“I enjoyed a little backmasking in my youth, In numerous youths to be truthful.”
Backmasking is the art of writing lyrics that make sense if heard backwards, yet sound like an ordinary song forwards. Due to the difficulty of such a task, only a few traditional songs were recorded this way - e.g., I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, which backwards becomes You’ve Been Sluffing at Your Desk Job, and (I'm Dreaming of a) White Christmas which becomes (You're Giving Me Nightmares of a) Black Ramadan. However, with the advent of rock music, backmasking has become much easier: musicians simply record backwards, so that the songs make no sense forwards - no one is the wiser, since few people can make out rock lyrics forwards anyway.
The Beatles were the first rock musicians to attempt backward recordings. The first song they did this way, Rain, when reversed plays gibberish. Pretty soon everyone wanted in on the trend. But few people understood they had to play the record counter-clockwise. Instead they tried to play them vertically, on the underside of turntables, or at a speed of 54 RPM. When they finally figured it out, sales of backmasked Beatles singles soared.
The success was tainted by the Paul is Dead hoax: certain songs contained backwards messages indicating that Paul McCartney had died. Numerous hippies, for example, reported that when they listened to Revolution 9 backwards while stoned, they could clearly hear the line "Yeah I'm dead, so what? Piss off."
Pretty soon fans were finding messages everywhere, especially where there were none. This ultimately led to the Beatles' demise as "clues" were found to indicate they had gone to the devil:
- Abbey Road is said to reverse to Whorehouse Avenue. Fans have found numerous "clues" to support this hypothesis on the album cover: the men are purportedly crossing the street to a corner where they will meet the woman on the back cover; the license plate "LMW 28IF" means "Love My Woman IF you pay 28 pounds"; Lennon is dressed completely in white even though we know he's no virgin; and McCartney is still smoking his cigarette and hasn't even put his shoes back on yet.
- Paranoia that John Lennon was a communist sympathizer became widespread due to speculations that Backwards in the USSR contained a Russian Reversal.
- Religious fundamentalists quickly became suspicious of "all those love songs," as Jerry Falwell put it. Falwell was particularly concerned with the song Can't Buy Me Love. "They've got it all backwards," he insisted, "people buy love from me every week."
Here’s to my sweet Satan
The one whose little path would make me cry, whose power is fake
He’ll give those with him 666
There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan
However, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page vehemently denied these rumours, insisting that when Stairway to Heaven was played backwards, it merely played AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Satan could not be reached for comment. All God’s spokesperson would say was that the Lord thought the song forwards was a little "sucky."
Christian rock groups eventually fell under the fundamentalist microscope, because it was assumed that if a song has Christian lyrics forwards, they must be Satanic backwards. This ultimately led to the banning of hymns at church services worldwide.
More recently, Sarah McLachlan's song Angel led to the following warning label attached to her album Surfacing:
- Warning: Songs may contain subliminal messages that may influence children or adolescents to rebel against parents and other authorities; to begin wearing godawful t-shirts illustrating cult-like symbols, spikes around clothing or in hair, dreadlocked hair, and/or earrings in unusual bodily locations; and/or to break some of the Good Lord's commandments or in some other way fail to conform to Church and parental guidance by thinking for themselves and other heathenish possibilities. The producers, distributers, retailers, and shareholders take no responsibility for anything whatsoever praise the Lord.
Other McLachlan songs suspected of incorporating Satanic themes include Possession and Fallen.
The L7 song Boys in Black has a deliberate backwards message: "All beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Two all beef patties."  It sounds like gibberish forward, but tastes wonderful. However, people who have licked the CD backward – in the same direction as the message – agree it tastes like shit.
Match the lyrics
- Smells Like Teen Spirit
- The Boxer
- Friends in Low Places
- Sharp Dressed Man
- Blunt Nude Woman
- Tastes Like a Child's Corpse
- Foes in High Ethereal Conditions
- The Brief
See footnote for answers.
- Britney Spears insists she never said “sleep with me I’m not too young,” at least not on any recording.
- We're going to give you credit for a little intelligence here, and not provide the answers.