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Backmasking

Backmasking

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Encyclopedia
Backmasking is a recording
Sound recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

 technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward on to a track that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking is a deliberate process, whereas a message found through phonetic reversal
Phonetic reversal
Phonetic reversal is the process of reversing the phonemes of a word or phrase. When the reversal is identical to the original, the word or phrase is called a phonetic palindrome. Phonetic reversal is not entirely identical to backmasking, which is specifically the reversal of recorded sound...

 may be unintentional.

Backmasking was popularized by The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, who used backward instrumentation on their 1966 album Revolver
Revolver (album)
Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock group The Beatles, released on 5 August 1966 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin. Many of the tracks on Revolver are marked by an electric guitar-rock sound, in contrast with their previous LP, the folk rock inspired Rubber...

. Artists have since used backmasking for artistic, comedic and satiric effect, on both analog and digital recordings. The technique has also been used to censor words or phrases for "clean" releases of rap songs.

Backmasking has been a controversial topic in the United States since the 1980s, when allegations from Christian groups of its use for Satanic
Satanism
Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration of Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and...

 purposes were made against prominent rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

ians, leading to record-burning protests and proposed anti-backmasking legislation by state and federal governments.

Development


In 1877 Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 invented the phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

, a device allowing sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 to be recorded and reproduced
Sound recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

 on a rotating cylinder with a stylus
Stylus
A stylus is a writing utensil, or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example in pottery. The word is also used for a computer accessory . It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styli are heavily curved to be held more easily...

 (or "needle") attached to a diaphragm mounted at the narrow end of a horn. Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner or Emil Berliner was a German-born American inventor. He is best known for developing the disc record gramophone...

 invented the familiar lateral-cut disc phonograph record
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 in 1888. His design overtook the Edison phonograph in the 1920s, since Berliner's patent expired in 1918, and others were then free to use his invention.

In addition to recreating recorded sounds by placing the stylus on the cylinder or disc and rotating it in the same direction as during the recording, one could hear different sounds by rotating the cylinder or disc backwards. In 1878 Edison noted that, when played backwards, "the song is still melodious in many cases, and some of the strains are sweet and novel, but altogether different from the song reproduced in the right way". The backwards playing of records was advised as training for magicians by occultist Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

, who suggested in his 1913 book Magick (Book 4)
Magick (Book 4)
Magick, Liber ABA, Book 4 is widely considered to be the magnum opus of 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema...

that an adept
Adept
An adept is an individual identified as having attained a specific level of knowledge, skill, or aptitude in doctrines relevant to a particular author or organization.-H. P. Blavatsky:...

 "train himself to think backwards by external means", one of which was to "listen to phonograph records, reversed."

The 1950s saw two new developments in audio technology: the development of musique concrète
Musique concrète
Musique concrète is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. The compositional material is not restricted to the inclusion of sounds derived from musical instruments or voices, nor to elements traditionally thought of as "musical"...

, an avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 form of electronic music
Electronic music
Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its production. In general a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means and that produced using electronic technology. Examples of electromechanical sound...

 which involves editing
Audio engineering
An audio engineer, also called audio technician, audio technologist or sound technician, is a specialist in a skilled trade that deals with the use of machinery and equipment for the recording, mixing and reproduction of sounds. The field draws on many artistic and vocational areas, including...

 together fragments of natural and industrial sounds; and the concurrent spread of the use of tape recorder
Tape recorder
An audio tape recorder, tape deck, reel-to-reel tape deck, cassette deck or tape machine is an audio storage device that records and plays back sounds, including articulated voices, usually using magnetic tape, either wound on a reel or in a cassette, for storage...

s in recording studio
Recording studio
A recording studio is a facility for sound recording and mixing. Ideally both the recording and monitoring spaces are specially designed by an acoustician to achieve optimum acoustic properties...

s. These two trends led to tape music compositions, composed on tape
Magnetic tape
Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic. It was developed in Germany, based on magnetic wire recording. Devices that record and play back audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders...

 using techniques including reverse tape effects
Reverse tape effects
Reverse tape effects are special effects created by recording sound onto magnetic tape and then physically reversing the tape so that when the tape is played back, the sounds recorded on it are literally heard in reverse...

.

The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, who incorporated the techniques of concrète into their recordings, were responsible for popularizing the concept of backmasking. Singer John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 and producer George Martin
George Martin
Sir George Henry Martin CBE is an English record producer, arranger, composer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Beatle"— a title that he often describes as "nonsense," but the fact remains that he served as producer on all but one of The Beatles' original albums...

 both claimed they discovered the backward recording technique during the recording of 1966's Revolver
Revolver (album)
Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock group The Beatles, released on 5 August 1966 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin. Many of the tracks on Revolver are marked by an electric guitar-rock sound, in contrast with their previous LP, the folk rock inspired Rubber...

; specifically the album tracks "Tomorrow Never Knows
Tomorrow Never Knows
"Tomorrow Never Knows" is the final track of The Beatles' 1966 studio album Revolver but the first to be recorded. Credited as a Lennon–McCartney song, it was written primarily by John Lennon...

" and "I'm Only Sleeping
I'm Only Sleeping
"I'm Only Sleeping" is a song by The Beatles from their 1966 studio album Revolver. It was released two months earlier in the United States on the album Yesterday And Today and did not feature on the original US version of Revolver...

," and the single "Rain
Rain (The Beatles song)
"Rain" is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was first released in June 1966 as the B-side of the "Paperback Writer" single...

". Lennon stated that, while under the influence of marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

, he accidentally played the tapes for "Rain" in reverse, and enjoyed the sound. The following day he shared the results with the other Beatles, and the effect was used first in the guitar solo
Guitar solo
In popular music, a guitar solo is a melodic passage, section, or entire piece of music written for an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. Guitar solos, which often contain varying degrees of improvisation, are used in many styles of popular music such as blues, jazz, rock and metal styles such...

 for "Tomorrow Never Knows", and later in the coda of "Rain". According to Martin, the band had been experimenting with changing the speeds of and reversing the "Tomorrow Never Knows" tapes, and Martin got the idea of reversing Lennon's vocals and guitar, which he did with a clip from "Rain". Lennon then liked the effect and kept it. Regardless, "Rain" was the first song to feature a backmasked message: "Sunshine … Rain … When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads" .

Rumors


The Beatles were involved in the spread of backmasking both as a recording technique and as the center of a controversy
Controversy
Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion. The word was coined from the Latin controversia, as a composite of controversus – "turned in an opposite direction," from contra – "against" – and vertere – to turn, or versus , hence, "to turn...

. The latter has its roots in an event in 1969, when WKNR-FM
WNIC
WNIC is an American radio station based in Detroit, Michigan broadcasting at 100.3 MHz FM. WNIC's studios and offices are located in Farmington Hills, MI. WNIC's transmitter is located near Schoolcraft and Livernois Avenue in the City of Detroit on the near west side. WNIC broadcasts with an...

 DJ Russ Gibb
Russ Gibb
"Uncle" Russ Gibb is a former concert promoter, and media personality from Dearborn, Michigan, probably most famous for his role in the Paul is Dead phenomenon, a story he broke as a DJ on WKNR-FM....

 received a phone call from a student at Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University is a comprehensive, co-educational public university located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti is west of Detroit and eight miles east of Ann Arbor. The university was founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School...

 who identified himself as "Tom". The caller asked Gibb about a rumor that Beatle Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

 had died
Paul Is Dead
"Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike....

, and claimed that the Beatles song "Revolution 9
Revolution 9
"Revolution 9" is a recorded composition that appeared on The Beatles' 1968 self-titled LP release . The sound collage, credited to Lennon–McCartney, was created primarily by John Lennon with assistance from George Harrison and Yoko Ono. Lennon said he was trying to paint a picture of a revolution...

" contained a backward message confirming the rumor. Gibb played the song backwards on his turntable, and heard "Turn me on, dead man … turn me on, dead man … turn me on, dead man…" . Gibb began telling his listeners about what he called "The Great Cover-up", and to the original clue were added various others, including the alleged backmasked message "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him", in "I'm So Tired
I'm So Tired
-External links:*...

