Dream Deceivers – Documentary About James Vance vs Judas Priest Lawsuit

Dream Deceivers - Documentary About James Vance vs Judas Priest Lawsuit

On December 23, 1985 two Heavy Metal fans from Sparks, Nevada, USA – 18 year old Raymond Belknap and 20 year old James Vance – attempted to commit suicides with a sawed-off 12-guage shotgun by a church in Reno. Raymond Belknap went first and successfully killed himself by blowing his brains out. James Vance attempted to do the same but only blew much of his face and frontal brain lobes off, turning his suicide attempt into an utter failure.

In the summer of 1990, James Vance’s family decided to sue Judas Priest, claiming that the band’s songs contained subliminal messages which enticed the listeners into committing suicides. They said Judas Priest was to blame for the deaths of Raymond Belknap and their son James Vance, who died 3 years after the shooting.

James Vance’s mother hired a lawyer whose job was to persuade the judge that the Judas Priest song “Better By You, Better Than Me” from the Stained Class album contained a “Do It” subliminal message. I don’t suppose Nike had their slogan going back then cause they would have gotten sued too.

Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance Vs. Judas Priest is a full name of the 1991 documentary by David Van Taylor that covers the trial and contains interviews with family members of the victims. Although said victims were only victims of their own uselessness as well as uselessness of their failed parents who brought up failed kids. Luckily, that’s also the way judge Jerry Whitehead who presided the trial saw it and the case was dismissed. Good riddance.

One of the ludicrous arguments brought up by the family was that if you played certain Judas Priest songs backwards, you could hear subliminal messages. I’ve listened to Heavy Metal, as well as Classical, Jazz, Blues, Industrial, and all kinds of other musical styles except mainstream pop for 3 decades and have yet to play myself a song backwards. I mean – who the hell exactly listens to music backwards?

It’s also quite convenient that of all the entities they could sue, the family picked a successful band – I suppose they realized that the only solid chance at making money from their son’s deaths is by suing someone who had money to begin with. Suing someone who’s broke or just about getting by won’t necessarily fill the plaintiff’s bank account even they you were to win. Suing someone with assets is the key.

Although I’m pretty sure that in this case, suing someone was also the way for the families to make themselves look like the victims. You bring up a failed kid who fucks up in life, then you as a parent are to blame. Unless of course you can successfully strip yourself of this responsibility by suing someone and all of a sudden your failed parenting is off the radar cause you put blame on a superficial bad guy. It’s a very disingenuous way to not account for your own mistakes. And by listening to what James Vance’s mother says in the video it’s pretty straightforward to assume that she’s in denial about what was really going on with her son and with Ray Belknap.

It also must be taken into an account that music of Judas Priest has been listened to by millions of people, yet it’s only these two nutters who offed themselves. I mean seriously – you want to blame a band for their deaths? Those boys had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, dropped out of school, their employment history was spotty at best and both were gun snackbarists (a gun at home = someone’s gonna get shot)… Plus their single mothers were failures start to finish. But hey… let’s blame Heavy Metal music and Judas Priest.

According to court records, in the two years before the shooting, James Vance had fled from his home 13 times. He was an only child who had no contact with his biological father and did not get along well with his adoptive father, a recovering alcoholic Emmit Vance.

His mother admitted that she had hit James often when he was young. James, in turn, assaulted her on a number of occasions and when he was 8 year old, choked her. Later when he was older, he pointed a loaded gun at her head and threatened to shoot her.

Raymond Belknap, like James Vance was a child of a single mother (aka a failed woman). He had three stepfathers and was beaten by the third. He was on probation for theft and under investigation for animal torture after shooting at neighbor’s animals with a dart gun.

Well… do what? Mow the lawn? Have a cup of tea?” – that was Rob Halford’s response to the accusation that when played backwards, the song “Better by You, Better Than Me” contained the “Do It” subliminal message.

