Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stairway to Masking: When Satan Was a Vinyl Groove

Rick deYampert/Candide's Notebooks

My hands trembled as I put my copy of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album on my turntable.

The time was 1982, and a Christian minister had brought his traveling road show to the University of Alabama campus to preach that the mighty Zep, and dozens of other rock bands, had seeded their recordings with “backwards masked” paeans to Satan. I had not attended the preacher’s fire ’n’ brimstone seminar, but I had read an account in the school newspaper, and backwards devil rock had even made The CBS Evening News recently.

Eagle-ear Christians also were able to discern Beelzebub doing a sonic moonwalk through albums by the Eagles, ELO and even Cheap Trick, the Cars and Styx (OK, so the latter is a river through Hades). Then, that sunny day in 1982, I had screwed up the courage to investigate this diabolic matter myself.

Oh, my fingers were not shaking from fear I might unleash demons. Rather, I was frightened I might royally mess up my turntable by spinning it backwards with my index finger. And I feared the reverse path of the needle might chew the ... er, hell out of my vinyl record. Replacing an album on a college student’s budget was a grisly proposition indeed. Read the rest...