Most of the time, the phrase ‘Easter Egg’ will make your ears prick up like a March hare and make you bolt for the nearest Crème Egg. However, in the context of video games, films and computer software, ‘Easter Egg’ has a different meaning. It basically means hidden messages or secret quirks. Instead of dashing around the garden for oval cocoa goodness, you’re hunting for nerdy little in-jokes – and there’s plenty of them in music. Ever since the Beatles slipped in ‘Her Majesty’ as a hidden track on ‘Abbey Road’, there’s been a slew of secret songs, backward-played voices and hidden codes. So, here are 10 of the best Easter Eggs the music world has offered us. Let us know which ones you favour in the comments below.
THE BEATLES – HER MAJESTY
Widely seen as one of the first hidden tracks, ‘Her Majesty’ is only 23 seconds long. It’s also made even shorter – one note too short, in fact – because its final tone is at the start of ‘Polythene Pam’. Sure, that might not seem that important, but it created a whole lot of bickering when the video game The Beatles: Rock Band allowed players to play the missing final note. The Fab Four loved the weird effect though, and kept it at the end of the album; it appears 14 seconds after the end of ‘The End’, which wasn’t actually the end, and the track didn’t even end properly (got a headache?).
PALMA VIOLETS – BRAND NEW SONG
Slipped in as the last song of debut ‘180’ after beer-spilling teenage anthem ‘14’, the Violets went all meta with ‘Brand New Song’. It’s basically a self-aware mockery of the pop world (‘two minutes fifty one / radio friendly’) through fuzzy ‘n’ scuzzy chords and don’t-give-a-fuck howls. Although it’s left off the listing, it’s a popular cut; most of their sets end with it with unofficial fifth member Harry Violent sometimes coming on to kick a few things and scream at the audience.
ARCADE FIRE – SUPERSYMMETERY / TRACK 0
OK, so this one’s a bit of a cluster-bomb for the mind. On the spiritually-charged groove of 2013’s ‘Reflektor’, Canadian collective Arcade Fire put a ‘pregap track’ – a ‘Track 0’ that is inserted before the proper start of the disc – onto the CD version. It’s nothing too special; it’s basically warped snippets of all the songs on the album spliced together. But, when played in sync with a backwards version of ‘Supersymmetry’ – as some absolute geniuses on YouTube have done – it creates something godly. Full of reverse voices that sound like they are echoing from graves, tape noises and cosmic hooks, it makes for a spooky but transcendent listen. No-one has ever sounded this bloody good backwards.
NIRVANA – ENDLESS, NAMELESS
Accidentally discovered by most people by leaving ‘Nevermind’ on for 10 minutes and having the shit-scariest fright of their lives, ‘Endless, Nameless’ lives up to its name; it seems almost eternal in its indescribable hellfire of thrash-metal screams and pounding drums that slap you right round the face. Its ridiculously pissed-off vibe is allegedly due to it being recorded after a recording of ‘Lithium’ went wrong – a godsend for those into grungy migraines of noise and fuzz.
THE CLASH – TRAIN IN VAIN
As Mick Jones himself has said, ‘Train In Vain’ was actually intended for a give-away in none other than the NME, as a flexi-disk to whet appetites for ‘London Calling’. However, the promotion fell through, so it was made an 11th hour addition to the punk band’s third album. Problem was, the record sleeve had already been done, making it an unintentional hidden track on the record. Many fans actually thought the song was called ‘Stand By Me’ because of the lack of official title and repetition of the phrase, but its chugging rhythm and twang-guitar Western vibe refuted that; and created a track even more infectious than Prince on antibiotics.
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – CITIZEN’S BAND
The Welsh Britpop oddballs decided to make ‘Citizen’s Band’ a hidden track as it didn’t fit with the general vibe of album ‘Guerilla’. Frontman Gruff Rhys said that it was concealed to make the album like a video game where the player discovers a new level. With its laid-back vocals and grungy guitars, it’s a great add-on to the record. It’s a shame, though, that a plan to hide the track in the album cover through a special sleeve didn’t materialise due to costs.
JACK WHITE – LAZARETTO
Jack White knows how to create a labyrinth of secret tricks and treats on a record. Perhaps one of the reasons that ‘Lazaretto’ became the biggest-selling vinyl since 1994 is due to its ultra-edition’s myriad of secret quirks. Firstly, there are two hidden tracks on either side concealed under the label. There’s also a clever piece of ‘dual-groove technology’, which means you can choose between an electric or acoustic intro for ‘Just One Drink’, depending on where you drop the needle. On top of that, there are different mixes to the CD version, a floating angel hologram, zero compression used, three different speeds used throughout and Side A plays from the outside in.
RADIOHEAD – 0110
In 2007, Puddlegum music website made quite the discovery. They found that Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was full of motifs to do with the number 10: it was released on 10/10, it was announced 10 days in advance and it has 10 tracks. Following on from that, they realised that if ‘OK Computer’ was represented as 01, then 01 and 10 together formed the binary code of 0110. From this, the ‘0110’ album was born, which is basically an interweaving of the tracks from both albums to create a purposefully made hyper-album where the transitions between songs are seamless. Sure, that’s pretty far-out, but when you consider that the titles of the two albums can make ‘Combination Super Work’ your mind is more blown than if you put your brain under a Dyson.
FRANZ FERDINAND – MICHAEL
As angular as a fisherman with good cheekbones, ‘Michael’ was one of many pieces of post-punk goodness on Franz Ferdinand’s debut record. It also completely subverts the conventions of ‘backmasking’, a trick where you hide backwards secret messages on songs. Although this form of vinyl trickery stereotypically concerns hidden satanic messages, the band did the exact opposite and shoved in a positive message of ‘she’s worried about you, call your mother’, referring to bassist Bob Hardy’s homesickness experienced while the album was recorded: #SoManyFeels indeed.
MARILYN MANSON – UNTITLED
Christ, this is properly, properly scary. With gurgled alien voices and hypnotic piano hooks, it creates the kind of vertigo fear that you get when you think there’s a stair when there’s not one. Rather niftily, Manson made it so that the track could only be played on a computer, as an auto-run slideshow with ‘Untitled’ as the backing music. Considering its haunting instrumentation and demonic vocals (‘a city filled with dead stars’) any on a quest to find this hidden track should take heed, especially if you’d rather not have a night terror.