Embedding suggestive backmasking into mix tapes
In the mid to late 1980s, lots of kids made "mix tapes." These were audio cassette tapes that contained various songs, often adhering to a theme or a message. Sometimes you'd make one for yourself to listen to. Other times, you'd make one for your friends. Maybe you'd make one for someone you liked, that you wanted to be better friends with. In any case, it was a lot more work than putting a playlist together now is.
Now, some people had cassette decks with a feature called "high-speed dubbing." This feature would let you copy music from one tape to another in half the time. That could save you some time when you were putting together a mix tape. Otherwise, mix tapes had to be made in real-time. You pretty much had to listen to the music as you were making the tape.
Because there's no way to put an audio cassette on "shuffle mode," choosing the running order of the songs is vital and, hopefully, meaningful. You'll need to do a certain amount of math as well to make sure your songs fit well on each side of the cassette tape. You don't want too long of a gap of silence at the end of a side before the tape needs to be flipped over (or your fancy-schpancy auto-reverse cassette deck flips to the other side for you.) On top of all that, you'd want to get out your multi-color gel pens because while you're listening to the songs you're putting on your mix tape, you'll be drawing on the cassette case to provide accompanying artwork and a song listing.
I, and my friends, made a lot of tapes for each other. Initially, it was music off of other tapes and records but toward the end of the 80s, we started getting CD players and recording mix tapes of songs from CDs.
I was hopelessly in love with a girl in junior high. Heck, I think I was hopelessly in love with one girl or another from first grade on. A couple of these girls gave me a chance- One decided to kiss me under the teacher's desk in second grade and then we were an item for a day or two. Another girl gave me a copy of her school portrait photo in fourth grade and we held hands one afternoon. Otherwise, though, I just weirded these girls out. It didn't help that I was so head-over-heels in love, I couldn't talk to them, be myself around them, or even behave like a rational human being if they were nearby. So, most all the targets of my admiration and feelings of affection quickly and logically determined I was weird and should be avoided like the plague.
Anyway, like I said, I was in love with this girl in junior high and had already established the aforementioned plague-like stigma with her. But being twitterpated like I was does things to your mind. Namely, it infuses your mind with a liberal dose of delusion. Despite all the rebukes, rejection, refusals, rebuffs and renunciations, I would often convince myself there was still a sliver of a chance she could like me. And when I wasn't clinging to that tiny bit of hope, I would spend hours architecting and engineering a plan to change her mind, to convince her I was the one for her and she would really love me if she just gave me just one more consideration.
So, back to the mix tapes. I decided I would make her a mix tape. That would smooth over everything, I was sure of it. It had a few different songs on it, but it only made sense I included "All I Need is a Miracle" by Mike and The Mechanics. The chorus said it all: All I needed was a miracle. All I needed... was her.
But the tape by itself wasn't enough. I needed something more persuasive than on-message, on-theme songs. I needed something that would reach into her mind (through her ears) and, slowly (but not too slowly,) change how she felt about me.
In the 1980s, some of the bands I listened to were accused of employing a recording technique called "backmasking" to record allegedly satanic messages on their records by recording the messages backwards and mixing the backwards recording in with music on the record. The idea was that your brain could reverse the backmasked message you heard mixed in with the music and you'd be hooked by its evil hypnotic suggestiveness and bow to Satan's will.
I remember installing a double-pole, double-throw switch on the side of my turntable to reverse the polarity of the DC power going to the servo motor that turned the turntable surface so I could listen to records backwards to find out what messages my brain was being unknowingly injected with.
Anyway, hypnotic suggestion seemed like a good way forward. I decided if I wanted to make a mix tape for this young lady I was hopelessly obsessed with and who expended considerable effort to avoid any interaction with me, I had to backmask hypnotic suggestions into the music I was recording on the mix tape. These suggestions would surely change her mind about me and then we'd live happily ever after.
So, now I had two challenges before me. First, how was I going to record something backwards? Second, how was I going to embed the backwards recording in with the songs on the mix tape in a way that wasn't obvious?
One possibility was just to teach myself how to say the suggestive message backwards. Eh... let's come back to that if we can't figure out a better way. Fortunately, I figured out how to monkey with a cassette recorder to make it record backwards. I don't remember exactly how I did it, but I suspect it had something to do with reorienting the record head on the tape deck so that it was recording on the opposite side of the tape than it normally would.
Next, how would I make the heart-changing suggestion unnoticeable? I figured if the human brain could automatically decode a backwards message, it could also automatically decode a sped-up message. I found if I pressed the record and play buttons down on my cassette recorder only half way, the recorder would record but would do so very slowly. Then, when you played it back at normal speed, it would be sped up and you'd sound like a chipmunk. At first, I didn't believe it would be very useful in my endeavor to effect mind control via hypnotic suggestion if "All I Need Is a Miracle" was accompanied by a chipmunk babbling in some foreign language.
I decided if I took that sped-up backwards message and recorded a copy of it at slow speed and then recorded a copy of that at slow speed, and so on, I would eventually have a recording that sounded like a high-pitched buzzing that only lasted for a second or two. Next, loop that high-pitched buzzing so it was always there convincing her that I was the one she should love. At least it would sound more like the buzzing of an annoying flying insect rather than a drunk chipmunk.
So, the plan was set. I made the mix tape with the sped-up backwards messages embedded with the songs, or at least with that one song that said how I really felt. I asked one of the girl's friends if she'd give it to her (because I couldn't talk to her myself) and waited.
I was sure, at some point soon afterward, she'd come up to me and say "Doran, I can't explain it, but I'm sorry I thought you were weird and I'd like us to be friends... more than friends, actually."
Imagine my dismay when that never happened.