Backwards Masking Unmasked: A book review (in multiple parts)

I’m a sucker for cheap books. Especially cheap Christian books. Especially dodgy cheap Christian books at a library fire sale because nobody has ever borrowed them… I’m building quite a collection. With the intention of inflicting them on you dear reader blogging my way through all of them.

First cab off the rank is Jacob Aranza’s “Backward Masking Unmasked” published in 1984. The book features an opening letter from a Senator of Louisiana. Senator Bill Keith describes the sinister nature of Rock’n’Roll as one of the “burning issues of our time” – in hindsight I think it’s fair to say that Keith was not a modern day prophet.

Jacob Aranza is described in his cover blurb as being one of the outstanding young ministers of America. And someone who was involved deeply in the drug/rock culture of Houston, Texas at the age of nine. He was obviously uniquely placed to provide insight into the evils of such bands as AC/DC, the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Blondie, John Denver, Bette Midler, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and Eric Clapton.

The book only briefly covers the cover issue. Backwards Masking. It features spurious quotes from lobby groups, a weird blend of quotes from disparate psychologists seemingly cherry picked to build a case, and a bunch of conspiracy theory like links between various bands and a particular Satanist. If anybody has seen John Safran’s Music Jamboree it’s a bit like watching him build a case against something – only Aranza is serious. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Safran had read this book – it also accuses the Beatles of adopting backmasking techniques in order to further their own conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney is dead (which featured on the show).

In future posts in this series I’ll be sharing some insights into the bands you shouldn’t be listening to. But let me close with a passage from the introduction.

“If you don’t think this music is affecting the values of young people then listen to a few letters that were written in response to the subject of backwards masking being used satanically by rock groups. These letters were taken out of Hit Parader magazine. Hit Parader is a very popular rock magazine read by young people between the ages of 8 to 18:

“In a recent Hit Parader, a coupe of your readers wrote about rock bands and Satanism. Big fricken deal! The listened to Stairway to Heaven backwards, I’ve heard it too. But I still listen faithfully to Led Zeppelin.” – Gary Walker, Washington.

“All these Satan/Rock comparisons are driving me up a wall. I’m a good Catholic, but I also love rock.” Stan Lapinski, Florida.

“The people who say that rock and roll music and the various groups are devil worshippers are ignorant, and don’t know what rock music is all about. It’s just music! It relieves people from all the everyday problems. If anything it helps people.” – Steve Crocker, Florida

You can plainly see that backward masking and the forward messages of rock have taken tremendous toll already by the responses of these young people. The statement they are making is clear, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.””

This introductory chapter concludes: “So hold on to your earphones, here we go!”

If you have a favourite 80s band you think might be satanic let me know in the comments and I’ll include them in subsequent posts.


Ben McLaughlin says:

I love it. You’ve stumbled apon some gold there, Nath. I have always had a sneaking suspicion that Bette Midler was evil.

Let me know if you stumble apon anything about Judas Priest, or any other metal.

Lee Shelton says:

I still regret not buying up a book I ran across several years ago at a garage sale. It was written in the late ’70s, shortly after Star Wars was released, and made comparisons between the movie and Christianity. The author was apparently unaware of George Lucas’s New Age beliefs.

As for satanic music, you’ve already caused me to stumble by getting me hooked on Mumford & Sons. :P

Lee Shelton says:

Nathan, if you like books like that, you’d love the Christian comic books that came out in the 1970s. My grandfather ran a Christian bookstore, so I remember almost all of them. The great ones were published by Spire, and you can check quite a few of them out online here.

Surely Black Sabbath, a personal favourite of mine, has to have got a guernsey?

Gary Ware says:

“AC/DC, the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Blondie, John Denver, Bette Midler, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and Eric Clapton”.

John Denver??!!

simone r says:

this will be fun!

I wonder what he’d say about Alice Cooper?

Burt Mueller, Endwell, NY says:

Alice Cooper is covered on page 77 (I have the book in front of me) A few snipets:

“received his stage name while playing with a Ouija board… promised him world fame if he would change his name to the name of that 17th Centurt witch named Alice Cooper… later claimed to be the reincarnation of that witch… All these hellish and sexual overtones that Alice uses don’t make it very hard to belive that he is going to hell and leading many there along with him.”

a book review in multiple parts? where are the other “parts?”

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi Burt, thanks for the comment. This new theme hides tags, so until I get home to my computer and post a link here I’d recommend searching for Jacob Aranza in the search bar on the right.

Nathan Campbell says:

Burt, here are some more posts on Backwards Masking Unmasked (and the sequel).

Part 2

Part 1 of the review of the sequel

Part 2 of the review of the sequel

[…] They also have a “rock” ministry. Jacob Aranza says no. […]