Updated: Oct 31
Turning Plastic to Steel: A Tale of Judas Priest's British Steel
Back in the '80s, backpacks were still a rarity among school kids. Instead, many of us carried two-piece plastic Samsonite briefcases, those unmistakable symbols of the era. These briefcases were virtually indestructible, so, as mischievous kids do, we turned the school hallways into makeshift bowling lanes, competing to roll them the farthest.
These briefcases were canvases for personalization. Some opted for simplicity, scribbling their names with colorful Sharpie markers. Meanwhile, a few dared to be more adventurous, using heated knives to carve intricate designs into the plastic. I, on the other hand, embarked on a unique creative venture. Borrowing some spare Easy Liner contact paper from my mother's wall project, I meticulously cut it into Def Leppard's iconic logo shape. I placed it on one side of my trusty briefcase. I wanted the world to know about my unwavering love for the band, vowing to carry my briefcase with the Def Leppard side prominently displayed.
When Monday arrived, my fellow students couldn't help but notice my fantastic sticker. To their amazement, I revealed that I had crafted it myself. They were initially skeptical until I made an offer: "Pick any logo you want, and I'll craft it for you—for just $10 pesos." Orders began to flood in, and suddenly, my 15-year-old self was running a burgeoning sticker business.
But then came an unexpected request. One of my clients wanted a "special order," and he was willing to pay anything for it. Armed with the album cover as a reference, he asked me to create a detailed replica down to the menacing blade the figure held. This was unlike anything I'd ever attempted, requiring an unprecedented level of intricacy and a new material—silver contact paper, which I wasn't even sure existed.
This unique endeavor sent my mom and me on a wild goose chase through every store in town. Finally, a kind, elderly lady at the Liverpool department store confirmed the existence of silver contact paper and took our order.
With great anticipation, I placed the order, and for the next few weeks, I held my client's cherished album in my hands. As I meticulously recreated the design, my fascination deepened with the album cover's intricate artwork and the music it concealed within. The album in question was none other than Judas Priest's "British Steel."
After what felt like an eternity, the silver paper arrived. The shiny sticker was complete after hours of delicate tracing and precise cutting. I returned to school, delivered the coveted artwork, and received my well-earned payment. It didn't take long for the news to spread. In no time, I had unintentionally become the most famous artist-entrepreneur at Colegio Cristobal Colon Middle School, a title I never imagined in the wild world of schoolyard creativity.
As history would have it, Judas Priest is likely the band that defined the Heavy Metal genre, blazing a trail followed by countless others. Their album "British Steel" catapulted them to worldwide fame, featuring anthems like "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law." This music might not have been the most sophisticated or elegant, but it held a unique power to forge connections among lost teenagers, and to this day, some of these songs have transcended into pop culture.
It wasn't until my 40s that I had the chance to witness Judas Priest live. I took my son Diego, and it was an unforgettable experience. Every “metal maniac” in the place high-fived him, and I realized my teenage dream.
You can catch a glimpse of that night in this video:
And... here are some samples of the work!