Just like other art forms, including film and literature, music is rife with sagas of frenzied recording sessions that never saw the light of day and legendary collaborations that were stopped before they ever got off the ground due to some terrible tragedy.
Indeed, the canon of popular music has seen hundreds of unreleased, lost, and abandoned recording projects, some of which seem as though they may never see the light of day, with everyone from Bruce Springsteen, to Dr. Dre sitting on top of highly coveted unreleased recordings.
We’ve decided to compile a few of those legendary recordings that we’d most like to hear. Our reasons for wanting to hear each album are different. In some cases, the artist has just been too much of a tease, in other cases, the recording could well have changed the course of popular music.
Kurt Cobain & Michael Stipe collaboration
Kurt Cobain always had an affinity for R.E.M., holding them up as the model for what he wanted Nirvana to be – an alternative rock band that had figured out how to manage superstardom without selling their soul. He even struck up a friendship with frontman Michael Stipe, selecting Stipe as the godfather of his daughter. With such a close personal connection, a collaborative album between the two would’ve been nothing short of amazing and it almost happened in 1994. Unfortunately, Cobain’s tragic death meant nothing was ever written or recorded.
Green Day – Cigarettes And Valentines
While many fans were conflicted about 2000’s Warning, we reckon the album was the perfect crystallisation of the band’s pre-2000s sound, embodying both their punk rock fury and their poppy predilections, with plenty of their trademark tongue-in-cheek humour. Their seventh studio album, Cigarettes and Valentines, was to be the perfect follow-up to Warning, but after 20 recorded tracks were stolen in the summer of 2003, the band ditched the entire project and recorded a new collection of songs which they released in 2004 as American Idiot.
Jimi Hendrix – Black Gold
This is one of those unreleased albums that’s not only legendary for the figure behind it, but for the story that it comes with. According to rock legend, Hendrix gave a copy of the Black Gold recordings, which were completed during a particularly fruitful period in the iconic guitarist’s life, to his longtime drummer Mitch Mitchell. Hendrix died not long after and Mitchell completely forgot about the tapes that his late bandmate had given him. Though they’ve since been located, they have yet to see a proper release and only a handful of people have ever heard them, save for one track, ‘Suddenly November Morning’, which saw an official release in 2010.
MC Hammer & 2Pac – Too Tight
Yes, you read that right. One of the most revered figures in hip-hop almost released an album featuring collaborations with one of its most unfortunate punchlines. While it may come as a surprise to some readers, MC Hammer was in fact signed to Death Row, the iconic hip-hop label co-founded by the infamous Suge Knight, known for signing such seminal acts as 2Pac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, and leading the West Coast’s domination of the genre in the early ’90s. Unfortunately, the label never released Too Tight, Hammer’s album which featured guest spots from 2Pac himself, though one track was finally unearthed in 2016.
Metallica – The Presidio Album
While we’re almost glad that we never got to hear Weezer’s Songs From The Black Hole or Green Day’s Cigarettes and Valentines because of the albums that were released in their place, we’re not so sure the same can be said about Metallica’s abandoned 2001 album, which has since been nicknamed The Presidio Album. The story goes that in 2001, the band set up shop at an old ex-Army barracks called The Presidio to jam and write songs for a follow-up to 1997’s Reload. After scrapping the sessions, which marked a return to the band’s epic thrash days, the band released 2003’s infamous St. Anger instead. While demos have surfaced, we still wonder what the polished version of this would sound like.
Dr. Dre – Detox
“Ladies, they pay homage, but haters say, ‘Dre fell off’ / How, nigga? My last album was The Chronic“, rapped Dr. Dre on his 2001 album The Chronic. Indeed, when it comes to hip-hop careers, Dre’s is pretty much flawless. Having only released two albums about a decade apart, one can say unequivocally that Dr. Dre has never put out a bad album. That’s partly why his repeatedly delayed third effort, Detox, is so highly anticipated. Reports conflict about whether it will ever see the light of day, and we hope it does, but it’s not like Dre needs the money. While we did get 2015’s Compton in its place, we’re still hanging out for one of music’s greatest unheard projects.
