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Front Cover

The Satanic Writings on The Wall

Does Pink Floyd hate Jesus? Is the feeing mutual?

by Mike McInnis

Rock music has long been a target for various groups that claim that rock and roll is Satanic in origin. They argue that rock's only purpose is to promote moral decay, to encourage teenagers to use drugs, have sex, and kill one another. Or something. There is even one website out there that claims (I'm not kidding) that rock music is "a joint enterprise of British military intelligence and Satanic cults". That the Monterey International Pop Festival was held just to promote the spread of LSD. That rock stars are the pawns of organized crime. And so on.

These theories tend to weave all evils--be they potential evils, perceived evils, imagined evils--together in a gigantic web of conspiracy. The CIA is in cahoots with the mob and the Church of Satan and Keith Richards to develop LSD in order to brainwash the minds of America's youth and have them all engage in fornication and then get legal abortions.

Most of these anti-Rock crusaders tend to focus on heavy metal bands who clearly appropriated a lot of occult imagery, largely for shock value. And much is made of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page's widely publicized interest in cult figure Aleister Crowley. To be fair, there are some true Satanic references in certain bands' music. A lot of it is done for shock value, but some of it probably isn't. But then again, there are a rapidly growing number of Christian rock groups out there, too. (Don't worry--the Rock Is Evil crowd often claims that Christian rock bands are tools of the Devil too, so powerful is the evil of the dreaded rock music.)

A sixteen-year-old Texas boy brutally murdered his aunt after being lulled into a trance-like state by The Wall.

These claims have been around for ages. By today's standards, artists like Elvis Presley are decidedly tame and innocuous. Yet 45 years ago Elvis Presley was too racy for prudish parents and preachers to let their kids listen to. They wanted their impressionable children listening to safer, purer music, like the jazz that they had grown up with. Nevermind that 25 years earlier jazz had been considered wild music designed to enflame the loins and promote loose morals and whatnot.

I'd be willing to guess that 300 years ago, some parent somewhere was forbidding their young Austrian teen to listen to those sultry concertos by that satanic upstart named Mozart.

• • •

To be fair, it isn't often that Pink Floyd is held up as a representative of all that is 'unholy' about rock music by the Rock is Evil crowd. You might expect that references to the Floyd would be more common on these groups' propaganda. After all, Pink Floyd was one of the most popular and most successful groups of the 1970s, and during that time they gained a reputation as a favorite band of stoners. Equally damning might be the fact that the Floyd's music is typically revered by the same mullet-wearing metal heads who listen to Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica and Megadeth and the other bands so often targeted by anti-Rock activists.

Maybe the one thing the Floyd has going for them is that there are so many better examples of Satanic references in rock music out there that critics aren't often forced to distort the Floyd's lyrics and message to fit that mold.

But distort they do, nonetheless. I once heard a preacher use Pink Floyd as an illustration of rock music's role as a tool of rebellion. The specific quote? "We don't need no education." First, he ridiculed the lyric itself, noting the irony that if the speaker had sought a little education, he might have used better grammar. Then he went on to say that the song--and, by extension, the band--is trying to get young people to rebel against their parents' and teachers' authority.

Are they kidding?

Although the vast majority of Spare Bricks readers are Floyd nuts who see the problem with this claim right away, there might be someone zipping past this strand of Web who doesn't quite get it. So let me briefly explain. The first quote, from "Sheep", is a parody of the bible's Psalm 23. In full, the lyric reads:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green he leadeth me the silent waters by
With bright knives he releaseth my soul
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
He converteth me to lamb cutlets
For lo, he hath great power and great hunger
When cometh the day we lowly ones
Through quiet reflection and great dedication
Master the art of karate
Lo, we shall rise up
And then we'll make the bugger's eyes water.

The song describes the "meek and obedient" people who are easily led by the more dominating forces in modern society, comparing them to sheep who are led willingly into the slaughterhouse. They are essentially oblivious to their fate, and the authority (represented by the reference to the bible, and thus the church as an institution of authority) that they serve is only interested in them as a meal.

The other song quoted, "Lucifer Sam", is missing two key words. The unedited lyrics read:

Lucifer Sam, Siam cat
Always siting by your side
Always by your side

and goes on to say

That cat's something I can't explain.

It is quite clear that the song is not about demons, devils, or Satanism. It's just about a cat. (Though I suppose it might have been a particularly unpleasant cat.)

Another common target in the Floyd canon is the mock 23rd Psalm in "Sheep". One widely duplicated anti-rock tract tries to link Pink Floyd directly to Satanic rituals and incantations:

Pink Floyd sings, in the song "Sheep",
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...
With bright knives he RELEASETH MY SOUL
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places...
For lo, he hath great power and GREAT HUNGER."

Their song, "Lucifer Sam", they sing: [sic]
"LUCIFER Sam . . . Always sitting by your side
Always by your side."

Clearly, the author is quoting the lyrics out of context, leaving out key explanatory words and phrases. This is a common tactic in propaganda, which is what these tirades amount to. Misleading statements are the order of the day. So are patently false statements, like this one: "One of the most popular groups in rock history is Slayer." No serious music historian or critic would honestly say that Slayer was one of the most popular groups in rock history--they probably weren't even one of the 100 most popular groups in rock history.

