It’s no secret that the Beatles put reversed messages into their music. It has been said that the Beatles track “Rain” was their first recording to feature a sound loop of the song itself in reverse. Below is the last 31 seconds of the song played in reverse. It doesn’t get much more blatant than this.
‘Rain’ was recorded in April 1966, and was intended for the Revolver Album but never made it there officially. This was the era the the Beatles really started to experiment with their recordings, trying to come up with new sounds and innovation. But ‘Rain’ was only the beginning, some might say that reverse singing or backmasking became somewhat of an obsession for the Beatles from that point forward. Or you could say that a lot of people are absolutely bonkers to believe the Beatles would ever intentionally insert reversed messages into their music. I tend to lean with the former myself, there is just too much evidence to deny this.
The year was 1966 for starters. 1966 was seemingly a big year in occult type circles as well with the Beatles, as we have seen here in the numbernineblog time and time again. The album that ‘Rain’ was intended- Revolver- had a series of working titles as listed by ‘the Beatles Bible‘ all things ‘Beatles official’. Of interest here is working titles; Abracadabra, Magic Circle and Four Sides Of The Circle before ultimately deciding on Revolver instead. Abracadabra interestingly enough was written about by Aleister Crowley:
Abrahadabra is a word that first publicly appeared in The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema. Its author, Aleister Crowley, described it as “the Word of the Aeon, which signifieth The Great Work accomplished.”
Abrahadabra is also referred to as the Word of Double Power. More specifically, it represents the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm—represented by the pentagram and the hexagram, the rose and the cross, the circle and the square, the 5 and the 6, etc.—also called the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of one’s Holy Guardian Angel. Source
Crowley also wrote in his work “Magick in Theory and Practice” about the importance of the initiate learning to ‘think backwards’.
First Method. Let the Exempt Adept first train himself to think backwards by external means, as set forth here following.
(“a”) Let him learn to write backwards, with either hand.
(“b”) Let him learn to walk backwards.
(“c”) Let him constantly watch, if convenient, cinematograph films, and listen to phonograph records, reversed, and let him so accustom himself to these that they appear natural, and appreciable as a whole.
(“d”) Let him practise speaking backwards; thus for “I am He” let him say, “Eh ma I”.
(“e”) Let him learn to read backwards. In this it is difficult to avoid cheating one’s self, as an expert reader sees a sentence at a glance. Let his disciple read aloud to him backwards, slowly at first, then more quickly.
(“f”) Of his own ingenium, let him devise other methods.
Devising Other Methods:
The Beatles Butcher Album, which in my opinion showed a plethora of occult imagery- see The Beatles Apotheosis article- was released in the United States in June 1966 (6/66). When the grotesque (‘Grotty’) cover became ‘all too much’ for the delicate psyches of American consumers, the above ‘Trunk’ cover was used to replace the Butcher album cover. The ‘trunk’ image used was reversed or ‘flipped’ on the official version. You can tell by looking at the buttons on George’s shirt to be certain. Mens’ shirts are fashioned with the buttons being sewn on the right side of the shirt. Here, George’s buttons are clearly on the left, signifying that this image has been flipped. Was it more aesthetically pleasing to situate the photo in this way? Or were they simply trying to ‘devise other methods’ of learning to think backwards? (Or was the goal to get the general -huge- Beatles audience to think backwards unwittingly?)
Other examples of official Beatles releases that were intentionally flipped:
Let him constantly watch, if convenient, cinematograph films, and listen to phonograph records, reversed, and let him so accustom himself to these that they appear natural, and appreciable as a whole
In the summer of 1966, the Beatles seemingly took a break from recording in the studio and pursued other interests independently. John took a job offer to film “How I Won the War” in Almeria, Spain and while there composed one of his finest masterpieces- Strawberry Fields Forever. As if the forward direction of the track wasn’t surreal enough, reversed- the track takes on a whole new life of its’ own. The specific lyric;
“Strawberry Fields, nothing is real” | in reverse= | “We’ll sing it man, we’ll be reversed.”
This is demonstrated in the reversed clip below at exactly 33 seconds to 40 seconds in. Precisely the time also that we get a somewhat sinister look from “Paul McCartney” (or whoever that is…) in the official promo clip for the song.
