In addition to the simple pleasures of reading liner notes and enjoying cover art, the death of the vinyl record took away opportunities for reactionary politicians to find Satanic messages in records played backward. The CD killed the fun of discovering secret messages found by turning the record the wrong way beneath the needle, but one suspects that backward masking will become even more prevalent in the era where technology can help make them easier to uncover without ruining your album. Those just diving into the wonderful world of secret messages hidden on vinyl records have a wealth of material to use as their starting point.
Whether or not the whole Paul is Dead deal kicked off the whole hidden messaging bonanza or not is incidental to the fact that it remains the centerpiece of the entire fad after all these decades. You can start off learning how to find hidden messages by listening to the transition between tracks on The Beatles “White Album.” The gap occurs between the songs “I’m So Tired” and “Blackbird.” You could not start at a better place. The legend is that John Lennon’s voice in reverse at this point on the record says “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him, miss him” which has become a mythological key to the kingdom that is known as the litany of secret messages spread across Beatles music that tells the story of how the real Paul McCartney died and was replaced by a lookalike imposter. Oh, and by the way, the real Mick Jagger works the nightshift at the Tom Thumb just down the street from my house, but I’ve vowed to keep his secret so keep things on the downlow, okay?
What makes the missing Paul example such a perfect starting point for learning about the world of hidden messages on vinyl records is that you can listen to this part of “The White Album” backwards, frontwards, sped up, slow down, separated into left and right stereo tracks and with the volume turned up to 11…and if you can hear anything that sounds even remotely like “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him, miss him” then you are likely a perfect candidate for the next spot that opens on “Ghost Hunters.”
In 1982 a paranoid congressman named Robert K. Dornan (who was unfortunate enough to think fancy himself an actor earlier in his life and wound up making a movie mercilessly ripped to shreds on MST3K) introduced House Resolution 6363 which called for any record merely suspected by somebody somewhere of containing a message that could only be detected by spinning a record around in the wrong direction beneath the needle to carry a label warning of the possible existence of such messages. One of the songs on the list that prompted Dornan to such measures that would have been considered extreme if taken by any other member of the House was “Snowblind” from the album “Paradise Theater” by the bland arena band Journey, er, I mean REO Speedwagon, er, I mean Styx. Supposedly, playing “Snowblind” backwards produced the distinct message “Satan move through our voices.”
After you have spun your copy of “Paradise Theater” backward all the way through that particular song in search of the admission that Lucifer is behind the god-awful music of Styx, take “Paradise Theater” off the turntable, fling it hard against the wall and then and replace it with “Kilroy was Here.” Position the needle at the large groove indicating the starting point for the song “Heavy Metal Poisoning” and give it a reverse turn or two. This is actually a very good lesson in how a foreign language can sound like simple gibberish when you don’t understand it. It’s not gibberish; it’s Latin. And it is not a secret message at all, but a quite open response to the fact that the message said to be backwards masked on “Snowblind” may only have been there in the imagination of whoever handed the list to Dornan.
Purposefully placed backward masking of message is an excellent resource to use as you start your education on learning how to identify hidden messages. They Might Be Giants were kind enough to insert a message into the song “Dinner Bell” on their album “Apollo 18.” To be honest, however, this example might actually do more to confuse than enlighten. Following the lead of those who appear in Agent Dale Cooper’s infamous dream on “Twin Peak” the band decided first to learn how to speak words in reverse phonetically and then record those sounds which would then be played backward to create the effect of normal speech that sounds slightly off.
One example of a hidden message found on a rock and roll album that was accused of contributing to delinquency of minors that may actually have been the sinister plot reactionary politicians accused it of being can be found if you own a copy of Queen’s album “The Game.” The most atypical song to be found in Queen’s entire discography is, of course, “Another One Bites the Dust.” Everything about this song seems off the tracks for Queen. Perhaps this nonconforming entry in the Queen canon can be accounted for because it was never meant to be played forward at all. Perhaps the entire enterprise was produced solely for the purpose of having millions of young Queen listeners spin the record the wrong away around so they could hear Freddie Mercury admit “It’s fund to smoke marijuana.”