The quest for 'Sad Wings of Destiny'

When I was in high school Judas Priest was at the peak of their musical and commercial power and between my friends and I we had copies of almost all of their albums. But there was a legendary long out-of-print album called ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ that was told to be more rocking, more mighty than any other Priest work (except possibly ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ of course).
There was no Internet and our little town did not have a thriving used record market, so when a title was out of print, you were out of luck. Whereas everyone had heard about the legendary awesomeness of ‘Sad Wings’, no one we knew had heard even one note of it. The studio release was like a holy metal grail. And the terrible power in the album’s name: ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. How could you not spend all your time and energy trying to track that sucker down? Answer: you can not. You must find that lost metal codex. And the album rocked indeed. It lived up to every ounce of anticipation.
I invited my good friend from back then and today, Andy Welker, to talk about the day he and his brother finally completed the quest to recover a copy of ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’.
### The quest as recalled by Andy
Doug asked me to describe what I could of the day I bought a used cassette copy of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny–their second full-length album. This was over twenty years ago, so I am grateful that I can remember any of it.
I think I bought that cassette in the spring of 1986. I sort of remember using my little brother’s money. If it wasn’t that cassette, I know that I wheedled him into spending his money on some cassette or another in those years. Neither of us had much cash then, so it took no small amount of pressure from my friends and me to make deals like that happen. Make no mistake, my brother was a Judas Priest fan, but I’m certain he would rather have spent his cash on treats. And I can’t now ascribe ersatz nobility to conning my brother, as if we’d taught him tough lessons. It was only conning.
In those years, some combination of the following people would have been party to any cassette-buying trip: Me, Doug Manis, Sean Florance (who surely was there, because he was always driving everybody for every reason), Bryan Fuller, Lem Gaswint, and David Welker (my aforementioned little brother). My brother and I only bought cassettes then and we only had a few, a great percentage of which–probably 4 out of 15–were Judas Priest cassettes. Like Screaming for Vengeance. Like Sin After Sin. Defenders of the Faith, I think. We knew about Sad Wings of Destiny, but hadn’t heard any of the songs from it. But we were eager to know.
We ultimately found the Sad Wings of Destiny cassette at the now-defunct Roadrunner Tapes and Records. Roadrunner didn’t stay in business long. I think they suffered from the same problem many used stores have–suck-ass inventory.
I’m sure we tried Kelly’s Comics before Roadrunner. Kelly’s Comics was in the converted living room of a house just a few doors from the Florance family home. Was the inventory at Kelly’s suck ass? Check. I remember wondering, before my first trip to Kelly’s Comics, if the store was operated by Kelly Slaybaugh. Anyone who grew up in Clarkston during that time knows what a stupid, adolescent fantasy that was. Kelly Slaybaugh was my age and a cheerleader from 7th grade through 12th. Probably not a fan of either comics or used music. The real Kelly of Kelly’s Comics looked a bit like a shorter, fatter, and homelier version of Peter Jackson. He was also always grumpy. I wish him good luck.
Anyway, we got the cassette from Roadrunner. What I remember best about that trip was that a kid my age farted near where I was browsing. He walked away and someone I was there with came up to see if Id found anything good. He smelled what he thought I dealt.
That fart was unforgettable. So was the cassette. Sad Wings is a Priest fan favorite and certainly my first or second fave of the Priest oeuvre. I remember, however, thinking my copy was inferior because it was used and released not on Columbia but on Gull Records. It looked like a bootleg, with a yellow sticker for a label vs. the superior direct-to-case printing found on most cassettes.
And the cassette was inferior. Gull or whoever hadn’t punched the safety tabs on that tape, rendering it recordable. And some previous owner taped over a portion of the song Island of Domination–a rocking romp of a song that is best heard without interruption. The interruption on my cassette was the voices of two dudes, one of whom said I’m tired. The other responded by saying, Man, I was tired when I woke up. These dudes sounded like typical dudes from the 1970s-1980s. Possibly both were stoned a little. I picture them looking like Refugee-era Tom Petty.
That’s it. I remember more than someone my age has a right to remember. I can’t recommend Sad Wings enough. Some of it (Epitaph) is laughably somber; some of it rocks quite hard. The themes are familiar to any early metal listeners–quasi-occult references, sadism, and love. Good listening.
### Coda
Somehow the two sleep-deprived stoners on Andy’s cassette just added to the charm.
I subscribe to where I pay them $15/month and they give me 90 MP3 downloads each month. Indie rock dominates the catalog, but there is also lots of blues, jazz, classical, bluegrass, and other non-mainstream music that the big labels don’t provide much of. They also have a lot of oddball stuff like film soundtracks, spoken word, and just one-off out-of-print recordings from tiny labels that I think are trying to squeeze a little more revenue out of back catalog.
One day I logged in and spied ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ listed in the ‘Newly Added’ column. I clicked one button, waited 10 minutes, and just like that I had ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ on my iPod. I hadn’t heard that record in at least 10 years, probably closer to 15, and it rocked so much that I let it loop all afternoon. I can’t get over that 20 years later, after all the work Andy and Dave did to research and excavate that metal relic, I was just bopping around the Internet one day and *boom* I was enjoying ‘Island of Domination’ on my iPod, sans sleepy stoners. God bless the Internet, man.


  1. P.S. to Coda:
    I believe Dave may have destroyed “Sad Wings…” with a hammer when Fuller and I told him the rapture had taken his family…and left him behind. I think Andy and his mom had gone bowling, forgetting to tell Dave they were on their way out. He needed some rapid atonement for the sin of enjoying Priest too much.

  2. What a epic narrative. I can picture all of you in the 80’s, and that is about as great as it gets, but alas, I also get to be invited into a kick as story of impossible to find music, soul transforming metal, and some unknown kids that stars as the guy whose fart is remembered forever. Thank you to all who shared this story. KICK ASS!

  3. Ha! Yes, Sean, I think Dave was moved to destroy that cassette, among others. I can’t laugh too hard, though, because there was also a time that I gave Dave all of my rock cassettes with the idea of winning my soul back from the dark side. I guess I didn’t value David’s soul.

  4. Andy, thanks for the story, I was needing a Welker fix. I too like to break out Sad Wings from time to time. Sounds great on Vinyl. Did that metal head’s fart make you blush?

  5. Jason! Good to hear from you. Sad Wings is still rocking after all these years. Even with two songs in a row with ‘Deceiver’ in the title.

  6. Oh lord, Kelly’s Comics. My bi-monthly trip up to Elm for the next issue of ElfQuest… finding Jim Steinmans “Bad For Good”… flipping through the stacks to add anything that was missing from my BOC/Styx/Eagles collections… Kelly himself telling me that, no, I couldn’t see the pens in the locked case since they had “naked ladies” on them… good times, good times. Great story, guys. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  7. man, “sad wings of destiny” is one of the 5 records of my life. i remember when i was a kid, we continually listen “sin after sin”. a day i found “sad wings of destiny” at a local records stores. i bought it and i still own it. i still listen it and remember my childhood, like you. Greets from Spain! leandro

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