So would the general public get the idea to play these new psychedelic songs in reverse to hear the ‘secret’ messages contained within? Consider the promo film for Strawberry Fields Forever was obviously in reverse… they were practically telling you “this needs to be watched and heard backwards” in my own observation at least. But on the whole, you could also consider Crowley’s suggestions for the adept- in essence, the promo music video Strawberry Fields Forever, accustomed the viewer to accepting the inversion of reality, or to thinking backwards. To ‘accustom himself to these that they appear natural, and appreciable as a whole’ and that’s with simply watching it in the intended forward direction (which was intentionally reversed). However, at the time of release, I don’t think people ‘got it’. It was not obvious enough to the general inept viewer to think “A-Ha I should listen to this backwards” even given the hints to do so. It would not be until three years later in 1969 when masses of Beatle fans would be playing their records backwards in wake of the Paul is Dead phenomenon (which just happened to go viral on Crowley’s birth date- October 12th, 1969). By then, the Beatles had inserted so many reversed lyrics and subliminal treasures- people around the world are still being entertained by this technique five decades later.
Just as Rain was intended for Revolver, Strawberry Fields Forever was intended for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band but never made it there officially. Sgt. Pepper had its own trove of reversed ‘occult’ (hidden) messages, many of which have been interpreted as being “Paul is Dead” clues or play into the whole of the ‘Beatles Mysteries’ unsolvable(?) riddle. There is a case to be made with certain lyrics in reverse can really be translated in a variety of ways, interpretations varying ultimately from person to person. People generally hear what they want to hear in cases such as these, so take from that what you will. However, keeping in mind that INTENT truly is everything- there are some very intentional backmasks in the Beatles catalogue, many of which in my perspective are irrefutable.
Most notable on the Sgt. Pepper album is their title track (and reprise) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Reprise (The re-rise/resurrection), when played in reverse the exact lyrics:
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band | in reverse = | Apple Star It was a fake mustache
Apple Star takes on a variety of interpretations. First of all, we have the Beatles label itself, as the Apple and the album B side the sliced Apple. When an apple is cut in half and the seeds exposed, they form a five-pointed star. The ‘Apple Star’. Many traditions of the occult and ancient mythos hold the Apple sacred. The Druids do as well. According to Druidry.org :
Like their cousins to the North, the Celts attributed the power of healing and youth, or rebirth, to apples. Apples are one of the magical trees part of the Celtic Ogham tree alphabet, its Ogham name being Quert.
In Herefordshire, April 1768, twelve women bearing Apple tree branches walked in the funeral cortege of Velters Cornewall of Moccas. The apples probably symbolized the British after-life (Pennick, page 52). Apples are sometimes buried in churchyards in an effort to feed the dead. Apples also symbolize rebirth.
Always the same type of symbolism time and time again. There is however, another interpretation of the Apple Star that I find appealing (pun intended… ha!). ‘Ringo’ in Japanese means ‘Apple’ and ‘Star’.. well, means Star (or in this case, Starr). ‘Starr’ phonetically sounds similar to the Japanese word for ‘juice’ making the play on words here quite comical. Obviously, I am not the only one to have noticed this humorous pun opportunity.
Beyond the ‘Apple Star’ reprise- we have the inner groove of the Sgt. Pepper album, which is certainly an intentional backmask.
“Never to see any other way” | in reverse = | “We’ll all be magick supermen” *
*(This has been contested- some hear “Will Paul be back as superman?” and others here “We’ll all f*** you like Superman”
Of course, no Beatles Backmasking Blog article would be complete without mentioning the “Number Nine” repeat loop backmask from the White Album. Especially when that blog article is on the Number Nine Blog site! Most likely the most well-known ‘Beatle Clue’ in the form of the reverse subliminal backmasking effort is the first several seconds (that seem like hours) of the Revolution #9 avant-garde piece gracing the White Album. Again- I just don’t think there is any refuting this intentional placement.
“Number Nine” | in reverse = | “Turn Me On Dead man”
Revolution #9 in reverse really sounds like the correct orientation. I do think this track is meant to be played backwards in entirety. Also from the White Album we have more backmasks, mostly “Paul is Dead” type clues, at least that’s how they have been interpreted. I will list some of the more popular or interesting reversed lyrics below, you will have to try reversing them yourself at home if interested, and make up your own mind.
