From Abracadabra to Zombies
1 Apr 2005
The practice of recording something backwards and inserting it into a multitrack recording is so old and overly used it is almost a cliché. My works in the studio have often used backward effects primarily to either add an eerie feel, or simply to fill out sound in a unique way during a recording. Given how often I apparently channel Satan, you would think my meager independent recordings would have formed the basis for a nice cult by now. Perhaps I should have a chat with Satan about my meager sales.
What confounds me is that there are people still obsessed with this being a method of Satan's influence. I remember the court proceedings against Judas Priest when I was younger, and how they were laughable. Perhaps these people should stop looking for an excuse for the fact that disturbed people do disturbing things, and realize choice is something that music isn't going to change on it's own - backward or forward.
If Satan actually existed, I highly doubt he would waste his time with trying anything backwards. He'd probably put a record out himself, lyrics forward.
However, my point is this:
On several recordings I did in the studio, I used reversed recordings of voicemail messages my friends had left on my answering machine. I used various speeds and various degrees of reverb and echo to change the timbre of the sound. When my friends listened to the tapes, none of them called themselves, remembered to pick themselves up after work, nor did they lend themselves any money for a plane ticket to see a relative in Chicago (all of which were included in the recordings.) If we're supposed to recognise reverse speech and backward masking subconsciously, surely the subconscious mind would recognize the person's own voice? Or is it only the messages of a dubious nature that are recognized? Perhaps I should use the voice mail recording of my ex-girlfriend breaking up with me to incite people to self-gratification since her message included a list of several things I could do to myself.
As for Scott Starr and Christ's Ministry for Freedom, I would love to know what the hell "audio laser graphic imaging" and "audio holographic imaging" is. I'm a trained audio engineer, an experienced working musician and an audiophile so obsessed with the latest gadget it irritates my friends and I have no idea what he is talking about. Perhaps he can send me some citations from industry magazines about such technology? He also refers to computer programmers having an influence on Pink Floyd recordings. That would be a neat trick, since I am unaware of any "computer" they would have used in the studio. Rest assured it was all done on analog tape machines with analog (often tube driven) equipment. Perhaps he should realize that much as artists paint on a canvas, recording artists look for new and interesting ways to make sounds. When Pink Floyd was recording all of the songs he cited, they would have had no access to the type of computing power it would take to come up with his subliminal mind games.
To comment further on this idiot, when the hell did anyone ever "scientifically" hallucinate when tripping to Pink Floyd? He says that a computer programmer can put a holographic album in audio recordings. Nope. It's not in the recordings but if he would like to see a laser write something out in time with music he can go to any laser light show across the country. That technology is old, benign, and rather easy to explain.
He also states that if you know anyone in the music industry that can computer analyze music it shouldn't be hard to validate his point. Ok. I'm in the industry. He's right. Computers can take music and make neat images and dancing "laser like" shows. It's called "Winamp" or "Windows Media Player" and they're not doing anything different than laser light shows. They're making neat images dance around to the beat. If they're inciting Satan's purpose then perhaps he should publish his "material" and we can all see how the music industry and computers are trying to bring about Armageddon by amusing acid dropping neohippies.
As for Tony Fabris, he and I are on the same page. If he would like to develop this technology with me, I'm sure we can put the subliminal translation of the Skeptic's Dictionary on my next album. Then we should send it to Scott Starr.
Chief Audio Engineer
07 May 2000
Reading your section on backmasking reminded me of my teenage experiments with backmasking... since the advent of sound cards, scanning songs into a .wav file and using a tool to reverse them is easy. There is a LOT more backmasking out there than most people realize. Intentional, and usually humourous. The example often quoted is the Floyd backmasking in Empty Spaces, which for clarification from the other comments, contains this amusing message just before the lyrics start:
"Congratulations! You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Charlesfort."
