Wilmar’s World

By Wilmar Taal


Recently I was thrown back into memory lane when somebody referred to QUEEN’s ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: when you play it backwards, it says I LIKE TO SMOKE MARIHUANA. Ah, backward masking… Those were the days.


I thought it to be very a-typical for the Discovery Channel to air a documentary about evil messages hidden in pop music and which can only be discovered to play the song backwards. It must have been 1993 when I saw this, because around that time I was listening to the debut album of DEICIDE and when watching this documentary on TV I wondered: what about those bands you don’t have to play backwards? DEICIDE’s lyrics were full with ‘Satan’, so I didn’t mind LED ZEPPELIN hiding lyrics about ‘Satan’ in STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, only you had to play it backwards. With those darn CD-players it was quite an undertaking, but fortunately the computer age provided us with software that easily played everything backwards, and we finally could discover that the intro of HELL AWAITS by SLAYER was ‘Join Us’, and not ‘Say Hot’, eventually suiting the song best, since Hell has always been pictured as the Hottest Place in the Universe.

But back to the documentary, I can’t really recall the title, but there was this reverend who organized evenings in churches in which he showed the audience the dangers of modern music by playing it backwards. Satanic messages were flying around, we were all seduced to smoke marihuana and take shots of gin and after listening to MADONNA’S LIKE A VIRGIN we all went out to sacrifice one in glory of Satan. OK, it is a bit exaggerated. Actually a lot. But the fun part of the documentary wasn’t the reverend, who was serious about the dangers of Satan in pop and rock, but the audience. A few rockers were present, sitting there bored as hell, arms crossed over their chests and rolling with their eyes when some artist who usually sings about love, birds and bees was giving praise to Satan when played backwards. Suddenly one of them stands up, ugly guy with a cap, who made the best comment of all: ‘Do you really think I spend ten quid on an album to play it backwards?’ The reverend tried to explain that wasn’t the issue: you could be under the influence if you played the record like it was supposed to! Satan’s influence reaches far!

However this documentary could make me laugh, there were more serious matters going on. Around the early nineties we saw the rise of the PMRC (Parents and Music Resource Centre) who were building a case to label every CD with a ‘warning label’ on the content of the lyrics. These ‘worried parents’ were actually the wives of politicians, with Al Gore’s wife Tipper Gore leading the pack. So we had the filthy fifteen which featured songs by TWISTED SISTER, causing Dee Snider to go to a PMRC-meeting and totally owning them. He explained ‘artistic freedom’, ‘interpretation’ and eventually accused Tipper Gore of having a dirty mind to read sado-masochistic references in the lyrics of UNDER THE BLADE. Snider said it himself best: ‘When you are looking for such references, you will find such references’. Other artists couldn’t care less about those warning labels. SLAYER’S Kerry King supported the cause: the more labels were on a SLAYER album, the more they would sell of them. The target audience were still teenagers in those days, and you know what teenagers say: forbidden fruits taste best.

But the craze with Satan’s influences became serious as well. Kids committing suicide and parents who blame the artists they were listening to. When James Vance tried to blow his brains out and miserably failed, leaving him with a full size duckface, his parents blamed JUDAS PRIEST for his poor decision since they heard the words ‘do it’ in their song BETTER BY YOU, BETTER THAN ME from their album STAINED CLASS. JUDAS PRIEST did not walk away from their responsibility and presented themselves in court, cooperating on all fronts. Even OZZY OSBOURNE was accused of promoting suicide among his fans with the song SUICIDE SOLUTION. In one of his more bright moments, OSBOURNE stated before the court: ‘why should I tell my fans to kill themselves? Who will buy my records then?’ And these trials weren’t unnoticed, as the thrash band SACRED REICH wrote a song on their second album THE AMERICAN WAY titled WHO’S TO BLAME, where they place the responsibility right back to the parents: ‘music is no cause of death, it’s you who suffocate’. The devil is always in the details.


Wilmar’s World Archive:


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