From Glass Onion:
The Walrus was Paul | in reverse= | Paul was the Walrus
Symbolism of the Walrus: psychic touch, uncovering the hidden, tough outer skin for protection, keeper of knowledge and wisdom
From I’m So Tired:
I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do | in reverse = | I wish I was not a Beatle
Also included in I’m So Tired is an ending that sounds like gibberish, but when played in reverse sounds like “Paul is dead man, miss him miss him miss him.” Both of these backmasks are quite amazing, and exceptionally clear and audible.
From Let it Be:
Let it be, Let it be | in reverse = | Paul is dead, Paul is Dead
From Blue Jay Way:
Please don’t be long | in reverse = | Paul is bloody
Project Artichoke was a CIA project that researched interrogation methods and
arose from Project BLUEBIRD on August 20, 1951, run by the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence. A memorandum by Richard Helms to CIA director Allen Welsh Dulles indicated Artichoke became Project MKULTRA on April 13, 1953.
The project studied hypnosis, forced morphine addiction (and subsequent forced withdrawal), and the use of other chemicals including LSD, to produce amnesia and other vulnerable states in subjects.
ARTICHOKE was a mind control program that gathered information together with the intelligence divisions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and FBI. In addition, the scope of the project was outlined in a memo dated January 1952 that stated, “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?” Source
Read de-classified documents (obtained by the FOIA) pertaining to Project bluebird yourself here.
The trend of Backmasking continued on even post-Beatles break-up with John, Paul and even George inserting more backwards clues on their solo compositions, as well as on new compositions on Anthology. There are many examples that you can find online if so desired, some better than others- there are a few that personally convince me of deliberate doing. (George Harrison’s It’s Johnny’s Birthday, Paul McCartney’s Gratitude, John Lennon’s How Do You Sleep? to name a few).
Beatles in reverse has been referred to in many media outlets including movies and TV shows, and even other musicians work. It is not really a mystery. The infamous Iamaphoney made an entire album out of the Beatles tracks in reverse called the Right Album (listen here). But some people still choose to dismiss this phenomenon, insisting that some are hearing things that just is not there. Now, I do question my sanity all the time… BUT I am not going to believe for a moment that some of those above examples are just ‘imagined voices’. After all, I suppose if you are in the position to be able to question your sanity- things are going to work out ok right? (Let’s hope at least- haha)
INTENT is everything. So what was the Beatles intent with these backmasks? In my opinion, the ‘Paul is Dead’ reversed messages did not start to appear until after Sgt. Pepper. The Sgt. Pepper backmasks in my opinion, have a lot to do with Crowley and magick, whereas the later ones took on a new focus. Whether that be because Paul has died and replaced with a look-alike you will have to determine for yourself. Why all the ‘Paul is Dead’ reversed messages prior to the rumor going viral in 1969 is also up for debate. Perhaps the Beatles wanted people to catch on to their reversal ‘game’- but when no one did, they leaked it? Just a thought.
As a final thought, and I hate to leave this article on this note- but I feel compelled to add this backmasked track in- there is a frightening backmask inserted into one of Yoko Ono’s songs from Double Fantasy, Kiss Kiss Kiss. Double Fantasy was the last album released by John Lennon prior to his death in 1980- and that is just another reason this ‘insertion’ is so alarming. First of all- “Kiss Kiss Kiss” in reverse sounds a lot like “six six six” but that’s not the alarming part. The song opens with a bit of gibberish spoken by Yoko- this would be the last thing heard when playing the song in reverse. When reversed, the gibberish transforms into:
“I Shot John Lennon”
The exclamations “Attack” and “Achtung”(German for “danger”) can be heard plain as day as well. Billy Shears over at the Sgt. Pepper Channel put together this montage below. It’s really not for the faint of heart- so please, don’t watch it if you have any inclination not to. It’s not pretty, and it will probably shatter your illusions (if they haven’t been shattered already) and leave a very bad taste in your mouth.
I know, what a horrible way to end this article… but it is what it is. Are we hearing voices that aren’t really there? Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case. Take from it what you will, apply it to the whole bigger picture- and ‘Tell Me What You See’. I realize I only scratched the surface here with reversal examples- there really are a ton. If you haven’t toyed with the phenomenon already- there are many of examples on YouTube or other places online, or you can easily do them yourself. Did I miss any really ‘big ones’? Or have you discovered any yourself not widely discussed? I would love to hear your thoughts, interpretations even criticisms below.
Thanks for reading.