No, not the chocolate ones, the hidden treats on albums. And who better to tells us about them than music supremo Liz Buckley? Happy Easter.
Easter time is all about celebrating the very foundations of the Christian faith through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour; which is annoying as I wanted to talk about TREATS!
Regardless of whether you’re dead on your feet like the big fella or just up for having a little “me party”, Easter always means extras – extra time, extra food, extra rabbits and extra content across all physical and digital media formats. For today, my children, we look at the Easter Eggs of music. I doubt it’s what Jesus would have wanted if I’m honest, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Musical Easter eggs can exist in many forms, and I don’t just mean a novelty purchase at Clinton Cards. It could be a secret, buried or coded track easily missed by the casual listener, it could be a camouflaged image in the artwork, it could be a track that plays at a different speed or in a different place to the rest of the release or it can be a massive fuck up at the mastering stage that the record company or artist then pretend is an enigma for your delight. And I thank you, mysterious extra content, for I love you all.
“Pink Floyd might appear to be mumbling berks, but if you play Empty Spaces on The Wall backwards you will hear “Hello hunters! Congratulations you have discovered the secret message”. Fun but ultimately unrewarding, like completing the Spectrum version of Donkey Kong.”
Always ones who loved to play around with limitations, The Beatles are perhaps unsurprisingly the first to be credited with dabbling with hidden content. Her Majesty on 1969’s Abbey Road went uncredited/unlisted on the record’s first pressing, is preceded by 14 seconds of silence and appears after a song called The End, so is easily missed by the impatient and the obedient.
That said, the band could be said to have beaten themselves at their own game, having an inner groove appearing two years earlier after A Day In The Life on the Sgt Pepper’s album at the end of Side 2. This little extra rather marvellously actually varies from release to release, is essentially a nonsense, and still doesn’t have a title or a credit to this day – GHOST EGG!
Nirvana’s Easter egg Endless, Nameless on Nevermind is a slight misnomer as it has both a name and an end, but this blast of an angry improvised jam freakout spontaneously recorded/included by the band’s studio engineer was considered the height of punk surprise when it suddenly kicks in more than 10 minutes after (somewhat fittingly) Something In The Way. Nirvana are credited with making the false ending to an album a popular fad in the ‘90s, with Alanis Morissette and Pearl Jam adding to the trend, and even Robbie Williams using hidden content so regularly that after 25 minutes of silence on his Sing When You’re Winning album, you finally hear him say “…No, I’m not doing one on this album.” The prick.
A “pregap” Easter egg is the other bookend to a record – Track 0 – and qualifies far more successfully as “hidden” with most conventional CD players unable to pre-emptively register it, the listener having to actively search for it by using rewind from track 1 and only if their machine will allow it. If you decide to go Easter egg hunting, you will find nuggets aplenty with short instrumentals, outtakes, chat and in-jokes littering many a new CD and re-release.
For those after something a little more substantial for their endeavours, Blur use a full pregap track on Think Tank called Me, White Noise, a song featuring their popular cohort Phil Daniels. Being quite hard to access and not on all copies, the band later issued it in other versions and formats, including as a conventional B-side, which was kind; but to be honest, it’s a lot of effort to go to to basically hear a drunk man shout, “I ain’t a mirror, fuck off”.
“Jack White pretty much made Easter Eggs everyone’s Christmas with his 2014 Grammy-nominated Lazaretto album, the vinyl edition having so many quirks you end up wondering whether to marry it or arrest it as a witch.”
The Super Furry Animals are *quite* the fans of the generous pregap offering and Arcade Fire used Track 0 on their Reflektor album to include a 10-minute medley of the instrumental parts of their album, but played in reverse (presumably as the ultimate “reflector” – we see what they did there).
Damien Rice’s 9 has a rather charming demo of 9 Crimes featuring Damien singing all the parts this time and Sly & Robbie have tucked away a cover of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita on their Late Night Tales.
My personal favourite, however, has to be Ferocious Soul, a drum track hidden on Public Enemy’s Muse Sick’n’ Hour Mess Age album featuring Chuck D ranting about the state of Hip Hop and the negative criticism he presumed the album would receive. Which it did.
Hidden material needn’t be as simple as being a bit of musical content at either end of the record though; some releases make you work that little bit harder for it. After bands such as poor Judas Priest faced bizarre, unfounded accusations of including Satanic backwards messages in their songs, it obviously became all the rage to actually do that. Pink Floyd might appear to be mumbling berks, but in their defence, if you play Empty Spaces on The Wall backwards you will hear “Hello hunters! Congratulations you have discovered the secret message”. Which is fun but ultimately unrewarding, like completing the Spectrum version of Donkey Kong.
Franz Ferdinand made this far cuter when they used a similar trick to say, “She’s worried about you, call your mother” on their track Michael. Aw, ring home, lovers of Satan. Sadly, no heavy metal bands tend to talk to Jesus backwards or we’d have a lot of angry music with what sounds like the word “sausage” over it.
Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief vinyl album was billed as a “three-sided record”, with two completely different sets of tracks on Side 2 and no sleeve information so you never knew what you were going to get until you put the needle down to play. A dicey one if you wanted to your mum to hear a safe joke.
Similarly, Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door might look like it came with quite plain cover art by their standards – “It’s just some dude sitting at a bar, ma, where are the sex aliens?!” But wash the inner sleeve with water and the accompanying black and white drawings become permanently coloured. Which admittedly is an effect I manage all the time with red wine, but this at least is deliberate.
Then if any of you have Radiohead’s Kid A on CD and have never lifted up the solid black inner tray, do it now – there’s a second booklet with lyrics to the next two albums hiding there. And if you’ve never played OK Computer and In Rainbows with a 10-second cross-gap (I admit this is a smaller crowd I’m talking to) they fit together to make one MASSIVE SUPER-ALBUM. In fact, the latter trick took fans so long to work out, Thom Yorke had to frustratedly start telling everyone about it.
As is his usual way, Jack White pretty much made Easter Eggs everyone’s Christmas with his 2014 Grammy-nominated Lazaretto album, the vinyl edition having so many quirks you end up wondering whether to marry it or arrest it as a witch. There are two tracks on either side of the album hidden under the labels, one playing at 78rpm and one at 45rpm, making this a three-speed record, you can chose an acoustic or electric intro to Just One Drink depending on where you put the needle, Side A plays from the outside in, there’s a traditional matte finish on Side B but Side A is a modern glossy, both sides end with locked grooves, it has a rare pressed with a flat-edged format, and once spinning, it PROJECTS THE HOLGRAM OF AN ANGEL. PRAISE BE TO EASTER!
As hidden content is actually appalling to listen to on the whole and no one wants this, here is a playlist of songs about the highs and lows of spring and the joys of sweets and bouncing bunnies. *Boing!*4509 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.