Backmasking, the first part..
In the famous Lez Zeppelin song Stairway to Heaven, there is a segment when the lyrics go like this—
“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder”
Well, not the easiest lyrics to comprehend. But televangelist Paul Crouch bowled a doosra when he alleged that on being played backwards the tune actually says the following-
“So here’s to my Sweet Satan.
The other’s little path
Would make me sad,
Whose power is faith.
He’ll give those with him 666.
And all the evil fools,
they know he made
us suffer sadly.”
Whoa! So, how does this ‘playing backwords’ thing work? Did Led Zeppelin actually take so much pain to write peans to Satan?
In the 1950s, a new form of musical recording technology named Concrete was developed which allowed backward recording of tracks alongside normal recording. This method of backward recording is called backmasking.
Now did Led Zeppelin actually do it? Reportedly the backward recording does sound very similar to what Paul Crouch said. But Robert Plant, lead singer and lyricist of Led Zeppelin pooh-poohed this as a strange coincidence. He later said, “Who on Earth would have ever thought of doing that? You’ve got to have a lot of time on your hands to even consider that people would do that.”
However, Robert Plant said later regarding his experience while writing the song, “I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold/And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat.”. This gave rise to speculation in certain quarters about the unseen hand of devil writing the lyrics in exchange of (yes! You guessed right!) Plant’s soul. Not to mention the coincidence that Jimmy Page, the lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, had bought the former house of Aleister Crowley, the occultist, at Lock Ness, Scotland and Crowley had advocated that people interested in black magic should learn how to think and speak backwards. Interesting!
However incredulous it may sound, there is no denying the fact that such speculations make great stories and sometimes do help in record selling as well.
The Beatles is reported to have first used backmasking while recording the song Rain which contained the back-masked lines, “Sunshine, Rain, When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads”
But then, all hell broke loose with the phone call from a ‘student’ to a DJ enquiring whether Paul McCartney was dead. He claimed that he had found suspicious words back-masked in the Beatles song Revolution-9 alluding to Paul’s death.
Let us talk about this in the next part!