". The "Paul is dead
Paul Is Dead
"Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike....

" rumor popularized the idea of backmasking in popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

.

After Gibb's show, many more songs were found to contain phrases that sounded like known spoken languages when reversed. Initially, the search was done mostly by fans of rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

; but, in the late 1970s, during the rise of the Christian right
Christian right
Christian right is a term used predominantly in the United States to describe "right-wing" Christian political groups that are characterized by their strong support of socially conservative policies...

 in the United States, fundamentalist Christian groups began to claim that backmasked messages could bypass the conscious mind
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

 and reach the subconscious
Subconscious
The term subconscious is used in many different contexts and has no single or precise definition. This greatly limits its significance as a definition-bearing concept, and in consequence the word tends to be avoided in academic and scientific settings....

, where they would be unknowingly accepted by the listener. In 1981, Christian DJ Michael Mills began stating on Christian radio programs that Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

's "Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven
"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album . The song, running eight minutes and two seconds, is composed of several sections, which...

" contained hidden messages that were heard by the subconscious. In early 1982, the Trinity Broadcasting Network
Trinity Broadcasting Network
The Trinity Broadcasting Network is a major American Christian television network. TBN is based in Costa Mesa, California, with auxiliary studio facilities in Irving, Texas; Hendersonville, Tennessee; Gadsden, Alabama; Decatur, Georgia; Miami, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Orlando, Florida; and New...

's Paul Crouch
Paul Crouch
Paul Franklin Crouch is a religious broadcaster and, along with his wife Jan, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network .-Biography:...

 hosted a show with self-described neuroscientist William Yarroll, who argued that rock stars were cooperating with the Church of Satan
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

 to place hidden subliminal messages on records. Also in 1982, fundamentalist Christian pastor Gary Greenwald held public lectures on dangers of backmasking, along with at least one mass record-smashing. During the same year, thirty North Carolina teenagers, led by their pastor, claimed that singers had been possessed by Satan, who used their voices to create backward messages, and held a record-burning at their church.

Allegations of demonic backmasking were also made by social psychologists
Social psychology
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

, parents and critics of rock music, as well as the Parents Music Resource Center
Parents Music Resource Center
The Parents Music Resource Center was an American committee formed in 1985 with the goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent, have drug use or be sexual.The committee was founded by four women: Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice...

 (formed in 1985), which accused Led Zeppelin of using backmasking to promote Satanism
Satanism
Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration of Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and...

. On the April 28, 1982 edition of the CBS Evening News
CBS Evening News
CBS Evening News is the flagship nightly television news program of the American television network CBS. The network has broadcast this program since 1948, and has used the CBS Evening News title since 1963....

, Dan Rather
Dan Rather
Daniel Irvin "Dan" Rather, Jr. is an American journalist and the former news anchor for the CBS Evening News. He is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine Dan Rather Reports on the cable channel HDNet. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from March 9,...

 discussed the finding of possible backmasked messages, and played reversed sections of songs by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

, Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

, and Styx
Styx (band)
Styx is an American rock band that became famous for its albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Chicago band is known for melding the style of prog-rock with the power of hard rock guitar, strong ballads, and elements of American musical theater....

.

Legislation


One result of the furor was the firing of five radio DJs who had encouraged listeners to search for backward messages in their record collections. A more serious consequence was legislation by the state governments of Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The 1983 California bill was introduced to prevent backmasking that "can manipulate our behavior without our knowledge or consent and turn us into disciples of the Antichrist
Antichrist
The term or title antichrist, in Christian theology, refers to a leader who fulfills Biblical prophecies concerning an adversary of Christ, while resembling him in a deceptive manner...

". Involved in the discussion on the bill was a California State Assembly
California State Assembly
The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature. There are 80 members in the Assembly, representing an approximately equal number of constituents, with each district having a population of at least 420,000...

 Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee hearing, during which "Stairway to Heaven" was played backwards, and William Yaroll testified. The successful bill made the distribution of records with undeclared backmasking an invasion of privacy for which the distributor could be sued. The Arkansas law passed unanimously in 1983, referenced albums by The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

, Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

, Queen
Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

 and Styx
Styx
In Greek mythology the Styx is the river that forms the boundary between the underworld and the world of the living, as well as a goddess and a nymph that represents the river.Styx may also refer to:-Popular culture:...

, and mandated that records with backmasking include a warning sticker: "Warning: This record contains backward masking which may be perceptible at a subliminal level when the record is played forward." However, the bill was returned to the state senate by Governor Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 and defeated. House Resolution 6363, introduced in 1982 by Representative Bob Dornan
Bob Dornan
Robert Kenneth "Bob" Dornan is a Republican and former member of the United States House of Representatives from California and a vocal advocate of pro-life and social conservative causes....

 (R-California), proposed mandating a similar label; the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation and Tourism and was never passed. Government action was also called for in the legislatures of Texas and Canada.

With the advent of compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

s in the 1980s, but prior to the advent of sound editing technology for personal computer
Personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

s in the 1990s, it became more difficult to listen to recordings backwards, and the controversy died down.

Resurgence


Though the backmasking controversy peaked in the 1980s, the general belief in subliminal manipulation became more widespread in the United States during the following decade, with belief in Satanic backmasking on records persisting into the 1990s. At the same time, the development of sound editing software
Digital audio editor
A digital audio editor is a computer application for audio editing, i.e. manipulating digital audio. Digital audio editors are the main software component of a digital audio workstation.-For use with music:...

 with audio reversal features simplified the process of reversing audio, which previously could only be done with full fidelity using a professional tape recorder. The Sound Recorder utility, included with Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 from Windows 95
Windows 95
Windows 95 is a consumer-oriented graphical user interface-based operating system. It was released on August 24, 1995 by Microsoft, and was a significant progression from the company's previous Windows products...

 to Windows XP
Windows XP
Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...

, allows one-click audio reversal, as does popular open source
Open source
The term open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology...

 sound editing software Audacity
Audacity
Audacity is a free software, cross-platform digital audio editor and recording application. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and BSD.Audacity was created by Dominic Mazzoni while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University...

. Following the growth of the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, backmasked message searchers used such software to create websites featuring backward music samples, which became a widely-used method of exploring backmasking in popular music.

Use



Backmasking has been used as a recording
Sound recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

 technique since the 1960s. In the era of magnetic tape sound recording
Magnetic tape sound recording
The use of magnetic tape for sound recording originated around 1930. Magnetizable tape revolutionized both the radio broadcast and music recording industries. It did this by giving artists and producers the power to record and re-record audio with minimal loss in quality as well as edit and...

, backmasking required that the source reel-to-reel
Reel-to-reel audio tape recording
Reel-to-reel, open reel tape recording is the form of magnetic tape audio recording in which the recording medium is held on a reel, rather than being securely contained within a cassette....

 tape actually be played backwards, which was achieved by first being wound onto the original takeup reel, then reversing the reels so as to use that reel as the source (this would reverse the stereo channels as well). Digital audio
Digital audio
Digital audio is sound reproduction using pulse-code modulation and digital signals. Digital audio systems include analog-to-digital conversion , digital-to-analog conversion , digital storage, processing and transmission components...

 recording has greatly simplified the process.

Backmasked words are unintelligible noise when played forward, but when played backwards are clear speech. Listening to backmasked audio with most turntables
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

 requires disengaging the drive and rotating the album by hand in reverse (though some can play records backwards). With magnetic tape
Magnetic tape
Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic. It was developed in Germany, based on magnetic wire recording. Devices that record and play back audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders...

, the tape must be reversed and spliced back in to the cassette. Compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

s were difficult to reverse when first introduced, but digital audio editor
Digital audio editor
A digital audio editor is a computer application for audio editing, i.e. manipulating digital audio. Digital audio editors are the main software component of a digital audio workstation.-For use with music:...

s, which were first introduced in the late 1980s and became popular during the next decade, allow easy reversal of audio from digital sources.

