Better By You, Better Than Me

Album: Stained Class (1978)
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  • This is not a Judas Priest original - it was first recorded by the British rock band Spooky Tooth on their 1969 album Spooky Two and written by their keyboard player/vocalist Gary Wright, famous for his solo hit "Dream Weaver."

    On December 23, 1985, this relatively obscure cover song became part of a music censorship controversy when 18-year old Raymond Belknap of Nevada killed himself with a shotgun after listening to the Stained Class album while smoking pot and drinking beer. His friend James Vance was with him and also shot himself (apparently they made a suicide pact), but survived another three years. After Vance died, the families of the men filed suit against Judas Priest and their record company, claiming the words "Do It" were subliminally embedded in the song, and encouraged their children to kill themselves.

    Earlier in the 1988, a similar lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne over his song "Suicide Solution" was dismissed on the grounds that music was protected under the first amendment, so the plaintiffs in the Nevada case took a different approach: Instead of claiming that the lyrics compelled the teenagers to kill themselves, they claimed the subliminal messages did, and the Judas Priest was negligent for putting them in. The case was dismissed after a 17-day trial, with the judge ruling the messages were not put there on purpose. The 1990 ruling stated: "The plaintiffs did not lose this case because defendants proved that subliminal stimuli have no effect on human behavior. Rather, plaintiffs lost this case because they failed to prove that defendants intentionally placed subliminal messages on the album and that those messages were a cause of the suicide."
  • After their second album, Sad Wings Of Destiny, was released in 1976, Judas Priest left Gull Records for a much bigger fish: Columbia Records. When they were recording their fourth album, Stained Class, the label had them record "Better By You, Better Than Me," hoping it would get some traction as a single in America. It didn't, but the band kept at it and over the next few years became a top draw in the US.
  • The song is about a guy so smitten by a girl that he can't form coherent sentences when he's around her, blathering phrases like "it's better by you better than me" instead of telling her how he really feels.
  • This was a last-minute addition to the album. Producer Dennis Mackay had moved on, so James Guthrie stepped in to produce the song with the band. Guthrie ended up co-producing the next Judas Priest album, Hell Bent for Leather.

