Ozzy Made Me Do It

Rock's Hidden Persuader coverRock’s Hidden Persuader: The Truth About Backmasking
Peters, Peters, and Merrill

Submitter: I found this blast from the past hanging out in our collection. No one has checked it out for about five years. It’s called Rock’s Hidden Persuaders! It’s all about finding satanic messages on records if you play them backwards and it’s from the 80s.

Holly: Love it!  Here’s another one of those totally interesting books that people of my generation and slightly older would love to flip through, no matter what stance they take on backmasking.  Clearly, though, they aren’t if it hasn’t been checked out in five years.  Fewer and fewer people have records or record players anymore, and teenagers may not even be aware of what backmasking is.  I’d weed it (and then immediately buy it from the Friends of the Library book sale)!

Eagles and Pat Benetar


  1. I have a copy of “Why Knock Rock?” from, too, along with some other anti-rock books of the time.

    I’d love to read this one. I had never heard the backwards Benatar accusation before.

    The best part is finding the egregious errors. Never mind whether the garbled backwards words indeed say such absurd statements as “It was delicious… he puts it in a vat”, but they can’t even get the lyrics “This could be heaven or this could be hell” correct.

  2. I remember when backward messages were purported to be hidden in records. I also remember getting in big trouble for doing some damage to my parents’ turntable trying to hear them on my friend’s older brother’s Black Sabbath album.

    I had never heard the term “backmasking” before, though, and am shocked that Pat Benatar was involved in this sort of evil. I’m not surprised about the BeeGees either, though.

  3. Okay, I’ll buy that those villainous Doobie Bros. were up to no good, and I wouldn’t put it past Sting to be that way, but Pat Benatar?!? I’ll never believe it! 🙂

  4. I’m with Donna on this, I want more! At around the age of 14 My friend and I had a crack at playing my brother’s Led Zeppelin albums backwards, laughed ourselves to bits over nonsensical blurbles. Of course he never knew we’d been messing with his records-we’d have been in serious trouble!

  5. Good grief. I’d forgotten all about this. I always wondered how people managed to play records backwards without ruining (1) the turntable, (2) the needle, (3) the arm, and (4) the record. Records were expensive!

    And how DO you play a record backwards, anyway?

  6. I remember being made the watch a video at sunday school called ‘Flashdance Demons’ that was basically a doco of this book. I didn’t sleep for a week afterwards. The one that still gives me a chill was the theory that the Barry Manilow track “I Write The Songs” was a first-person sung by Satan. Barry Manilow!

  7. I’m with Donna- I still have yet to figure out how to play a record backwards….

  8. Oh please, Barry Manilow is one of the nicest people I ever met. Besides, I Write The Songs was actually written by Bruce Johnston, not Barry.

    Anyway, it’s all silly. We were all given free will so if we choose to do evil, it’s our fault and our’s alone. Not music, not video games, not tv. Our sole choice. So people who believe in this secret message crap do not actually believe in the Bible because the Bible says we have free will.

  9. I think we’re all a bit more worried about the ACTUAL messages of some of today’s music, rather than pretend invisible messages in cool old rock songs.

  10. Comedian Bobcat Goldthwaite released an album with backmasking that said, “Go to church; drink milk; give money to Jerry Falwell.”

    I have distant memories of playing the Beatles’s “Revolution Number 9” backwards to hear John purportedly saying “Turn me on, dead man” (this was during the whole “Paul is dead” hysteria of 1970/71). I don’t know how other phonographs worked, but on mine you move the speed control arm somewhere between 33 and 45 and the turntable would move freely in whatever direction you pushed it. You’d put the record on, place the needle where you wanted it, and rotate the record backwards with your finger.

    /Don’t you know people born after about 1985 are going “33? 45? What the hell is she talking about?”

  11. I’d like to do this on my son’s music. “brush your teeth” “Study” . If it works, I’ll write a book on it and be rich!

  12. Most of this is probably just people hearing these lyrics in the garbled words playing backwards! Like today those parents who insist Barbie is promoting Islam, or the other toys spouting curses. Some people hear what they want to hear. The first I remember of backmasking (didn’t know it had a name until today) was when “Paul is dead” came out. My mother even bought a 45 to “hear” it!

  13. If memory serves, Prince (or whatever he’s called now) had a little backmasked track on one of his 80s album. Played backwards, it indicated that he was happy because he knew that Jesus was coming.

  14. Deb–Born in 1990 and not lost at all. Didn’t know how to play them backwards, though. I’m pretty sure I’d be murdered if I tried. Wouldn’t that damage the record?

  15. Deb — All of my record players had a switch for 33, 45, and 78. There really wouldn’t have been any way to stop between them. And isn’t Leigha right? Wouldn’t that have ruined the record when/if you did play it backward?

    Hmm. I wonder how much time it would have taken, if you were one of these satanic composers/performers, to figure out which phrases backwards would give you the words you wanted. Heck, I can’t even say my full name backwards.