Satanic backmasking


Although the Satanic backmasking controversy involved mainly classic rock
Classic rock
Classic rock is a radio format which developed from the album-oriented rock format in the early 1980s. In the United States, the classic rock format features music ranging generally from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, primarily focusing on the hard rock genre that peaked in popularity in the...

 songs whose authors denied any intent to promote Satanism
Satanism
Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration of Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and...

, backmasking has been used by heavy metal
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 bands to deliberately insert messages in their lyrics or imagery. Bands have utilized Satanic imagery for commercial reasons. For example, thrash metal
Thrash metal
Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that is characterized usually by its fast tempo and aggression. Songs of the genre typically use fast percussive and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work...

 band Slayer
Slayer
Slayer is an American thrash metal band formed in Huntington Park, California, in 1981 by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Slayer rose to fame with their 1986 release, Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the "Big Four" thrash metal acts, along with Metallica, Megadeth and...

 included at the start of the band's 1985 album Hell Awaits
Hell Awaits
Hell Awaits is the second studio album by the American thrash metal band Slayer, released through Metal Blade Records in 1985. The band's previous release, Show No Mercy, became Metal Blade Records' highest selling release; as a result, producer Brian Slagel desired to release a second Slayer album...

a deep backmasked voice chanting "Join Us" over and over.. However, Slayer vocalist Tom Araya
Tom Araya
Tom Araya is a Chilean musician, best known as the bassist and vocalist of the American thrash metal band Slayer...

 states that the band's use of Satanic imagery was "solely for effect". Cradle of Filth
Cradle of Filth
Cradle of Filth are an English extreme metal band, formed in Suffolk in 1991. The band's musical style evolved from black metal to a cleaner and more "produced" amalgam of gothic metal, symphonic black metal, and other extreme metal styles, while their lyrical themes and imagery are heavily...

, another band that has employed Satanic imagery, released a song entitled "Dinner at Deviant's Palace", consisting almost entirely of unusual sounds and a reversed reading of the Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

 (a backwards reading of the Lord's Prayer is reportedly a major part of the Black Mass
Black Mass
A Black Mass is a ceremony supposedly celebrated during the Witches' Sabbath, which was a sacrilegious parody of the Catholic Mass. Its main objective was the profanation of the host, although there is no agreement among authors on how hosts were obtained or profaned; the most common idea is that...

). Seattle-based grunge band Soundgarden
Soundgarden
Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington in 1984 by singer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto...

 parodied the phenomenon of Satanic backmasking on their 1989 album Ultramega OK
Ultramega OK
Ultramega OK is the debut studio album by the American grunge band Soundgarden, released on October 31, 1988 through SST Records. Following the release of the EPs Screaming Life , and Fopp , both for the Sub Pop record label, Soundgarden signed with the independent record label SST and went to work...

. When played backwards, the songs "665" and "667" reveal a song about Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

.

Aesthetic use


Backmasking is often used for aesthetics, i.e., to enhance the meaning or sound of a track. During the Judas Priest
Judas Priest
Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1969. The current line-up consists of lead vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band has gone through several drummers over the years,...

 subliminal message trial, lead singer Rob Halford
Rob Halford
Robert John Arthur "Rob" Halford is an English singer-songwriter, who is best known as the lead vocalist for the Grammy Award-winning heavy metal band Judas Priest. He is nicknamed the "Metal God" as a tribute to his influence on metal, and after the Judas Priest song of the same name from 1980's...

 admitted to recording the words "In the dead of the night, love bites" backwards into the track "Love Bites", from the 1984 album Defenders of the Faith
Defenders of the Faith
Defenders of the Faith is the ninth studio album by British heavy metal band Judas Priest. It was recorded at Ibiza Sound Studios, Ibiza, Spain and mixed from September to November 1983 at DB Recording Studios and Bayshore Recording Studios in Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida. The LP and cassette tape...

. Asked why he recorded the message, Halford stated that "When you're composing songs, you're always looking for new ideas, new sounds." Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

 used "Masked Ball", an adaptation by Jocelyn Pook
Jocelyn Pook
Jocelyn Pook is a British composer, pianist and viola player.- Biography :Jocelyn Pook’s distinctive style is a product of her diverse experiences in classical, commercial, and so-called world music...

 of her earlier work "Backwards Priests" (from the album Flood) featuring reversed Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 chanting, as the background music for the masquerade ball
Masquerade ball
A masquerade ball is an event which the participants attend in costume wearing a mask. - History :...

 scene in Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 drama film based upon Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle . The film was directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, and was his last film. The story, set in and around New York City, follows the sexually-charged adventures of Dr...

.

One backmasking technique is to reverse an earlier part of a song. Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott
Melissa Arnette "Missy" Elliott , is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, and actressA five-time Grammy Award winner, Elliott, with record sales of over seven million in the United States, is the only female rapper to have five albums certified platinum by the RIAA, including one...

 used this technique in one of her songs, "Work It", as did Jay Chou
Jay Chou
Jay Chou is a Taiwanese musician, singer-songwriter, music and film producer, actor and director who has won the World Music Award four times. In 1998 he was discovered in a talent contest where he displayed his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for...

 ("You Can Hear", from Ye Hui Mei), At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In was an American rock band from El Paso, Texas, considered part of the post-hardcore genre and active from 1993 to 2001. They were known for their extremely energetic stage shows which hearkened back to the 1980s hardcore scene...

 ("300 MHz", from Vaya
Vaya
Vaya is the fourth EP by American post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, released in 1999. The sound of the album bridges the musical gap between In/Casino/Out and their following album, Relationship of Command....

), and Lacuna Coil
Lacuna Coil
Lacuna Coil is an Italian gothic metal band from Milan. Formed in 1994, the group has had two name changes since being previously known as Sleep of Right and Ethereal and was inspired by the combination of gothic imagery and music...

 ("Self Deception", from Comalies
Comalies
- Ozzfest Edition Bonus Disc :- Release history :- Charts :Album - Billboard...

). A related technique is to reverse an entire instrumental track. John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 originally wanted to do so with "Rain
Rain (The Beatles song)
"Rain" is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was first released in June 1966 as the B-side of the "Paperback Writer" single...

", but objections by producer George Martin
George Martin
Sir George Henry Martin CBE is an English record producer, arranger, composer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Beatle"— a title that he often describes as "nonsense," but the fact remains that he served as producer on all but one of The Beatles' original albums...

 and bandmate Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

 cut the backward section to 30 seconds. The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses are an English alternative rock band formed in Manchester in 1983. They were one of the pioneering groups of the Madchester movement that was active during the late 1980s and early 1990s...

 have made heavy use of this technique in songs including "Don't Stop", "Guernica", and "Simone", which are all backwards versions of other Stone Roses tracks, sometimes overdubbed with new vocals. Meanwhile, Klaatu used the reversed vocals from "Anus of Uranus" (from their first album, 3:47 EST
3:47 EST
The album ends with a mouse squeak.-Origin of the title:In the 1951 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien emissary Klaatu arrives in Washington, D.C. at 3:47 in the afternoon Eastern Standard Time...

) as the vocals for the song "Silly Boys
Silly Boys
"Silly Boys" is a song by the Canadian band Klaatu, which appeared on their third album, Sir Army Suit. "Silly Boys" was composed primarily of a backmasked version of Klaatu's early song, "Anus Of Uranus", as well as a brief backmasked fragment of the instrumental ending of "Little Neutrino".-The...

" (on their third album, Sir Army Suit
Sir Army Suit
Sir Army Suit is the third and antepenultimate album recorded by the Canadian progressive rock band Klaatu. It was different from their two previous albums, 3:47 EST and Hope, adopting more of a pop feel...

). The lyrics for "Silly Boys" on the lyric sheet from Sir Army Suit are accordingly printed backwards. And Danish band Mew
Mew (band)
Mew is a Danish alternative music band consisting of Jonas Bjerre, Bo Madsen, and Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen. Bassist Johan Wohlert was also a founding member of the band, but left in 2006...

