Pseudoscience of Music Played Backwards

A pseudoscience is a discipline, determined by a set of practices; beliefs, knowledge and non-scientific methodologies, that claims that character. Some examples are: astrology, homeopathy, ufology, psychoanalysis, feng shui, tarot, numerology, parapsychology, etc. (Some disciplines have no scientific basis neither do they implicitly or explicitly claim it, so they are not considered as pseudosciences.)

Our society respects those knowledge and methods that have visions of science, and not knowing the difference between true science and pseudoscience can lead us to put our health and our money in the hands of people who inspire, but do not deserve our trust.

Unfortunately, music does not escape from these falsifiable sciences and unfounded beliefs in ideas preconceived by radical and extremist groups.

Backmasking is a term perhaps known to some. We all listen to music, different bands, different genres, etc. That music inspires us, relaxes our minds, and allows us to release our emotions and tensions. But it is by some acquaintances that some songs we hear there are hidden messages that are found within its lyrics or in the sound itself. This process of discovering those things is called “Backward Masking”, which is generally known as Backmasking. It is the term of discovering the hidden messages of music by listening to the audio tracks backward.


We could attribute the origin of backmasking to rock music, but we will go somewhat further back in time. This goes back to Thomas Edison, the well-known inventor. After inventing the phonograph in 1877, he realized that the music had an inverse sound, he called it “novel and sweet but different”.

In the 1950s, avant-garde musicians began to engage and experiment with reverse audio in their music. They performed reel tape recorders upside down, which led to many strange melodies and lyrics. It was not until 1966, that the Beatles released their seventh studio album, Revolver, in which backward sounds were introduced into the mainstream of their tracks. Songs like “Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” have incorporated sounds and messages backward in that album.

The Beatles continued to use these methods in their subsequent albums. While recording their eighth album, Sargent Pepper Lonely Heart Club Band, there have been rumors that Paul McCartney, one of the band members, allegedly died before the album was released, leading others to suspect his messages to reverse were indications of his death and that the other Paul was an imposter.

After finding the messages back in the Beatles albums, it was found that many more songs contained messages back, mainly in rock music. During the 1970s, fundamentalist Christian groups began to protest and declare that backward messages can reach the subconscious and be accepted by the listener. They also declared that Satan himself put these messages to control and persuade the young. Although many artists of the 70/80 years were accused of having subliminal messages (such as Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, Styx, AC / DC, Judas Priest, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Black Oak Arkansas, Rush, etc.). Some artists used backmasking to censor some words and phrases for a clean release of sounds, others used it satirically or comically.

Some supposed uses of Backmasking: 


Satanic Backmasking involved classical rock songs and is the most popular use to mask messages in a song, but the composers of these songs denied any attempt to promote Satanism. Some bands use satanic images for commercial use only, one of them is the thrash metal band, Slayer. The band used it on their 1985 album “Hell Awaits”, in that album a deep masked voice repeatedly sings “Join us”. But the band’s vocalist, Tom Araya, said they used it just for fun, and as a form of mockery. Also, the band Cradle of Filth used satanic images, and released a song entitled “Dinner at Deviant’s Palace”, that song consists of strange sounds and if you play it backward you can hear fragments of the famous prayer “Our Father”. That is why they said that this song was used for satanic rituals. Supposedly the upside-down prayer would invoke the same demon. Some of the controversies deal with songs that are not necessarily satanic, but anti-Christian.

Subliminal/Hidden messages 

Fundamentalist Christian groups said that Satan uses music to influence people with the use of subliminal messages. Subliminal messages masked in rock music influence their listeners to commit crimes and so on. In 1982, Minister Jacob Aranza wrote a book entitled “Backmasking unmasked,” in that book, he explains how masking is used to open the subconscious mind and introduce its listeners to Satanism and drugs. According to Aranza “The subconscious mind is successfully affected by the repetition of the rhythm and the letters that are affected through a subliminal message.” The book was popular, and a movement against rock music was created for this reason. Also, due to these subliminal messages, they said that crimes had been committed. For example, serial killer Richard Ramírez said that AC / DC music, and specified the song “Night Prowler” on “Highway to Hell,” caused him to commit murder.

In 1990, two men in Nevada committed suicide due to the songs of a British heavy metal band, Judas Priest. His family’s lawsuit stated that the 1978 album “Stained Class” contained hidden messages, including a subliminal message that was commonly repeated on audio tracks, “Do it” in the song “Better By You, Better Than I”. The judge dismissed the case due to the lack of sufficient evidence that Judas Priest has placed a subliminal message on the album. The members of Judas Priest declared that if they inserted subliminal messages in their song, all their fans would have died, and instead of doing so, they would prefer to insert the subliminal command “Buy more our records”


Backmasking is occasionally used for aesthetics reasons, that is, to improve the meaning or sound of a track. Artists often wear sound masks or instrumental audio to produce interesting and novel sound effects.

Backmasking in cartoons and children’s series

How could it be otherwise, people sought the way to “ruin childhood” of many. Thus it began to claim that many of the songs of children’s shows contained secret messages if they were played backward. One of the most famous is from the Barney song the dinosaur, if you listen backward you can hear “Heriberto died, save the prefuno”, “Ibara will join here” or “what happens today without an ax”. These are meaningless phrases, which are not even clear. It also happens in the famous song of the Gummy Bear, where something similar to “Bad child I am. Jesus does not exist”. This was quite popular at the time.

According to the experts in the backmasking, these are the artists who used the masking: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, Styx, AC / DC, Judas Priest, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Starship, Black Oak Arkansas, Rush, Britney Spears, and Eminem. They are just a few examples of the hundreds that exist and have been charged. Also Latin artists like Shakira, Belanova, Ricky Martin, Gloria Trevi, or Chayanne. In most cases, it is false information that is disclosed as a simple legend. People comment that an artist hides secret messages on his CD and this is spread by word of mouth, often giving publicity (good or bad) to the artist or band. In other cases, like some previously mentioned, the messages were intentionally introduced into the audio, and in others, there is no hidden message at all. There are certain fragments reproduced backward that can be confusing, and in which the message is completely involuntary. However, apparent masked messages can be examples of pareidolia, the brain’s tendency to recognize patterns in meaningless data, or a matching phonetic inversion. It was also popularized in the late 60s, a time when there were many conspiracies about mind control such as MK Ultra.

Audio engineer Evan Olcott states that the messages of artists such as Queen and Led Zeppelin are coincidental phonetic reversals, in which spoken or sung phonemes form new combinations of words when heard backward. Psychology professor Mark D. Allen says that “delivering subliminal messages through backward masking is totally and ridiculously impossible”. So don’t worry no musical group will make you kill yourself or worship the devil for a lot of secret messages they’ve hidden.

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