Comments: 32

  • Dan Gillespy from Courtenay BcA very very good cover of a song from a band named Spooky Tooth. Judas Priest did a good cover of that song.
  • Dave H from TacomaI just saw video of James Vance after his suicide attempt. Somehow I never did back then. Aside from it being horrific to the point of looking fake, I realized that the character Eugene's appearance in the show Preacher, is based on James. I'm suddenly not feeling well...
  • Tony from San DiegoI know he didn't write it but this sounds like this could have been Rob's "coming out" .
  • Rob from Pittsburgh, PaP.S.: I ate that 16th piece of cake because a Judas Priest song told me to "Do it." Maybe I should sue them for making me fat.
  • Rob from Pittsburgh, PaThis lawsuit against Judas Priest was one of the stupidest, most ridiculous, groundless, baseless, and frivolous cases ever to get to trial. Thank G-d the plaintiffs lost. Had the plaintiffs prevailed in any way, it would have set a most dangerous precedent by making every creative artist in our society walk on eggshells as if entertainers are responsible for everyone else's problems. That would have jeopardized our civilization far more -- indeed, many orders of magnitude more than any song ever has or ever will. My heart breaks for the moms of the 2 suicidal men, but their grief does not give them license to drag innocent entertainers into court. Maybe I should forgive them that a bit since they are obviously insane with the worst kind of grief. However, their blood-sucking lawyers did them a great disservice by encouraging them to go on a witch hunt in order to blame some scapegoat for their family problems.
  • Jason from Aurora, CoI think we all know what the "IT" in "DO IT" means. Giggidy!
  • Marlene from Montreal, QcIn an article about the suicides, it was revealed that one of the kids had several loaded weapons under his bed. And yet, everyone was more concerned that he had a Judas Priest record in his room.
  • Shantell from Tijuana, MexicoI remenber this issue,but priest is priest and they won!!(Priest rules)
  • Luke from Dayton, OhWhy did they think Judas Priest had somthing to do with the suicide? Priest is not a suicide promoting, emo band. Besides 'Do it' could mean anything, like "Do it, start headbanging!"
  • Anthony from Parsippany, NjPeople who commit suicide are both cowardly and ballsy at the same time. Cowardly....because, it's an easy way out of your problems, forever. Ballsy...because, let's face it, anyone with the balls to pull the trigger on their own self...Jesus H. Christ...that takes some balls bigger than a breadbasket. It's a sad, sad excuse that a song could drive someone to kill oneself. I did not feel one iota of empathy for the family.
  • Eric from New Haven,The ironic thing about this song is that the phrase "do it" is clearly audible at roughly 2:33, though the phrase exists playing the song regularly, the way it's supposed to be played.
  • Richard from St. Joseph, MoDo it. Do what??? CRANK UP the music!!!
  • Pytlak from Bakersfield, CaYeah Jason from Austin Texas. I heard an interview or something on MTV or VH1 or one of those shows where the band said "wouldn't it be better for us to say 'buy more albums' subliminally?"
  • Paul from Liverpool, EnglandA better version of this is by the Seventies German band Armaggedon (sic).
  • John from Butler, Pajordan i agree sad wings is a masterpiece
  • Joel from Columbia, ScI mentioned in another post that society trys to blame music on society's ills. This is just another example of that.
  • Randy Huber from Heath , OhAs stated earlier Spooky Tooth done this song in 1969,Gary Wright was the singer,but also the guitarist was Mick Jones who went on to greater fame with Foreigner
  • Jt from Tullahoma, TnFinally a reply after a year. I'm not saying it was intentional, no it's the parents fault, the kids had some subconcious movement. Music changes the mood, so it brought it forwards to them. They asked if suicide was it, the messages said, "Do it." They went with it. Rock rocks.
  • Jordan from Tulsa, OkJudas Priest is the best metal band,adn has been for the past 30 years and one of their most underated albums is Sad Wings of Destiny
  • Max from Austin, TxJeff there's 7 songs listed on this website that inspired people to kill. Check you sources before posting something.
  • Brian from North Hollywood, CaThis song was written by Gary Wright in 1968 when he was one of the two lead singers of Spooky Tooth. Yes, Gary Wright--of "Dreamweaver" fame--he is also a keyboard player. Though Gary's vocalist counterpart Mike Harrison sings on the 1969 original, Wright still features "Better by You" in his solo set list to this day--he performed a blistering version of it during a 2003 show in La Mirada, CA which left the audience speechless. We all know that Gary Wright's intent as a songwriter and a musician for four decades represent nothing other than positive spirituality. He, too, was dragged into the legal battles.
  • Anthony from Parsippany, NjRight on Nathan, Lee and Jeff. Those malcontents obviously had some issues...and for the parents to blame the lyrics, just goes to show how ignorant people can be. Maybe if the parents did a better job, those two fools would be alive today (the other kid actually died later as a result of the shooting).
  • Montant from Philladelphia, Pait a great song
  • Axl from Stockholm, SwedenI heard somewhere that supposely, this song has a hidden message where Rob Halford, before he came out, tells that he is a homosexuall. "Everybody, everybody knows", he sings in the song.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhWhether or not a (ROCK BAND) tells you to kill is not the point. The band has First Amendment Rights to sing about anything they want, short of harassment, or libel. Even Eminem gets away with those two. I don't want to sound callous, but this incident is completely the kid's and his parent's fault.
  • Lee from Ottawa, CanadaI think that the album Stained Class is one of Priest's best and I have listened to it probably hundreds of times without so much as scratching myself let alone considering suicide.The fact that this actually went to trial is absolutely ridiculous.Fortuneately,reason prevailed.
  • Josh from Las Vegas, NvBS... Priest is awesome.
  • Jt from Tullahoma, TnWhat I believe on it, is that music can't make you kill yourself. The only way possible, is if your depressed to death and the song makes you sad, and you want to kill yourself. That's something I like to do. Get High, listen to Heavy Metal. You WILL spot out subliminal messages. The problem with James Vance and Raymond Belknap, they were constantly depressed.

    So they were smoking pot, slamming beers, and they heard the messages in the song. With the state of mind they were in, which was focused on suicide since the boys were suicidal. But, as they thought of suicide, the words "Do It" came in their heads from words coming together. They obviously figured they should form a Suicide Pact, destroy the room, and go finish the job by killing themselves. It's real wierd. Go there and look up the Judas Priest Reverse trial. Real weird...
  • Jason from Austin, TxAnd isn't it just down right bad for business for a musician to want his audience to die?
  • Bob from Boca Raton, FlNo song has ever been known to cause anyone to kill themselves??? Have you ever listened to that horrible Eddie Murphy album where he tries to sing? Makes me want to put my head in an oven.
  • Jeff from Haltom City, TxThe only problem with backwards messages is that their effects have been overestimated by certain religious leaders who were only trying to make more money for themselves by speaking on the subject. The mother of the teenager was just looking for someone else to blame for her son's death, rather than believing that it was her son's responsibility. Sadly, this is not unprecedented.
  • Jeff from Haltom City, TxThe version by Judas Priest did not inspire any suicides, either. No song has ever been known to cause anyone to kill themselves.
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