Dancing With The Devil – A Music Censorship Documentary From 1991

A Channel 4 exploration of Christian hysteria about the evils of rock music.

It’s been a while since we posted a crackpot Christian Satanic Panic exposé, a look at the ‘lost’ worlds of censorship or anything about hysterical reactions to challenging music, so here’s all three in one. A 1991 Channel 4 documentary about (mostly) American hysteria about heavy metal, backward masking, occult messages and the corruption of children who will apparently grow up to be fine and upstanding members of society if you brainwash them into believing that music is evil and take them along to book – sorry, record – burnings.

With appearances by Deicide, Reverend Steve Peters (talking about “fifteen-year-olds on death row who have listened to rock music”, which certainly suggests a society gone badly wrong but not, perhaps, in the way he thinks) and a visit to ‘Freedom Village’, a rock music deprogramming centre that it’s hard to fathom could have existed outside the 1950s – but there it is, welcoming the hapless Cheryl who has been playing Dungeons and Dragons as well as listening to rock music – clearly in need of immediate salvation then. We also meet John Tanner, who put a shotgun to his head after a row with his girlfriend – though somehow or other, the blame ends with Black Sabbath. It’s not just crazy Americans though, as we go to Burton-on-Trent in England to meet an evangelist who is clinging desperately to the whole ‘hidden messages on LPs’ thing.

Being a Channel 4 production, you can almost feel presenter Steven Wells – yes, the buffoon from the NME – holding his nose at the idea of defending some of this stuff and so the whole thing is a bit half-hearted. But still, as a time capsule, it’s quite interesting. Of course, we are currently in the grip of another Satanic Panic stoked by QAnon and the Far Right (who see everyone who disagrees with them as a ‘groomer’) with books, records and artworks again being gleefully burned, so perhaps we shouldn’t feel too smug watching this. The madness remains.

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