Insert Foot: Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner is more metal than any of us

Richie Faulkner, Judas Priest

Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest, courtesy.

Sometimes words just can’t do justice to something’s pure awesomeness. But we have a duty to try anyway.


Rendering: Adam Pardee/STAFF.

Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner had an acute cardiac aortic dissection on Sept. 26. Sounds like fancy TV-doctor talk for a heart attack or something. They happen.

Because I know how to find Wikipedia on the interwebs, I now know the aorta is the body’s main artery that carries blood from the heart. When it tears, blood rushes out and bad stuff happens, usually death, at least in about 80 percent of cases.

So … essentially his chest exploded.

Faulkner’s chest exploded when he was onstage in St. Louis. With Judas Priest. While playing the sound-barrier-breaking “Painkiller.”

Faulker remained on stage, upright, while his chest exploded, He calmly shredded through his awesome solos, didn’t miss a note, finished the song, said good night … then went to the hospital and had emergency heart surgery for 10 hours … and lived. And is now out of the hospital.

As a fan of metal, I am nothing. You are nothing. None of us are metal.

But Richie Faulker … he is metal.

I think I can safely speak for the millions of unwashed kids who ever cut school to pile into a borrowed camper van with 11 friends to see Judas Priest at an old arena named after livestock when I say this:

Richie Faulkner, Andy Sneap, Judas Priest

Judas Priest performs at The Warfield in San Francisco on June 24, 2019. Sean Liming/STAFF.

That is the most metal thing anyone has ever done in the history of metal things.

That’s saying something in a metal world where aging record execs still wake up screaming at the memory of Ozzy ending an important meeting by chomping off the head off a dove (at the time, very metal … but not very cool to bird lovers).

I once saw the singer of Rammstein walk on stage and sing an entire verse while engulfed in flames. W.A.S.P. used to throw piles of raw meat into the crowd, Alice Cooper used to pretend to cut off his head, people were always bleeding on stage … whatever. I won’t even get into the stories of the Norwegian death metal guys running around the forest doing God knows what … none of it matters anymore.

But to basically have your heart explode on stage and keep playing … “Painkiller?” Just a balls-out, supersonic blazer of a song that doesn’t hide its intention to give you a sore face when you wake up the next morning, and Faulker doesn’t break stoic metal character once? Watch the video – he strikes all the requisite metal poses with his hair blowing majestically in the wind, not even hinting his insides are melting.

Richie Faulkner, Judas Priest

Judas Priest performs at The Warfield in San Francisco on June 24, 2019. Sean Liming/STAFF.

Painkiller … indeed.

Game over. Everyone else can go home now and scrub the sweaty clown makeup off their faces. Take off the stretchy pajama pants a size too small and the pointy shoes. Of course, it was fun when Ace Frehley shot rockets from his Les Paul and Gene Simmons spit fake blood all those years.

Richie Faulkner’s heart-aorta-sac-thingie exploded like a hydrogen bomb and made real blood flood into his chest cavity. He was dying… and he kept playing.

Sept. 26 should be renamed “Faulkner Day,” and no musician should be allowed to complain on Faulkner Day. No whining about breaking strings, or carrying gear, or not hearing enough of yourself through the monitors. On Faulker Day, everyone stops complaining.

Every band playing a gig on Faulkner Day should open with “Painkiller,” like opening sporting events with the National Anthem, metal horns held high.

Being “metal” isn’t easily definable. In the real sense, it’s aggression; it’s going against the norm, living life loudly, etc. Posing and pretending to be tough is definitely involved, therefore the ability to laugh at one’s self is probably key to keeping proper perspective.

Almost dying isn’t really funny  … until you survive. And Richie Faulker survived, not only retaining his dignity, but keeping the show going and looking pretty cool doing so.

That’s pretty damn metal.

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