Neil Young – Homegrown
We got so close to actually hearing this one. Legend tells that Young was so close to releasing Homegrown that the country-rock album even had its cover designed and set. When Young unveiled the album along with 1975’s Tonight’s The Night, another album on the same reel, during a listening party, he instantly scrapped Homegrown for what he felt was a stronger and more upbeat album. While tracks from the album have been released over the years, the full recording, which was completed during a time when Young was arguably at his peak, has never surfaced.
Prince – Dream Factory
This one sort of crushes us. Not only would Dream Factory have been the first Prince and The Revolution album to feature the entire band in the studio during production, but the album would’ve featured enough music to warrant a double-disc release (reportedly totalling some 19 tracks). However, plans to release this incredible pop, rock, and funk epic were jettisoned after band members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman told Prince that they wanted to leave. Most of the tracks eventually made an appearance on Prince’s 1987 album Sign O’ The Times, but we’d still love to hear the magic of those original sessions.
The Strokes – Post-First Impressions of Earth Recordings
Following the release of 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, The Strokes went on what most fans interpreted as a lengthy hiatus, with the individual members nursing burgeoning solo careers and side-projects and scarcely mentioning The Strokes unless asked about the band in interviews. However, during the five-year wait between First Impressions of Earth and 2011’s divisive Angles, the band recorded nearly an album’s worth of tracks with producer Joe Chiccarellie, which they eventually decided to scrap and start anew. However, the final track on Angles, ‘Life Is Simple in the Moonlight’, made it onto the album in its original form.
Ghostface Killah and MF Doom – Swift & Changeable
While there was some well-publicised trouble regarding the release of the most recent Wu-Tang Clan album, much of that had to do with intra-Clan politics. When it comes to the members’ solo careers, their efforts are nothing short of prodigious. Case in point is Ghostface Killah, who has unleashed a steady stream of acclaimed albums since debuting with the Clan in the ’90s. The only man who might match his efforts is the inimitable (non-Clan member) MF DOOM. Unfortunately, it seems the collab that has long had hip-hop heads frothing at the mouth is being stalled by a lack of DOOM beats coming Ghostface Killah’s way.
Weezer – Songs From The Black Hole
We’re a little conflicted about this one. This is one of those unreleased albums that takes the form of scrapped sessions that led to what was ultimately a legendary and important album. Songs From The Black Hole was a “space-themed rock opera” that alt-rockers Weezer planned on releasing as their follow-up to The Blue Album, recorded mostly in frontman Rivers Cuomo’s home on an 8-track in 1994. The focus of Songs From The Black Hole eventually shifted and the album that the band released instead was 1996’s acclaimed Pinkerton.
Zack de la Rocha’s Solo Album
While we’re thankful for One Day As a Lion, Zack de la Rocha’s power duo that he formed in 2008 with former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore following the dissolution of Rage Against the Machine, the band was rather short-lived, releasing one EP before disbanding. de la Rocha’s solo material sounds far more promising, and by that we mean the Rage frontman has been promising the release of a solo effort since the early 2000s. Alas, it seems an album has been delayed indefinitely, along with its roster of guests, which reportedly includes Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Questlove, El-P, and DJ Shadow.
Bruce Springsteen – Electric Nebraska
Yes, believe it or not, one of the world’s most prolific rock icons actually has music that he hasn’t released, making it his work rate nothing short of God-like. After releasing his acclaimed 1982 album Nebraska, rumours began to surface that a full-band recording of the album, later nicknamed Electric Nebraska, existed. While The Boss’ management insisted that the version released was the “right” one, band members, including E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, praised the electric version of the record, though no release timeline has been stated.
The Beach Boys – SMiLE
This will arguably go down as music’s most famous and highly coveted unreleased album, unless it somehow turns out that The Beatles actually recorded an album in between Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the White Album. It’s like this: if you don’t have a copy of The Beach Boys’ iconic 1966 album Pet Sounds in your music collection, you don’t have a music collection. SMiLE was to be the band’s follow-up to Pet Sounds. After band leader Brian Wilson abandoned large portions of the recorded tracks, the group recorded and released the dramatically minimised Smiley Smile album in its place.