's 2009 album No More Stories...
No More Stories...
No More Stories Are Told Today, I'm Sorry They Washed Away // No More Stories, The World Is Grey, I'm Tired, Let's Wash Away is the fifth studio album by the Danish band Mew. It was released in Scandinavia on 17 August, the UK on 24 August, the U.S...

contains a track, "New Terrain", which, when listened to in reverse, reveals a new song, entitled "Nervous".

Artists often use backmasking of sounds or instrumental audio to produce interesting sound effects. One such sound effect is the reverse echo
Reverse echo
Reverse echo or reverb, also known as backwards echo, is a sound effect created as the result of recording an echo or delayed signal of an audio recording played backwards...

. When done on tape, such use of backmasking is known as reverse tape effects
Reverse tape effects
Reverse tape effects are special effects created by recording sound onto magnetic tape and then physically reversing the tape so that when the tape is played back, the sounds recorded on it are literally heard in reverse...

. One example is Matthew Sweet
Matthew Sweet
Sidney Matthew Sweet is an American alternative rock/power pop musician. He was part of the burgeoning Athens, Georgia music scene in the early and mid-1980s before gaining commercial success during the early 1990s...

's 1999 album In Reverse
In Reverse
In Reverse is the seventh album by alternative rock musician Matthew Sweet. It was released on Volcano Records in 1999. While not known as one of his most impressive albums via sales, it does attempt some unconventional tracking...

, which includes reversed guitar parts which were played directly onto a tape running in reverse. For live concerts, the guitar parts were played live on stage using a backward emulator. The French House group Daft Punk
Daft Punk
Daft Punk are an electronic music duo consisting of French musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter . Daft Punk reached significant popularity in the late 1990s house movement in France and met with continued success in the years following, combining elements of house with synthpop...

 released a song called "Funk Ad," which is a section of their single, "Da Funk
Da Funk
"Da Funk" is an instrumental track by Daft Punk initially released as a single in 1995 and later included on their debut album Homework. "Da Funk" and its accompanying video directed by Spike Jonze are considered classics of 1990s house music.-Background:...

," played backwards.

On the eponymous album Crosby, Stills and Nash, Stephen Stills'
Stephen Stills
Stephen Arthur Stills is an American guitarist and singer/songwriter best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash . He has performed on a professional level in several other bands as well as maintaining a solo career at the same time...

 lead guitar in Pre-road Downs is heard in reverse through the entirety of the track.

Utada Hikaru
Utada Hikaru
, known by her stage name Utada in America and Europe, is a Japanese-American singer, song writer, arranger, and producer. Since the release of her Japanese debut album First Love, which went on to become the best-selling album in Oricon history, Utada has had three of her Japanese studio albums...

 uses backmasking in her hit 2005 song Passion, composed for the Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II
is an action role-playing game developed by Square Enix and published by Buena Vista Games and Square Enix in 2005 for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console...

video game. When played backwards, eight instances of the message "I need more affection than you know" are revealed. "I need true emotions" is also hidden twice, as well as one "So many ups and downs".

Humorous and parody messages


A common use of backmasking is hiding a comedic or parodical message backwards in a song. The B-side of the 1966 Napoleon XIV
Napoleon XIV
Napoleon XIV was the pseudonym of the American singer-songwriter and record producer Jerry Samuels , who achieved one-hit wonder status with the Top 5 hit novelty song "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" in 1966. Samuels also wrote The Shelter of Your Arms, a top 20 hit for Sammy Davis, Jr...

 single "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!
They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!
"They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" is a 1966 novelty record by Jerry Samuels, recorded under the name Napoleon XIV. Released on Warner Bros...

" is a reversed version of the entire forwards record, entitled "!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er'yehT". It reached #3 in the US charts, and #4 in the UK.

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

 dropped a backmasked message into "Empty Spaces
Empty Spaces
"Empty Spaces" is a song by Pink Floyd. It appeared on The Wall album in 1979.-Composition:The song is 2 minutes and 10 seconds in length and features a long introductory section, which includes an airport announcement, a reference to Pink heading for an American tour. At approximately 48 seconds...

":
  • ... Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont...
  • Roger! Carolyne's on the phone!
  • Okay.


The first line may refer to former lead singer Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett , born Roger Keith Barrett, was an English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and painter, best remembered as a founding member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter during the band's psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic...

, who is thought to have suffered a nervous breakdown
Nervous breakdown
Mental breakdown is a non-medical term used to describe an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that presents primarily with features of depression or anxiety.-Definition:...

 years earlier.

In "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic
Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic is an American singer-songwriter, music producer, accordionist, actor, comedian, writer, satirist, and parodist. Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts...

's "Nature Trail to Hell", from 1984's "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, Yankovic's backmasked voice declares that "Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

 eats Cheez Whiz
Cheez Whiz
Cheez Whiz is a thick processed cheese sauce or spread sold by Kraft Foods. It was developed by a team led by food scientist Edwin Traisman and was first marketed in 1953....

" . Another early example can be found on the J. Geils Band
J. Geils Band
The J. Geils Band is an American rock band formed in 1967 in Worcester, Massachusetts, best known for its 1981 single, "Centerfold" which charted #1 in the U.S. in early 1982. The band played R&B-influenced blues-rock in the 1970s before moving towards a more pop-influenced sound in the 1980s...

 track "No Anchovies, Please", from 1980s album Love Stinks
Love Stinks
Love Stinks is the eleventh album by American rock band The J. Geils Band, released in 1980 .The title song is a rant against unrequited love. It has been covered by industrial metal band Bile, by Andru Branch in the film Love Stinks, Joan Jett in the film Mr. Wrong and Adam Sandler in the movie...

. The message, disguised as a foreign-sounding language spoken under the narration, is, "It doesn't take a genius to tell the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad."
Belgian act Poesie Noire
Poésie Noire
Poésie Noire were a Belgian band that rose to prominence in the mid-80's and whose active career lasted until the early 1990s. Their Belgian origins and tendency to develop a goth-oriented, synthetic, gloomy universe with low-pitched voices - Poésie Noire could translate by "Black/Dark Poetry" -...

 included a satirical backmasked message on their 1988 album Tetra saying "You fucking asshole, play the record in the normal way". Tenacious D
Tenacious D
Tenacious D is an American rock band that was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1994. Composed of lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Black and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass, the band has released two albums – Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny...

 includes the backmasked message "Eat Donkey Crap" at the end of "Karate" from their self-titled first album.

Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

 and Styx
Styx (band)
Styx is an American rock band that became famous for its albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Chicago band is known for melding the style of prog-rock with the power of hard rock guitar, strong ballads, and elements of American musical theater....

, following their involvement in the 1980s backmasking controversy, released songs that parody the allegations made against them. ELO, after being accused of Satanic backmasking on their 1974 album Eldorado, included backmasked messages in two songs on their next album, 1975's Face The Music. "Down Home Town" begins with a voice twice repeating (in reverse) "Face the mighty waterfall". And the opening instrumental "Fire On High
Fire On High
"Fire on High" is the opening instrumental track from the 1975 Electric Light Orchestra album Face the Music.The song was the UK B-side to the band's worldwide hit single Livin' Thing, issued in blue vinyl...

" contains the backmasked message "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" . In 1983 ELO released an entire album, Secret Messages
Secret Messages
Secret Messages is an album by Electric Light Orchestra, released in 1983 through Jet Records. It would be the last ELO album to feature bassist Kelly Groucutt, conductor Louis Clark and real stringed instruments...

, in response to the controversy. Among the many backmasked messages on the album are: "Welcome to the big show" (2x); "Thank you for listening"; "Look out there's danger ahead"; "Hup two three four"; "Time After Time"; and "You're playing me backwards". Styx also released an album in response to allegations of Satanic backmasking: 1983's Kilroy Was Here
Kilroy Was Here (album)
Kilroy Was Here is the eleventh album, a rock opera/concept album by the rock band Styx, released on February 28, 1983. The title comes from a famous World War II graffiti "Kilroy was here".-Background:...

