Stained Class

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Stained Class
Studio album by
Released10 February 1978
RecordedOctober–November 1977, Chipping Norton Recording Studios, Oxfordshire and Utopia Studios, London (track 3)
Genre Heavy metal
Label CBS, Inc. (UK)
Columbia Records (US)
Producer Dennis Mackay, Judas Priest, James Guthrie (track 3)
Judas Priest chronology
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
Killing Machine
Singles from Stained Class
  1. "Better by You, Better than Me"
    Released: February 10, 1978
  2. "Exciter"
    Released: February 10, 1978

Stained Class is the fourth studio album by British heavy metal band Judas Priest, released in February 1978. It is the first of three albums to feature drummer Les Binks, as well as their first to feature their well-known logo. It gained notoriety for its dark lyrics and themes, as well as a 1990 civil action trial where the band were accused of backmasking that allegedly led to the suicide attempts of two teenagers. Stained Class was ranked as the greatest Judas Priest album on, [1] and was described by Steve Huey on as "Judas Priest's greatest achievement".

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Judas Priest British heavy metal band

Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band formed in West Bromwich in 1969. They have sold over 50 million copies of their albums. They are frequently ranked as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Despite an innovative and pioneering body of work in the latter half of the 1970s, the band had struggled with indifferent record production and a lack of major commercial success or attention until 1980, when they adopted a more simplified sound on the album British Steel.

Les Binks Northern Irish drummer

James Leslie Binks in Portadown, Northern Ireland), is an Irish heavy metal drummer, who is most notable for having been the drummer for Judas Priest from 1977 to 1979.



Stained Class is the only Judas Priest album to feature songwriting by all five members of the band. It was at this point, however, where Glenn Tipton started to take what can be described as a preference over K. K. Downing as the main lead guitarist of the band. Downing's only standalone performances on Stained Class are "Savage" and the second solo on "Beyond the Realms of Death" and "Heroes End", with the rest of the album either featuring Tipton exclusively or duets between the two. Newly added drummer Les Binks earned a songwriting credit for "Beyond The Realms Of Death" [2] , and bassist Ian Hill received his only songwriting credit so far for co-writing "Invader" with Halford and Tipton.

Glenn Tipton British musician

Glenn Raymond Tipton is an English musician. Often noted for his complex playing style and classically influenced solos, he is best known as one of the lead guitarists for heavy metal band Judas Priest.

K. K. Downing British musician

Kenneth "K. K." Downing Jr. is a British musician, co-founder of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, and an author.

Ian Hill British musician

Ian Frank Hill is an English musician, best known as the bassist of the heavy metal band Judas Priest.

The sleeve artwork, by Rosław Szaybo at CBS Records, introduced the now-classic Judas Priest logo, replacing the Gothic Script logo which appeared on all of the band's prior albums. Stained Class was the first Judas Priest album to dent the Billboard 200 chart and was eventually certified gold in the US.

Rosław Szaybo was a Polish painter, photographer and cover designer.

CBS Records International international arm of Columbia Records

CBS Records International was the international arm of the Columbia Records unit of Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS) that was formed in 1961 and launched in 1962. Previously Columbia Records had been using other record companies to distribute Columbia recordings outside North America, such as Philips Records and its subsidiary Fontana in Europe.

Blackletter Old script typeface used throughout Western Europe

Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 until the 17th century. It continued to be used for the Danish language until 1875, and for German, Estonian and Latvian until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes the entire group of blackletter faces is incorrectly referred to as Fraktur. Blackletter is sometimes referred to as Old English, but it is not to be confused with the Old English language, which predates blackletter by many centuries and was written in the insular script or in Futhorc.

Dennis MacKay was brought in by CBS Records to produce the album. His resume at the time consisted mainly of jazz fusion artists, plus David Bowie, Supertramp, and others. He set himself to the task of cleaning up the band’s unwieldy songwriting style and making their material shorter, tighter, and more direct. The recording sessions for Stained Class took place in October and November 1977 at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire.

Jazz fusion music genre

Jazz fusion is a music genre that developed in the late 1960s when musicians combined jazz harmony and improvisation with rock music, funk, and rhythm and blues. Electric guitars, amplifiers, and keyboards that were popular in rock and roll started to be used by jazz musicians, particularly those who had grown up listening to rock and roll.

David Bowie British musician, actor, record producer and arranger

David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world's best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Supertramp English rock band

Supertramp were an English rock band formed in London in 1969. Though their music was initially categorised as progressive rock, they later incorporated a combination of traditional rock, pop and art rock into their music.

The album was the heaviest the band had released up to that point – with the lyrics often dark and violent – with only slight instances of progressive rock; hereafter, the progressive influences that characterised the band's first few albums would be completely eliminated so that Judas Priest completely embraced heavy metal as their sound.

