Rock Music
Soon after rock music began making an impact on youth
during the 1950s it was denounced by parents, clergymen, educators,
and others in positions of authority. The new music was
antitraditional, antiauthoritarian, and disparaging of adult influence
over teenagers. Pastors denounced it as evil—the product
of Satan.
Rock music of the 1950s, however, did not prepare people
for the upheaval of the 1960s and the open defiance against societal
mores. In particular, the Rolling Stones’ image as a ‘‘bad
boy’’ band continued the identification of rock music with antiestablishment
values in contrast to the ‘‘tamer’’ persona exemplified
by the Beatles. In 1967 the Rolling Stones released Their
Satanic Majesties Request. This was a harbinger of future
events—two years later on December 6, 1969, some 300,000
young people gathered for a free pop music festival at Altamont
Raceway, California, featuring the band. The crowd
heard Mick Jagger singing ‘‘Sympathy for the Devil’’ while
Rochas d’Aiglun, Lt.-Col. Eugene Auguste-Albert de Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Hell’s Angels, who had been engaged as bodyguards, beat up
spectators and clubbed and kicked a man to death. After the
event, no one was willing to take responsibility for the debacle.
Some rock bands turned up the power on their electric instruments
and created the sound known as heavy metal, a name
that seems to have been derived from a line in the 1968 Steppenwolf
song, ‘‘Born to Be Wild.’’ One performer, Alice Cooper,
moved into shock entertainment by integrating the occult,
sadomasochism, and animal abuse in his act. The shock element
developed from an unplanned event in 1969. During a
concert in Detroit, Michigan, Cooper released some chickens
into the audience at the close of his act. The audience killed
them and tore them to pieces, a fact subsequently noted in the
A new connection between rock music and the occult was
made in the late 1960s by another British band, Led Zeppelin.
Formed in 1968, their first album went gold the next year. Guitarist
Jimmy Page had a strong interest in magic and the occult
and upon attaining fame and fortune purchased the house on
Loch Ness once owned by Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s advocacy
of drugs and sex magic had already earned him a reputation
as a supporter of black magic and Satanism (though he was
into neither), and that image began to follow Page, Led Zeppelin,
and the bands that followed their lead.
In 1970 Black Sabbath followed on the heels of the Rolling
Stones and Led Zeppelin. In spite of lack of interest from radio
stations and the music press, their first album hit the charts and
remained for 13 weeks. Other albums followed that kept the
band popular for the next two decades. While its predecessors
had some ties to the occult, Black Sabbath actively cultivated an
image of evil and darkness—its name suggestive of a satanic
mass and its use of black in their stage clothing and album covers.
Lyrics explored mystical fantasy themes. Among the early
members of the band was Ozzy Osbourne who would leave in
1979 and cultivate a more graphic satanic image.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, heavy metal was on the edge
of the larger rock community as music expressing teenage rebellion
in both England and the United States. As such, it was
music enjoyed for a relatively few years before its followers
reached adulthood. The music survived because there was always
a new crop of teenagers entering the market each year.
However, due to the rapidly changing audiences it was difficult
for many bands to survive on top for more than five to seven
years. In order to capture the attention of an audience with an
increasingly short attention span, some bands moved into the
most graphic portrayals of sex, sadism, and Satanism, themes
that played predominantly to male teenagers.
Satanist themes dominated heavy metal lyrics and images,
horrifying pastors and parents (even those raised on Elvis Presley
and the Rolling Stones). These people saw heavy metal
music as both a direct attack upon the mind and morals of their
children and a new low in cultural degeneracy.
Performers such as Ozzy Osbourne were singled out for particular
criticism. After leaving Black Sabbath, Osbourne formed
a new band that later released the albums Talk of the Devil
(1982), Bark at the Moon (1983) with Osbourne as a werwolf on
the cover, and Ultimate Sin (1984). Incidents in which teen delinquency
was tied to listening to heavy metal rock received
wide publicity and Osbourne was accused of instigating crimes
and suicides.
Another band drawn into the SatanismantiSatanism controversy
was Judas Priest. They were accused of releasing albums
that contained subliminal messages encoded into the songs via
a process known as backward masking. A Reno, Nevada, couple
charged that their son attempted suicide after listening to
their Stained Glass (1978) album, which they argued contained
subliminal messages ordering the suicide. The courts dismissed
the case but not before rock music received a significant
amount of negative publicity.
More contemporary groups that actively cultivated the satanic
image include Slayer, a relatively unknown band on the
rock scene whose albums covers include an inverted satanic
pentagram as their logo and other satanic symbols (such as an
inverted cross) and whose lyrics cultivate satanic and black
magic themes. Slayer was considered extreme, but other bands
such as the obscure Possessed to the more widely recognized
Motley Crüe (Shout at the Devil, 1983) also drew on satanic symbolism.
Contemporary rock has been criticized especially for the
values it incorporates. However, to date, no valid evidence has
been produced to link even the more objectionable form of
heavy metal music as a causal agent to specific patterns of antisocial
behavior or to long-term negative effects among devoted
Aranza, Jacob. Backward Masking Unmasked Backward Satanic
Messages of Rock and Roll Exposed. Shreveport, La. Huntington
House, 1983.
Clifford, Mike, ed. The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Rock. New York Harmony Book, 1992.
Godwin, Jeff. The Devil’s Disciples The Truth About Rock.
Chino, Calif. Chick Publications, 1985.
Rascke, Carl A. Painted Black. San Francisco Harper & Row,
Scott, Cyril. Music Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages. Reprint,
London Rider, 1950.
Stuessy, Joe. Rock and Roll Its History and Stylistic Development.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall, 1994.
Tane, David. The Secret Power of Music The Transformation of
Self and Society Through Musical Energy. New York Destiny
Books, 1984.
Wedge, Thomas W. The Satan Hunter. Canton, Ohio Daring
Books, 1988.

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