Despite the fact that almost none of these bands ever sold as many records as a lukewarm Captain and Tennille album, the phenomenon was taken very seriously by the media and churches; the 1980's weren't the 1960's. The conservative 80's saw a bizarre anti-Satanic grassroots wellspring, which ultimately became one of the great witch hunts (literal) of the last couple of hundred years. Using "recovered memory therapy", stories of ritual satanic abuse and sacrifice wound up circulating on TV talk shows; if all of the accusations had been correct, satanic ritual sacrifice was the #3 killer of Americans in the US, ahead of homicide and just behind cancer and heart disease. Yet, no cadre of ritual sacrificers were found, no evidence, no bodies.
While these accusations and the methods that brought out these "memories" have since been discredited (after ruining numerous lives of the unjustly accused), they helped to illustrate what a powerful signifier satanism is in the imaginations of the simplest of people; as a result, satanic rock didn't just not go away, it once again entered the mainstream; Motley Crue had a huge seller with Shout at The Devil. Slayer incorporated a pentagram into their logo. The Christian rock act Stryper became something of the anti-Satanic metal band, tossing bibles to the audience.
The suicides of some rock listeners after listening to albums by Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne helped lend the PMRC some muscle, which played a hand in getting their rating stickers on CD's. During the witch-hunt years, back-masking, the technique of recording subliminal messages backwards on an album, gained attention. At first, it was claimed that "Stairway to Heaven" played backwards concealed Satanic exhortations. Then other songs, until, perhaps as an example of how the anti-Satanists were truly grasping at straws, it was announced that the theme to the TV series "Mr. Ed" also hid a Satanic message.
Naturally, some bands decided to try this gimmick after hearing these stories. However, psychology has never accepted backwards masking as a way of instilling a subliminal suggestion; brains don't process backwards sounds very well.
Part IV: Satanism in rock today
Today, rock audiences are a little more sophisticated than they once were, and it takes more to shock. Marilyn Manson was rumored to be a minister in the Church of Satan, and persued a shock agenda, which included his choice of stage name. Rob Zombie is another dabbler in luciferian imagery. However, after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there seems to have been yet another waning in Satanic concerns (suggesting that Satanism may be the pastime of the idle middle-class; when survival becomes an issue, Satanism suddenly loses its allure).