Progressive rock Rock music subgenre that emphasizes complexity and form

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

"Better by You, Better than Me" was a last-minute addition to the album when CBS Records insisted on including another more commercial track to liven up a record with which a majority of the songs have a very dark and sinister undertone. It was recorded in a separate session with James Guthrie, as Dennis MacKay had moved on to other projects and was no longer available. The band was impressed with the production Guthrie did on "Better by You, Better than Me", as it stood out in comparison to the overly thin, flat sound that had plagued their albums up to this point, and they asked him to produce their next album, Killing Machine.

"Better by You, Better than Me" is a 1969 song by the English rock band Spooky Tooth. The song was covered in 1978 by heavy metal band Judas Priest.

James K.A. Guthrie is an English recording engineer and record producer best known for his work with the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, serving as a producer and engineer for the band since 1978. He is the owner and operator of das boot recording in Lake Tahoe, California.

"Beyond The Realms Of Death" was the only song from Stained Class to become a live staple, with 681 performances, being played from 1978 through 1981, being revived on the Mercenaries Of Metal Tour and appearing on every tour afterwards, except the Firepower World Tour. Although the title track has been performed relatively often by Halford away from Priest, Judas Priest themselves have played it live only three times – twice during 1978 and once in 2005 [3] – while after 1979 "Exciter" disappeared until 2002, also being played in 2005. [4] "White Heat, Red Hot" was frequently performed between 1978 and 1980 but never since, [5] "Saints In Hell" debuted on Firepower tour in 2018, and "Invader" and "Heroes' End" have never been played live. The notorious "Better By You, Better Than Me" was played live only seventeen times, mostly in 1978–1979 (with two performances in 1990) and the obscure "Savage" eight times in early 1978. [6]

Stained Class was remastered in 2001, with two bonus tracks added.

Controversy surrounding "Better by You, Better than Me"

Twelve years after its release, Stained Class was the subject of the infamous 1990 civil action brought against the band by the family of a teenager, James Vance, who entered into a suicide pact with his friend Ray Belknap after allegedly listening to "Better by You, Better than Me" on 23 December 1985. Belknap succeeded in killing himself, and Vance was left critically injured after surviving a self-inflicted gunshot to the facial area, eventually dying of a methadone overdose three years later. The suit alleged that Judas Priest recorded subliminal messages on the song that said "do it". The suit was eventually dismissed. The song was originally written and performed by the band Spooky Tooth.

Three weeks after the lawsuit wrapped up, the band kicked off their Painkiller Tour by playing "Better by You, Better than Me" on the first concert in Burbank, California on 13 September. It constitutes Judas Priest's only live performance of the song since 1979.

Comedian Bill Hicks ridiculed the lawsuit as part of his act, pointing out (as many others have also done) the absurdity of the notion that a successful band would wish to kill off their purchasing fanbase. [7]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [9]

In 2005, Stained Class was ranked number 307 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. [10] In 2017, it was ranked 43rd in Rolling Stone 's "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time". [11] The album is widely considered to be highly influential in the speed metal and thrash metal genres. It has also been viewed as an early indication of the new wave of British heavy metal movement.

Although Stained Class was well received in the UK and nearly matched the sales of Sin After Sin , it barely scraped the Billboard 200 in the United States, a result attributed to American audiences, who were used to bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Aerosmith, and Kiss, having difficulty digesting Judas Priest’s dark music, which had little in the way of conventional rock themes. The band was also still comparatively unknown in the US at the time, being only on their second tour there. After the success of later albums in the US, however, Stained Class was eventually certified Gold.

Track listing

Side one
1."Exciter" Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton 5:34
2."White Heat, Red Hot"Tipton4:20
3."Better by You, Better Than Me" (Spooky Tooth cover) Gary Wright 3:24
4."Stained Class"Halford, Tipton5:19
5."Invader"Halford, Tipton, Ian Hill 4:12
Side two
6."Saints in Hell"Halford, K. K. Downing, Tipton5:30
7."Savage"Halford, Downing3:27
8."Beyond the Realms of Death"Halford, Les Binks 6:53
9."Heroes End"Tipton5:01


Judas Priest


Chart (1978)Position
US Billboard 200 173

Sales and certifications

RegionCertification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA) [12] Gold500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

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  3. "'Stained Class' in Judas Priest setlists". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. "'Exciter' in Judas Priest setlists". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. "'White Heat, Red Hot' in Judas Priest setlists". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. "'Savage' in Judas Priest setlists". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. Hicks, Bill; Lahr, John (2004). Love All the People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines. Constable & Robinson. ISBN   1-84119-878-1 . Retrieved 20 April 2015.
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  9. Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. ISBN   9780857125958 . Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  10. [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 89. ISBN   3-89880-517-4.
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  12. "American album certifications – Judas Priest – Point of Entry". Recording Industry Association of America.If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.