Talk about breaking the law: Judas Priest was barred from performing at Madison Square Garden on June 18, 1984, after a rambunctious crowd reportedly peppered the pre-show announcer with all manner of objects, then proceeded to rip out $250,000 worth of seating.

"Very metal," frontman Rob Halford would subsequently quip. "The horrible thing is that if we did play Madison Square Garden, there would be some enthusiast who was there from the original riot with his pen knife out. It would start all over again! So, it's probably best."

Judas Priest had scheduled the highly anticipated performance as part of their tour in support of Defenders of the Faith, something that apparently didn't quite jibe with local radio disc jockey Perry Stone's opening announcements of a series of upcoming events at the Garden. He said that list featured some distinctly un-metal acts, including Neil Diamond and Helen Reddy, among others.

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"Naturally, the crowd of 20,000-plus booed me when I introduced myself," Stone wrote in a later-deleted webpost, "but began to get truly unruly when I read that list of uncool acts." A frustrated Stone said he hurled some epithets back, then he said "the crowd proceeded to throw firecrackers, M-80s, cherry bombs and assorted beer bottles at me."

Some in attendance have disputed that account, though bootlegs from the show include what sounds like exploding fireworks. Either way, Judas Priest's 20-song set went on, culminating in two encores. That's when "chairs started flying around, New York's finest arrived and many were carted off in various [paddy] wagons," added Stone, who was also banned for life. Judas Priest was forced to underwrite the massive repairs.

Halford doesn't mention an incident with the disc jockey in his 2020 memoir, Confess: The Autobiography. Instead, he said Judas Priest's appearance at Madison Square Garden was simply a "great, regular gig until the encore. As we came back on and I began wailing 'Living After Midnight,' I caught sight, out of the corner of my eye, of a flying object."

He was initially simply dumbfounded: "Huh? What was that? And here came another one – and another one. As the song ended, I glanced behind me and saw a pile of foam seat covers from the auditorium cluttering the stage," Halford wrote. "I looked out into the venue, and the air was black with more seats flying toward us. One or two of them appeared to be alight."

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Photographer Bob Leafe was at the show and captured pictures of the damage, which you can see here. He vigorously disputes the DJ's version of events. "I have no idea who the hell Perry Stone is, but he's full of shit," Leafe said. "I was in the pit to shoot [the concert] opener Great White that night and I think I would have remembered if 'firecrackers, M-80s, cherry bombs, and beer bottles' were thrown at him because I would have been hit and the photographers would have angrily exited posthaste."

Judas Priest played "Hell Bent for Leather" following "Living After Midnight," then there was one more song before they retreated from the melee. "Glenn [Tipton], Ken [former Priest guitarist K.K. Downing] and Ian [Hill] were by now bouncing on foam to play, as there was no bare stage left," Halford added. "Ken later said that it had been like playing guitar on a trampoline. After a quick 'You've Got Another Thing Coming,' we scarpered offstage and hid."

Leafe said everyone had a good laugh about things when he ran into the band later that evening. "Afterwards, Priest had a party at the Limelight," Leafe said. "When I finally walked in, Kenny, who had seen me half-buried by cushions in the pit, yelled out, 'You've survived!'"

Later, Downing and Tipton quietly returned to the scene of the crime. "There's actually quite a funny ending to that," Tipton said in 2014. "Me and Ken went there to watch [John] McEnroe play tennis in some indoor tennis championship. We went in hoodies, because we had been banned from Madison Square. Halfway through the tennis match, one of the ushers came down and he went, 'Thanks for the new seats.'"

Halford added: "They wouldn't have had new seats without Priest."

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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