Did you know that when messages are hidden in recorded songs it is called backmasking? It’s a technique in which a message is recorded backward onto a track that normally plays forward. Musicians have done it for decades for a variety of purposes, but primarily to amuse themselves and their fans… or “hunters” as they call people eagerly looking for backmasked messages.
There are hundreds of backmasked messages that have been permanently recorded and some remain undetected by most. Bands like The Beatles and Frank Zappa embedded several messages for all the world to notice. Once audio technology hit the tape recorder era, track-recording became the norm and backmasking was created.
According to historical reports, both John Lennon and producer George Martin take credit for discovering the technique. It matters not, the discovery came from their team and they began using it immediately on the Revolver album (1966). Tomorrow Never Knows, I’m Only Sleeping and Rain all include “hidden messages” that when played backwards become transparent.
Some of the messages on the list are benign and silly, while others attempt to convey a deeper message. Take a peek at our list of 14 different bands and their wild and crazy backmasking messages. Have you ever listened to a message recorded backwards? Let us know what you think of the technique.
14. Ozzy Osbourne – Bloodbath in Paradise
Bloodbath in Paradise is a track from Ozzy Osbourne‘s No Rest For The Wicked album. The song includes a hidden parody of The Exorcist’s famous line, “Your mother sucks c*cks in hell.” In Bloodbath, the backmasked message, “Your mother sells whelks in Hull,” which is much nicer than the original.
13. Nelly Furtado – Big Hoops
Canadian recording artist, Nelly Furtado, added backmasking to Big Hoops, a cut from her fifth album, The Spirit Indestructible (2012). Evidently, the message is placed at the beginning of the song and is more noticeable when listening to the a cappella version. The message is bizarre, nonsensical and funny, “Oh My God! Descending to the 13th floor, 14, 16. We’re on the 11th floor, descending to the 12th floor.”
Ever since Furtado released this cut, the media has associated her with the Illuminati. According to online sources, Nelly’s message appears to be one directed at the secret society’s head honchos in order to get back in their good graces. After all, urban legends cite the Illuminati as having the capability to make or break careers.
12. B52’s – Detour Thru Your Mind
Bouncing Off The Satellites is a B-52s studio album that was released in 1986. The album was not a commercial success and didn’t produce any hit singles. The Detour Thru Your Mind track included a message for the listeners, only to be heard in the reverse direction. We’re guessing it was meant as a lark and just for fun. “I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you’re playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle.”
11. The Beatles – Rain
The Beatles are credited with making backmasking popular when they used it for the first time on the Revolver album (1966). Rain is one of the tracks and includes the message, “… the sun shines. Raaain. When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.” The other great song, Free As A Bird, includes “Turned out nice again.” In an article in The Guardian (2005) Paul McCartney was quoted as saying, “We even put one of those spoof backwards recordings on the end of the single for a laugh, to give all those Beatles nuts something to do.”
10. Franz Ferdinand – Michael
Glasgow-based rock band Franz Ferdinand released the single Michael from their debut album titled, Franz Ferdinand (2004). The song is about a hook-up that Alex Kapranos experienced one crazy night. But the backmasked message is about Bob Hardy, the bassist, feeling homesick. So with fun-filled intentions for Bob, they added the reversed message, “She’s worried about you, call your mother.”
9. ELO – Secret Messages
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) released the album and song, both called Secret Messages in 1983. The band had been previously accused of hiding satanic messages in earlier albums, so they decided to plant several messages as a joke in response. A few of the messages: “Welcome to the show. Hup two three four. Time after time. Plant a tree. Look out there’s danger ahead.”
8. Moby – Machete
Moby‘s Play album is his fifth and was released in 1999. This was his first real high-level commercial success, as he finally reached a larger audience and became mainstream. With his knack for combining gospel and folk he pumped out singles that kept him in the spotlight for years. Many of his songs have been used in films, television and commercials. Machete is one of the singles and the only one we are aware of that includes a backmasked message, “I have to say goodbye.”
7. Mothers of Invention – Hot Poop
We’re Only In It For The Money (1968) was one of Mothers of Invention’s most popular albums and was a spoof on the Beatles becoming so commercial. Frank Zappa later remixed and re-recorded it in 1986. The backmasking was in the original version of the single, Hot Poop, which included a few f-bombs that were later cut out. A few more PG rated messages, “Better look around before you say you don’t care. How would you survive? If you were alive. Shitty little person?”
6. Dukes of Stratosphear – Fire on High
XTC is really the band behind the band on this mini-album. The 25 O’Clock album was released in 1985 under their pseudonym, Dukes of Stratosphear. The Fire on High cut was one of the band’s many efforts to add backmasking and is one of the more interesting messages, “The music is reversible, but time… is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!”
5. The White Stripes – Walking with a Ghost
The White Stripes released Walking with a Ghost (2005) only six months after Get Behind Me Satan. They were on a roll. The title track, Walking with a Ghost, includes a reversed message that seems to go along with the theme of the album. “Get out of my mind,” is the backmasked message left for listeners. Makes sense – no one wants a ghost hanging out in their minds, right?
4. Pink Floyd – Empty Spaces
Empty Spaces is just one of the Pink Floyd tracks known to include backmasking. It’s the eighth cut on the mega-popular rock opera The Wall (1979). The song features an elaborate intro along with an airport announcement referencing the band’s upcoming tour. The backmasked message can be heard on the left channel, played backwards. It’s hard to tell if it is a secret message to one person or just a funny, nonsensical message to fans. “Hello, Luka (hunters). Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont. – Roger! Carolyne’s on the phone! – Okay.”
3. Prince – Darling Nikki
Purple Rain was a 1984 Grammy-winning album that included a hit single with the same name. Darling Nikki was a cut released on the album, but never made it out as a single. It is known for its extremely-sexual lyrics that are so raunchy they spurred Tipper Gore into action on the parental advisory front. It is a song about a sex fiend name Nikki, which sounds harmless enough. The hidden message is anything but raunchy, however. “Hello, how are you? I’m fine ’cause I know that the Lord is coming soon. Coming, coming soon.”
2. The Rutles – Piggy in the Middle
Those crazy Rutles, who made their fame by spoofing the Beatles in every way. As you can see from this album cover, it is a parody of The Beatles album. Other parodies, such as The Tragical Mystery Tour album features Beatles’-type melodies and of course has different lyrics and titles. Piggy in the Middle is the 16th track on the album The Rutles. They backmasked a simple little phrase that most people know, “This little piggy went to market.”
1. Weird Al Yankovic – Nature Trail to Hell
Weird Al Yankovic has always been a little… weird, right? He is pretty creative, we’ll have to admit. Al released his second Weird Al Yankovic album in 1984 to the delight of parody lovers everywhere. Nature Trail to Hell is a spoof on all thriller type movies and the melody sounds a little like Michael Jackson‘s Thriller. The hidden message was meant as a joke to activists who were accusing backmasking as a means to leave Satanic messages. Al’s message: “Satan eats Cheez Whiz.”