The Real Reason Rob Halford Quit Judas Priest

Judas Priest's Painkiller tour ended poorly. Even though Rob Halford, as Ultimate Classic Rock enthused, had "never sounded more like a demented Dalek" on the album they were promoting. During the final show, Halford got knocked off his Harley Davidson by a stage prop and knocked out. He spent the rest of the number out cold while his bandmates played while wondering why the singing had stopped. After the show, Halford left the band, musing "I not only fell off the bike, I fell out of the band."

However, the reasons he's given for why he left the band have varied since then. Sometimes he'd point to the scene as a breaking point, but at others, he'd deny it outright. The truth probably lies in between. According to the May 1998 edition of SWaves Magazine, Judas Priest's guitarist, Glenn Tipton, openly acknowledged that "It wasn't a shock initially that Rob wanted to do a solo project. He got our blessing to go ahead and do it... It's sad, but that's life, and far be it from me to say it's a wrong decision." So after some legal wrangling with management, Rob Halford proceeded to form the thrash metal band Fight with Judas Priest drummer Travis Scott. Sometimes it's just time to go.

When asked seven years later whether he'd reunite with Judas Priest, Halford adamantly denied it: "I would never do it." He wouldn't sacrifice his creative integrity for money by reuniting with Judas Priest. 

The prodigal son returns to Judas Priest

Six years after he said "I'm not just saying [I would never rejoin] now and five years from now I'm gonna be on stage with Priest again," the news came out that Halford had rejoined Judas Priest, per Blabbermouth. According to the report they gave CNN, that all were very excited to reunite as they had grown together from their early twenties, making the decision just as personal as it was professional.

Returning back to the band that made him, however, also gave Rob Halford a new sense of why he left in the first place. In June 2020, he opened up to Rolling Stone: "I would probably say that my exit was due to probably the similar circumstances as a lot of my friends, lead singers that I know that went on the same self-journey of discovery. I think it was important for me to do that. Because it's like that song, 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone.'" 

Leaving Judas Priest was difficult, but by being away from the band that defined his career, Halford could develop a better sense of how he'd want to flex his creativity, which, after eleven years, led him back to Judas Priest. Even though he struggled against it while pursuing his solo career, there's a sense he'd always come back because Judas Priest is "the band that means everything to me."