Check out Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance Vs. Judas Priest documentary below:

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130 thoughts on “Dream Deceivers – Documentary About James Vance vs Judas Priest Lawsuit

  1. If we should ban music for having “subliminal” messages, then should we ban McDonalds for making people fat, and guns because “they kill people”

  2. They tried to sue Judas Priest over a cover song. The original version of Better By You, Better Than Me was recorded by the band Spooky Tooth ten years prior… that bit of info makes the whole dog & pony show even more ridiculous… imo

  3. I remember doing a project on this in high school. I listened to this song a million times, and not once wanted to kill myself because of it. These families are rather sad. Plus, until the guy killed himself, he looked like a muppet. Fucking families man.

  4. “Although said victims were only victims of their own uselessness as well as uselessness of their failed parents who brought up failed kids. Luckily, that’s also the way judge Jerry Whitehead who presided the trial saw it and the case was dismissed. Good riddance.”
    And that, in a nutshell, is why I love Best Gore. Bless you, Mark.

  5. Wow! James Vance is a walking talking Granny Apple Doll. I thought those things went out in the 70′s. How much of a fuck up can one be to NOT be able to kill oneself with a 12 gauge shotgun blast to the head?

    • i think it went down like
      Raymond Belknap: okay now watch closely dont close your eyes ill only show it once
      James Vance: yer okay
      Raymond Belknap: ok now BANG!!
      James Vance: damn i closed my eyes well lets have a try …

      guess you got it he should have followed instructions haha

  6. That’s an excellent point, Luddite. How do you fucking fail to kill yourself with a shotgun blast from two inches to the head? What’d he do, miss?

  7. “They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
    they may not mean to, but they do.
    They give you all the faults they had,
    and add some extra, just for you.”
    Anne Clark.

  8. Speaking of music played backwards, ‘Revolution 9′ by the Beatles is the scariest song I ever heard. It can be played backwards and then you hear screams, sounds as if there’s an accident happening, and a voice saying ‘Paul is dead’ . Some say this is a hidden message about McCartney not being the original McCartney. I don’t know what’s true about that story, but the song is really creepy to listen to.

    • Yes indeed, a friend of mine pointed this out to me once. And since you are speaking of music played backward, I took ten years of classical piano, and one day I decided I wanted to know what Beethoven would sound like backwards, and although I accomplished this and it sounded pretty cool, it didnt tell me a damn thing!!!!

  9. Claiming that music mesmerizes and makes people wanna kill is dumb…just as dumb as claiming that guns mesmerize and make people wanna kill, as the director said in the beginning of the video “people just don’t want to take responsibility for their actions” so instead they just come up with dumb bullshit like this, the sad thing is after a while they actually start to belive that bullshit as truth.

  10. That mother is a fucking idiot with no concept of self discipline, blame it all on the Lord, no responsibility what so ever for her own actions. As far as the step dad goes, he’s an abusive fucking prick. Punching his step son wasn’t abuse? Really? No wonder he wanted to get away from his parents.

  11. These guys turned the self expression of music into the self destruction of suicide. What a shame. Music can be very therapeutic for whatever issues the listener might be dealing with in life. I think they were too young to appreciate that, though. Young people, and their extremes…

  12. This is another awesome post. Where else than on BG would you find pictures like this?
    Really interesting to see what a surviver of a suicide blast in the head looks like.

