Do rock bands really hide backwards messages in their records? Can your brain really decode them and act upon them without you knowing? Is this why every time you hear a Westlife record, you automatically change the radio station without even thinking about it? Probably not. However, rumours of hidden messages in records have been around ever since the Beatles' experiments with running tapes backwards in the mid 1960s. It has been alleged, for example, that Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust', played backwards, contains the message 'Start to smoke marijuana.' These rumours, however, came to a head in an infamous 1990 court case.
One day in 1985, two heavy metal fans, Raymond Belknap and James Vance, from Nevada, USA, decided to devote their day to drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana1 and listening to records by the British heavy metal band Judas Priest. By the evening, the two friends had acquired a sawn-off shotgun and entered into a suicide pact. Belknap killed himself with the gun; Vance only managed to inflict serious facial injuries upon himself, although he subsequently died following an overdose of painkillers and complications rising from surgery. Before his death, however, he alleged that Judas Priest's music had "mesmerised" himself and Belknap into their actions.
Following the deaths, a civil action was brought against the members of Judas Priest, alleging that the song 'Better By You, Better Than Me'2 contained the subliminal message "Do it," recorded backwards. The prosecution claimed that this message persuaded Vance and Belknap to take their own lives. Over the course of the trial, several Judas Priest tracks were played in reverse to the court as evidence of subliminal messages. However, it was eventually ruled that these alleged "messages" were mere coincidence, and the band members were cleared of any wrongdoing. The band subsequently said that if they had included subliminal messages in their records, "Buy more of our records" would have been more appropriate.