Some of you might know Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. It’s not only an ultra cool rock song but also a great example of backmasking, when a song is played backwards to reveal a hidden message. It turns out their innocent words about hearing “a bustle in your hedgerow” turn out to be an ode to “my sweet Satan”. (The backwards version’s about 27 seconds into the video below).
There are other famous backmasking examples. Britney Spears asks you to “Sleep with me, I’m not too young” in Baby One More Time and The Beatles have revealed Paul McCartney’s death in a number of their songs. (I’ve included links to the various backmasked songs below.)
Naturally, I started wondering how other songs would sound backwards – not to find hidden messages, but just to see what they sound like. So I got a free audio editor called Audacity and started mixing songs in my music collection.
Man, was I amazed! I’m addicted to the different sounds produced – arrythmical beats and tones, undecipherable words and unexpected anticlimaxes. It just speaks to a different part of the brain. Slow some songs down or speed them up and you get even whackier results.
Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive sounds absolutely haunting. Jimi Hendrix sounds higher than usual – a good thing in his case. And Billie Holiday sounds depressingly melancholy, even for her.
Now, I know that finding hidden messages is mostly pareidolia (reverse speech is an example), the brain finding patterns and significance where there possibly aren’t (apparently to help you survive in the wild). So you won’t find any hidden messages (mostly). But, the sounds you get when backmasking arb songs are fascinating and sometimes unreal. And you get to double your music collection without too much effort.
So, if you get yourself a couple of ping pong balls, a strong cup of coffee and some backmasked songs, you could be dancing backwards in the clouds before long.
To the fellow backmaskers: !yojnE
Reverse Speech – Related phenomenon where it’s theorised that once every 10-15 seconds of conversation, there’s a subliminal sentence that, backwards, expresses your subconscious thoughts.
Backmasking samples – Some samples on one page, including Stairway to Heaven and Britney’s Baby One More Time.
Beatles Songs – Samples from a couple of their songs (YouTube – quality not that good, but audible).
Bogosity – Pareidolia – An interesting video discussing the stupidity of pareidolia, finding patterns where there aren’t. (YouTube)