procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

backmasking for beginners

a post on Led Zep IV over at F&T reminded me about the eerie art of backmasking. my old music teacher once put on Queen's another one bites the dust, which when backmasked (ie, unmasked by playing it backwards i presume), appears to say 'start to smoke marijuana'. we then got to try it ourself, doing it both backwards and forwards (ie saying 'start to smoke marijuana' and seeing if it said 'another one bites the dust'). we did it on a cassette player with an adjustable head so you could read the tape going the other direction. it was pretty cool. a few years ago i tried the same thing with the Beatles' i'm so tired, which pretty obviously says 'paul's dead man. miss him, miss him' as i recall. Revolution 9 also says 'turn me on, dead man' under 'number 9'

as a youngin', i was pretty freaked out. we were played a gospel choir, and that was backmasked, and the subtitling told us we were hearing them say good things about God. even backwards! however when played death metal, they all seemed to be saying that Satan was a swell guy and they had fun serving him. [i'm not quite sure then where the other popular idea going around back then came from, that people in satanic churches read the bible back to front - is it back-to-front or all thru?!]

for your paranoid pleasure, check out this guy's site for a dozen more obvious songs backmasked (without you having to destroy your dad's records!)

it did put a lot of fear in me, but in retrospect it shouldn't have, for several reasons:
  1. enough songs are, and always have been, explicitly immoral and crude, and generally against the very idea of God, that putting messages in backwards isn't really necessary
  2. you have to be a] paranoid, and b] have someone tell you what it says in most cases for you find it plausible
  3. who says we can hear stuff backwards anyway? it's not like it's straightforward - it's not like reading a word backwards, it's a completely different thing

it seems you can separate this into two groups: some are really bored people putting things into their music (including things really really slowly such that it just sounds like bass, or the converse - really fast so it seems like a quick electronic squeak - both needing to be played at an appropriate speed to get any meaning from them), or it's the paranoid people imagining things.

but i don't know - maybe there is something to it. but i doubt it. it's cool tho!

[i hope the thing with the tape made sense. there's two sides to a cassette reel, normally only half is played, whilst the other returns to the spool. when you spin it, that bit gets played. but if you move the head that reads the tape to the 'returning side', you are backmasking. easy!]

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Blogger reuben// said...

I like that guys site!

yeah this stuff freaked me out too - It didn't help that my youth leader back in the day had some sort of vendetta against metal music and often showed us paranoid docos about the ineviatbility of going to hell if you listened to it. something about the minor chords :-)

There also was a guy at school who was into doing backmasking on computers (which were only just becoming useful with audio stuff). I remember him playing me chorus in smashing pumpkins' rat in a cage said something like 'i know jesus, he's real gay' or something like that.

9:12 pm  
OpenID nathanjameslee said...

Backmasking gives me the creeps. Having never really thought about it before, I'm curious...

1. How easy is it for people to do today?
2. How easy would it have been for Beatles-era backmaskers?
3. Who (generally) conceives of the idea to backmask? The artist? Or someone else?

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but the insidiousness of it has me totally spooked!

9:28 am  
Blogger psychodougie said...

1. How easy is it for people to do today?
2. How easy would it have been for Beatles-era backmaskers?
it was always easy i reckon. edison even had a go according to wiki.
there's a couple of doco's made about it which were interesting - but a bit full on, having a go at whitney houston, the cure and so on!

the wiki page is cool - short lived arkansas legislation in 1983 said they needed warning stickers saying: "Warning: This record contains backward masking which may be perceptible at a subliminal level when the record is played forward."3. Who (generally) conceives of the idea to backmask? The artist? Or someone else?if we can learn anything from the beatles, it's that you can have some really good ideas on drugs, and some really stupid ones too.

the ELO track 'fire on high' is pretty funny - 'the music is reversible, but time is not. turn back turn back turn baaaaack.'i think people like it coz it does sound creepy. but as i said, we have more things to worry about than weird sounding music - i reckon satan is able to use the fear we have of weird sounding stuff to freak us out, but i doubt whether you could say there's anything inherently evil in it.

10:12 am  
Blogger disa said...


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