writing) he has lived several lifetimes. CONFESS is pretty much most people could ask for. It covers the highs, falling in love over and over, touring the world, the money, the fame, and the all the lows; the depression, loneliness, alcoholism, drug abuse, a suicide attempt, and the horrible death of a lover. This book also feels quite contemporary as well as at the very end, he mentions how he and his partner are dealing with the global pandemic of 2020 and just laying low like many of us.
It is due to their chronological nature that autobiographies have to formulaic and usually follow a ‘rise-fall-rise again’ pattern and Halford’s is no different. The pattern works but also works against itself, which brings me to my familiar complaint about autobiographies. The author and/or publisher assume (erroneously perhaps) that fans of the person writing his or her life story only want to hear about ‘the good ol’ days’. However, true fans want to learn about all of the person’s story, not just hear the old stuff. Halford gives us a metallic ton of interesting detail of the early days and totally skimps on the recent years. For example, CONFESS is a generous 355 pages long. From his birth to when he left Priest in late 1992 is covered in about 275 pages. Then from the year 1993 to now (almost three decades!) is largely glossed over in about 90 pages! He skims over everything that happened in his life from 1993 to rejoining Priest in 2003, an entire decade, in a mere 20 pages! Fight, 2wo and Halford (solo stuff) is given lip service almost out of obligation.
The other complaint I had is that Halford talks very openly about his sex life. He talks about sex a lot…too much and too often for my taste. Most people know he is gay. Most people don’t care. Yet it is a central theme of the book and he never hesitates to explain, in graphic detail the intimate details of his love life. Now, I’m not a prude, none of what he describes is offensive, nor is this an anti-gay thing. However, as I’ve said in my reviews of several other autobiographies (the Motley Crue, Paul Di’Anno’s and the others that heavily feature sex) is that I just don’t care. I don’t care what people do in their bedrooms (or wherever) and I don’t really want to read about it. Sex, drugs, rock and roll are the huge selling point for any rock and roll autobiography; the titillation and the voyeuristic impulse of some readers to look at a hedonistic lifestyle with lots of free sex. Reading these exploits we get to live vicariously through our rock heroes. I get it, I really do, but this book is over the top. Halford seems to live for sex. We get stories of hand jobs in hotels, blowjobs in bedrooms, rim jobs in restaurants (well, maybe not that last one but you get the point) and endless stories of Halford cruising for anonymous sex in gay bars and truck stops across America. It just gets tiring. I much preferred to read about when he met the Queen (yes, the real Queen of England, not the band) than when he gave a blowjob to a young fan in the bathroom in a truck stop somewhere in the US. Maybe some people will find that very interesting, who knows?
However, I must temper the above comments is that this must have been very cathartic for him to write, hence to the title CONFESS. The struggle he felt before coming out of the closet was enormous but it seems he really need to confess and get all these dirty little secrets off his chest. Even the title CONFESS is weird. The term ‘confess’ implies guilt and I don’t think he did anything wrong except maybe do lots of illegal drugs, get arrested for drinking and driving and a few other indiscretions. However, Halford felt the need to confess and accordingly we all got to read a very detailed, intimate recounting of the highs and lows of his personal life. He holds nothing back, throws the door open wide and for that I feel he is extremely brave. He wears his heart on his sleeve.
Aside from those two minor complaints, CONFESS really is a top-notch autobiography. When most non-Metal people think of Heavy Metal, most often the image in their heads is that of the Metal God in studs and leather belting his heart out or ‘screaming his tits off’ as Halford says in his book. I can’t resist ending this review with the most predictable Judas Priest lyrical cliché of all time but you read it here first, CONFESS really delivers the goods.