Another common ploy running through these writings is placing something about popular, influential bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones adjacent to something about a hardcore death metal band that nobody has ever heard of. Guilt by association. 'The Beatles said they were bigger than Jesus, and were noted atheists. Similarly, the group The Satanic Brotherhood of Beelzebub commonly references satanic human sacrifices and openly encourages their fans to kill their parents, and sprays goat blood on their concert audiences. Both groups are Rock Bands, and thus both are Evil.' That's right, kids. E-vil. As in the fru-its of the de-vil.

Some anti-rock crusaders have implicated Pink Floyd in causing suicides. One author writes: "In February 1986, eighteen-year-old Phillip Morton, hung himself from a closet door in Delafield, Wisconsin. Pink Floyd's album The Wall, which includes such songs as "Goodbye Cruel World" and "Waiting for the Worms," was playing continuously in the background."

Not to trivialize the gravity of this young man's actions, but the nature of the association isn't clear. Did The Wall drive him to suicide? Or was he already depressed and suicidal, and somehow The Wall was something he could relate to? Sure, plenty of people find The Wall and other Floyd albums depressing. And plenty of people (some of them serious Floyd fans) misinterpret "Goodbye Cruel World" as depicting Pink's suicide.

Personally, I know plenty of people who might consider suicide if they had to listen to, say, Zee's Identity often enough.

From the same webpage:
"Anyone who has studied hypnosis knows the key vehicle for hypnosis is repetition. In hypnosis, the subject is usually asked to repeat a phrase over and over until their conscious mind is in a hypnotic, suggestive state. While under hypnosis, people have little or no control over their actions. Many times they don't even know what happened.

"In San Antonio, Texas, a sixteen-year-old boy while listening to Pink Floyd's album The Wall, went into a trancelike state. Without warning, he suddenly jumped up and brutally stabbed his aunt to death. According to the police report, there were no drugs involved - JUST THE MUSIC! The boy claimed the music HYPNOTIZED HIM and does not even remember the killing!

"Satan is using a powerful and subtle form of hypnosis to capture the mind. The key to hypnosis is repetition and the main ingredient of rock music is repetition. An overwhelming, repetitive, driving beat. That steady, repetitive beat can place the listener's mind into a dangerous state of suggestive hypnosis. And friend, that danger is frightening when you consider the words fed into that young impressionable mind!"

Curse Waters for using that same "Another Brick in the Wall" riff over and over again! He hypnotized this poor child! Of course, The Wall has sold something like 10 million copies, not including the live version and the film. One Wall-induced homicidal trance out of 10 million-plus people who have heard this album is hardly enough to establish a causal relationship.

The Wall also features backward masking, as does Amused to Death. The anti-Rock crowd always points to backward messages and subliminal messages as being tools of Satanism. Sometimes they claim that Satanic messages are planted by the musicians, encouraging their impressionable fans to quit school and kill their parents. But in the case of Pink Floyd, even the most irrational critic could tell that the two above examples are tongue-in-cheek and self-referential. Yet the anti-Rock crowd quotes Aleister Crowley's occultic writings as giving instructions to practice reading, writing, and speaking backwards. Thus, they argue, all backwards messages are somehow Satanic in nature.

On the baskmasking front, there is a particular webpage that features some truly bizarre claims and rebuttals. The author is talking about the backward message in "Empty Spaces", and suggests that there is a question or puzzle that listeners are meant to find the answer to. He writes: "This backmasking message is in reference to the info being fed through the other means, such as audio laser graphic imaging or audio holographic imaging. Through this info a psychological game is introduced to the listener's mind that has the victim searching for an answer to a game introduced by the computer programmer. The address to send the answer to, in the backmasked, is garbled as a cruel joke."

He goes on:
"Listen to the whole album and any time you hear what sounds like a 'laser' 'buzzing' sound, such as a pager on its vibrate mode being waved around in the air in front of your closed eyes, that moves around in a swirling motion, or circular motion, you have discovered what I call audible 'laser graphic imaging'. If you use a computer to trace out the motion of this 'laser' pen point, writing cursively in the air, you will find that it is not moving around in random circles, but is actually tracing out cursive words in the air. Specifically the title to the album, Pink Floyd, The Wall at one point. Once your mind learns how to follow this laser pen in the air you can follow what is being written. Add LSD and you will hallucinate, scientifically, certain colors to specific tones and the tracers will illuminate the laser pen writing in the air in a visible colored 'pink' cursive hand writing. Remember, in one song Floyd states 'for I have seen the writing on the Wall' and that is exactly what I propose is happening. Books of info is being transferred to the listeners. (Have a person take a pager on its vibrate mode and spell out words in front of your closed eyes and you will be able to pick up on the words being spelled out).

"Yes, what I am suggesting is that there can be a holographic album recorded within an audible album. And whatever info is being delivered without the hearers knowledge is limited to the COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS beliefs, values, etc...

