Monday, March 12, 2012

AUDIO: Backmasking: Subliminal Deception

Long thought of by certain fundamentalist Christians as a nefarious plot to brainwash our impressionable youth, backmasking is, quite simply, the process of including backwards elements in a recording. Sometimes the effect is obvious and used as part of the aesthetic of a song, as with the Beatles use of reversed tape loops in "Revolution 9", but just because it's plainly noticeable, that doesn't stop people from attributing some deeper meaning (Paul is dead!) to something that was probably given little thought beyond, "Hey, that sounds pretty trippy". 

Where people really start slipping down the rabbit hole into paranoid conspiracy theories though, is when they claim to have found backwards messages, usually satanic in nature, hidden in normal speech or singing. Though particularly prevalent in the 1980s, due in part to the rise of heavy metal, this belief is still widely expressed today in some of the sadder corners of the Internet. Of course, if you're hunting for that sort of thing, you're bound to find it in the jumbled confusion of a song played in reverse, in the same way you'll probably see faces in clouds or other abstracted imagery, thanks to what psychologists called pareidolia

I've always been fascinated by Christian extremists' efforts to demonize popular music, so I was overjoyed when I came across this wonderful little cassette at my local Goodwill thrift store. Distributed by a Green Bay, Wisconsin organization called Media Ministries in 1984, the tape "exposes" the subliminal messages implanted in hit records by a variety of artists, including The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, Queen, Pink Floyd and many more. Beyond simply playing examples of backmasking, the tape delves in to the theory behind it in some detail and, of course, engages in some hilarious bible-thumping.

Since this particular "Media Ministries" seems to be long since defunct, at least as far as I can tell from extensive Googling, I thought I'd take it upon myself to digitize this lovable relic for posterity and do my best to spread the good word. Enjoy!

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