In response to Mr. Starr's comments about the other Floyd song, the song is "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict", on the second disk of 1969's "Ummagumma". The entire song is nothing but Roger Water's voice recorded saying a variety of things and having them sped up and slowed down to sound like chattery chipmunk creatures. I never found anything backwards in it, and deciphering it is difficult. One piece that can be heard is a reverbed, highly sped up voice (not backwards) just before the "pict" begins his story in an almost incomprehensible Scottish brogue. It says "That was pretty avant-garde, wasn't it?". It should be noted the second disk of "Ummagumma" was nothing but each of the 4 members being given half a side to fiddle around and do anything they felt like, and Roger was just having fun with that new, sexy late 60's recording gear.
The quote often attributed to Stairway to Heaven occurs during the phrase "Yes there are two paths you can go down, but in the long run there's still time to change the road you're on." Supposedly, backwards it says "It's my sweet Satan, the one whose little path would make me (sad/mad/glad?) whose power is Satan." Yes, if someone tells you about it and points it out, it's quite clear. Especially the "One whose little path" part, sometimes said to say "One who made the path". Nobody in their right mind would attempt to suggest that this was intentional. It's certainly NOT clear enough to hear without coaching. The lyrics and music forwards are clear, intelligible and not garbled in any way to make them take on this meaning backwards. Just an odd coincidence.
Examples of real backmasking include the beginning of "Rocket" on the Def Leppard album "Hysteria" ("We're fighting with the gods of war", a line from a later song on the album), ELO's song "Fire on High" which contains voices backwards that say "The song is reversible! Is not! Turn it back, turn it back!", Ozzy Osbourne's "Bloodbath in Paradise" in the intro music says "Your mother sells whelks in Hull" backwards (a personal joke, he later mentioned), the last track on Prince's "Purple Rain" which contains the message "Hello. How are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know the Lord is coming soon, coming, coming soon.", and Cheap Trick's "How Are You?" which includes a female reciting the Lord's Prayer on a tape being rewound at high speed in the right channel. There are dozens more. They are all quite clearly some form of backwards or garbled speech when the song is listened to normally.
Examples of backmasking one would have to be very inventive to hear include the message "Marijuana, marijuana, marijuana is fun to smoke" in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", "We shot John Lennon" in Yoko Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss", "Son of Satan, son of Satan" in Jefferson Starship's "A Child is Coming", and "Yes, Satan had help, he organized his own religion" in The Eagles' "Hotel California". None of these are even remotely clear, and unlike Stairway, are almost impossible to hear even with coaching. It's obvious that puritanical-minded folks who are attempting to convey the evils of rock and heavy metal music with these claims... oh, and those who hate Yoko. :)
Putting backwards or otherwise garbled messages in song is an old and favourite trick of many musicians. It's not for some devious purpose or an attempt to influence the listener subliminally. Usually, it's a joke... sometimes, something done just for fun, and on rare occasion (such as Prince's song) a testimony of faith or delivery of a message... Roger Water's "Amused to Death" contains backwards speeches and news broadcasts throughout, for instance, used to reinforce the message of the album. In all cases where it was placed intentionally into the music, the backwards messages form background noise and not any comprehensible lyrics when heard forwards, and with a little experience backwards messages will jump out at you. Scan it in and reverse the .wav - I guarantee 9 times out of 10 it will give you a laugh.
I'm aware the comments aren't a forum, so I didn't want to include this in my informational message, or the comments section... I don't know WHAT Starr was talking about with that laser audio graphic imaging or whatever, but that fellow deeply disturbs me. I love his stuff about audio tones corresponding to exact color hallucination while under the influence of LSD, "scientifically". One one note, yes, if someone puts a vibrating pager or other monotone sound and waves it around in front of your closed eyes, you can figure out what they're spelling, but that's due to our ability to hear in three dimensions, which an album can only duplicate if the listener makes pains to set up their system correctly and a special recording method is used (eg. Roger Waters's "Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking", which has sound effects of buzzing flies and so on that are eerily real when listened to on headphones).
