Morse Code in Music and Movies
There is just something about Morse code that sticks with people and draws them to it.
If you are fascinated with the code like I am, you probably know that it is often referenced in pop culture.
This article will explore some well-known songs and a few movies that mention Morse code or have secret messages in the code within them.
Morse Code in Music
Let's first look at ten popular songs with interesting references or incorporations of the code.
Natalia Gutierrez Y Angelo - Better Days
The first and probably the most fascinating instance of Morse code in music is within the song Better Days by Natalia Guiterrez Y Angelo.
This song was written to communicate a secret message to prisoners captured and held by The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC).
FARC is labeled as a terrorist group according to the US State Department.
Some of the prisoners had been captive for ten years and even longer, by this time in 2010, due to the Columbian conflict that is still ongoing.
Colonel Jose Espejo, the Columbians army's communications expert at the time, was getting ready to retire but wanted to help rescue prisoners so he could do so in good conscience.
The colonel had the song written with the help of advertising executives, music producers, composers, and the recording artist.
The Spanish message was written into the song in Morse Code and is repeated three times throughout the song.
The message translated into English is, "19 people rescued. You are next. Don’t lose hope."
They chose Morse because many of the prisoners were soldiers who were taught the code during their basic training.
It is certain that not every hostage that heard the message actually caught it, but it was confirmed later that many did and later escaped or were rescued.
For more details on this inspiring story, I recommend reading the full story here.
Rush - YYZ
This very famous song has a very unique opening riff that is actually Morse code for the title "YYZ."
YYZ is the Toronto Pearson International Airport code that the band first heard while arriving on a plane.
It came through the pilot's radio via the airport's VHF omnidirectional range system that is constantly broadcasting.
The story is that the rhythm of the code stuck with them, and they eventually decided to put it into a song.
The song was highly successful, grabbing them a Grammy nomination, and has been covered by several bands since.
The Clash - London Calling
At the end of the song "London Calling," Mick Jones makes a string of Morse code, with his guitar, that is clearly audible.
The message spells out SOS, which is the international distress signal.
This fits in nicely with the songs as it is mostly about disaster and the end of the world.
Metallica - One
This song really boosted Metallica's name and still sends a powerful message through its audio and visual effects.
In the music video for the song, you can see the main character within the song, Joe Bonham, tap a message in Morse code with his head.
The gruesome message translated to "please kill me" was a plea from a man gravely injured at war.
Depeche Mode - Agent Orange
The song Agent Orange was in fact named after the actual herbicide that the US military used as part of its herbicidal warfare program.
Near the end of the song, you can clearly hear what sounds like Morse code, but it doesn't spell anything notable.
It translates to "laxi" and is believed to be gibberish repeated a few times.
The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
A possible Morse code reference that is a little controversial may be found in the Beatles hit, Strawberry Fields Forever.
The possible code is fast and hard to make out, but some believe it spells out "JL," John Lennon's initials.
However, other people believe it is just nonsense gibberish or just a result of mellotron used to make flute-like instrumentals.
Kraftwerk - Radioactivity
Kraftwerk's single Radioactivity was released in 1975 and became a #1 hit in France.
The song has two instances of clear Morse code spelling out the name of the song.
After the second time, the code is heard, it is followed by the lyrics "is in the air for you and me."
Pink Floyd - Astronomy Domine
For many years people thought Pink Floyd had some hidden message in their song "Astronomy Domine."
At around 21 seconds into the song, the sounds of the code are evident, and people have tried to interpret them.
It does seem like they mean to make the sound of Morse code, but it does not actually translate into anything.
Duran Duran - The Union of the Snake
Duran Duran's keyboard player, Nick Rhodes, snuck in some Morse code into the song, "The Union of the Snake."
You can hear the high pitch keyboard play three short, three long, and then three short notes again.
It starts around three minutes and ten seconds into the song and is Morse code for SOS.
The B52's - The Planet Claire
Morse Code in Movies
Obviously, there can be a ton of Morse code found in old war movies, but let's look at some examples of its use in just a few well-known movies.
WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen these movies.
There are several uses and mentions of Morse Code in the iconic movie Interstellar.
In one of the movie's final scenes, Murph is seen looking through her room to find her old notebook.
When she finds it, it is shown that she somehow decoded the messages from the falling books.
It shows her drawings of the spaces where the missing books were and the signals in Morse code for the word "stay."
The composer of the Interstellar soundtrack, Hanz Zimmer, also snuck a hidden message into one of the soundtracks.
In the song "Coward," Zimmer displays some genius as he uses the rhythm of a ticking clock to spell out a word starting at about one minute and forty-five seconds into the song.
That code also translates into the word "stay."
One of the more famous uses of Morse code in real life and within a movie came with the Titanic.
The film only shows the captain commanding the operator to send CQD, which was the first distress signal before SOS.
The actual Titanic used both the old CQD and the SOS signal to call for help as it sunk.
There is a deleted scene of this that portrays it more accurately according to historical records.
After the captain spent hours using distress signals with CQD, the junior operator turned to the captain and said, "Send SOS. It’s the new call, and it may be your last chance to send it."
However, they chose to keep in just the CQD part for the final cut of the film.
The scene's title can be misleading as the Titanic did not send the first SOS ever, but it was the first time that ship used that signal.
The 2019 Best Film of the Year, Parasite, represented Morse code through the Korean version called SKATS.
In this film, a housekeeper for the Park family keeps her husband in a hidden basement under the house.
When a con artist family tries to steal the housekeeper's job, she asks if her husband can stay hidden living there.
The housekeeper's husband is clearly insane from living there so long, and he sends Morse code using light.
He hits his head on a switch controlling lights in the house to send a message of gratitude for Mr. Parks.
The con artist family ties this man up so that he does not interrupt their plan to take over the Parks' house completely.
In the end, the father of the con artist family ends up killing the homeowner as well and needs somewhere to hide.
He ends up hiding in the basement like the man he felt pity for.
After going into hiding, he sends his son Morse code with the lights in the house to try and communicate with him.
His son figures out he is sending messages and plans to rescue him one day by purchasing the home.