Rob Halford on 30th anniversary of Judas Priest fan suicide case: “It was absolutely ridiculous”

On this day in 1990, Judas Priest emerged victorious after a notorious six-week court battle in which they were forced to prove that their music didn’t drive a fan to suicide.  Now, looking back, front man Rob Halford tells Yahoo Entertainment that the entire experience was “crazy” and “absolutely ridiculous.”

To refresh your memory, in 1985, two fans made a suicide pact after repeatedly listening to the Priest album Stained Class.  One, Raymond Belknap, died, while the other one, James Vance, was disfigured.  Vance later told his mom that listening to Judas Priest “mesmerized” him and Belknap into trying to kill themselves.

So Vance’s mother and her lawyers then came up with the idea that Stained Class — specifically the song “Better By You, Better Than Me” — contained the subliminal message “do it” when played backwards, and that’s what caused the young men to attempt suicide.

So five years later, the band was subpoenaed, as Vance’s mother sued Priest and their record company for more than six million dollars.

“It was crazy for us, because we were a British metal band being taken to trial in a country that we loved so dearly over an incident that we thought was preposterous,” Halford tells Yahoo Entertainment.

“And we had to go through the motions of this month-long trial. It was absolutely ridiculous…we love our fans. We would never put anything in our music with the intent of harming them.”

Eventually, the judge ruled that even if there were backwards messages, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that was the reason the fans did what they did.

“There are [still] people that continue to blame metal music, which is really quite sad,” Halford notes. “Because I’ve always felt that our music helps people escape the difficulties in their lives.”

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

By Andrea Dresdale
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