All I can say, is when I was much younger than I am now, I did LSD around 200 times... I bet I listened to "The Wall" and other Floyd albums damn near every time, and never did I see a pink laser pen writing secret messages in the air or on the back of my eyelids. I only wish. :) And "Several Species" doesn't sound any clearer drunk, stoned or otherwise incapacitated. To think someone so obviously disturbed and paranoid working with and "educating" the nation's youth gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
30 May 1999
Please excuse the last letter if it was not fully clear, but this letter clarifies a few points.
reply: The last letter is not much different from the "clarification", so I have not reprinted it here.
May 1999 (from Scott Starr)
I know you are a busy man so I will make this brief.
My references are available if you find the following worth checking out.
I run a ministry called "Christ's Ministry for Freedom" that publicizes not only backmasking but also more sophisticated forms of recording hidden information and the delivery there of to the human mind for the specific purpose of manipulating the human mind to decisions and beliefs that it would not have normally encountered, been exposed to or held in the minds normal course of editing within its realm of freewill.
I know you want hands on evidence so I will give you a backmasking that is so plain that it is undeniable and it has never been published. If you find it credible then I will show you in the album and others where it is possible that whole books of information are being delivered to the subconscious during one song once a simple key or code has been learned by the mind. It is all documentable and there now in Pink Floyd "The Wall".
During the song, "What shall we use to fill the empty places", you will hear a very hypnotic beat going back and forth from left to right, building in thrust. During this song listen and you will hear the garbled backmasking in the background and if you listen to it backwards it will be a man saying, "Send all answers in care of ole' Pink to (then the address is given but it is distorted and stops)".
This backmasking message is in reference to the info being feed through the other means, such as audio laser graphic imaging or audio holographic imaging. Through this info a psychological game is introduced to the listeners mind that has the victim searching for an answer to a game introduced by the computer programmer. The address to send the answer to, in the backmasked, is garbled as a cruel joke.
Sound crazy, try me.
Also, look at another album by Floyd, I believe "Metal" and listen to "four small furry animals" and it will sound like someone speaking in tongues, backmasking or just garbled speech. But, if you listen closely, the speech is swirled. Imagine if you were inside of a tornado looking at the swirling wind around you. This is how the speech is recorded so that when you are on drugs or drunk and your mind can be brought into that light-headedness mind swirl you can actually understand the speech. And remember, even if someone is on drugs, they are still Gods children and he wants them set free!
Another method of relaying info is in "The Wall" by Floyd. Listen to the whole album and any time you hear what sounds like a "laser" "buzzing" sound, such as a pager on its vibrate mode being waved around in the air in front of your closed eyes, that moves around in a swirling motion, or circular motion, you have discovered what I call audible "laser graphic imaging". If you use a computer to trace out the motion of this "laser" pen point, writing cursively in the air, you will find that it is not moving around in random circles, but is actually tracing out cursive words in the air. Specifically the title to the album, "Pink Floyd, The Wall" at one point. Once your mind learns how to follow this laser pen in the air you can follow what is being written. Add LSD and you will hallucinate, scientifically, certain colors to specific tones and the tracers will illuminate the laser pen writing in the air in a visible colored "pink" cursive hand writing. Remember, in one song Floyd states " for I have seen the writing on the Wall" and that is exactly what I propose is happening. Books of info is being transferred to the listeners. (Have a person take a pager on its vibrate mode and spell out words in front of your closed eyes and you will be able to pick up on the words being spelled out)
Yes, what I am suggesting is that there can be a holographic album recorded within an audible album. And whatever info is being delivered without the hearers knowledge is limited to the COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS beliefs, values, etc...
I will save the rest of the info for your response. I would ask that you not publish the specific songs and albums yet in that people would expose themselves to this manipulative material and I have not completely gave you everything involved. I believe that if you have any one you know involved in the music industry that can use a computer to analyze music it should not be hard to validate what I have given you here.
I await your answer. Once you have validated my material, I can take you further into a computerized Satanic trip recorded underneath and through the audible music, but with more advanced technology. My purpose is that I am developing a deprogramming counseling program to deliver people out of the "game" that is placed within their mind through Floyd's albums.
