Musical Tastes: My Personal Adventures in Music (Pt. 2)

The Evils of Rock and Roll

To get a bit of background, read the first post.

I had mentioned in the first post how I was pretty much like every other teenager who loved top 40 radio music and I was beginning to really enjoy music videos which were then coming on the youth culture scene.

I believe I left off telling how my family moved from Missouri to Arkansas the summer immediately before the start of my sophomore year in high school. When my family moved, we left attending a liberal-minded United Methodist church to joining a strictly conservative Free-will Baptist church where my mother’s side of the family all attended. It was certainly an obvious night and day experience for me.

For example: “worship” in the Methodist Sunday school class consisted of us kids singing (I kid you not) 60s, hippy commune style songs like One Tin Soldier and Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head, followed by a 20 minute lesson on some point of situational ethics. The leadership at this Methodist Church had no desire to cultivate in me a Christian perspective on evaluating secular music. They seemed more concerned with my participation in the “trick-or-treat” for UNICEF fund raiser every October and earning my perfect attendance pins.

The Free-will Baptist Sunday school class, on the other hand, consisted of us singing hymns and followed by an overview of a biblical passage, albeit from a lame, denominational Sunday school quarterly. Even though the teaching was simplistic, the folks did believe the Bible and attempted to teach it seriously in some manner.

It was in this context that I was told all about the damning evils of secular rock music. Unlike the leadership in my old Methodist church who didn’t care about what I listened to, the folks in my new church did care. Unfortunately, it was a perspective with a whole lot of light, but no heat; much emotion with little substance.

Apparently, all secular music was nothing but Satan breaking wind – from the very pit of hell itself. A yellow cloud of sulfur hovered over all the rock and roll bands and if a person was to ever attend a concert, he would run the risk of coming home with the smell of rotten eggs still clinging to his body.

My church would occasionally host rock and roll seminars for the teenagers in which an ingenuous fellow had rigged up a record player to spin in the opposite direction so we could hear all the backward messages the devil put into the music.

Now, anyone raised in the southern Bible-belt, or any fundamentalist church environment, has had to sit through either a lecture or film presentation on the subject of backward, subliminal messages in rock and roll songs. On one hand, you had those rock groups who intentionally placed backward messages in their songs, like the Beatles; but, on the other hand, there were those songs that had darker, more sinister backward messages the rock group never intended to put in their music. They were the demonic kind driven by evil spirits, because, it was argued, no human being could figure out how to sing the right combination of words so as to have a satanic audio message be heard when the music was played backwards.

During the lecture, the speaker would pontificate on the evils of rock music, the devilish messages the songs put forth, and then he would transition into the climax of his talk on backward messages and say something like, “This is what the song sounds like on the radio,” and then he would play a clip from a popular rock song. He then would become ominous, lower his voice and say, “Now… this is what it sounds… like…. backwards….” and proceed to play the exact same music clip in reverse on his engineered record player.

The song would sound something like this:


The guy would exclaim, “Did you hear that!? You’re being told to “worship Satan!”

He then would play it again and maybe a couple of times more and sure enough, after being told WHAT to listen for, I could have sworn the particular group was telling me to worship Satan even though it sounded more like “warship stay young.”

Probably the most famous satanically inspired, backward masked song was Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust that supposedly tells a person to smoke marijuana even though when you listen to the clip, it sounds more like “marry your iguana.” Was Queen saying to do drugs or engage in bestiality?

I remember coming home from church one Saturday evening after I had sat through one of these rock and roll lectures. I told my dad about how I heard these songs played backwards and they had Satanic messages in them. He asked me, “Oh really? What does the devil say if you play the Star Spangled Banner backwards?” That hadn’t occurred to me.

Anyhow, I was also shown how the names of many of the popular rock and roll groups, particularly the metal groups, were really acrostics for what the band members were truly all about. For example:

RUSH stood for Ruling Under Satan’s House. (Others inserted Rulers)

AC/DC stood for Anti-Christ/ Devil Child

and of course, who couldn’t forget what KISS stood for? Kings In Satan’s Service. And to think that KISS was the only Satanic rock group with their own line of G.I. Joe style action figures with all the accessories. The devil likes merchandise.

