Three articles appear below:

1 Backmasking Discovery
2 Backmasking - A figment of imagination
3 Regarding Backmasking

Backmasking Discovery

Ray Keuning

(Investigator 143, 2012 March)

I did a Google search of my name and it appears I am mentioned on your web site regarding the 1987 media attention to backmasking.

Some comments about my involvement in this issue back then:

Yes, I was responsible for detecting the backmasking on the song [Celebration of a Nation] that was being played multiple times a day on every media channel across Australia.
My initial reaction was to visit my local MP with a tape recorder and play the song forward and in reverse for him with the intention of asking why a satanic message could be heard when played backwards and what effect it was having on TV and radio audiences across Australia. The MP had never heard of the backmasking technique and was surprised when he could hear the lyrics I was claiming were embedded into the song.

The MP's reaction was to ask the Communications Minister, Garath Evans, for an explanation for why the reverse lyrics could be heard and whether this was an attempt to impose some sort of subliminal message upon the Australian people.

Garath Evans laughed the issue off and publicly labelled me a "Crackpot" in parliament and wrote a scathing letter to my local MP saying that complaints like this should be filtered out at a local level.  So, my original question of why the backmasking was embedded into the song was never answered.  

When Garath Evans made his public remarks in parliament he opened up a media frenzy. All sorts of allegations and labels were thrown at me (just like your website labels me as a fundamentalist Christian) and an associate (Tom Toogood) — who was a candidate for a minor political party — received a hiding from the media and the University where he worked. Throughout all the rhetoric my question always remained the same — why was this song embedded with reverse lyrics and was this an attempt to subliminally affect the Australian public.

The conclusion to the matter was that there is no conclusion. The Media Authority of the day concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that backmasking can subliminally effect people. However, the original question was never answered — why was the backmasking there in the first place.

From memory, here is a transcript of the message I claimed to be on the song when played backwards. This is from the shorter version of the song that was played on TV.
Yeah, has to be normal
yeah, he hit me - can't make it stick
Magic in motion
Worship my (shebulas)
Worship my (shebulas)
He is master of us - Satan
Please stand up - say he's the lord
He and I will worship the heavens
And make it great
Worship my (shebulas)
Worship my (shebulas)
Let him possess the world leader
So as you can see, if this stuff is really embedded into the song, I am justified in expressing my concerns and asking what is the intention and motivation of the message.  Some observations are:
  1. All sentences are grammatically correct except I am not sure what Shebulas is (maybe Shepherd didn't fit somehow)
  2. All sentences are on the same topic of satanic worship and fit within the character of Satan himself desiring worship for himself and eventually controlling a one world leader
  3. The sentences are not just random words as you might expect when listening to the usual gibberish of reverse lyrics
  4. The sentences flow rhythmically and are not a bunch of disjointed words put together by taking out the gaps in between.
The method of backmasking in the Bicentennial Song was much different to the deliberate methods of backmasking used by some music groups.  In the old 8 track recording days, it was possible to lay (record) 7 tracks of music and vocals forward and underlay an 8th track of vocals or speaking in reverse. Some fans of these music groups reported to have found the secret messages by playing the recording backwards. However, in the Bicentennial song, there wasn't an apparent attempt to record a secret track because the backmasking lyrics come from the forward lyrics — so the words spoken forwards appear to have a different message when played backwards. At the time, this form of backmasking was unheard of in the public arena.

To this day the reason for the existence and purpose for the reverse lyrics has never been answered. I am of the opinion that the method of producing the reverse lyrics in this song is just too complex and too clever to be of a human origin — posing the question whether there was some sort of intervention from the spirit world to make these lyrics sound the way they do in reverse. What confuses this supposition is the fact that I found several reversed commercial messages in TV advertising using this same technique. Words such as:
Yeah, purchase this item
It’s beautiful
fast food is it
make you want this food, gentleman
I like the fast food
It won't make you wheazy in the stomach.
Or an ad with a man standing in a phone box wishing his wife "Happy anniversary darling". When played in reverse, he is actually saying "you don't deserve any".  Again, not just random words but grammatically correct sentences.  

Another confusing fact to add to this issue is that well over 200 ads recorded at the time did not have any detectable backmasking — as one would expect. However, there was multiple occurrences of different ads for the same company having consistent inclusion of backmasked messages. The fast food company with the message included above, had 3 different ads — all of which had some sort of commercial message in reverse.

So hopefully now you can understand, my intention of the day was not to promote "right to life" or "fundamental Christianity"  or any of the other media labels I received — but to ask the question "why is this stuff in existence and what effect is it having on listeners.

BACKMASKING – A figment of imagination?

Harry Edwards

(Investigator 144, 2012 May)

I'm having a problem reconciling Ray Keuning's article on backmasking with rational thinking. Here are a few points.

1)    What prompted Ray to play the song backwards in the first place?

2)    Ray claims that all the sentences are grammatically correct. How can you tell that a verbal sentence is so when the spelling is not available?

3)    Why immediately label it "Satanic" when the word only appears once? Other interpretations can be conjectured.

4)    As for dragging poor old Satan into the picture, I'm sure he could find a more fertile ground than the flip side of a recording.

5)    Why would the originator (if there is one) go to the trouble of disguising the message if he wants people to hear it?

6)    Who in their right mind plays a recording backwards?

7)    A TV programme some years ago on subliminal advertisements came to the conclusion that they don't work.

8)    As in the case of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) any results considered to be words or messages are the product of the percipient's imagination.         (See Investigator article on EVP #106/6)

9)    To argue that the lyrics are too complex and clever to be of human origin thus invoking the paranormal, is a common cop-out of the irrational.

10)    The example quoted by Ray makes no sense to anyone other than those who want it to.

11)    "Shebulas" means "the arse of a hermaphrodite bovine", the worship of which is practised by a little known tribe in the remote mountains of Papua New Guinea.

I suggest another pastime with which Ray could pass his idle hours:

Hold a newspaper upside down in front of a mirror and read the encrypted Cyrillic letters therein. They could be a message from Stalin. After all, they meet all the criteria. He was a modern Satan; the message is from the spirit world; and an uncritical theist mind will do the rest.


(Investigator 145, 2012 July)

In response to Ray Keuning's article on backmasking (Investigator 143, pp 19-21), Harry Edwards (Investigator 144, p 31) objects to Ray's statement that the sentences in the extract in question are 'grammatically correct' (not how a linguist would put it, but that is another issue), on the ground that one cannot make such a judgment, since no written form of the extract displaying the spelling is available.

Much as I admire Harry as a general skeptic, I have to observe, as a professional linguist, that this argument simply does not hold up. In some of the relatively rare cases involving homophony (identically pronounced sequences with different spelling, grammar and/or meaning), Harry's stricture might be valid, but in general terms it is not. A sentence can be assessed for grammaticality just as readily if it is available only in spoken form.

This is not to say that backmasking (unless deliberately inserted into lyrics by someone with some linguistic training/awareness) is typically genuine. Listeners (including skeptics) often find that they cannot hear such reversals until they are prompted with the alleged wording, but that after this has happened they cannot avoid hearing them. This suggests that — as in the related case of (originally South Australian) David Oates' claims regarding 'Reverse Speech' — the main factors involved are psychological.

The skeptical psychologist Chris French and I are currently planning work on one such case involving the Led Zeppelin song ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which allegedly contains a reversal (very much audible after prompting) interpreted as conveying Satanic messages. See also Chapter 6 of my forthcoming book Bad Linguistics (when available).

Mark Newbrook