Discover more from the disturbed universe
it's just a spring clean for the may queen
yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
there’s still time to change the road you’re on
mmmmakes me wonder
your head is humming and it won’t go
In January of 1982, on the Trinity Broadcasting Network television program Praise the Lord, an American television evangelist named Paul Crouch alleged that Satanic messages lay beneath Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Crouch, and others who fancied the theory, claimed backward masking, or backmasking, hid references to Satan.
Where the song we know goes:
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen Yes, there are two paths you can go on, but in the long run, There's still time to change the road you're on. It makes me wonder...
Reversed, instead, sounds lyrically (to Crouch & co.) like:
Here's to my sweet Satan The one whose little path would make me sad whose power is Satan, He'll give you, he'll give you 666 There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan...
It’s important to note that these allegations came at the height of the Satanic Panic, a moral anxiety that overtook the country in the eighties and led to numerous false accusations of satanic ritual abuse, the blacklisting of people from major celebrities down to townsfolk, and the collateral damage of the reputation of rock and roll, heavy metal in particular.
But specifically here, following Crouch’s allegations in January of ‘82, a California assemblyman proposed a law that would require explicit warning labels for records that included backmasking. In April of 1982, Assemblyman Phil Wyman played the record before the California State Assembly, both forward and backwards, and invited the testimony of a self-proclaimed “neuroscientific researcher” to explain that the human brain can indeed decipher backwards messages, consciously or not. Among other “evidence” included Jimmy Page’s purchase of the Boleskine House, the former residence of occultist Aleister Crowley.
In 1983, Robert Plant himself told Musician magazine how “very sad” he found the whole thing; “‘Stairway to Heaven’ was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music.” Where engineer Eddie Kramer put it as “ridiculous,” Plant called it “sad.”
Swan Song Records put it even more simply than that: “Our turntables only play in one direction — forwards.”
Still, society’s desperation to locate hidden meanings in everything from a celebrity’s ominous tweet to an annually-replaced groundhog is pointless, maybe. Curious? Definitely. “Stairway” is a song that obviously needed no added layers of lore for its canonization. There’s a reason it’s regarded as the best rock and roll song of all time. And really. Just look at that custom red double neck on Jimmy.
in case you don’t know
SONG OF THE WEEK:
to be a rock
and not to roll
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