, which deals with an allegorical group called the "Majority for Musical Morality" that outlaws rock music. A sticker on the album cover contains the message, "By order of the Majority for Musical Morality, this album contains secret backward messages", and the song "Heavy Metal Poisoning" does in fact contain the backmasked Latin words "Annuit Cœptis
Annuit Cœptis
Annuit cœptis is one of two mottos on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States....

, Novus Ordo Seclorum
Novus Ordo Seclorum
The phrase Novus ordo seclorum appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, first designed in 1782 and printed on the back of the United States one-dollar bill since 1935. The phrase also appears on the coat of arms of the Yale School of Management, Yale University's business...

" ("[God] has favored our undertakings; a new order for the ages")—part of the Great Seal
Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States federal government. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself , and more generally for the design impressed upon it...

 which encircles the pyramid on the back of the American dollar bill
United States one-dollar bill
The United States one-dollar bill is the most common denomination of US currency. The first president, George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, while the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The one-dollar bill has the oldest...

.

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band from Leyton in east London, formed in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. Since their inception, the band's discography has grown to include a total of thirty-six albums: fifteen studio albums; eleven live albums; four EPs; and six...

's 1983 album Piece of Mind
Piece of Mind (Iron Maiden album)
Piece of Mind is the fourth studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. It was originally released in 1983 on EMI, and on Capitol in the US; it was reissued later on Sanctuary/Columbia Records...

features a short backwards message, included by the band in response to allegations of Satanism that were surrounding them at the time. Between the songs "The Trooper
The Trooper
"The Trooper" is a song written by Iron Maiden bass player Steve Harris. It is Iron Maiden's ninth single, and the second from their 1983 album Piece of Mind. The single was released on 20 June 1983...

" and "Still Life" is inebriated drummer Nicko McBrain
Nicko McBrain
Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain is an English musician, best known as the drummer for Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982, prior to which he had played for Streetwalkers, Pat Travers, and the French political band, Trust.-Biography:...

 doing an impression of Idi Amin Dada
Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada was a military leader and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles in 1946. Eventually he held the rank of Major General in the post-colonial Ugandan Army and became its Commander before seizing power in the military...

: "'What ho', sed de t'ing wid de t'ree bonce [said the thing with the three heads]. Don't meddle wid t'ings you don't understand," followed by a belch. Prince
Prince (musician)
Prince Rogers Nelson , often known simply as Prince, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Prince has produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. Prince founded his own recording studio and label; writing, self-producing and playing most, or all, of...

's controversial song "Darling Nikki
Darling Nikki
"Darling Nikki" is a song produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince and originally released on his Grammy Award-winning 1984 album, Purple Rain. Though the song was not released as a single, it gained wide notoriety for its sexual lyrics...

" includes the backmasked message, "Hello, how are you? I am fine, because I know that the Lord is coming soon." The Waitresses
The Waitresses
The Waitresses were an experimental new wave band from Akron, Ohio. The group was led by guitarist/songwriter Chris Butler with lead vocals performed by Patty Donahue.-Career:...

' 1982 EP I Could Rule the World if I Could Only Get the Parts included a backwards masking warning on the cover and a message masked within the song "The Smartest Person I Know": "Anyone who believes in backwards masking is a fool."

Some messages chastise or poke fun at the listener who is playing the song backwards. One such message was included by "Weird Al" Yankovic in "I Remember Larry", from the 1996 album Bad Hair Day
Bad Hair Day
Bad Hair Day is the 9th studio album by "Weird Al" Yankovic, released in 1996. This album was the third studio album self-produced by Yankovic. The musical styles on Bad Hair Day are built around parodies and pastiches pop and rock music of the mid 1990s, targeting alternative rock and hip-hop...

, on which Yankovic lightly chastises the listener with the backmasked remark, "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands" . Similarly, the B-52's
The B-52's
The B-52's are an American rock band, formed in Athens, Georgia in 1976. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider , Kate Pierson , Cindy Wilson , Ricky Wilson , and Keith Strickland . Following Ricky Wilson's death in 1985 Strickland switched to guitar...

 song "Detour Through your Mind", from the 1986 LP Bouncing off the Satellites
Bouncing off the Satellites
- Personnel :Band* Fred Schneider – lead vocals* Keith Strickland – bass, guitar, harmonica, percussion, keyboards, sitar, vocals, backing vocals* Cindy Wilson – lead vocals* Kate Pierson – lead vocals* Ricky Wilson – lead guitar, bass, backing vocals...

, contains the message, "I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you're playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle." Meanwhile, Christian rock
Christian rock
Christian rock is a form of rock music played by individuals and bands whose members are Christians and who often focus the lyrics on matters concerned with the Christian faith. The extent to which their lyrics are explicitly Christian varies between bands...

 group Petra
Petra (band)
Petra is a music group regarded as a pioneer of the Christian rock and contemporary Christian music genres. Formed in 1972, the band took its name from the Greek word for "rock"...

 included in their song "Judas Kiss
Judas Kiss
Judas Kiss is a 1998 American crime thriller film. It was directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, produced by Elaine Dysinger and Carla Gugino and the screenplay was by Deanna Fuller and Sebastian Gutierrez....

", from the 1982 album More Power To Ya
More Power To Ya
More Power To Ya is the fifth studio release of the Christian rock band, Petra. It was released in 1982. Many Petra fans have long considered this to be their best release from the 80s....

, the message, "What are you looking for the devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord?" The band Mindless Self Indulgence
Mindless Self Indulgence
Mindless Self Indulgence is an American musical group formed in New York in 1997. Their music has a mixed style including rap, punk rock, alternative rock, electronica, techno and industrial...

 released a song titled "Backmask", which contains the forward lyrics "Play that record backwards / Here's a message yo for the suckas / Play that record backwards / And go fuck yourself". The backwards messages in the song include, "clean your room", "do your homework", "don't stay out too late", and "eat your vegetables".

Backmasking was also parodied in a 2001 episode of the television series The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

entitled "New Kids on the Blecch
New Kids on the Blecch
"New Kids on the Blecch" is the fourteenth episode from the twelfth season of The Simpsons. In the episode, a music producer selects Bart, Nelson, Milhouse and Ralph to be members of the next hit boyband, who record subliminal songs about joining the Navy....

." Bart Simpson
Bart Simpson
Bartholomew JoJo "Bart" Simpson is a fictional main character in the animated television series The Simpsons and part of the Simpson family. He is voiced by actress Nancy Cartwright and first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987...

 joins a boy band
Boy band
A boy band is loosely defined as a popular music act consisting of only male singers. The members are expected to dance as well as sing, usually giving highly choreographed performances. More often than not, boy band members do not play musical instruments, either in recording sessions or on...

 called the Party Posse, whose song "Drop Da Bomb" includes the repeated lyric "Yvan eht nioj." Lisa Simpson
Lisa Simpson
Lisa Marie Simpson is a fictional main character in the animated television series The Simpsons. She is the middle child of the Simpson family. Voiced by Yeardley Smith, Lisa first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987. Cartoonist Matt Groening...

 becomes suspicious and plays the song backward, revealing the backmasked message "Join the Navy," which leads her to realize that the boy band was created as a subliminal recruiting
Military recruitment
Military recruitment is the act of requesting people, usually male adults, to join a military voluntarily. Involuntary military recruitment is known as conscription. Many countries that have abolished conscription use military recruiters to persuade people to join, often at an early age. To...

 tool for the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

.

Critical or explicit messages


Backmasking has also been used to record statements perhaps too critical or explicit to be used forwards. Frank Zappa used backmasking to avoid censorship of the track "Hot Poop," from We're Only in It for the Money
We're Only in It for the Money
We're Only in It For the Money is the third studio album by The Mothers of Invention, released in March 1968. The album peaked at number thirty on the Billboard 200...

(1968). The released version contains at the end of its side "A" the backmasked message "Better look around before you say you don't care. / Shut your f...ing mouth 'bout the length of my hair. / How would you survive / If you were alive / shitty little person?" This profanity-laced verse, originally from the song "Mother People", was censored by Verve Records, so Zappa edited the verse out, reversed it, and inserted it elsewhere in the album as "Hot Poop" (though even in the backward message the word "fucking" is censored). Another example is found in Roger Waters
Roger Waters
George Roger Waters is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. He was a founding member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, serving as bassist and co-lead vocalist. Following the departure of bandmate Syd Barrett in 1968, Waters became the band's lyricist, principal songwriter...