I also learned that a devil had possessed Jimmy Page when he wrote the Led Zeppelin classic, Stairway to Heaven, that Ozzy Osbourne routinely drank cups of bat’s blood, the Eagles song, Hotel California, was an ode to Anton Levey and the Church of Satan, DIO read upside down spelled Devil (though it looks more like DEVE), and any music with an off beat not performed in 2/4 time could possibly open you up for demonic torment.

Even though I would get all weirded out for a few days after attending one of these rock and roll symposiums, I still enjoyed my secular music. Besides, in my mind, I never listened to many of those “satanic” rock groups any how. I was more into Duran Duran, Yes, Prince, and Men at Work, and their names were never mentioned as groups whose songs contained backward, satanic messages. I think at the time the hardest bands I listened to was Van Halen and ZZ Top, and they were about partying, not worshiping the devil, at least that is how I saw it. Only groups like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and AC/DC had satanically energized messages hidden backwards in their music.

Now, as a mature Christian looking backwards (pun intended) upon all of these sensational claims about rock music and subliminal messages, I grimace at the thought that fundamentalist youth leaders wasted their time pouring over songs reading into every garbled sound the voice of a demon corrupting the minds of the youth. I find it particularly appalling seeing that practically every rock and roll band who allegedly had satanic backward messages in their music plainly had them when the songs were listened to normally. Perhaps they weren’t singing about teenagers pulling on sheep leggings and dancing around a sacrificial snake altar, but they were certainly promoting an alternative, anti-biblical worldview at their concerts and on their albums. Usually it was aimed at free sex, drugs, and adult authorities are idiots.

I believe now that these youth leaders were hunting down chimeras when they could have been teaching their teenagers to think biblically about the lyric content of their favored bands. That includes more than the sinister metal bands who are usually the objects of these witch-hunts. That of course implies a biblically sound leadership willing to lay down a solid, biblical foundation in the hearts of these kids, but sadly, they were more into highlighting the fantastic and turning the devil into a superstition rather than teaching solid theology and doctrinal content.

Well, some time after moving to Arkansas, I experienced a radical shift in my musical tastes, because I went from listening to secular music to a steady diet of Contemporary Christian. That is where I will take up my testimony next time.


3 thoughts on “Musical Tastes: My Personal Adventures in Music (Pt. 2)

  1. This is funny! I remember the day (around 1980 or so) when our youth group had the same session on backward masking. I think the whole purpose was to so creep you out that by listening to the offending songs you would fear coming under a Satanic spell and perhaps become demon-possessed. What better way to get young fundamentalists to stop listening to the devil’s music?

    The whole Hotel California album was interesting. Supposedly if you look on the inside photo layout of the record album showing people enjoying themselves in the lobby of the hotel there is a dark figure lurking in the recesses of the balcony who is Anton Levey.

    I forgot all about the Satanic acrostics, especially for one of my favorite bands, Rush.

    The groups/ songs I remember they focused on was Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. I could never listen to that song again without being creeped out. ELO was another one of my favorite groups – too bad, they had a lot of evil backward lyrics. Then there was the Beatles song Revolution 9 when Lennon or somebody says “number nine” over and over again. Backwards, it supposedly says, “turn me on dead man” over and over – really creepy! And then one of the creepiest was some song by a group called Black Oak Arkansas. I don;t remember the song or the supposed backward lyrics, except that it scared the you-know-what out of me, which of course was the purpose.

    I also remember that they had to play the songs several times before the message became clear. But the power of suggestion is indeed powerful. It worked for me.

    It took me several years to get over the trauma of that session. Later, while in college, i got rid of a lot of my rock music from my youth. But the reason was that I finally came to terms with the raunchy messages when played normal.

  2. Pingback: Musical Tastes: My Personal Adventures in Music (pt. 3) | hipandthigh

  3. For example: “worship” in the Methodist Sunday school class consisted of us kids singing (I kid you not) 60s, hippy commune style songs like One Tin Soldier and Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head, followed by a 20 minute lesson on some point of situational ethics.

    Been there too!

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