  13. There are so many ways in which I’m tempted to play a “devil’s advocate” of sorts on various aspects of commentary and the OP. I shall save a lot of headache (though there may be a “headache light” here) and address just this;
    The assertion that single mother universally equates parental failure is a bit ironic to me….
    I feel it may be the best thing to happen to me, sometimes. Ex Jekyll turned all Hyde after attaching ye olde ball and chain. There’s never been a more miserable time in my life than matrimony with him. Fortunately I escaped before my daughter was born. I do mean escaped, too, and not as a metaphor… I was under lockdown in a Wisconsin farmhouse (what is it with WI producing the batshit insane??) and sustained permanent damage during my second escape attempt.
    I was hemmhorraging out from a tear betwixt uterus and placenta and it was getting away and striking out on my own that assuaged it. Literally. The first morning I woke up free, over a thousand miles away, the bleeding ceased, never to return. Let me tell you, for me–having a sweet, innocent child to protect and nurture has been the catalyst for success, not failure. There’s never been a more powerful motivator to get it together, and keep it together in the best way possible.
    The path of single motherhood saved my life, my child’s life, and afforded independence and self worth. A surgical tech working toward BA in neuroscience with a flawless GPA doesn’t sound like absolute failure to me. ;)
    Turns out the ex was a felon convicted of raping a 12 year old relative. I don’t know how, but his records were sealed AND he was grandfathered from sex offender registry, so this information was not readily accessible. Yes,admittedly, single motherhood is a far cry from ideal, but the alternative, to me, would be the greatest failure.
    Also, I wonder about widows (of military servicemen/cops/firefighters and the like, for example)… They are single mothers at the end of the day. All in all, you are entitled to your philosophies and it would be ridiculous to try to dictate your expression, in your own house at that. I just gently ask you reconsider how broad the brush you’re using. :)

  14. Damn, are these idiots for real?! They clearly failed as parents by

    neglecting and abusing their children. If you feel the need to commit
    suicide because of some stupid song you hear, then you have some major

    psychological problems.

    It’s never the parents, but always music, movies or videogames that fucked up

    their children. You were lousy parents that’s all. Had nothing to do with

    music or anything. Bunch of sad fucks!

    I quess they also did mushrooms because they saw Mario Bros do them?! These

    people don’t mourn their dead children, they just want to make some money of

    their rotting corpses!

    Don’t take the easy way out by blaming music, movies or games. Just confess that you sucked at parenting and that your children had some major problems caused mainly by the way you raised them!

    Now I am going to download some Judas Priest songs of the internet and play them backwards.

  15. I read somewhere vance used to chase the children around on the playground and scare them with his face … total asshat…i dont blame him for od’ing….flippin hell!

      • I read up on this some more…

        Yes, he over-dosed while hospitalized some time later. In a way, his first suicide attempt (the shooting (if that was his first suicide attempt)) was successful. He died from the over-dose from his antidepressants because CPR and other such emergency resuscitation protocol – such as intubation – was hindered due to the disfigurement.

  16. These guys could of taken a lesson from the Golden Gate Bridge community. That last bridge suicide was a thing of beauty. A backward swan dive into the abyss.

      • Yeah, shotgun blasts can leave nice splatters on the wall, like something painted by an ape. I think James Vance flinched, but Gene Sprague really looked like he was set free. I feel bad that he killed himself, but whatever demons were chasing him are chasing him no more. Hope he found peace.

  17. Why can’t people blame the person who killed themselves for killing themselves? Or people who attempt and fail then regret it, why don’t they blame themselves for failing in life and failing in death? I know some have serious mental issues but the rest only give up and try to get some “poor me” attention(this includes family members who don’t want to admit they failed their failure family members).

  18. Do it!do it!uh oh can i get sued for saying that?what a fuckin twat of a mother…she should sue herself for being a lazy fat cunt…the kid didnt kill himself because of the music because in the interview with bubble lips he said just before his buddy shot himself that he said”i really fucked my life up”and then boom!headshot!…that stupid cunt of a mother was in denial that her little baby boy that she failed to parent properly would attempt suicide…then to top it all off o.d. or yet another suicide attempt that was succesfull…that is the bottom line

    • I would listen to Judas Priest after this video, ‘cept I never liked their music much. I was into heavier stuff then, such as Venom and Slayer, though I wasn’t beyond listening to Iron Maiden and ‘Sabbath. But when Death, Amon, Morbid Angel, et. al. graced the scene, Heavy Metal just wasn’t heavy enough anymore. There is one song I keep on my repertoire as a guitarist from Judas Priest. It’s the only song I ever half-way liked from them – Victim of Changes.

