Technically, the first sinister message to appear in a Fab Four track was in the fadeout to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” in which John Lennon seems to say “I buried Paul.” This was part of the infamous “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy, which claims that Paul McCartney was killed in a brutal car crash in 1966 and secretly replaced with a double. According to the theory, the surviving members placed clues in their music and album art in order to tell the true fans what had happened.
“Clues” were supposedly littered throughout their Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour albums, but 1968’s so-called White Album had the motherlode. The gibberish spoken by John at the end of “I’m So Tired” is heard by some as “Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, MISS HIM.” But the freakiest message of all occurs near the very end of the record, on the notorious avant-guarde sound-collage, “Revolution #9.” An engineer’s droning voice intones “Number nine” throughout the plus-sized track, but in reverse it appears to say “Turn me on, dead man.” Upon closer examination, we’re not entirely sure what that means, but it’s still pretty scary!
2. “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin (1971)
Perhaps the most famous hidden message of them all, the connection with guitarist Jimmy Page and the occult goes way back. He bought famed Satanist Aleister Crowley‘s mansion, and rumors persist to this day that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for fame. In the early 1980s, evangelical broadcaster Paul Crouch leveled accusations at several notable bands that they snuck evil hidden messages into their music. He mentioned the “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow…” segment of the Zep masterpiece, which appears to say “Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He will give those with him 666. There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”
There may be no such thing as bad press, but the band were not impressed. They declined to comment at the time, but Swan Song Records issued a statement reading “Our turntables only play in one direction…forwards”. Several years later, Page did weigh in to Musician Magazineon the matter. “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.”
1. “665” by Soundgarden (1988)
It seems like lead singer Chris Cornell didn’t get the Satan memo…or else it just misread it. That’s the only way to explain this ode to Santa! Lines like “Santa, I love you baby. My Christmas king. Santa, you’re my king. I love you, Santa baby. Got what I need,” appear throughout the song. Who knows, maybe it was just a typo on the lyric sheet.