For years, uptight people have been accusing various metal bands of influencing their flock with hidden messages that could only be heard by playing the vinyl backward. Overnight, this “backmasking” became a threat to national security, especially after Dan Rather played clips of hidden messages on CBS Evening News in 1982. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were also implicated in promoting Satanic messages that “can manipulate our behavior without our knowledge or consent and turn us into disciples of the Antichrist.” Furious, politicians demanded that TG&Y and Woolworths, the grandparents of Wal-Mart, place warning labels on the records.
Here's some of the more infamous backmasking messages for your not-so-virgin ears.
1. LED ZEPPELIN, “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN”
When my best friend first played this record backward, I was 14 and seducing his sister in his parents' bedroom. The eerie crackling helped to set the mood, but when the words “Here's to my sweet Satan” echoed through the speakers, I thought he said “Santa” and started to laugh. It ruined the mood. I hated this song for years.
2. STYX, “SNOWBLIND”
If you play this song backward for about 33 minutes, you'll finally understand the hidden message: “Satan moves through our voices.” Yet it still didn't move me to buy the album.
3. THE BEATLES, “REVOLUTION 9”
During my backmasking heyday, I played my aunt's Beatles album backward just for the hell of it, so imagine my surprise when I heard “Turn me on, dead man. . . . Turn me on, dead man. . . . Turn me on, dead man.” Talk about scary. I still shiver when I hear Paul McCartney's voice.
4. SLAYER, “HELL AWAITS”
Slayer didn't need to jump on the backmasking wagon, and I didn't need to listen to their hidden message–“Join us”–over and over to purchase their 1985 album. I was hooked as soon as Kerry King raked his pick across the strings of his demonic guitar.
5. SOUNDGARDEN, “665”
Some enthusiasts claim that when Chris Cornell used “I love you, Santa, baby; Santa is my king” as his hidden message, he was simply parodying other Satanic bands who hid messages from the dark lord in their lyrics. Joe Dirt, an elderly custodian who some-times travels with the band, claims the rock star meant to say, “Satan,” but he pissed off the wrong sound mixer.
6. MARILYN MANSON, “TOURNIQUET”
“This is my lowest point of vulnerability,” explains Manson when you play this song backward. It's an unusual message. But never fear, Manson is notorious for backmasking other messages, from “I'm gonna kill you, kill yourself, kill yourself” in “Dope Hat” to “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” in “Revelation #9.”
7. JUDAS PRIEST, “BETTER BY YOU BETTER THAN ME”
“In the dead of the night, love bites” is just one of the infamous messages spewed by Judas Priest. A different hidden message–“Do it”–led to the band standing trial in 1990, after two young men committed suicide.
8. PINK FLOYD, “EMPTY SPACES”
“Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chal-font.” When I heard this message, I thought for sure I'd receive a prize for discovering the hidden meaning. I even sent a letter in care of the Funny Farm. Later, a friend told me that Roger Waters was simply referring to Syd Barrett. So I sent him a letter as well, but I never received a reply.
9. FRANK ZAPPA, “HOT POOP” (ORIGINALLY “MOTHER PEOPLE”)
“Better look around before you say you don't care/Shut your fucking mouth 'bout the length of my hair/How would you survive/If you were alive/Shitty little person?” After hearing these words as a teenager, I quit cutting my hair and stayed locked in my room for a month, questioning the meaning of the labyrinth that spirals around all things. I never did find the answer, but I did enjoy smoking all of my best friend's weed trying to understand.
10. CRADLE OF FILTH, “DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE”
Listening to the Lord's Prayer backward would send you straight to a fiery stake in the days of the Puritans. Today, it simply conjures a horde of demons to whisk you away to the local McDonald's for another round of Happy Meals. I'm still not sure which is worse.