Pre-iTunes, hidden tracks were like a horror movie jump scare hidden in a CD. You’d reach the end, forget all about it, and then two minutes be shook by a torrid blast of additional content like a ghoul’s hand bursting out of a bathroom mirror. If you fell asleep listening to The Stone Roses’ ‘Second Coming’, you’d wake up thinking you were at The Stone Circle at 3am on the Thursday night. They were also jukebox poison, because if someone inadvertently picked the track with giant gap in it you’d have two silent pints waiting for it to play out.
These days, secret tracks are far rarer, and when they appear they’re more like a lingering sense of threat. You stream a record, note that the final track is 37 minutes long and hope like hell that your favourite punk pop band haven’t gone all Tool on your arse.
If you’re lucky, a solid half hour of that track is silence; if you’re luckier still, the silence might be worth skipping through to get to something that isn’t a ‘hilarious’ studio gaff outtake, an over-earnest acoustic cover of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ or the drummer’s solo song they promised would definitely go on the record.
If you’re the type of person that sits through movie credits at the cinema to see if there’s a 10-second scene at the end (directors! Are the credits part of your movie’s narrative? No? Then put the fucking post-credits scene in the film! We’ve got shit to do!) then you’re probably an aficionado of the secret track. Here’s our pick of 10 of the best, weirdest and generally most memorable hidden bonus tracks released since The Beatles upturned the establishment by sneaking ‘Her Majesty’ on, 14 seconds after the end of ‘The White Album’.
1: Ash – ‘Sick Party’
Find it on: ‘1997’, 10 minutes after the last track
Leave the original CD version of Ash’s classic debut ‘1977’ running for 10 minutes after ‘Darkside Lightside’ and you’ll be greeted with the charming sound of the band vomiting, and being disgusted at themselves. As puerile and pointless as this seems, it’s still better than Nickelback’s hidden cover of Elton John’s ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’.
2: Nirvana – ‘Endless, Nameless’
Find it on: ‘Nevermind’, 10 minutes after the last track
The grinding warp-rock finale to ‘Nevermind’ was originally left off the first 20,000 copies because the guy mastering the record forgot to include it after ‘Something In The Way’. It was only when Kurt & co got the album home that they noticed it wasn’t there and insisted it be reinstated; the 10 minutes of silence preceding it was presumably to mitigate the mistake. Fair point though, Lana Del Rey was hardly ever going to cover this, um, zinger.
3: Blur – ‘Me, White Noise’
Find it on: ‘Think Tank’, by rewinding the CD from track one
If it wasn’t annoying enough to have to fast-forward through reams of silence designed to stop you listening to all of the music you’ve paid for to get to your bonus track, some of the pesky buggers started hiding songs before the album even started. To hear ‘Me, White Noise’ on Blur’s ‘Think Tank’ album, you had to rewind from the start of track one which, at the time, only people reviewing Starsailor albums were doing, to delay the thing ever starting. If you found it though, what a doozy – an evil punkoid ‘Parklife’ featuring Damon Albarn and Phil Daniels reunited to yowl “you’re dead!” over sadistic disco synths and apocalypse rave noise.
4: TV On The Radio – ‘Mr Grieves’
Find it on: ‘Young Liars’ EP
A haunting, multi-layered acapella version of Pixies’ ‘Mr Grieves’, buried on TVOTR’s 2003 ‘Young Liars’ EP, that truly brings out the song’s destiny as a barbershop classic performed by a doped-up death cult.
5: Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘The Real Song For The Deaf’
Find it on: ‘Songs For The Deaf’, before track one.
More pre-album shenanigans from Homme and co, as they dropped a Track Zero you had to rewind ‘Songs For The Deaf’ to hear. Not that you could hear it anyway – the track was 90 seconds of low-frequency bass tones that apparently only the deaf can ‘hear’. Geddit?
6: Dr Dre – ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’
Find it on: ‘The Chronic’, after the last track.
Loitering unlisted at the end of ‘The Chronic’ like the zieg heilers they try to keep at the back of Free Tommy Robinson marches, ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ was a sumptuous slice of Olympic level sexism that’s almost as memorable as Ben Folds’ emotional piano ballad version.
7: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Poor Song’
Find it on: ‘Fever To Tell’, after ‘Modern Romance’
The hidden track is often an excuse for an otherwise effervescent and energised band to kick back and slip a downbeat moment onto a wild-ass record without killing the pace. The CD DJ’s worst nightmare, in other words, but it can work wonders, as on Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut ‘Fever To Tell’. The plaintive, porcelain-fragile ‘Poor Song’ tacked secretly onto the end of ‘Modern Romance’ exposed the maudlin underbelly they’d scratch to full effect on ‘It’s Blitz!’. Bless.
8: Beach House – ‘Wherever You Go’
Find it on: ‘Bloom’, after the final track
Few hidden tracks seem out of place tucked under the carpet rather than taking pride of place on the album’s official track list, but it’s odd indeed that Beach House chose to hide away the lustrous, amorphous ‘Wherever You Go’ seven minutes after the end of 2012’s ‘Bloom’. Many thanks to whoever posted it on YouTube accompanied by scenes of cheesy B-movie gore.
9: Beck – ‘Diamond Bollocks’
Find it on: ‘Mutations’, at the end
Presumably how Beck is known down the Millwall – “here comes that ‘Ansen bloke, bloody Diamond Bollocks” – this wonky six minutes mucked about with pastoral ’60s Merseybeat, psychedelic rock, alien wildlife noises and a drummer overdosing on steroids at the end of 1998’s ‘Mutations’. The sort of experimental free-for-all that the superfluous space at the end of a CD was made for.
10: Eels – ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’
Find it on: ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’, at the end
Hidden track as commercial suicide? Why hello, Mark Oliver Everett. Having had his biggest hit in three years with the breezy calypso surf pop of ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’, a week later he bunged it unlisted onto 2000’s ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’ album as the secret track, as if daring his new generation of fans not to buy it. Crazy/beautiful.