Music

Rumors of Rock'n'Roll Satanism

Jesse Walker talks about rock-music conspiracy theories on KUER.

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Today at 1 Eastern, 12 Central, 11 Mountain, 10 Pacific—take your pick!—I'll be on the Utah public radio station KUER, talking about rumors of rock'n'roll Satanism:

And then I took so many of those drugs that I forgot which decade Mötley Crüe came from.
Jack T. Chick

In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there were a lot of rumors about the dangers of rock music. If you played The White Album backwards, was John Lennon really saying "turn me on dead man"? Did Led Zeppelin have hidden messages in Stairway to Heaven? Ministers preached and albums were burned to protect against communism, secret societies, and the occult. Tuesday, we're talking with folklorist Lynne McNeill and journalist Jesse Walker about the era of backmasking paranoia and asking what it reveals about our fears.

You can listen live here.

Related: "The Great Rock'n'Roll Conspiracy," "Moscow Girls Make Me Sing and Shout," and "Illuminati Defector Tells All!"

Update: For a podcast of the show, go here.

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  1. It’s true. I killed myself after listening to heavy metal music in the 80s.

      1. It was before O-care.

    1. I did the same thing but Jesus saved me.

      1. What, like for leftovers?

        1. Its not a Bible. Its a cookbook!!!!!

  2. Rumors of Rock’n’Roll Satanism

    Whaddya mean rumors? It’s been known for decades that Rock n’ Roll is the sound of the Devil farting!

  3. Tuesday, we’re talking with folklorist Lynne McNeill and journalist Jesse Walker about the era of backmasking paranoia and asking what it reveals about our fears.

    What it reveals is that some people just had too much time in their hands during the 60s, the 70’s, the 80’s (etc.) instead of being productive.

  4. Satanic messages when you play the music backwards??!?! Didn’t you listen to it played forwards??
    — Some Random Comic

    1. Satan’s gotta get past the FCC *somehow*.

    2. The part that baffles me, still, is how the hysterics go after bands that aren’t remotely “Satanic” at all [e.g. Sabbath, with their explicitly anti-Satanic content, or KISS with their lack of any content related to anything other than Rock And Romance And Partying]…

      While completely ignoring music from bands that at least pretend to actual devil-worship or praising evil.

      I mean, I’m not sure Tipper Gore ever even heard of Bathory, but she has no excuses; their first album came out in 1984, FFS.

  5. I’m hoping Tipper Gore gets a nice loooooooooooong call out.

  6. This is a self-sustaining cycle; silly bands sing “edgy” (read “tasteless and often risible) lyrics to get silly adults all worked up. Silly adults have a cow, breach presentation, over silly bands, thereby providing cheap publicity. And so on and so on. If the Devil exists, and actually cares about empty lyrics sung by and listened to by twits who don’t mean them in any real sense he must be laughing himself to orgasm.

    The “sataism”, negativity, violence, and general tackeyness of some kinds of pop music is a real concern. Young people who mistake outragiousness for actual intellectual content grow up to be hysterical sheep, easily herded over cliffs and into slaughterhouses. The answer isn’t censorship, but people who are annoyed by it aren’t necessarily wrong either.

    1. Young people who mistake outragiousness for actual intellectual content grow up to be hysterical sheep, easily herded over cliffs and into slaughterhouses. The answer isn’t censorship, but people who are annoyed by it aren’t necessarily wrong either.

      How many people make that mistake, or continue to think that way as they mature a bit and how many just enjoy outrageousness for it’s own sake? I enjoyed outrageous lyrics and satanic stuff and all that as a youth (and I still do) because I thought it was funny and that it was funny that it bothers some people so much.

    2. The “sataism”, negativity, violence, and general tackeyness of some kinds of pop music is a real concern. Young people who mistake outragiousness for actual intellectual content grow up to be hysterical sheep, easily herded over cliffs and into slaughterhouses.

      So how does this work? Are the slaughterhouses placed vertically at the bottom of the cliffs so after the sheeple go over they fall right in? That sounds like a pretty efficient process. I like it.

  7. What is funny about this is is how mundane and mainstream that music is now. You can hear Led Zeppelin on the Muzak at the mall for God’s sake. Hell, my father of all people read the Keith Richards’ biography and decided he liked the Rolling Stones. “Hey why did you kids always listen to such lousy music growing up instead of this better stuff?”

    Our mass culture eats and digests everything. Led Zeppelin is Muzak at the mall and Snoop Dog is selling Chryslers on TV.

    1. John|5.6.14 @ 10:21AM|#
      “What is funny about this is is how mundane and mainstream that music is now. You can hear Led Zeppelin on the Muzak at the mall for God’s sake”

      Are advertisers ever going to get tired of recycling ’70s R&R?
      I’m tired of it. I was tired of most of it in the ’70s.

      1. I doubt it. The music seems to be reasonably popular with the current generation. So I doubt it will stop when the baby boom dies off.