' 1991 album Amused to Death
Amused to Death
Amused to Death is a concept album, and the third studio album by former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters. It was released in 1992.The album title was attached to material that Waters began working on during the Radio KAOS tour...

, on which Waters recorded a backward message, possibly critical of film director Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

, who had refused to let Waters sample a breathing sound from 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel...

. The message appears in the song "Perfect Sense Part 1
Perfect Sense Part 1
Perfect Sense Part 1 is the third track from the concept album Amused to Death by former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters. The song is sung partially by Roger Waters but mainly by PP Arnold on both the original album and live shows.-Overview:...

", in which Waters' backmasked voice says, "Julia, however, in light and visions of the issues of Stanley, we have changed our minds. We have decided to include a backward message, Stanley, for you and all the other book burners."

Censorship


A further use of backmasking is to censor
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 words and phrases deemed inappropriate on radio edit
Radio edit
In music, a radio edit is a modification to make a song more suitable for airplay, whether it be adjusted for length, profanity, subject matter, instrumentation, or form...

s and "clean" album releases. For example, The Fugees
The Fugees
Fugees were a Haitian American hip hop group who rose to fame in the mid-1990s. Their repertoire included elements of Hip hop, soul and Caribbean music, particularly reggae. The members of the group were rapper/singer/producer Wyclef Jean, rapper/singer/producer Lauryn Hill, and rapper Pras Michel...

' clean version of the album The Score
The Score (album)
The Score is the second and final studio album by the hip hop trio Fugees, released worldwide February 13, 1996 on Columbia Records. The album features a wide range of samples and instrumentation, with many aspects of alternative hip hop that would come to dominate the hip hop music scene in the...

contains various backmasked profanities
Profanity
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

; thus, when playing the album backwards, the censored words are clearly audible among the backward gibberish. When used with the word "shit", this type of backmasking results in a sound similar to "ish". As a result, "ish" became a euphemism
Euphemism
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

 for "shit".

In Britney Spears
Britney Spears
Britney Jean Spears is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album...

' 2011 song "Till The World Ends
Till the World Ends
"Till the World Ends" is a song by American recording artist Britney Spears, released as the second single from her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale. It was written and produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, with additional writing by Kesha and Alexander Kronlund, and additional production by...

", Spears says "if you want this good shit". However, on the official version, "shit" is reversed, creating the "ish" sound; therefore, the official version says "if you want this good ish". Backmasking is also used to censor the word "joint
Joint (cannabis)
Joint is a slang term for a cigarette rolled using cannabis. Rolling papers are the most common rolling medium among industrialized countries, however brown paper, cigarettes with the tobacco removed, and newspaper are commonly used in developing countries. Modern papers are now made from a wide...

" in the video for "You Don't Know How It Feels
You Don't Know How It Feels
"You Don't Know How It Feels" is a song and the lead single from Tom Petty's 1994 album Wildflowers. It reached number one on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart and number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100....

" by Tom Petty
Tom Petty
Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and was a founding member of the late 1980s supergroup Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch. He has also performed under the pseudonyms of Charlie T...

, resulting in the line "Let's roll another tnioj".

Accusations


Artists who have been accused of backmasking include Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

, The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

, Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

, Queen
Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

, Styx
Styx (band)
Styx is an American rock band that became famous for its albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Chicago band is known for melding the style of prog-rock with the power of hard rock guitar, strong ballads, and elements of American musical theater....

, AC/DC
AC/DC
AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Commonly classified as hard rock, they are considered pioneers of heavy metal, though they themselves have always classified their music as simply "rock and roll"...

, Judas Priest
Judas Priest
Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1969. The current line-up consists of lead vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band has gone through several drummers over the years,...

, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

, Jefferson Starship
Jefferson Starship
Jefferson Starship is an American rock band formed in the early 1970s. The group is a spin-off from the iconic 1960s psychedelic/folk group Jefferson Airplane. The band has undergone several major changes in personnel and genres through the years while retaining the same Jefferson Starship name...

, Black Oak Arkansas
Black Oak Arkansas
Black Oak Arkansas is an American Southern rock band named after the band's hometown of Black Oak, Arkansas. The band reached the height of its fame in the 1970s with ten charting albums released in that decade...

, Rush
Rush (band)
Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart...

, Britney Spears
Britney Spears
Britney Jean Spears is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album...

, and Eminem
Eminem
Marshall Bruce Mathers III , better known by his stage name Eminem or his alter ego Slim Shady, is an American rapper, record producer, songwriter and actor. Eminem's popularity brought his group project, D12, to mainstream recognition...

.

Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

 was accused of hiding a backward Satanic message in their 1974 album Eldorado. The title track, "Eldorado", was said to contain the message "He is the nasty one / Christ, you're infernal / It is said we're dead men / Everyone who has the mark will live." ELO singer and songwriter Jeff Lynne
Jeff Lynne
Jeffrey "Jeff" Lynne is an English songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer who gained fame as the leader and sole constant member of Electric Light Orchestra and was a co-founder and member of The Traveling Wilburys together with George Harrison, Bob...

 responded by calling this accusation (and the related charge of being "devil-worshippers") "skcollob
Bollocks
"Bollocks" is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, meaning "testicles". The word is often used figuratively in British English and Hiberno-English, as a noun to mean "nonsense", an expletive following a minor accident or misfortune, or an adjective to mean "poor quality" or "useless"...

", and stating that the message "is absolutely manufactured by whoever said, 'That's what it said.' It doesn't say anything of the sort." The group included several backward messages in later albums in response to the accusations.

In 1981, Styx
Styx (band)
Styx is an American rock band that became famous for its albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Chicago band is known for melding the style of prog-rock with the power of hard rock guitar, strong ballads, and elements of American musical theater....

 was accused of putting the backward message "Satan move through our voices" on the song "Snowblind
Snowblind (Styx song)
"Snowblind" is a song by Styx that appears on the Paradise Theater album released in 1981. The song is about the helplessness of cocaine addiction, alternating between slow, brooding verses and a faster, harder-edged chorus, representing the addict's cycle of highs and lows...

," from Paradise Theatre. Guitarist James Young
James Young (American musician)
James "J.Y." Young is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, and member of the rock band, Styx. Young began playing keyboard and piano at the age of five. He attended Calumet High in Chicago and learned to play clarinet and guitar during those years.J.Y...

 called these charges "rubbish," and responded, "If we want to make a statement, we'll do it in a way that people can understand us and not in a way where you have to go out and buy a $400 tape player to understand us." In 1983, the band released a concept album, Kilroy Was Here
Kilroy Was Here (album)
Kilroy Was Here is the eleventh album, a rock opera/concept album by the rock band Styx, released on February 28, 1983. The title comes from a famous World War II graffiti "Kilroy was here".-Background:...

, satirizing the Moral Majority
Moral Majority
The Moral Majority was a political organization of the United States which had an agenda of evangelical Christian-oriented political lobbying...

.

A well-known alleged message is found in rock group Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

's 1971 song "Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven
"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album . The song, running eight minutes and two seconds, is composed of several sections, which...

." The backwards playing of a portion of the song purportedly results in words beginning with "Here's to my sweet Satan" . But Swan Song Records
Swan Song Records
Swan Song Records was a record label launched by the English rock band Led Zeppelin on 10 May 1974. It was overseen by Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant and was a vehicle for the band to promote its own products as well as sign artists who found it difficult to win contracts with other major labels...

 issued a statement to the contrary: "Our turntables only play in one direction—forwards". And Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant
Robert Plant
Robert Anthony Plant, CBE is an English singer and songwriter best known as the vocalist and lyricist of the iconic rock band Led Zeppelin. He has also had a successful solo career...

 denied the accusations in an interview: "To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway To Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music." Another widely-known alleged message, "It's fun to smoke marijuana," in Queen
Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

's song "Another One Bites the Dust
Another One Bites the Dust
"Another One Bites the Dust" is a song by the English rock band Queen. Written by bass guitarist John Deacon, the song featured on the group's eighth studio album The Game . The song was a worldwide hit, charting number one on the United States Billboard Hot 100, number two on the R&B charts and...