  19. Obviously James flinched as he pulled the trigger, messing up his face rather than ending his life with the shotgun. Since he didn’t die from his attempt, in my opinion he was given a second chance. He had the opporunity to try to change his life as well as his attitude. But instead, it seemed as if all of them were wallowing in self pitty and pointing the finger of blame at someone else. Sad.

    • Its because he put it under his chin and not in his mouth if your gona do it you sit down put it in ya gob and lean over the dame thing a bit then pull the trigger but pie face didn’t do that silly boy.

  20. what a bunch of morons!Does the familly realize how stupid they look? All I hear in America is freedom. Freedom to say,do,watch , listen ect. to what ever they like. This is the outcome of giving these morons too much freedom. You want your freedom of speech but when it turns on you,you blame others for your sad,lazy, going no where, pathetic life!I love to have a turn to slap the shit out of the moms and wake them up from dream land.

  21. Hello All!!!! New here and what better way to kick things off then to express how utterly fucking stupid some people are. Did anybody ask the stepdad after he had beat the kid with his fists if his face looked similar to that of the gunshot wound.

    I wish that shit did work! I would slip some headphones on people I hate and set the ipod to loop “Better by You and Suicide Solution” so they could wake up next day and blow their brains out. Oh yeah while also looking at the HR Giger poster in ‘Frankenchrist” by” Dead Kennedys”.

    This is one of those things that is so far from being true it makes even somebody like me speechless for a minute. Most times when it is admitted that a STEPDAD has “spanked” the kid it ends up more like he beat the shit out of him quite often drunk and degrading the kid verbally. I wouldn’t doubt that one of the idiots didn’t really want to commit suicide but did it just because his best friend did and would have left him alone again. Just my thoughts.

  22. About to watch the video but just wanted to state… not all single mothers are failed mothers. I’m a single mother of 2(born in my 24th and 27th year of life with *gasp* the same father) because my ex Husband developed a drug habit in the 4th year of our marriage and continued to use without regard to our childrens or familys well being and I ditched his ass. I now am single by my own choice, if anyone thinks I’m desperate enough or a failure enough to allow my children to be an all you can molest buffet, they would be dead wrong. I think that put me a small step above failure.

      • Agreed. Kris, I know how you feel! You didn’t sign up for that sort of dysfunction, it was sprung on you and you had no way to anticipate/predict what would happen later on. You saved your kids and you saved yourself and they will be better for it–not worse.

    • Yes! I agree! Most single moms are single because of something they had no control over (like a husband turned druggie, or something of the sort) and single moms try twice as hard to raise good, productive kids. To say that ALL single mothers r failures because this particular mom was a failure is ridiculous.

  23. Each day I love this site even more for relentlessly fucking my mind. This is another example of situation I knew from pop cultural media and just now realised that it was based on real life story. Comic book ‘The Preacher’ had a character who with his friend did exactly what these two sad chumps and survivor’s disfigurement earned him name ‘Arse face’. Other situation was with pizza guy and bomb collar what was used in ’30 minutes or less’.

  24. if you play Hell awaits with Slayer backwards ,you will hear “join us join us” in the beginning of the song. Great vid by the way , those “parents” are one big joke.

  25. What the hell were the doctors taking when the built that fucked up face? They could cut about 2/3rd’s of that nose off and use it to fill in the hole in his forehead. He should have used the shotgun to shoot his fucked up parents. They screwed him up so bad he can’t even succeed at killing himself with a 12 gauge shotgun blast to the head with the barrel pressed against his chin.

  26. Thanks for posting this. Think it was Death Scenes 3 (VHS version) that had this interview. As the OP said, I have listened to metal, industrial, rap, classical, punk, and all sorts of other music, never once to hear a “subliminal” message. Except maybe Subliminal Sandwich by Meat Beat Manifesto. Only music that makes me want to take a shotgun to my head is pop music and worse yet, that poppy country shit.

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