The folk group Pearls Before Swine, a modest psychedelic phenomenon in 1967, thought they were pulling a fast one on their audience when they recorded the tune “Oh Dear (Miss Morse),” the most popular song from the band’s hit album One Nation Underground.
The folk tune was augmented with some basic blips of noise that sound vaguely like Morse Code blips. But it turns out that it’s Rapp’s hummable chorus that was hiding the real message:
di-di-dah-dit / di-di-dah / dah-di-dah-dit / dah-di-dah
If you know your International Morse Code, you’ll be aware that these sing-songy nonsense words actually spell out a certain four-letter word. This caught one popular DJ off-guard, according to the band’s leader, Tom Rapp, as most people weren’t aware of what the song was doing—except for Boy Scouts, who caught it right away.
"I tried L-O-V-E first, and the cadence was all wrong," Rapp told The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten in 1998. "Then I tried that, and you know, it was like God wanted that word in that song. It got Murray the K in trouble."
(The acid-folk act, whose best album is probably 1968’s Balaklava, is not the only band to try a stunt like this, though they’re a bit classier than the other band known for a similar stunt. In 2005, The Bloodhound Gang released the song “Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo,” based on the NATO phonetic alphabet, as the first single from their album Hefty Fine.)
Surprisingly, this detail is not the most interesting detail about Pearls Before Swine, an anti-establishment band in an era full of them. Instead, it’s the fact that, after putting his music career on pause, Tom Rapp eventually found a legitimate career as a civil rights lawyer—only briefly returning to the music industry nearly three decades later.
Not a bad career shift.