," is similarly disclaimed by the group's spokesperson.

Subliminal persuasion


Accusations have been made by various groups that backmasking can be used to create subliminal messages.

Fundamentalist Christian groups


Various fundamentalist Christian groups have declared that Satan—or Satan-influenced musicians—use backmasked messages to subliminally alter behavior. Pastor Gary Greenwald claimed that subliminal messages backmasked into rock music induce listeners towards sex and drug use. Minister Jacob Aranza wrote in his 1982 book Backward Masking Unmasked that rock groups "are using backmasking to convey satanic and drug related messages to the subconscious." Christian DJ Michael Mills argued in 1981 that "the subconscious mind is being successfully affected by the repetition of beat and lyrics—being affected through a subliminal message." Mills has toured America warning Christian parents about subliminal messages in rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

.

Some Christian websites have claimed that backmasking is widely used for Satanic purposes. The web page for Alabama group Dial-the-Truth Ministries
Dial-the-Truth Ministries
Dial-the-Truth Ministries is a Biblical Christian website. The organization began in 1990 as a telephone ministry with "inspirational" recorded messages for the caller...

 argues for the existence of Satanic backmasking in "Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven
"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album . The song, running eight minutes and two seconds, is composed of several sections, which...

," saying that the song contains the backward message, "It's my sweet Satan ... Oh I will sing because I live with Satan."

PMRC


In 1985, Dr. Joe Stuessy testified to the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 at the Parents Music Resource Center
Parents Music Resource Center
The Parents Music Resource Center was an American committee formed in 1985 with the goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent, have drug use or be sexual.The committee was founded by four women: Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice...

 hearings that:

The message [of a piece of heavy metal music] may also be covert or subliminal. Sometimes subaudible tracks are mixed in underneath other, louder tracks. These are heard by the subconscious but not the conscious mind. Sometimes the messages are audible but are backward, called backmasking. There is disagreement among experts regarding the effectiveness of subliminals. We need more research on that.

Stuessy's written testimony stated that:

Some messages are presented to the listener backwards. While listening to a normal forward message (often somewhat nonsensical), one is simultaneously being treated to a backwards message (in other words, the lyric sounds like one set of words going forward, and a different set of words going backwards). Some experts believe that while the conscious mind is absorbing the forward lyric, the subconscious is working overtime to decipher the backwards message.

Court cases


Serial killer Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez
Ricardo "Richard" Muñoz Ramírez is a convicted serial killer awaiting execution on California's death row at San Quentin State Prison...

, on trial in 1988, stated that AC/DC
AC/DC
AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Commonly classified as hard rock, they are considered pioneers of heavy metal, though they themselves have always classified their music as simply "rock and roll"...

's music, and specifically the song "Night Prowler" on Highway to Hell
Highway to Hell (album)
Highway to Hell is the sixth studio album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC, released in July 1979. It is also AC/DC's fifth international studio album...

, inspired him to commit murder. Reverse speech
Reverse speech
Reverse speech is a pseudoscience first advocated by David John Oates which gained publicity when it was mentioned on Art Bell's nightly Coast to Coast AM radio talk show. It claims that during spoken language production, human speakers subconsciously produce hidden messages that give insights into...

 advocate David John Oates claimed that "Highway to Hell
Highway to Hell (song)
"Highway to Hell" is the opening track of AC/DC's 1979 album Highway to Hell and the twelfth track on AC/DC Live. It was initially released as a single in 1979....

", on the same album, contains backmasked messages including "I'm the law", "my name is Lucifer", and "she belongs in hell". AC/DC's Angus Young
Angus Young
Angus McKinnon Young is a Scottish-born Australian musician, and the lead guitarist, songwriter, and co-founder of the rock and roll band AC/DC. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with other members of AC/DC in 2003 and is known for his energetic performances,...

 responded that "you didn't need to play [the album] backwards, because we never hid [the messages]. We'd call an album Highway To Hell, there it was right in front of them."

In 1990, British heavy metal
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 band Judas Priest
Judas Priest
Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1969. The current line-up consists of lead vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band has gone through several drummers over the years,...

 was sued over a suicide pact
Suicide pact
A suicide pact is an agreed plan between two or more individuals to commit suicide. The plan may be to die together, or separately and closely timed. Suicide pacts are important concepts in the study of suicide, and have occurred throughout history, as well as in fiction.Suicide pacts are generally...

 made by two young men in Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

. The lawsuit by their families claimed that the 1978 Judas Priest album Stained Class
Stained Class
Stained Class is the fourth album by British heavy metal group Judas Priest, released in February 1978. A popular album in the band's catalogue, Stained Class showcased a more streamlined songwriting style. The production is crisper, clearer, and cleaner than any of their preceding albums...

contained hidden messages, including the forward subliminal words "Do it" in the song "Better By You, Better Than Me
Better By You, Better Than Me
"Better By You, Better Than Me" is a 1969 song by the band Spooky Tooth which was covered in 1978 by Judas Priest.The song was the subject of the much-publicized 1990 "subliminal message trial" in which Judas Priest was involved in a civil action that alleged they were responsible for the suicide...

" (ironically a cover version of a Spooky Tooth
Spooky Tooth
Spooky Tooth are an English rock band principally active, with intermittent breakups, between 1967 to 1974. In recent years, the band has been reconstituted at various points, and continues to perform occasionally.-Career:...

 song), and various backward subliminal messages. The case was dismissed by the judge for insufficient evidence of Judas Priest's placement of subliminal messages on the record, and the judge's ruling stated that "The scientific research presented does not establish that subliminal stimuli, even if perceived, may precipitate conduct of this magnitude. There exist other factors which explain the conduct of the deceased independent of the subliminal stimuli." Judas Priest members commented that if they wanted to insert subliminal commands in their music, messages leading to the deaths of their fans would be counterproductive, and they would prefer to insert the command "Buy more of our records."

Skepticism


Skeptic
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer
Michael Brant Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members...

 claims that the emergence of the "Paul is dead
Paul Is Dead
"Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike....

" phenomenon, including the alleged message at the end of "I'm So Tired
I'm So Tired
-External links:*...

", was caused by faulty perception of a pattern. Shermer argues that the human brain evolved with a strong pattern recognition
Pattern recognition
In machine learning, pattern recognition is the assignment of some sort of output value to a given input value , according to some specific algorithm. An example of pattern recognition is classification, which attempts to assign each input value to one of a given set of classes...

 ability that was necessary to process the large amount of noise
Noise
In common use, the word noise means any unwanted sound. In both analog and digital electronics, noise is random unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the acoustic noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission with significant electrical noise...

 in man's environment, but that today this ability leads to false positives. Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 psychology professor Brian Wandell postulates that the observance of backward messages is a mistake arising from this pattern recognition facility, and argues that subliminal persuasion theories are "bizarre" and "implausible." Rumors of backmasking in popular music have been described as auditory pareidolia
Pareidolia
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse...

. James Walker, president of Christian research group Watchman Fellowship
Watchman Fellowship
The Watchman Fellowship is, according to its website, an independent, nondenominational Christian research and apologetics ministry focusing on new religious movements, cults, the occult and the New Age...

, states that "You could take a Christian hymn, and if you played it backwards long enough at different speeds, you could make that hymn say anything you want to"; Led Zeppelin publicist BP Fallon
BP Fallon
BP Fallon is an Irish DJ, author, and photographer. He currently lives in New York.At a young age Fallon became a famous personality and broadcaster in Ireland, moving on to music journalism and photography....

 concurs, saying "Play anything backwards, and you'll find something." Eric Borgos of audio reversal website talkbackwards.com states that "Mathematically, if you listen long enough, eventually you'll find a pattern", while Jeff Milner of backmasking site jeffmilner.com recounts, "Most people, when I show them the site, say that they're not able to hear anything, until, of course, I show them the reverse lyrics."

