There are two important distinctions when talking about hidden messages in music:
1. Backward Masking
There are in fact 2 different types of backward messages in music and they have generally been all lumped together into one category and called backmasking.
The first type of backward message is one that has been deliberately placed onto the record usually by the recording studio. The correct term for these messages is called Backward Masking. This topic is explored in detail, together with a comprehensive history, at the site http://www.backwardmasking.com.
The second type of backward message, correctly called back masking, are those that have not been placed deliberately onto the record, but are rather formed by the unique way the words are sung in the song.
They are, in fact, phonetic reversals – played forwards one message can be heard and play the same track backwards and a completely different message can be heard.
An Explanation of Backmasking
Why Are There Hidden Messages And How Do They Get There?
There are three different theories on the origins of these backward messages:
1. The Coincidence Theory
In an article by audio engineer Evan Olcott, Evan claims that backward messages are coincidental phonetic reversals in which the spoken or sung phonemes 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.”
Olcott make two observations. Firstly he claims that backward messages are coincidental. The trouble with this argument is that they are occurring far too regularly, in long grammatically correct sentences, for them to be dismissed so easily. The second point he makes is that it is next to impossible to write a song that says something forwards as well as backwards. This we agree with.
2. The Satanic Theory
This theory was made popular by fundamentalist Christians. In the early to mid 80s there were many preachers on the church speaking circuit claiming that backmasking was the work of the devil.
They claimed that satan was possessing the minds of the singers to produce these backward messages, many of which promoted satan, drugs or free sex. Conveniently these backmasked messages also seemed to reflect the lifestyles of the bands who had these messages in their songs.
One such sermon was later mixed with the popular Queen track “Another One Bites The Bust”.
3. The Reverse Speech Theory
Now there is a new and more plausible, albeit somewhat radical, theory for backmasking. the theory states that these messages are actually a small part of a far greater phenomenon known as Reverse Speech. The theory of reverse speech states that language is bi level – forwards as well as backwards. That it is a natural function of the human brain. As the brain creates the sounds of speech it creates them in such a way that 2 messages are spoken at once. Forwards from the conscious mind and backwards from the unconscious mind. The unintentional backmasked messages in music were the first signs to be discovered of this far greater phenomenon.
Here are some examples of back masking. The tracks play forward once, and then backwards twice at different speeds. Remember, these messages were not superimposed into the tracks, they occurred naturally.
How Do You Sleep by John Lennon
Hidden Message: Hey, poor Lindy. So mean, gets him nowhere.
I’m Gonna File My Claim by Marilyn Monroe
Hidden Message: He’ll come out, full of magic.
Everything’s Alright from the Jesus Christ Superstar musical
Hidden Message: He’s the saviour, loves me, he’s the one.
Beyond The Realms Of Death by Judas Priest
Hidden Message: I took my life.
You Never Done It Like That by Captain & Tennille
Hidden Message: Oh, I need some man to fuck back.
Help by The Beatles
Hidden Message: Now he uses marijuana.
Its Now Or Never by Elvis Presley
Hidden Message: They know I’m sick.
Old Cotton Fields by Credence Clearwater Revival
Hidden Message: I believe in my cool woman.
Glory to the King by Hillsong Church Choir
Hidden Message: High evil, evil.
Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus
Hidden Message: This girl horny, she love you.
We recommend that anybody interested in backmasking should also learn about Reverse Speech.
As mentioned above, backmasking is part of a much wider phenomenon known as Reverse Speech. Discovered in 1983 by David John Oates, Reverse Speech evolved from researching hidden messages in music. After realizing that hidden messages were occurring naturally in music (i.e. back masking), David expanded his research to recordings of speech and thus the field of Reverse Speech was born.
Reverse speech occurs backwards in speech and can be heard if human speech is recorded and played backwards. Mixed amongst the gibberish at regular intervals can be heard quite clear grammatically correct sentences that detail what is happening in the unconscious mind of the speaker. If a person is lying in forward speech, their reverse speech may reveal the truth. At deeper levels reverse speech can reveal psychological causes for current issues, whether they be mental emotional or physical.