How an Early Alfred Hitchcock Film Inspired the Best Song on the New Judas Priest Album

The new Judas Priest album Invincible Shield not only broke the U.S. Top 20 and went No. 1 in seven European countries including Germany, but it proved the band can still surprise us. Cases in point: The politically charged barnstormer “Panic Attack,” the emotional electric ballad “Crown of Horns,” and the final track on the deluxe edition of the album, “The Lodger.”

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If you thought the latter song title sounded familiar and you’re an Alfred Hitchcock fan, you might assume they are connected. And you’d be right. The 1927 silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog is considered to be an early classic from the so-called “Master of Suspense” that established his cinematic style—and directly inspired this Priest track.

Songwriter Bob Halligan Jr. orchestrated his own score for the black-and-white movie, and his six-piece Celtic band Ceili Rain performed it live at a 2017 screening in Iowa. The following year, the songwriter and musician went to see a Judas Priest show in Albany, New York. Halligan has a history with them, having written “(Take These) Chains” from the 1982 album Screaming for Vengeance and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” from the 1984 LP Defenders of the Faith. (Halligan has also penned tunes recorded by Blue Öyster Cult, KISS, Helix, Icon, Kix, Bonfire, and Cher. His song “Twist” appeared on Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford’s 2000 album Resurrection.)

“The Perfect Jumping-Off Point”

When Halligan met up with Priest backstage in 2018, Halford asked the songwriter to come up with something new for the British band. Halligan soon came back to his silent movie score. “I had written it very heavy so that people wouldn’t laugh at the 100 year-old, overacting, over[ly] made-up characters,” Halligan tells American Songwriter. “I knew the main theme from that score would be the perfect jumping-off point [for a song with lyrics]. I wrote the song and it was the only one I submitted. They used my original recording as a starting point, and I love what they did to bring it more to life than I had done. They are indeed amazing.”

Released in 1927 and just the third film directed by Hitchcock, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was based on the 1913 novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes and the play Who Is He? co-written by Belloc Lowndes. In the story, a Jack the Ripper-like murderer called “the Avenger” is stalking blonde women in London—seven are dead so far. A mysterious lodger arrives at the Bunting family household, rents a room, and exhibits strange behavior. The daughter of the parental owners, a model named Daisy Bunting, is also living there with her husband, a police detective named Joe Chandler who has been newly assigned to the Avenger case. Daisy is drawn in by the charismatic boarder; Joe suspects he is the killer. A potentially fatal climax is brewing.

“’The Lodger’ had instant appeal for the band much the same as ‘Some Heads Are Gonna Roll’ and ‘(Take These) Chains,’” Halford tells American Songwriter. “There’s a feel and vibe that Bob gets that works fluidly in our Priest world. His sounds and textures fit.”

Mysterious Music

Halford says he was unfamiliar with the nearly 100 year-old film until a friend mentioned it to him. “So I did a 101 and then recently met with Bob at a show, and we talked about the ideas and inspiration for the song,” the singer recounts. “The message is dark and vengeful. The music is mysterious and intriguing—so perfect for us to explore and interpret.” One might draw parallels to the gothic melodrama of the early Priest song “The Ripper,” although the song has a different feel.

“The Lodger” is a slow, moody number with tense, restrained verses and emphatic choruses. Halligan has an ear for memorable melodies that surface throughout the song, and the subdued guitar harmonies in the second verse on the Priest version sound like recorders. The chorus features a controlled Halford scream as, cloaked in the character of the lodger, he declares, “Vengeance is mine!”

An Instant Classic

Halligan wrote “The Lodger” based on the movie’s narrative and integrated the main theme from his orchestral score. That’s the guitar melody that opens the track and gets repeated throughout it. The song stands out from all the others on the new Priest album not only for being very distinct but as a great showcase for the band’s use of dynamics. It’s an instant classic and a song the band felt compelled to record.

“[Bob] presented it to us and it kept coming back,” Priest guitarist Richie Faulker told me earlier this year. “We’d write some other songs, and then it would creep back into our consciousness. There’s something about that track. He wanted us to Priest-ize it, so we had to go at it. You can imagine it on Broadway, like a melodrama. It’s very unique, and for that reason we wanted to include it on the deluxe edition. We did the right thing by putting it out.”

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Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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