  8. I remember this retardedness.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07…..icide.html

    1. Now the moral panic is all about the vidya games!

      1. And White Slavery – I mean “human tracfficking”.

      2. You ever played GTA V backwards? It’s freaky, man, freaky.

        1. The people you robbed and killed get their lives and property back?

          1. It’s just one huge Katamari Damacy level.

    2. Both the group and its record label are charged in a civil suit with the liability arising from the manufacture and marketing of a faulty product

      That’s ridiculous! Obviously the product worked exactly as intended!

      1. (“Off the record … is there any backwards masking on the song ‘Christianity is Stupid’?”

  9. Get off my lawn!

    1. No! Watch as I aggress upon your lawn. —-dances like James Brown all over your lawn.——

      1. You better stop or I’m going shake my fist!

        1. :o0 I bet you’ll wave your cane at me next too! Your lawn sucks!! It’s sooooo green. It’s like your some sort of racist against brown lawns or something. They need to pass a law!!

  10. Woe to you, O earth and sea…

    Yeah, I’m going to Hell.

    1. “You have reached the Number of the Beast. I’m busy bringing woe upon the earth, but your call is important and I assure you I’ll get to you as soon as possible.”

      1. I laughed.

    2. Hell Ain’t A bad Place To Be.

    3. “All my friends are gonna be there too!”

    4. I used to work with a guy who would sing “Six six seven, neighbor of the beast.”

      1. Beautiful. Made my morning.

      2. 668 is the neighbor of the beast.

        667 would be across the street…duh.

        Which is a type of neighbor, but still.

  11. The very nice, blindingly white beaches in Hell are composed of the crushed skulls of music critics.

  12. Nickle Creek got back together for another album that was recently released.

  13. I am not a very musical guy so I guess I am missing it.

    Things that are important yet that we have little understanding or control over, like food, sex, music, etc., tend to inspire a lot of magical thinking. That way people are able to delude themselves into believing that they do have understanding and control.

    I just don’t understand why music is one of them. Is it akin to the notion of magic words and spells? Maybe it isn’t music but language that is the root of it.

    1. On further thought, it is more basic. Language, reproduction, health. Most magical shit is related to one of those.

    2. It isnt magic, but music has power.

      I can still remember lyrics to songs I have heard in 25 years.

      Or 35 even…Conjunction junction, whats your function?

      1. Music has amazing power. It is wonderful. Its composition, however is mostly work and not nearly as much “magic” as people believe.

      2. The function of conjunction junction is hooking up words and phrases and clauses for all kinds of things that life causes.

        You didn’t know? My conjunction brings all the girls to the yard. I can teach you, but I have to charge.

    3. Magic, is a good way to put it. Most people don’t understand the creative process. Many people have this mythical idea that composers just feel this rush of inspiration and music springs from their pen whole cloth.

      As I am sure you know, nothing could be furhter from the truth. There certainly is some inspiration but composing, especially popular song writing is as much a craft as it is an art. Real songs are usually written over many frustrating hours. The writer will stumble onto a chord progression or riff that they like and then spend hour after hour refining it and trying to put lyrics to it. It is more like running a lathe than casting some magic spell.

      Mickey Mantle once asked Paul Simon why he used Joe Dimaggio’s name rather than his in Mrs Robinson. Simon responded “syllables man syllables”. That is a great explanation of most rock and roll and pop lyrics. Why do they say what they do? Because that was the only way to make the meter and the syllables fit the music. It is not that deep.

  14. I wonder what stuff is going to seem like the insane ravings of ignorant peasants in the future.

    Fear of GMOs?
    The Koch brothers thing?
    The whole climate change thing?
    Marxism?

  15. I got a better introduction to classic rock from some of those Satanism in Music VHSs than I would have otherwise.

    I was really disappointed when I found out the original press of the album Hair had instrumental versions for the really interesting songs like Hashish and Sodomy.

    Any thoughts on these panics as a way to remain set apart from worldly things but still get entertainment/titillation from them? I wouldn’t have thought about it that way as a middle schooler, but I think there was that element in hindsight.

  16. If you take led Zeppelin at their own words, they were the conduit for whoever wrote it. Like one person was strumming the chords and then boom the words were on the page and they looked at each other all tripped out.

  17. According to my Ripley’s Believe It or Not! True Ghost Stories comic, the violinist Niccolo Paganini was a tool of tha Devil.

    And Wiki backs me up!

  18. I remember going to a presentation at my high school, and one of the self-evidently ridiculous things was that Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles were lumped in with Ozzy with Led Zep and all the usual satanic metal bands. It’s hardly believable, when everyone knows there’s no way Satan would have anything to do with fucking laid back California country rock. Totally not brutal.

  19. Giving the world Motley Crue in the 70s is quite a trick, since they formed in 1981.

    More importantly, that’s a terrible way for the Devil to advertise himself – of those, only Sabbath are any good, and anyone who bothered to listen to them could only interpret them as anti-Satanic.

    So, Jack Chick makes the Devil look incompetent… plainly, thus, Mr. Chick is Satan’s puppet!

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