  16. It all rather precludes the idea that Pat Benatar & Co actually believe in Satan – we accept the fact that all religious conspiracy theorists do.

    Interesting how such nonsense always has to fit in with the technology of the time: you could play an LP backwards, but as everyone says, at the risk of severely damaging (a) the record itself, and (b) your deck (or more likely, your parents’/older brother’s, or whoever).

    The Medieval equivalents of those who believe such things were busy kissing ‘saints’ bones’ and burning ‘witches’.

    Of course today they have THE INTERNET… Endless possibilities for spreading fear, hatred and ignorance!

  17. I just recently bought a new turntable and I believe it has a button you can push to play the record in reverse. I’m not sure I want to test that theory with my new vinyl, but I might give it a go on one of the el cheapo ones I picked up recently at a Half Price Books clearance sale.

  18. I have friends who worked with Cleveland’s Michael Stanley Band. Believe me, those guys were only interested in breaking out of the northern Ohio market and playing pop hits on Bandstand. No back-masking, and who would ruin a good MSB record by spinning it backward??

    Saw Pat Benetar in concert three years ago. She did sing Hell Is For Children, but it was such a family-friendly show that I thought she was going to say “Heck” instead.

  19. Regarding the damage caused by playing records backwards: Those of us who grew up with vinyl records will remember that they were easily scratched regardless of how careful you tried to be. Over time, inevitably, records would develop scratches and gouges. I don’t remember worrying about ruining my records by playing them backwards–I only played a couple of them backwards, anyway; mostly Beatles records during the “Paul is dead” craze. I had a very inexpensive plastic record player, and I had to tape a penny to the end of the arm to keep the needle from skipping over scratches in my records–and that was playing them forward on the right speed. Oh, the image of that penny brings back memories.

  20. I remember the big “scandal” of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” supposedly saying “it’s fun to smoke marijuana” when played backward. I have a DVD (“The Educational Archives: Religion”) that has a video (“Youth Suicide Fantasy”, which is probably on YouTube) with Dan and Steve Peters talking about hidden “satanic” messages in music. They’re so determined to find evil in every song, that if they can’t find it in the straightforward lyrics, they play the lyrics backward and pretty much force the gibberish syllables into the words they want them to be. They even go so far (on “Stairway to Heaven”) that if they can’t find a complete phrase when played backward, they piece together the “evil” message with random words scattered throughout the song.

  21. Back in 1983 my band (The Wonders Of Science) released our first EP. Through the entire recording and production process we’d ask “Is this where we put the back-wards devil messages in?” Since no one knew when or how to put in backward devil messages, we released the record with day-glo orange stickers which read “Contains No Satanic Messages.” The stickers were very popular.

    A few years later I produced a record with The Social Club. We spliced the guitar solo on one song forwards and backwards to create an interesting harmony. We “found” some dialogue from the film “Brubaker” and I spliced the line “You’re already dead and don’t know it” on the tail end of the backwards guitar solo. So there’s yer backward masking devil stuff.

  22. I remember the whole episode of “backmasking” and the supposedly evil messages hidden in popular music. Know where I heard them all? Church. That’s right, in order to protect us from the secret evil, they made sure we knew exactly which albums had the secret messages and what they said. Gotta love irony.

  23. Oh my.
    Someone didn’t like that “Negro Jazz Player” sort of Jump and wiggle brought on by the wild beating of jungle drums and screams of battle!
    Yes, these are things of…oh…I don’t know…maybe……SATAN!
    You know about this same time there were big meetings where parents made their kids burn all their good albums.
    The young Hellers of the area rescued a few LP’s before they lit them up so the faithfull could inhale nice and deeply…smelled like….Victory, and Polyvinyl chloride.
    Led Zep always got blamed, Ozzy…oh yeah. Even Quiet Riot and Ac/Dc were indicted as obviously the stuff upon which demons ride.
    Religious people really used to get seriously disturbed by people playing Dungeons and Dragons, they’d make crank calls, convince mothers to have their children committed to various diagnostic units and rehabilitation and basket weaving academies.
    Poor kids were so screwed up as adults…maybe the inhalation of Polyvinyl Chloride…known nerve and brain killer, known to cause cancer.
    Maybe just a set of morals that was strangely different than the complete B.S. their parents were infected by.
    Give me 4 Marshall stacks, my Les Paul, Strat, Archtop, and 6 string, and I’m enough to cause…who knows…maybe dancing!


  24. I remember when this was going on! I would collect it for novelty sake, but it should be weeded. Some years ago I rescued my record player and records from my Mom’s garage.
    My son was fascinated by the contraption and asked “Can I put a disc into your music machine?”
    He was 10 and had never heard the words “record” and “record player”.
    The record player is just another victim of technological advances!

  25. As Judas Priest pointed out after being cleared of being responsible fot the suicides of two of their fans in Nevada if they were going to put subliminal messages in songs, they’d opt for ‘buy more of our records’.

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