Backmasking in popular music became infamous in the 1980s when fundamentalist preachers started saying that Satan was speaking to teenagers through subliminal messages hidden in rock music. One only needed to play the record backwards to hear such diabolical ranting as "It's fun to smoke marijuana", "I am Satan", "Serve the Beast for money", "I love Satan, alright. And Satan knows I love Him" and who can forget the famous, "Glory, glory to my sweet Satan, there was a little child born, it makes me sad, whose power is Satan", from Led Zeppelin’s "Stairway to Heaven".
There were 3 trains of thought at the time in regard to backmasking in popular music:
1. Satan was using musicians as demonic pawns. The messages were put in the music unwillingly by the devil himself.
2. The musicians were Satan worshipers who purposefully planted the messages into the songs.
The controversy instigated teenagers across the country to play their records backwards in search of the next new "Satanic message". Most certainly a boon for the record industry as well as record needle manufactures.
On the not-so-humorous side, the band Judas Priest actually had to defend themselves in court for the suicide pact of Raymond Belknap, 18, and James Vance, 20 in 1985.
Supposedly, the subliminal messages "Try Suicide," "Let's Be Dead," and "Do it, Do it" found on the band’s "Stained Class" album drove the youths to put shotguns to their heads and pull the trigger. Not only did the band win the lawsuit, but the case helped set a precedent. Law students study the case to this day in order to help them understand the difference between real science and junk science.
After this all unfolded musicians did what you would expect them to do. They began putting more subliminal messages into their songs on purpose. Sometimes in jest, sometimes as a marketing device and yes, even to glorify the devil.
The list is long, and many backward messages have not yet been discovered, but this playlist is a good start for those who are interested.
Dr. Burke again demonstrates his uncanny musical prowess with this whimsical survey of the hidden and often dark underworld found in the demon possessed swamps of Rock and Roll. Wow, I think he may just be the anti-Christ we’ve all been waiting for.
Wow, after reading that article and listening to some of the tracks, I have suddenly become overwhelmed with the desire to kill my family... ;) just kidding! Cool info though, and rockin playlist regardless of its demonic undertones.
Great column. I remember the controversy surrounding the boy that killed himself, and I believe the lyrics Prince's 'Darling Nikki' was the song that prompted the formation of the PMRC back in the mid 80s. That was that group of Washington Wives lead by Tipper Gore that wanted to legislate what kids listened to.
I recall my school even banned Prince's 'Erotic City'for awhile.
That period marked my first real experience of protesting the government in the name of saving the First Ammendment.
Im not sure if this is written by you or not, but the actual alleged lyrics for "Stiarway to Heaven" are: "Oh here's to my sweet satan. The one whose little path would make me sad whose power is faith. He'll give those with him 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer sad-ly."
At jeffmilner.com you can listen to multiple songs played in reverse with backwards lyrics, including "stairway to heaven". The song actually has a full backward lyric, not just that verse.