Lord knows how many poor, unsuspecting fools are killed by hidden tracks every year. Think of it--the late-night lone driver, winding down a mountain highway, happily head-bobbing to the latest CD by his or her favorite band. The final chord of the last listed track fades, but he leaves the volume set on stun, assuming the disc is indeed played out. It's a tragic mistake. After ten minutes of soothing silence, he's jarred by a blast of feedback from a nefarious hidden cut, crashes through the guardrail and plummets to a fiery doom. When authorities arrive on the scene, the charred, mangled five-disc CD changer is the last place they think to look for the cause of death, and the accident goes down as "excessive speed/driver lost control." Oh, the diabolical shame of it all!
If only people would look at the digital display on their players when loading a potentially dangerous CD. If it shows 99 selections instead of the 11 listed on the cover, that's a sure-fire tip that at least one hidden track lurks in wait.
Some of you old-timers out there may be thinking, "Curse you, digital technology! Would that we could return to a simpler, safer time when albums ended when they were supposed to." Balderdash! Despite being a prank of choice among "alternative" artists, hidden tracks are an idea with roots reaching back to the glorious black vinyl of the Sixties.
As a public service, we put together a time line of how this unsettling phenomenon came to be that shows where some of the more notorious hidden tracks are stashed away. Remember--when the music's over, DON'T turn out the lights!
Hidden Cuts: The Vinyl Years
1. Bob Dylan--The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1962)
An early predecessor to the hidden track as we know and love it. Columbia Records strongly objected to four politically charged songs on Dylan's second album and replaced them with less controversial material on its second pressing. While the new titles were printed on all the covers and labels, the boys on the factory floor either got goofy or struck a blow for free speech, and some fans who bought version two of Freewheelin' got the old record inside a new package. Talk about "Mixed Up Confusion!" Imagine expecting to hear "Bob Dylan's Blues" and being treated to the caustic "Talking John Birch Society Blues" instead!
2. The Beatles--Sgt. Pepper's "Inner Groove" (1967) Although not an actual song, "Inner Groove" was the first hidden cut purposely designed to freak out people who think the record's over. After the dramatic 53-second piano chord ends "A Day in the Life," proud owners of early European pressings of Sgt. Pepper were jolted back to reality by a few seconds of loud gibberish on the run-off groove.
Naturally, Beatleologists looking for The Word played this bit of nonsense backward and uncovered an even bigger bit of nonsense: what sounds like a pinch-nosed Paul McCartney screaming "We'll fuck you like you're Superman." Well, that's one way to prove little Paulie isn't dead!
3. The Rolling Stones--"We Wish You a Merry Christmas" (1967) During John Lennon's infamous 1970 interview with Rolling Stone wunderkind Jann Wenner, the ex-Beatle complained that those copycat Stones were always two months behind the Fabs. With all the Stones' drug busts in 1967, Mick and the boys found themselves a solid five months behind Sgt. Pepper. Natch, the Stones' psychedelic mishmash Their Satanic Majesties Request also featured a brief hidden track. Buried at the end of side one is a slowed-down rendition of the Yuletide favorite, played on mellotron by Bill Wyman. It wasn't such an unusual selection, considering the album was originally titled Cosmic Christmas. The less-than-decadent Decca label executives put the kibosh on another seasonal greeting the group was bent on including inside the garish gatefold sleeve--a picture of Jagger naked and hanging from a cross. Bah, humbug!
4. Rod Stewart--"Amazing Grace" (1971) Right after his raucous interpretation of Elvis' "That's All Right Mama" (on Every Picture Tells a Story), Rod the Mod rips into an off-the-cuff rendition of this old spiritual, accompanied only by Ron Wood on slide guitar. Unplugged and unlisted.
5. Monty Python--Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973)
And now for something completely different--this comedy album has a whole hidden side. Side two has alternate sets of grooves, yielding one of two different skits, depending on where the needle lands.
6. John Lennon--"Nutopia International Anthem" (1973)
The man who imagined no countries and was about to be deported from one gave birth to a new nation on the cover of his Mind Games album. Lennon proposed "Nutopia," a place which had no borders or government, but did sport a nifty theme song--three seconds of silence at the close of side one. Apparently, some fans felt shortchanged by this "mind game," prompting EMI to print "(Silent track, 3 seconds)" on the cover of the budget reissue.
7. The Sex Pistols--"The Biggest Blow" (1979) Even an album called The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle had something extra for record buyers--early copies neglected to list "The Biggest Blow." This previously released single was Pistols' Svengali Malcolm MacLaren's zaniest scheme to date--flying the remaining two Sex Pistols down to Rio to record with Johnny Rotten's new replacement, the notorious Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs. Don't quit yer day job, Ronnie!
