Hidden tracks, or those songs not listed on liner notes usually tacked on at the end of an album, within a “double groove” on a vinyl record, stuck either way before (track 0) the beginning of a CD or somewhere else that you may miss it. It rewards the listeners who are actually listening, not just hearing.
Of all the hundreds of “hidden tracks” the Beatles are considered the pioneers of the concept.
Some dispute which of their tracks is actually a hidden track but since the Inner Groove on Sgt. Pepper’s is really just noise and that in all my years of obsessive Beatle fan-dom I never actually heard the one on The Beatles (also known as the White Album), I considered Her Majesty on Abbey Road to be the very first true hidden track, tacked on 14 odd seconds after the final cut on Abbey Road as it had been taken out of the Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam medley.
With the advent of iTunes and iPods and iWhatevers, hidden tracks are getting easier to find so some of my favorites are not quite a secret but they’re still a good listen and worth finding.
On their self-released, available only through the merch table or online special limited edition album, Live!, the New Pornographers stuck a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams nearly a half hour after the “last song.” This is just really fun, since none of them particularly know the words. It’s hidden far enough back that I missed it until I put the CD in the computer.
Neko Case has her own semi-hidden track on The Tigers Have Spoken entitled Tigers Are Noble in which she introduces the title track explaining that tigers can’t be released into the wild because their habitat is being taken away and that perhaps because children are noisy and generally irritating they ought to be fed to the tigers. She adds that she was one of those irritating children who would have been tiger food.
Tom Petty doesn’t have actual musical hidden tracks, but he does add tidbits to make his albums hilarious.
For example, on Full Moon Fever where the vinyl would have to be flipped over, CD listeners hear the following message: Hello, CD listeners. We’ve come to the point in this album where those listening on cassette or record will have to stand up (or sit down) and turn over the record (or tape). In fairness to those listeners, we’ll now take a few seconds before we begin side two… thank you. Here is side two.
Into The Great Wide Open has a snippet of Tom opening a cabinet, asking “What’s in here?” and hearing noises from a dock he says “Oh.” and shuts the cabinet again before the next song.
Todd Snider’s Talking Seattle Grunge Blues detailing the exploits of a band that moves to Seattle, decides to be the band that didn’t play and eventually returns to Nashville to try music again is on Songs for the Daily Planet although it shows up fairly often in live shows so it’s not particularly unknown.
Willie Nelson’s Crazy: The Demo Sessions has an extra track with three demo versions of Save Your Tears, Half A Man, and Within Your Crowd. Along with these songs, the CD also includes an assortment of interview and annotations about the songs.
Vinyl record image from the Vinyl Record Generator.