If it sounds crazy, please check out the leads listed and then my references which are available upon request. I hope you are a true scientific critic, for I love the scientific method. Hopefully by challenging you with the scientific method to validate my research, you will use your contacts that have the expensive equipment to validate my findings, save me money and get you a good story and my research out.
In the end, my goal is for a Christian organization that analyzes new and old albums and video's for hidden technical material, not just backmasking, to protect the rights of the individual to be free from coercive methods of recording. Especially entering into the 21st century with all the new technology and the lagging behind, and also lack thereof, of moral and religious ethics and principles.
Check it out and God Bless,
References from juvenile probation, wilderness program, high school "troubled class" security coodinator, upon request.
reply: Children, avoid Christ's Ministry for Freedom and Mr. Starr at all costs. I have no idea why Mr. Starr sent this to me instead of to Art Bell. It frightens me that someone whose brain is in an unknown gear might be working with juveniles.
9 Aug 1999 (from Tony Fabris)
That was a very interesting letter from Scott Starr regarding subliminal messages in music. He begins by pointing out the Pink Floyd message (which I already mentioned in an earlier letter, further down on the same page), but then goes on to describe how the same album contains holographic writing in the sound effects.
This guy is obviously a left-wing wingnut, and you're right to tell folks to steer clear of him. But don't be so quick to dismiss his "writing" claim. New technologies such as Dolby Surround Sound, AC-3, DTS and Q-Sound are allowing sound engineers to mix audio tracks in such a way as to make sounds appear to emanate from specific locations. So, in theory, it could be possible to "write" a message, similar to the way he describes it. He may have just invented the new 90's version of backwards masking.
There's only a few problems with his theory.
First of all, those technologies were not available when Gilmour and Waters recorded "The Wall", and even if they were, the album isn't published in a format that would allow that sort of playback. It's just in stereo, not in surround sound. I'm a musician, and I know the sort of equipment that was used to record that album. They got those effects using leslies, flangers, delays, tape reversals, and manual panning. None of those techniques allows an engineer to place the audio into a 3-D space. They give a wonderful stereo swirling sound, but only between two channels. So although Scott is discussing an interesting theory, he's used a terrible example.
Secondly, he claims that you can "see" the images of these writings. Tell me, have you ever played the game where you use your finger to draw an image or word on someone's back, then they try to guess what you just drew? It's very difficult to visualize anything that way, let alone something as complex as cursive writing. The audio imaging would be even less distinct to the listener than the back-drawing game. Even if you could pick out the exact locations of each sound, it would be difficult to see any sort of a pattern to the writing. He seems to imply that taking drugs would help, and I don't doubt that taking certain drugs could make you "see" things...
Finally, as with backwards masking, there is no mechanism by which this hidden information could affect the listener. It's assumed that a subliminal message in an audio track could somehow worm its way into the subconscious of the listener, but there's no proof that this can happen. If you can't hear or understand the subliminal information even when you're actively listening for it, then how can it affect your subconscious mind?
Still, it's a fascinating concept. Artists could put written
messages into their recordings, and the messages could be decoded with the
proper software. It would be like a high-tech version of backwards
messages, with many of the same features: There would be deliberate
versions, where the artist inserts some kind of satirical message into the
sound effects. Then there would be the accidental versions, caused by
random combinations of audio effects. People would try to find the
messages hidden in the random ones, coming up with results that, like the
backwards masking, say more about the listener than about the artist.
18 Aug 1999
I'd like to add some information about Scott Starr's comments on backwards satanic messages. Indeed his belief that the band Pink Floyd put backwards messages in their music is justified. As you mention in your own article, several musicians in the 60s/70s started doing this, and Pink Floyd - who I'd loosely describe as experiental [?] musicians with a sense of humour - were no exception.
What I find interesting is that Scott Starr may not have even heard the backwards messages that he is talking about, since the information he supplies is only partially correct.
The first item he refers to is a message in a song from the album "The Wall". The song is actually called "Empty Spaces", and the backwards message is clearly planted there to parody the whole backwards message idea! The full text of the message, which is a recording of band bassist and chief songwriter Roger Waters, goes like this:-
"Congratulations, You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to old pink, care of the funny farm, Chalfont"
"Roger, Carolyn's on the phone!"
