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In a January 1982 television program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted by Paul Crouch, it was alleged that hidden messages were contained in many popular rock songs through a technique called backward masking. One example of such hidden messages that was prominently cited was in "Stairway to Heaven."[1] The alleged message, which occurs during the middle section of the song ("If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now...") when played backward, was purported to contain the Satanic references "Here's to my sweet Satan" and "I sing because I live with Satan."[2]

Following the claims made in the television program, California assemblyman Phil Wyman proposed a state law that would require warning labels on records containing backward masking. In April 1982, the Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee of the California State Assembly held a hearing on backward masking in popular music, during which "Stairway to Heaven" was played backward. During the hearing, William Yarroll, a self-described "neuroscientific researcher," claimed that backward messages could be deciphered by the human brain.[3]

Various versions of the alleged message exist. One such interpretation reads:

"Nor his woes; Here's to my sweet Satan. I wanna live it backwards like the Zep whose power is Satan. He'll give you, give you, 666."

The band itself has for the most part ignored such claims. In response to the allegations, Swan Song Records issued the statement: "Our turntables only play in one direction—forwards." Led Zeppelin audio engineer Eddie Kramer called the allegations "totally and utterly ridiculous. Why would they want to spend so much studio time doing something so dumb?"[4] Robert Plant expressed frustration with the accusations in a 1983 interview in Musician magazine: "To me it's very sad, because '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."

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Stairway to heaven backwards

Stairway to heaven backwards

Stairway to Heaven Backwards


  1. Denisoff, R. Serge. Inside MTV (1988): 289–290
  2. Arar, Yardena. (AP) "Does Satan Lurk in the Backward Playing of Records?" St. Petersburg Independent 24 May 1982: 3A
  3. Billiter, Bill. "Satanic Messages Played Back for Assembly Panel" Los Angeles Times 28 April 1982: B3
  4. Davis, Stephen. The Hammer of the Gods (1985) p. 335