Music's Funniest Backwards Messages

For the most part, Satanic backwards messages in songs don't exist, except in the minds of uptight religious types still convinced musicians would rather sacrifice their fanbase to the Dark One instead of keep them around to sell more stuff to. In fact, the vast majority of real backwards messages are weird, silly things that parody the very idea that rock stars would worship the Devil through subliminal backmasked messages. Here are a few of the best reverse zingers rock has ever dreamed up.

The B-52s: "Detour Thru Your Mind"

The B-52s haven't a serious bone in their collective body, so naturally, when recording a backwards message, they poked fun at the entire concept. In "Detour Thru Your Mind," a song about...something (a doctor dips them in plaster, and they reference MacArthur Park and then a galaxy and now your brain hurts), the band closes out with a bunch of backmasking. Played backwards, it reveals two parts. They start off by confessing, "I buried my parakeet in the backyard." Hopefully the bird was dead first, because that's shockingly cruel otherwise. Then, they turn their attention to us: "Oh no, you're playing the record backwards / Watch out, you might ruin your needle." We're not sure if today's vinyl-worshipping hipster kids search for backwards words like prior generations did, but if they do, heed the words of the Great Prophet B-52. You might ruin your needle.

Bloodhound Gang: "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)"

The Bloodhound Gang is most famous for making their sexual escapades resemble the Discovery Channel as much as possible. But before that, they released even more ridiculous tunes, like the ultra-sensitive "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)," outright telling people to kill themselves if they hate their lives. It's the rare backwards-message song that starts out evil, instead of waiting for you to ruin your needle before breaking out the Satan. Halfway through, the band sings, "I hope you take this the wrong way / And misinterpret what I say / Rewind and let me reverse / Backwards like Judas Priest first did." If you do what he says and play the song backwards, you get the following how-do-you-do from the Lord of Lies himself: "Devil child will wake up and eat Chef Boyardee Beefaroni."

You know what? Let's take all that back. This song is way more evil when backmasked, because anyone who's eaten beefaroni more than once will readily agree that stuff is Satan's favorite torture recipe.

L7: "Boys in Black"

Not every band who records funny backwards messages are "funny" bands. Take L7, the all-grrrrl grunge act who definitely weren't musical court jesters. Furthermore, their song "Boys In Black" was recorded for a 2000 benefit album defending the West Memphis Three—teenagers wrongly convicted of murdering three boys as part of a supposed Satanic ritual. So, not exactly a realm full of ample yucks. But L7 still managed to screw around via a good old-fashioned backwards message, like the Ozzys and Slayers of old. Only their version was less evil and more...tasty: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." They literally sang the Big Mac recipe, and we're guessing McDonald's didn't pay them for it. Sadly, they didn't follow up by singing how to make the special sauce, because that's the delicious glue that holds the Big Mac together, really. You master the sauce recipe, you control our taste buds, and the world.

Pink Floyd: "Empty Spaces"

Pink Floyd's venture into backwards messaging is pure Floyd, in that it sounds more mysterious than it really is. In their song "Empty Spaces," you can hear nonsense backmasking just before the song's actual lyrics play. Reverse it, and you hear, "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." So, is that "funny farm" real? Do they actually want you to send your answer (to what question, they don't say) there to win a prize? Sadly, no. This was just goofy gibberish, directed toward the "hunters" who search fruitlessly for backmasking that actually means anything. The only real substance is "Old Pink" being Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's former singer (real name: Roger) who was legitimately institutionalized for psychotic breakdowns. Probably, though, if you sent him answer-mail via the funny farm, or the home where he lived alone for decades, he wouldn't have answered.

Soundgarden: "665"

Soundgarden has always had an underrated sense of humor—they seem dark, heavy, and angry at first glance, but then you remember one of their biggest hits is about a guy who plays the spoons. Their sly humor is no more prevalent than in the song "665," which even without backwards anything, is a damn good joke. After all, if 666 is such a powerful, evil number, then 665 must be too, being close enough and all. Like any good Satanic song, "665" comes with a menacing bit of backmask near the end, which almost certainly shouts out the Devil, you'd think. But no—singer Chris Cornell is actually screaming out his appreciation for another guy in red with a similar name: "Santa, I love you baby / My Christmas king / Santa, you're my king / I love you, Santa baby / Got what I need." Maybe Cornell had messed up huge that year, and recorded this track to get back on Santa's Nice List? Either way, it's a fine punchline, and perhaps the most underappreciated Christmas carol this side of "Dominic The Donkey."

Weird Al Yankovic: "Nature Trail To Hell" / "I Remember Larry"

It only makes sense that the biggest comedian in music history, Weird Al Yankovic, would record a goofy, satirical backwards message on one of his songs. And he delivered very early on, with his 1984 track, "Nature Trail To Hell," a song about exactly what you'd expect. Since this was the '80s, and fear and outrage over supposedly devilish reverse lyrics was in its absolute prime, Al too joined in and referenced his Dark Overlord. Kind of. "Nature Trail's" reverse message was "Satan eats Cheez-Whiz," which is good for us to know, though we're not sure if Old Scratch would've wanted that information to get out.

Being Al, he couldn't just record one funny backwards message. So he made a second one, years after all the think-of-the-children hand-wringing had finally died down. His wacky 1996 track "I Remember Larry," about zanily getting revenge on a prankster by brutally murdering him and whimsically dumping his body in the woods, featured backmasking at the end which, when reversed, told you point-blank "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands." And he was right. If you actually sought out backwards messages, especially a decade-plus after numerous cases and court battles proved most of them were ridiculous at worst, non-existent at best, you absolutely had more free time than you would ever know what to do with.