Audio engineer Evan Olcott claims that messages by artists including Queen and Led Zeppelin are coincidental phonetic reversal
Phonetic reversal
Phonetic reversal is the process of reversing the phonemes of a word or phrase. When the reversal is identical to the original, the word or phrase is called a phonetic palindrome. Phonetic reversal is not entirely identical to backmasking, which is specifically the reversal of recorded sound...

s, in which the spoken or sung phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s form new combinations of words when listened to backwards. Olcott states that "Actually engineering or planning a phonetic reversal is next to impossible, and even more difficult when trying to design it with words that fit into a song."

In 1985, University of Lethbridge psychologists John Vokey and J. Don Read conducted a study using Psalm 23
Psalm 23
In the 23rd Psalm in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the writer describes God as his Shepherd. The text, beloved by Jews and Christians alike, is often alluded to in popular media and has been set to music....

 from the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, Queen
Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

's "Another One Bites the Dust
Another One Bites the Dust
"Another One Bites the Dust" is a song by the English rock band Queen. Written by bass guitarist John Deacon, the song featured on the group's eighth studio album The Game . The song was a worldwide hit, charting number one on the United States Billboard Hot 100, number two on the R&B charts and...

", and other sound passages made up for the experiment. Vokey and Read concluded that if backmasking does exist, it is ineffective. Participants had trouble noticing backmasked phrases when the samples were played forwards, were unable to judge the types of messages (Christian, Satanic, or commercial), and were not led to behave in a certain way as a result of being exposed to the backmasked phrases. Vokey concluded that "we could find no effect of the meaning of engineered, backward messages on listeners' behaviour, either consciously or unconsciously." Similar results to Vokey and Read's were obtained by D. Averill in 1982. A 1988 experiment by T.E. Moore found "no evidence that listeners were influenced,
consciously or unconsciously, by the content of the backward messages." In 1992, an experiment found that exposure to backward messages did not lead to significant changes in attitude. Psychology professor Mark D. Allen says that "delivering subliminal messages via backward masking is totally and ridiculously impossible".

The finding of backward Satanic messages has been explained as caused by the observer-expectancy effect
Observer-expectancy effect
The observer-expectancy effect is a form of reactivity, in which a researcher's cognitive bias causes them to unconsciously influence the participants of an experiment...

. The Skeptic's Dictionary
Skeptic's Dictionary
The Skeptic's Dictionary is a collection of cross-referenced skeptical essays by Robert Todd Carroll, published on his website skepdic.com and in a printed book. The skepdic.com site was launched in 1994 and the book was published in 2003 with nearly 400 entries. As of January 2011 the website has...

states that "you probably won't hear [backmasked] messages until somebody first points them out to you. Perception is influenced by expectation and expectation is affected by what others prime you for." In 1984, S. B. Thorne and P. Himelstein found that "when vague and unfamiliar stimuli are presented, [test subjects] are highly likely to accept suggestions, particularly when the suggestions are presented by someone with prestige and authority." Vokey and Read concluded from their 1985 experiment that "the apparent presence of backward messages in popular music is a function more of active construction on the part of the perceiver than of the existence of the messages themselves."

See also

  • List of backmasked messages
  • Phonetic reversal
    Phonetic reversal
    Phonetic reversal is the process of reversing the phonemes of a word or phrase. When the reversal is identical to the original, the word or phrase is called a phonetic palindrome. Phonetic reversal is not entirely identical to backmasking, which is specifically the reversal of recorded sound...

  • Reverse speech
    Reverse speech
    Reverse speech is a pseudoscience first advocated by David John Oates which gained publicity when it was mentioned on Art Bell's nightly Coast to Coast AM radio talk show. It claims that during spoken language production, human speakers subconsciously produce hidden messages that give insights into...

  • Subliminal message
  • Programming The Nation? The Film
    Programming The Nation? The Film
    Programming The Nation? is a 2011 feature social documentary written, produced and directed by Jeff Warrick. The film revisits the alleged history, research, implementation, and potential effects of subliminal programming in American mass-media, including interviews with Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman,...


External links

  • Backmasking—essay on backmasking & a small survey about perception of alleged satanic messages in the song "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
  • Backmask Online—clips and analysis of possible backmasked messages
  • Jeff Milner's Backmasking Page—a Flash player with forward and backward versions of songs claimed to contain backmasking; the focus of the Wall Street Journal article
  • Backmask Flash—flash clips of possible backmasked messages from Albino Blacksheep
    Albino Blacksheep
    Albino Blacksheep is an animation website made in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that posts member-submitted digital media. Most of these are movies or games created with Adobe Flash. The website also features image galleries, audio files, and text files. Additionally, there is a mobile section that...

  • Subliminal Audio Database— Another flash player with forward and backward versions of songs claimed to contain backmasking
  • TalkBackwards.com—allows uploaded music to be reversed
  • Hidden and Satanic Messages In Rock Music—1981 radio interview with Michael Mills
  • Excerpt with alleged backward messages by Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

    , The Beatles
    The Beatles
    The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

    , Queen
    Queen (band)
    Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

  • "Backwards Messages in Rock Music—Revealed!" podcast featuring The Beatles
    The Beatles
    The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

    , Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

    , The Eagles, Rush
    Rush (band)
    Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart...

    , Jefferson Starship
    Jefferson Starship
    Jefferson Starship is an American rock band formed in the early 1970s. The group is a spin-off from the iconic 1960s psychedelic/folk group Jefferson Airplane. The band has undergone several major changes in personnel and genres through the years while retaining the same Jefferson Starship name...

    , Wings
    Wings (band)
    Wings were a British-American rock group formed in 1971 by Paul McCartney, Denny Laine and Linda McCartney that remained active until 1981....

    , Queen
    Queen (band)
    Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

    , Phil Collins
    Phil Collins
    Philip David Charles "Phil" Collins, LVO is an English singer-songwriter, drummer, pianist and actor best known as a drummer and vocalist for British progressive rock group Genesis and as a solo artist....

    , Britney Spears
    Britney Spears
    Britney Jean Spears is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album...

    , Judas Priest
    Judas Priest
    Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1969. The current line-up consists of lead vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band has gone through several drummers over the years,...

    , Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

    , Iron Maiden
    Iron Maiden
    Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band from Leyton in east London, formed in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. Since their inception, the band's discography has grown to include a total of thirty-six albums: fifteen studio albums; eleven live albums; four EPs; and six...

    , Electric Light Orchestra
    Electric Light Orchestra
    Electric Light Orchestra were a British rock group from Birmingham who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones...

    , Prince and Information Society
    Information Society (band)
    Information Society is an American band originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, primarily consisting of Kurt Larson , Paul Robb, and James Cassidy; the latter two reconvened the band in 2006, initially with Christopher Anton as lead vocalist, then with Harland rejoining them as lead vocalist by...

  • Radio program exploring backmasking by announcer Joe Kleon, broadcast on WRQK-FM
    WRQK-FM
    WRQK-FM — branded Rock 106.9 — is an American commercial radio station licensed to Canton, Ohio, and broadcasting a mainstream rock format. The station is operated by Clear Channel Communications, with sister stations WHLO, WARF, WKDD and WHOF, at the Clear Channel Akron/Canton complex in Jackson...

    , with audio samples from Britney Spears
    Britney Spears
    Britney Jean Spears is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears began performing as a child, landing acting roles in stage productions and television shows. She signed with Jive Records in 1997 and released her debut album...

    , Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

    , Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

    , Metallica
    Metallica
    Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1981 when James Hetfield responded to an advertisement that drummer Lars Ulrich had posted in a local newspaper. The current line-up features long-time lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo ...

    , Styx
    Styx
    In Greek mythology the Styx is the river that forms the boundary between the underworld and the world of the living, as well as a goddess and a nymph that represents the river.Styx may also refer to:-Popular culture:...

    , Cheap Trick
    Cheap Trick
    Cheap Trick is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973. The band consists of members Robin Zander , Rick Nielsen , Tom Petersson , and Bun E...

    and others