Dream Deceivers - The Story Behind James Vance Vs Judas Priest (USA Documentary 1992)

Made in 1992 for the American public broadcasting channel KNPB Channel 5 and directed by David Van Taylor, the documentary follows the story a teenage suicide pact which left one boy dead and another horribly disfigured from a shotgun blast to the mouth.

While this would be tragic enough the story does not end there and the film follows the efforts of the parents of the surviving teen to take the English heavy metal band Judas Priest to court based on their belief that the suicide was triggered by the two boys obsession with heavy metal and in particular a track by Judas Priest called “Better By You Better Than Me” from their 1978 album Stained Class which the prosecution alleged contained “satanic” backwards masking which drove the boys to suicide.

This was at a time when the right-wing Christian fundamentalists of America were focussing on the “evil” influence of music on the young and as a response in 1985 the Parents Music Resource Center was set up by politicians wives Tipper Gore (wife of Al Gore) and Susan Baker (wife of James Baker) and led to those infamous “Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics” stickers which basically told the kids which albums to buy if you wanted to annoy your parents!

Out of this milieu of rabid censorship came the Christian fundamentalists who believed Satanic influences were at work in the music industry and one of their key propaganda weapons was the belief that certain records contained subliminal messages that were played backwards and masked beneath the song (Stairway To Heaven is probably the most famous example of this deranged belief system).

The film is essentially the story of the court case where Judas Priest and their defence team challenged the prosecution who alleged their music “caused” the surviving teen James Vance and his deceased friend to engage in a suicide pact. 

Twenty years on the court case itself may seem absurd and yet the Christian fundamentalists are as powerful as ever and a new “moral panic” is just as likely now as it was twenty-odd years ago.

documentaries judas priest metal dream deceivers james vance suicide true crime religion

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