I was stricken this morning by the knowledge that it's been a whole quarter-century since 1982.
Back in late winter 1982, I was in 7th grade -- which in my little town at the time was high-school. Everything seemed to be fairly decent. I was doing well in school. I had my two best friends to help me through things. I was practicing music for the spring concert, including this killer version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" which all four choirs were going to combine on.
It also marks a very strange period in my life -- one of three times in my life when the music was silent. If you know me at all, you know how much of a role music plays in my life. Whether it's radio, singing, composing, or me attempting to play a keyboard, music has been there for me. It has been my boon companion, my comfort, my strength, and so much more.
What happened all those years ago to make me abandon said stalwart friend? I place all blame at the feet of Channel 16. Channel 16 is the religious station around here. It's about half satellite feed from other religious broadcasters and half local stuff -- mostly churches wanting to broadcast a weekly service. One particular evening in 1982, they had a well known local boy preacher who'd hit it big on the Shoutin' Circuit as a singer/preacher (and is married to the daughter of someone I used to attend church with). Anyway, he was doing a show on "backward masking."
At the time, this was the big thing in evangelical/Pentecostal circles to get the kiddies to quit listening to the devil's music...... you know, subliminal messages hidden in backwards to try to turn us all into devil-worshipping, orgy-having, drug-using sinners. Just the latest of Satan's little tactics to drag us all to hell. These days, it's easy for me to be incredibly cynical about it all. Back then, I was gullible enough to believe.
Not that we watched Channel 16 at my house. My parents might have been religious, but they weren't fanatics. They also had a relatively healthy suspicion of many TV preachers. But one of my teachers did watch it -- and did an audio recording of the segment of the show. And brought it into school the next day to play for us all.
Yes, this was a public school. I often said that had the state stripped all funding for us, and the Southern Baptist Convention supplied the same money, nothing would have changed. In some ways, it was kind of nice to have teachers who were willing to share their faith with us. But at the same time, had I been in a minority religion back then or from a completely different culture, I'd have been mighty upset.
So anyway, Mr. B plays this audiotape for us. Get ready for a big shock here -- the song that they highlighted was .... (Are you sitting down? Can your heart take it?) ...... "Stairway to Heaven." The ol' workhorse of the "backward-masking" exposers: By God, you older people thought Elvis was the Pied Piper leading your children to hell -- he was an angel by comparison! We've got some people who are way worse!!!
Yep, they trotted that one out. And like an idiot, I was scared shinola-less. Later on, they analyzed the lyrics to "Hotel California" (which didn't even NEED "backward masking" to talk about Satan, according to them). Not the Eagles, too??? I love them. Oh well, I guess not anymore.
For about 3-4 weeks, I quit listening to the radio at all. Dumbest thing I ever did. Not that I missed all that much, musically speaking, but I can't believe I was so frickin' STUPID. I honestly believed the stuff they were trying to sell me. As an aside, so did a bunch of my fellow students, for at least a little while. I probably took it a little further.
So what brought me out of the no-music funk? I can't pinpoint any one thing. Just a need to reconnect to music -- perhaps it was due to the falling-out taking place among my two best friends and myself. It all just hit the fan that spring; too much togetherness, I guess. Anyway, reconnect I did.... and as I said earlier, playing catch-up wasn't that hard. "Hungry Like The Wolf" was still all over the place, as was "I Love Rock and Roll." Not that much in between.....
As far as the backward-masker exponents go ... the trend lasted a couple more years but apparently we teens were no longer taking the bait. The very next year, our pastor's daughter did her senior term paper on it and then did a presentation on it at church.
I wasn't buying the backward-masking argument this time. One, I knew that she did the paper to please her daddy, not on her own convictions. I also knew that every single "demonic" album came straight outta her local boyfriend's stereo. She is also the girl whose other boyfriend (oopsie! the out-of-town one) gave her a copy of Def Leppard's Pyromania and she asked us to hold it for her until she got in and out of her car. What? Daddy was a purse-checker, too? Anyhow, the clincher was the same segment of "Stairway" having a different message -- supposedly demonic, but different wording. Uh-huh. I heard four different people all analyze that section over the years and each one of them came up with something different. But it did lead me to believe -- believe that the whole thing was utter bovine-byproduct.
And I still do.