There is nothing sinister here. There are various interpretations of who "old pink" is (supposedly original band member Syd Barrett, who became mentally unstable) but that's hardly satanic. If Scott or anyone else would like to hear the backwards message, it is available all over the web, including at this URL:
As for the second example given by Scott, I assume the album he refers to when he says "Metal" is the 1971 album titled "Meddle". However, the song he mistakenly refers to as "four small furry animals" (actual title is "Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict") is not on the Meddle album at all, but from an earlier release called Ummagumma. While the track in question is certainly an unusual piece, there is nothing particularly satanic about it. In fact, the title actually describes the piece quite accurately. The so-called "speaking in tongues" is just someone with a particularly heavy Scottish(?) accent raving almost incoherently. (An attempt to decipher the gibberish is also available at the above web address). There is no backmasking here. The "swirling" noise Scott refers to is a simple analog reverb unit (it was recorded in 1969). The band played a lot with sound effects. This is just one example of such experimentation.
I cannot comment on Scott's "laser graphic imaging". Certainly this is the first I've ever heard of it.
While I'm sure this information will not change the minds of people such as Scott, he could at least research what it is he's condemning. A simple web search for "Pink Floyd" and "backwards message" reveals a plethora of web sites.
Keep up the good fight,
22 Sep 98
I just read the entry on backwards lyrics in rock music and remembered the following, which I thought you might enjoy.
A few years ago I was at a concert featuring the very fine singer
Laura Love. Introducing a song called "The Devil Inside," she confessed to the
audience that, "If you play it backwards on your turntable, it says 'Attend church
17 Dec 1996
Are you sure backwards messages of any kind are in "Stairway to Heaven", or is that one of those sneaky little tacit assumptions that has managed to slip through? [kinda like a lie repeated newt style becomes believable...]
Years ago when I was involved doing Planetaruim Laser shows for Laserium, http://www.laserium.com, in Pittsburgh at the time, someone on the staff was slightly weirded out at our choice of "Stairway to Heaven" in a Laser Show, because members of his church had heard the dreaded "backwards satanic messages" demonstrated to them by pushing an LP backwards...needless to say, I said far out, let me hear it, or something like that, and took the staff member along for my version of a demo on the planetaruim mega sound system after hours. The show tapes were dubs [analog in those days] a few generations directly downstream from the record company masters [Laserium paid royalties for this privilege], and being four channel format [teac a3340s], could be easily reversed. What a disappiontment...nada, nothing, no whispers of anything...several playings later we were rolling on the floor laughing, besides the revelation [ha--what a word] it was funny as heck listening to music backwards. This evolved to "after hours backward music gatherings"---disco is indeed improved when played backwards.
Anyhow, long story for the punchline: I would suspect that if anyone has heard backwards messages in "Stairway to Heaven" they are either imagining or somebody further up the chain of their particular church/cult/organization is mixing in something to a demo tape, just to keep the faithful hopping or hoping.
Thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Skeptic's Dictionary....appreciate the
reply: As you have probably figured out by now, I'm not sure of anything. Maybe if Laserium paid more royalties they might have gotten the bonus messages! Anyway, I think you'll have to ask Martin Gardner; I understand he listens to Jimmie Page in his spare time. Or better yet, read the next letter.
26 Dec 1996
I love the Skeptic's Dictionary. I wanted to comment on the section referenced by the subject "backward (satanic) messages". One of your readers commented:
"Are you sure backwards messages of any kind are in "Stairway to Heaven", or is that one of those sneaky little tacit assumptions that has managed to slip through?"
He continued to describe trying to actually find the alleged backwards section, and was unable to. He asserts that the backwards section of Stairway to Heaven does not exist. I'm not surprised he didn't find it, for reasons I will explain below. But the backwards section does exist.