"I will save the rest of the info for your response. I would ask that you not publish the specific songs and albums yet in that people would expose themselves to this manipulative material and I have not completely gave you everything involved. I believe that if you have any one you know involved in the music industry that can use a computer to analyze music it should not be hard to validate what I have given you here.

"I await your answer. Once you have validated my material, I can take you further into a computerized Satanic trip recorded underneath and through the audible music, but with more advanced technology. My purpose is that I am developing a deprogramming counseling program to deliver people out of the 'game' that is placed within their mind through Floyd's albums."

This poor fellow seems very serious about this. It makes me wonder how much LSD he was on when he cooked up this scheme. As curious as I am about what secret 'books of info' he thinks he has discovered imbedded within The Wall, there is no way on earth I would allow myself to be sucked into a conversation, much less a private meeting, with this guy. He has 'nut job cultist' written all over him.

• • •

Not all that is written about The Wall comes out of left field, though. Some of it shows genuine insight into the album's message. In an open letter to parents of teenagers, a Catholic bishop uses Pink Floyd and The Wall as his primary example of the negative impact of rock on today's youth. He claims that the music we listen to defines us: "Tell me what music you like, I will tell you who you are." He then goes on to summarize the first half of The Wall thus (alloting a sentence or two to each song):

"(1) The artist tells us he has cold eyes which are part of a disguise. He is obviously at war with the world. (2) Sure enough, modern life may look good, but it is as cold and deadly as thin ice. (3) The artist's father disappeared early from his life, leaving only a snapshot behind. (4) The artist's school-teachers were cowardly sadists. (5) His school education was a waste of time (famous lines - 'We don't need no education, Teachers, leave the kids alone'). (6) He turns to his mother, who promises to comfort him, but as far as he is concerned, her mothering him means her smothering him. (7) The politicians promised a brave new world, but they lied. There is no blue sky. (8) As fear the activities with which most people seek to fill their empty lives, they are a restless waste of time. (9) The artists seeks refuge with any "cold woman" in the "desert land", but in fact (10) the woman he is with means nothing to him. (11) Yet he longs for his girlfriend, but she is running away because, as he freely admits, he only wants her there in order to be cruel to her. (12, 13) In brief, all people around are nothing but bricks in the meaningless build-up of the wall of modern life which alienates and divides people from one another. Conclusion - (14) - this life is good for nothing but to be departed from, a song which has inspired God knows how many young people to take their own lives ("Good-bye, cruel world").

"Keep television and the computer to a minimum in the home... machines cannot teach people to be people. Only living souls can form living souls."

In all honesty, that is a pretty good analysis of the first disc. (I'd sure like to see if he can make any sense of the rock-star-turned-neo-Nazi stuff on the second disc.) But to assume that this album drives countless teens to commit suicide is hardly born out by any evidence. In fact, I would guess that quite a lot of discouraged, disenfranchised, demoralized teens find some comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone in experiencing these feelings. And ultimately The Wall's message is that this sort of isolation and alienation is more harmful than helpful.

The bishop goes on to say: As a colleague commented, the revolt behind these songs has something satanic about it, for instance when it sees no more in mothering than with smothering. ...The revolt against everybody and everything that is expressed by Pink Floyd is so against nature and so unhappy that one cannot believe such a mass of youngsters as make stars of Pink Floyd would choose it as a way of life if they had the choice.

Ultimately, he uses this as a call to arms for parents, saying that the youth respond to Pink Floyd's music because the adults have made such a mess of the world they live in, and these young people are revolting against that. Not entirely off base, in a way. And he recommends that parents "keep television and the computer to a minimum in the home. The problem is not primarily the filth so easily available on each of these machines, serious though that is, and more than enough reason to ban both. The real problem is that machines cannot teach people to be people. Only living souls can form living souls."

You know, in a way I can see Roger Waters agreeing with that statement.

And lastly, something positive. On this letter to an online ministry run by someone named Al Menconi, a woman writes: My husband is seven years older and we both have different styles of music and we also have two daughters, ages 10 and 13. I have stopped listing to secular music and have expressed my reasons to my daughters and as a result, have bought more Christian praise and worship music. On the other hand, my husband is a Beatles fan, and when the girls are in the car with their dad, that is all they listen to. As a result they know all the lyrics of the Beatles songs. He has a lot of CD's from Pink Floyd, and I told him that most of their music is satanic. I can't tolerate it. He is also a big fan of Eric Clapton. Do you have any articles or information about Pink Floyd, so that I can show them to my husband?

To his credit, Menconi responds in part by saying:
Also, Pink Floyd isn't a satanic band. They have a hopeless view of life and I don't recommend their music or lifestyle, but it is wrong to say they are satanic.

To be honest, I can see why someone might call the Floyd's lyrical message 'hopeless', especially if he wasn't intimately familiar with it. And I can only assume that any disapproval of the Floyd's lifestyle stems from complete ignorance about the Floyds themselves, and assumptions that they must be wild, debaucherous party animals like all rock stars. Guilt by association yet again.

That, or this guy is just really opposed to the antique-race-car-collecting lifestyle.

Mike McInnis is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.