Judas Priest Heavy Metal Suicide Case
Two young men, both having difficulties adjusting to life, were huge Judas Priest fans. On a late December evening, just before Christmas, they were listening to the Judas Priest album Stained Class. They played it over and over. At some point they mutually decided that life wasn’t worth living for. They made a suicide pact and using a sawed-off shotgun attempted to carry it out. The first one placed the shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger dying instantly. The second one picked up the shotgun now greasy with his friend’s blood, placed it under his chin and pulled the trigger. He did not die. The bottom half of his face was gone and he now knew he wanted to live.
This tragic set of events led to the most famous lawsuit in music history. The surviving boy said that he felt compelled to commit suicide. He said that the music had influenced them to believe the answer to life was death and that they should do it.
Ken McKenna, a young lawyer at the time, was contacted by the deceased boy’s mother who had been told by the detectives working the case that this music (Heavy Metal) had been blamed for causing violent behavior and that she should get an attorney to look into it.
Ken McKenna accepted this unique and obviously difficult case to get to the bottom of the question of the negative influence of this album on these boys. Through extensive research and expert analysis it was discovered that there were subliminal messages on the album, specifically “do it” repeated over and over at the end of lyric lines.
Below you can listen to a sample of the actual audio evidence presented during the trial. This is a short clip of a single lyric from the song “Better by You, Better Than Me.” Can you hear the subliminal “do it?”
Ken McKenna’s dedicated work in this case on behalf of a grieving mother established that the subliminals did exist, that subliminals are not protected speech under the first amendment to the Constitution, and that CBS records was liable in sanctions for not providing the original master tapes of the album to Ken McKenna’s experts for evaluation as they had been ordered to do by the court.
This landmark case is the first and only case to take a record company to trial on the issue of subliminal content. It changed the record companies’ attitude about their blanket immunity under the 1st amendment and caused them to rethink their responsibility for infecting young minds with dangerous subliminal commands.