Well, It does exist and it doesn't. It does exist because there -is- a section of the song, where if you listen to it backwards, and you strain really hard, and somebody points it out to you ahead of time, you can almost hear Plant saying "Here's to my sweet satan". Problem is, it's not deliberately inserted, it's not very intelligible, and it's a purely coincidental assemblage of syllables that results from playing the normal, sung lyrics in the wrong direction. I forget which exact line of the song it occurs on, but if you listened to it, you'd understand why it's pure coincidence. (I'm pretty sure it was this line: "There's still time to change the road you're on.")
Now. Here is why I say it -doesn't- exist: When I was in high school, a local radio station played a few tapes of alleged backmasking, and the "Stairway" snippet was part of the show. They had the "forward" phrase and the "backward" phrase played a couple of times. I taped this section off of the radio, and played the "backward" phrase to several people. The catch: I didn't tell them what it was "supposed to" say. I played it several times, and -no one- was able to discern any intelligible english words from it. -Then- I told them what it was supposed to say, and then they said "oh yeah, I can hear that. Yeah, ok."
My point is this: There are two kinds of alleged "backmasking" in recording. One is the deliberate kind where there is obvious backwards stuff buried in the mix. Play it forward, and you hear a normal recording of a normal voice speaking words. And example of this deliberate backmasking is on Pink Floyd's The Wall, where there is a humorous message about finding some secret, and writing to Floyd Pink care of The Funny Farm (or something like that).
The other kind of alleged backmasking is the "accidental" kind, like in Stairway to Heaven. The songwriter did not deliberately write lyrics so that they say intelligible phrases in both directions. It's hard enough just writing lyrics that work in one direction. Anyone finding backwards messages in those lyrics is finding them because they're -looking- for them. If you squint hard enough, you could find backwards messages in the Gettysburg Address, for God's sake. The funny thing is, the Christians like to hunt for backwards things that sound like "Satan" in rock records and then run with it. But you could find as many occurrences of a backwards "Satan" in gospel hymns, because, as I assert, the message is coincidental. For that matter, you could probably find as many occurrences of "Jesus is lord" as "Here's to my sweet satan" in any recording. If you squint.
I'm not saying Page and Plant -didn't- put deliberate backwards stuff in other songs. They probably did. But in "Stairway to Heaven" the backwards message, while present, is completely coincidental.
I wish I remembered the exact phrase so you could hear it yourself. These days it's so easy to sample a phrase from your CD-ROM then "flip" it in Sound Recorder. Anyone who's already done this might want to post it on his Web site for all to see...
12 Jun 1997:
I have never heard the fundamentalists explain a mechanism by which backwards satanic messages are supposed to do their dastardly work. Without a mechanism, quite apart from all the other objections, the claim is a nonsense. Do they corrupt the innocent listener by stealth as he listens frontwards? Or are satanists supposed to gather in little covens to play their music backwards? When I first heard of this 20 years ago, there was no widely accessible technology which could play music backwards; we tried placing the stylus on a record and rotating the platter backwards with a finger. The results were hilarious rather than sinister and the consensus was that we were ruining the LPs.
You might like to track down the transcript of a court case a few years ago in which the heavy metal band Judas Priest was unsuccessfully sued by the family of a teenage fan who died in a suicide pact with a friend. (The friend lived, albeit literally defaced by a shotgun blast.) My only knowledge of the case comes from a TV documentary, but as I recall it was somewhere in the American Mid-West.
The cameras were allowed in the court, where jurors spent much time listening intently to backwards music attempting to hear some alleged satanic phrase, and the lead singer sang in the witness box to demonstrate some glottal-stop artefact in his singing style which apparently featured in the naughty bit. Then the sister of the dead boy took the stand; she was hot, she was angry, and she had no doubt it was their music which caused him to kill himself. She, on the other hand, listened to that wholesome country music.
But then the defence raised the little matter of her own history of suicide attempts,
which she had no choice but to confirm under cross-examination, visibly stunned that they
even knew of it. Case dismissed. Country music, now, there's a reason to top yourself -
all that yowling steel guiter and those laments that my dog died and my woman left me. But
Christchurch, New Zealand
* AmeriCares *