In this Judas Priest rocker, lead singer Rob Halford steps up to the podium to lead the metal masses, ensuring their voices can be heard. "It was us making a strong connection with, and commitment to, our fans," he said in his memoir, Confess. "Metal was still routinely derided back then, and here was an anthemic statement of our faith in the value of the music that we, and our fans, believed in. We were in this together."
Rob Halford loved the theatricality of Queen and how they made connections to their fans, so when Queen released their stadium stompers "We Will Rock You
" and "We Are The Champions
" in 1977, Halford took notice. "Take On The World" is palpably influenced by those songs.
Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton wrote the music for this song, with Halford composing the lyric. At the time, Tipton as blasting out lots of original riffs; he came up with one for "Hell Bent For Leather
" around the same time.
Judas Priest had a legion of fans in their native UK at this time and were starting to break through in America. They expected their albums to sell well, but were shocked when "Take On The World" landed on the UK singles chart, giving them a hit. This meant an appearance on Top Of The Pops, the upbeat variety show that's a British institution, showcasing the most popular songs of the day. On January 25, 1979, they made their debut on the show performing "Take On The World" in an episode that also featured Blondie, Leif Garrett, and Donny & Marie Osmond. According to Halford, he got in a row with Marie Osmond because she objected to his bullwhip.
This was included on the fifth Judas Priest album, which was titled Killing Machine everywhere except America, where their label wanted to steer clear of murder references in the wake of school shootings. There, it was titled Hell Bent For Leather, which ended up being a better choice: That phrase became a slogan for the band.