There are a few things that have always been musically satisfying: finding a rare LP on vinyl, getting great tickets to a gig, and finding secret messages or even entire songs on records. With the success of our previous look into the world of all things musically secret, we thought it’d be fun to expose and enjoy some more hard-to-decipher tunes. From the influential Radiohead to the neon soul-pop of Janelle Monáe, it seems musical secrecy has been – and may always be – all the rage.
Beach House – ‘Wherever You Go’
When Baltimore indie duo Beach House put out album number four back in 2012, it was a treat for fans of the band, with the record getting rave reviews. While the album’s 10 tracks were enough to delight Beach House lovers, those who delved a little deeper will have also found the dreamy hidden track, ‘Wherever You Go’. If you missed it, it appears at 13:16 on track 10, ‘Irene’. Check it out.
Jarvis Cocker – ‘Cunts Are Still Running The World’
Never one to avoid saying or singing what he thinks, the Pulp frontman had a mouthy declaration hidden away on his first solo record. Appearing 30 minutes after the final listed song on Jarvis, this potty-mouthed indictment is a grandiose pop number. The possibility it was left off the tracklisting to avoid offence seems plausible, except that the track actually served as Cocker’s debut solo single. He’s a contrary fellow that Jarvis.
The Verve – ‘Deep Freeze’
With Urban Hymns and in particular ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, The Verve were catapulted into lounge rooms everywhere. But although their 1997 album was packed full of hooky singles, it also featured plenty of challenging songs, none more so than the hidden track. Popping up at the end of the record and following a period of extended silence, ‘Deep Freeze’ is a heavily psychedelic and ambient instrumental which is a long way from ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, that’s for sure.
Oasis – ‘D’you Know What I Mean’
Released at the height of Britpop, ‘D’you Know What I Mean’ was a seven minute lead single which began with random feedback, and featured countless overdubbed solos and general cocaine-induced nonsense. For example, morse code appears throughout, with the band attempting to tap out “bugger all” to no avail. The song also utilises backmasking, with the chorus “All my people right here, right now, D’you know what I mean yeah yeah” played backwards throughout the song.
The B-52s – ‘Detour Through Your Mind’
Renowned purveyors of smart pop, The B-52s had some fun with the backmasking controversies of the ’80s with their song ‘Detour Through Your Mind’. The band deliberately placed a hidden message in the track, which if played in reverse comes out as: “I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you’re playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle.” Hooray for the joys of vinyl.
Radiohead – ‘Like Spinning Plates’
On Amnesiac’s ‘Like Spinning Plates’, Radiohead prove why they are the thinking man’s rock band. Believe it or not, Thom Yorke sung verse one of ‘Like Spinning Plates’ backwards. The vocal track was then flipped in the studio so the words are heard as if they were sung normally, but with the unusual intonation and inflection that results from this kind of trickery. In fact, the whole song was conceived from reversing the chord progression of a then-flailing song, ‘I Will’ – which later appeared on 2003’s Hail To The Thief.
Ash – ‘Evil Eye’
Northern Irish alt-rockers Ash followed up their commercially successful third record Free All Angels , with Meltdown, a noticeably darker and heavier addition to the group’s back catalogue. The album included the hooky rock track ‘Evil Eye’ which features a creepy indecipherable whisper at the beginning. Play the song backwards and the message is a lot clearer. “She’s giving me the evil eye, suck Satan’s cock”.
Chumbawamba – ‘Look! No Strings’
Known for their 1997 mega-hit ‘Tubthumping’, anarchist punks Chumbawamba courted a fair share of controversy throughout their career. Towards the end of ‘Look! No Strings’, the group placed a sneaky backwards directive for listeners. The message? “Fuck Me Jesus .” It was a reference to an earlier tour of the same name, and saw them branded “the worst of the satanic backwards message bands” by a British publication.
Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Fire On High’
Victims of the 80s backmasking controversies that surrounded many big name acts, ELO responded to allegations their song ‘Eldorado’ featured a satanic message with a clever shot at those scouring their records looking for them. The song ‘Fire On High’ features a message read by drummer Bev Bevan. “The music is reversible, but time is not,” he says. “Turn back. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back.” Or in other words, stop wasting your time.
They Might Be Giants – ‘Planet of the Apes’
The left-field duo’s 1998 album Severe Tire Damage was a mixed bag that included live recordings, a few studio tracks, and a new single called ‘Doctor Worm’. But it’s the bonus tracks that are most intriguing. Unlisted but appearing at the end of the record is a seven song medley based entirely on the Planet of the Apes. Yep, you read that right.
R.E.M. – ’11’
Copyrighted as ’11’ and appearing at the end of their major-label debut, Green, this hidden track goes by many different names. It’s not listed on the album sleeve, is simply ‘Untitled’ in the iTunes store, and is known by fans as ‘The Eleventh Untitled Song’. “At the time it was really cool to have ‘hidden’ tracks for the fans, and that was ours,” frontman Michael Stipe told a fansite. It also helps that it’s a great tune.
Dr. Dre – Bitches Ain’t Shit
Popularised among non-hip-hop fans by Ben Folds with his 2005 piano cover, Dr. Dre’s ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ was originally hidden in plain sight on Dre’s 1992 debut album The Chronic. While Folds’ version charted on the Billboard Hot 100, Dre’s version quickly became a classic within hip-hop circles. But it wasn’t until the album was re-released in 2001 that the song would actually appear on the album sleeve.
Bloc Party – ‘Every Time Is The Last Time’
With this short hidden track, taken from the end of Japanese pressings of Silent Alarm, Bloc Party showcased their penchant for beautiful, atmospheric instrumentals. ‘Every Time Is The Last Time’ is a wonderful surprise and gorgeous finale to one the finest debut albums of the 2000s. A gift for Japanese fans to deter them from buying imported versions of the album, for many Western listeners, it was actually reason enough to seek out the international version.
Janelle Monáe – ‘Neon Gumbo’
The funky songstress showed off her studio smarts with ‘Neon Gumbo’ off her debut full-length, The ArchAndroid. Played forward, it’s a collage of chants and eerie keys. Flip it over, and you’ll notice it’s actually the grand finale to ‘Many Moons’, a single from Monáe’s debut EP. Self-referencing at its best.
Pearl Jam – ‘Master/Slave’
Nirvana were featured in part one with ‘Endless Nameless’ and now it’s Pearl Jam’s turn. The grunge superstars rounded off their seminal debut, Ten, with the trippy psychedelia of ‘Master/Slave’. It’s mostly instrumental, although Eddie Vedder can be heard mumbling incoherently throughout the songs. To find ‘Master/Slave’, play Ten‘s final track ‘Release’ and skip to 5:20.Write a Letter to the Editor