It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part XXXIV

It was Thursday, August 7, 1986.  The latest battle in the culture war had just been joined.

Some disk jockey somewhere had “back-masked” the theme for the “Mister Ed” show – played it backwards on a turntable or reel-to-reel tape deck.  Somehow, “A horse is a horse is a horse of course, unless of course it is the hourse is the famous Mister Ed” turned into “Song to Satan”.


We were on the air that Thursday afternoon, taking calls on the topic. I was screening, Dave Elvin was on the board.

I listened to the purportedly-offending tape.

Mra mra mra mra sheeee ashoooaaaah uh shaaaaaaayn mooooaaaah mra mra mmmmmmmuaaaaa”

I just wasn’t hearing it.

This was, of course, during they heyday of the Peters Brothers, Twin Cities-area evangelists whose assaults on satanic influences in rock and roll, movies and other pop culture made them national celebrities.  Someone, somewhere in their church, had thought to play the “Mister Ed” theme backwards, found that little snippet of pseudo-scary sound, and made a big stink about it in the media.  In a few weeks there’d another controversy, another book, another rumor…

We took a caller.

“Hey, Don – why don’t you see if your new theme song has any satanic messages in it?”

Don chuckled.  “Yeaaaaah.  Good question…”

Dave Elvin didn’t need to be told twice.  He played the theme song onto a reel to reel tape on an off-air “audition” circuit (a feature on control boards that allows a moderately-talented operator to do two things at the same time).  He recorded the song, then stopped the reel recorder, and swapped the reels.  The tape was ready to play backwards.  I passed the word to Don.

“Ladies and Gentlemen”, Don started, “we’re now going to investigate our new theme song for satanic messages”.  Dave rolled the tape.

Nud nud nud ah ma nud nod aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah ma…

Nothing remarkable.

“Oh, yeah”, Don chuckled, “I hear something…satanic…” he vamped as the tape played, in the chuckle-y voice he had when something was on the verge of amusing him.

I listened carefully to the tape as Don talked.

Nud nud nud awwwwwwwwwwww, sit on my rod

“Dave!”, I yelled.  “It said ‘sit on my rod’…”.  I punched the talkback button, into Don’s headphones on the air.  “Don!  It said ‘sit on my rod!”.

Don chuckled.  “We have word that there’s a…message…”

Nud nud nud awwwwwwwwwwww, sit on my rod

Don caught it this time.

Don had several levels of laughter.  There was his mild chuckle, when someting amused him.  There was his explosive chucke – “g-HAAAAAAAAA” – when something caught him by surprise.  And then there was the final, highest level; you’d hear a high-pitched wheeze, and then silence punctuated by a high-toned groan as Don struggled to regain control of his rampant funny bone.

We weren’t doing much better in the control room.  We had a few seconds of dead air, punctuated by Don’s wheeze.  Then Dave replayed the song again.  And we heard it again:

Nud nud nud awwwwwwwwwwww, sit on my rod

And Don broke up again.

It took a few minutes, but Don finally got back on the mike. “Well, there you have it.  Bill Kremlinger’s Don Vogel theme has a backmasked message!”

Kremlinger called a few minutes later.  “You’re on to me”, he chuckled.

Of course, it was random – Kremlinger’s Vogel theme was the lowest-tech piece of “music” ever recorded.

I think of that every time someone swears they found some evil intent in something that someone else says…

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