The Night Rob Halford + Tommy Lee Broke Sum 41
On Aug. 1, 2001, MTV celebrated its 20th anniversary with a live concert featuring some of the biggest names in music. Just months after the release of their breakout album, All Killer No Filler, a relatively unknown Sum 41 recruited Judas Priest’s Rob Halford and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee for an electric performance, paying respect to the artists who inspired the pop-punk newcomers.
“Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised,” Sum 41 famously sing in “Fat Lip.” And though MTV had long moved on from '80s metal, Sum 41 put Rob Halford back on a pedestal in the new millennium.
After playing an abridged version of “Fat Lip,” Sum 41 tipped their hat to the Beastie Boys while bringing Tommy Lee out on the drums for “No Sleep ’Till Brooklyn.” Extending their medley into the days of classic MTV, Sum 41 and Tommy Lee briefly blazed into Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil” before Rob Halford emerged to sing Judas Priest's “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”.
“This is gonna be the next great heavy metal band of the future,” Halford graciously said about Sum 41, whose faces lit up like kids on Christmas morning. Sum 41 would go on to become one of the decade’s most successful bands while walking a stylistic tightrope between punk rock, pop-punk, heavy metal and hip-hop.
In an Instagram post from March 2021, frontman Deryck Whibley looked back on how the performance with Halford and Lee brought Sum 41 into rarified air. “This was a dream come true, and also the performance that changed our lives forever,” Whibley writes. “We were fairly unknown at the time when we were asked to open the MTV 20th anniversary special. ["Fat Lip"] had been out for a few months and was doing decently well but we were still a new band to the public. We were asked originally to just perform ["Fat Lip"], but we had the idea (inspired by past MTV collaboration performances we’d seen) to reach out and ask if some of our favorite artists might do a cool medley with us.”
“We knew it was a tall order and we didn’t really expect much more than a friendly decline, but to our surprise Tommy Lee and Rob Halford said yes! … We got to NYC a couple of days before the show, met up with Halford and Tommy for the first time to run through the medley and then, very nervously got up onstage and opened the show 2 nights later. From the second that song ended it felt like everything had changed. The response [from] the audience in that room was incredible. So many people from MTV and the industry in general were coming up to us praising the performance and treating us like huge stars all of a sudden … within a week of that night, ["Fat Lip"] was being played in heavy rotation all over the world and turned that song into [No. 1] hit. Nothing has ever been the same since that night.”
Watch Sum 41 perform with Rob Halford and Tommy Lee in the video below.
Sum 41 FT Tommy Lee And Rob Halford Rock Medley Live Mtv 20th Anniversary