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I bought Pat Boone's new album featuring Big Band versions of Heavy Metal songs. Such unlikely combinations are right up my alley. Besides, I love controversy: Trinity Broadcasting Network canceled Boone's "Gospel America" show over this album.
I brought it to a CRT meeting for laughs. Noticing that Boone sings Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven," someone said, "That's the one with 'backwards masking' on it."
Do people still take "backwards masking" seriously? Perhaps it's time to publicly challenge this myth.
Frank Zappa and the Beatles (but not Led Zeppelin) recorded bits and placed them backwards within and between songs. You can clearly hear this as backwards gibberish -- (it almost sounds like huHebrew), but this is not "backwards masking."
In the early 1980s, I had a tape of a preacher who reversed a portion of "Stairway to Heaven." I could hear it clear as day; I could hardly believe my ears. When reversed, the vocal track seemed to say, "Which one will be the path? Who will make me sad? There's power in Satan." I reversed it back to the normal direction, and it was the verse that includes: "It's just a spring clean for the maid queen."
Astonished, I decided to duplicate the feat in the studio where I worked. I recorded the song and then reversed it. Nothing! Gobbledegook, like you'd expect from playing music backwards.
What did this guy do?
He processed the reversed sound with a device similar to "The Bag" or "Vocoder." This apparatus forces the sound of a guitar through a tube, into the guitarist's mouth. The musician then mouths "words" into a microphone, making the guitar seem to "talk." Peter Frampton popularized the device.
The preacher, then, used a similar technique to process "Stairway To Heaven," placing "satanic" messages where previously they did not exist. He would then stage record-burning bonfires based on his false witness.
I wonder what would happen if you played Pat Boone's version of "Stairway To Heaven" in reverse? Do you hear garbled messages of God telling fans to drink more milk?
I doubt it.
See also: Rock Records and Demons Burned at High School
See also: Led Zeppelin's Satanic Message Is No Hoax from Lim Yong Chin
Copyright ©1997 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon
(Renamed from its original title: "The Led Zeppelin Myth.")