Paul McCartney Heard a Backward Message in The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper'
Paul McCartney said you can hear a vulgar message if you play one of the songs from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band backward. However, he indicated this was not The Beatles’ intent. Here’s what happened when Paul played one of The Beatles’ most famous songs backward –and why he decided to do so in the first place.
Paul McCartney on alleged hidden meanings in The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
During a 1974 interview with Rolling Stone, Paul discussed how fans found many hidden meanings in The Beatles’ work. For example, he mentioned some people believed the cover of Abbey Road contained clues revealing he died. He said it was easy to see hidden meanings in things if you were looking for hidden meanings.
Then he discussed backmasking. Backmasking is the phenomenon in which artists will put backward messages in their songs. While there are some examples of intentional backmasking, other times fans hear messages in songs played backward the artist did not intentionally put there. For example, Paul admitted that one of the songs from Sgt. Pepper sounded like it included a vulgar lyric when played backward even though he wasn’t aware of this until after the album’s completion.
What Paul McCartney heard when he played The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ in reverse
“Then the this-little-bit-if-you-play-it-backwards stuff,” he said. “As I say, nine times out of ten it’s really nothing. Take the end of Sgt. Pepper, that backward thing, ‘We’ll f*ck you like Supermen.’ For context, the final song on Sgt. Pepper is “A Day in the Life.”
“Some fans came around to my door giggling,” Paul recalled. “They said, ‘Is it true, that bit at the end? Is it true? It says ‘We’ll f*ck you like Supermen.’” I said, ‘No, you’re kidding. I haven’t heard it, but I’ll play it.’ It was just some piece of conversation that was recorded and turned backwards.”
Paul decided to play the song backward. “But I went inside after I’d seen them and played it studiously, turned it backwards with my thumb against the motor, turned the motor off and did it backwards,” he revealed. And there it was, sure as anything, plain as anything. ‘We’ll f*ck you like Supermen.’ I thought, Jesus, what can you do?”
Paul McCartney elaborated on the backward lyric in The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ many years later
This was not the only time Paul discussed this feature of “A Day in the Life.” He later mentioned it in the 1998 book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. There, he revealed he used to allow fans to come over to his house for tea, where they would treat him like a guru.
During one of these meetings, he learned that he could hear a vulgar sentence when he played “A Day in the Life” in reverse. In Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, Paul said you can probably hear messages in anything that you play in reverse. The reversed message from “A Day in the Life” was unintentional, however, it’s still fascinating that it’s there.
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