On Sunday I said I would try to play at least one request, and that is what I got: one request. iMonk reader Steve Scott asked me to talk about what happens when you play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven backward. Ok Steve, here’s your long-distance request.
First, a bit of background. I spent a fair amount of time (as in several decades) working in radio. I started just after Marconi invented the thing, and left it when it ceased being for the good of the community and became simply a money machine. (For the future of radio, and what radio should sound like, I point you to one of our sponsors, Broken Road Radio.) When I started in the radio biz, we played music on ancient vinyl discs known as “records.” Sound was etched into this vinyl, and recreated by a tiny diamond inserted into the groove on the record. The diamond—known by the misnomer of “needle” and by its proper name, “stylus”—was attached to a cartridge, which … oh, sorry. I taught this stuff for 15 years, and explaining it all is still second-nature to me. But this is not Wikipedia, so let’s move on.
Records could be played forward or, if you had the right kind of turntable, backward. Why would you play a record backward? To hear hidden messages. What kind of hidden messages? Ones placed their by Beelzebub, of course. Intended to lead you astray if you were listening to filthy rock and roll music. Songs that Satan could use to ensnare you against your will, because God apparently is not strong enough to protect his own against the evil one—and against a “message” you really needed some stout imagination to hear.
The Beatles started the whole backmasking thing when they recorded “clues” about Paul McCartney’s death in some of their songs in the 1960s. Christians got their undies in a bunch in the early 1980s when—sigh—Paul Crouch had some “expert” on his TV network to talk about the evils being forced on young people unaware. Suddenly, churches across the land had another horse to whip, whether or not it was dead. Rock and roll was proven—Hey! It was on Christian TV, so it had to be true, right?—to be a tool of the devil.
It was at this time I was asked to speak at a church on the evils of backmasking. I was going to be given the pulpit to share with parents how they could protect their children from subliminal messages on songs such as Stairway To Heaven. (You can hear the evil message on this song here.) I considered this request, and agreed to come and speak. “But,” I said, “my main message will be about Jesus, and how he is greater than anything seen or unseen. How that we must trust him and not get our eyes on any evil, real or imagined.” Once I shared this with the pastor of the church that had invited me, I was told they were not going to be able to use me after all. If I was not going to expose this very real danger, they really didn’t need to have me come speak.
Twenty-some years later I encountered a similar situation. I had been the editor (and ghostwriter of a good chunk) of a book debunking Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. A large church in Houston called and wanted me to come talk about the topic, and I agreed. But once again I said my main message would be Jesus and his reality as opposed to Brown’s fantasy. And once again I was promptly uninvited to speak.
See why I am not really in demand as a speaker?
Why is it that we Christians get so caught up in imagined evils rather than simply lift up the crucified Christ? What is it that he did not conquer in his death and resurrection? Am I missing something here?
Steve, there is your long-distance request. Next, up, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. I’ve got to use the bathroom …