8. The Clash--"Train in Vain (Stand By Me)" (1980) Also referred to as "The Hidden Cut!" on shrink-wrap stickers plastered across London Calling. Only true punks would bury their most commercial song to date at the end of a double album and neglect to list it. "Train in Vain" couldn't be ignored and was eventually released as a single, turned into a jeans commercial jingle, sampled by Big Audio Dynamite and covered by Annie Lennox--yet it's still not listed on the London Calling CD. "Train" came together in the studio at the 11th hour of recording the band's third album and would have been listed if the covers and labels had not already been printed. Soon thereafter, the Clash's inability to surmise when to stop working on an album resulted in a sprawling, three-record mess known as Sandinista!, a collection with several hidden tracks. Hidden, that is, because few ever bothered wading through the muck to find them.
Hidden Tracks Come of Age, Digitally
9. Soul Asylum--"Put the Bone In" (1988) Stickers on Hang Time hinted that this album includes a "bone-us track." Haw haw!
10. R.E.M.--"11" (1989) R.E.M. performed "So. Central Rain" on national television before it had a title, so the next logical step was to release a track and never bother naming it. Although no track 11 is listed on the cover of Green, it is noted on the actual disc itself. "This song is here to make you strong," warbles Michael Stipe. He could be referring to the album itself, since this up-tempo, untitled tune follows two of the group's weakest-ever offerings: "Hairshirt" and "I Remember California."
11. Freedy Johnston--The Trouble Tree (1990)
His first CD on Bar None contains a hidden last track, followed by a 13-minute gap and finally a strange, hallucinogenic cover of that same unlisted final cut. Spooky, eh, kids?
12 and 13. Nirvana--"Endless, Nameless" (1992) and "Verse Chorus Verse" (1993)
Years ago as a lad in Aberdeen, Kurt Cobain used to scare his roommate Jessie Reed by recording "Jessie, Jessie, I'm coming to get yooo!" in ghostly tones at the end of 45-minute cassettes. Cobain would then rewind the tape and pop it into the stereo before both men retired for the night.
People who left Nevermind sitting in their CD player were treated to a similar fright. Ten minutes and three seconds after "Something in the Way" signed off, what starts off like the "Theme From Jaws" turns into a six-minute, full-bore feedback assault. Nirvana repeated its trick on the No Alternative AIDS benefit album, issuing "Verse Chorus Verse," a song left off In Utero that boasted the album's original title. Smells like teen mischief!
14. Chorus of Empire--Initiation (1992) Perhaps one of the most creative ways of hiding a hidden cut--to get to it, you have to skip back from track one.
15. Guns 'n Roses--"Look at Your Game, Girl" (1993) The only known hidden track penned by a mass murderer. Axl Rose tried to further his bad-boy image by wearing Charles Manson tee shirts and tacking one of Badtime Charlie's compositions on the end of The Spaghetti Incident?. At least Rose had the good manners to say "Thanks, Chas" at the end of it.
16. Nine Inch Nails--"Physical (You're So)" (1994) If you covered an Adam and the Ants song, how eager would you be for people to know about it? It's track 98 on Broken. Track 99 is a cover of Pigface's "Suck."
17. Stone Temple Pilots--"The Second Album" (1994) If you're one of those people who can't stand STP, think of the band's sophomore album Purple as a 40-minute setup for a fabulous hidden track. The album's back cover depicts a cake that promises "12 Gracious Melodies" in red icing, yet only 11 cuts are listed. Wait about 20 seconds after "Kitchenware & Candybars" and you'll hear some crazed lounge singer crooning "The Second Album, 12 Gracious Melodies!" It's not Scott Weiland at all, but a developmentally challenged Seattle musician named Richard Peterson who wrote the ditty for his second album, which also contained 12 gracious melodies and was titled (what else?) The Second Album. STP cut him a fat royalty check and Peterson continues to make money off the band's generosity. Hey, they're not so bad, after all.
18. Cracker (1994)
Tracks 69 and 84 on this self-titled debut are hidden gems, the latter being the ever-popular "Euro Trash Girl."
19. Supersuckers--La Mano Cornuto (1994) This Supersuckers opus would've clocked in at a paltry 26 minutes and 32 seconds if not for its hidden cut. Track 14 is the entire album played over again.
20. Mudhoney--My Brother the Cow (1995)
Not to be outdone by someone from their former Sub Pop label, these generation spokesmodels included their entire album backward as a hidden bonus cut--a whopping 40 minutes and 19 seconds! Yoo-hoo, Mr. Guinness, are you paying close attention?
21. Hootie and the Blowfish--Cracked Rear View (1995) Track 34 is a hidden cut titled, hoo, boy, "Track 34."
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22. Butt Trumpet (1995)
This eponymous debut includes an unlistenable 17-minute hidden cut that culminates with the boys in the band heaving into the porcelain throne.
23. The Ramones--"The Spiderman Theme" (1995) The official ode to Spidey is an irreverent end to the band's could-be farewell album, Adios Amigos. Why shouldn't Johnny and Joey identify with the web slinger? Like Spiderman, they haven't changed their wardrobe in more than 20 years.
24 and beyond: Lest you doubt that hidden cuts are spreading like Ebola, consider that the Meat Puppets' Too High to Die contains a hidden acoustic remake of "Lake of Fire," and local bands Chimeras, Spinning Jenny, Kongo Shock and Tucson's Dog and Pony Show all have hidden cuts on their new CDs. Happy hunting!