Easter Egg Hunt: Rock’s Best Hidden Tracks
Lurking on some of the most important albums in classic rock history are the magical audio Easter eggs known as hidden tracks. You think you're just getting 10 songs on that Beatles album? Well, you're getting 11, lucky you!
As you'll see and hear, these hidden tracks can arrive in many forms. Often they come at the end of albums, offering a thoughtful grace note to what has come before. Of course, they can just as easily be a silly piece of whimsy, a quick tear through someone else's song or even a glance at your favorite band's future plans.
Grab your Easter basket as we uncover some of the best hidden tracks in musical history ...
The Beatles, 'Her Majesty' (1969)
If it weren't for a highly dutiful recording engineer, one of the most famous hidden tracks of all time might have never been heard by anyone outside of the Beatles' inner circle. Paul McCartney recorded the 23-second "Her Majesty" for inclusion on Abbey Road's closing multi-song medley. It was meant to be placed between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."
However, McCartney decided he didn't like the track and ordered John Kurlander to throw it away. Luckily, the engineer had been told to never throw away any Beatles music, and tacked it to the end of a rough edit. When the band heard it the next day, they decided to keep the happy accident on the final album. – Matthew Wilkening
Pink Floyd, 'Jugband Blues (Coda)' (1968)
Syd Barrett says goodbye to Pink Floyd in typically unconventional fashion. His only songwriting contribution to their second album, 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets, falls apart (or spaces out, your choice) after just two minutes.
In its place comes first a squawking sound collage and then a completely different song, featuring the group's soon-to-be-fired former leader alone on vocals and acoustic guitar, asking, "And what exactly is a dream / And what exactly is a joke?" – Matthew Wilkening
R.E.M., '11' (1988)
The hidden final track on R.E.M.'s 1988 major-label debut Green sure goes by a lot of different names. Unlisted on the back sleeve, the song is copyrighted under the title "11," but it goes by simply "Untitled" in the iTunes store and is often referred to by fans as "The Eleventh Untitled Song." "At the time it was really cool to have unlisted, 'hidden' tracks for the fans, and that was ours," singer Michael Stipe told Pop Songs in 2008. "It's untitled because we just pretended like it didn't exist." – Joe Robinson
The Rolling Stones, 'Cosmic Christmas' (1967)
The Rolling Stones jumped far outside of their normal blues-rock comfort zone with 1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request album, which featured ornate psychedelic influences, a trippy lenticular album cover, some of their most unconventional songwriting – and yes, a mysterious-sounding hidden track.
Many people accused the Stones of copying the template set by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album with Majesties. In truth, the Stones' work was characteristically darker and hazier, but it does seem possible they picked up this particular tip from their peers. Unlike the Fab Four, the Rolling Stones stuck their hidden number, "Cosmic Christmas," at the end of side one after "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)," rather than set it so it tortured dogs or played for all eternity. – Matthew Wilkening
Van Halen, 'Growth' (1980)
A few seconds after the end of "In a Simple Rhyme," which is supposed to be the last song on Van Halen's Women and Children First album, Eddie Van Halen and company suddenly launch into another track. With a slow, stomping beat and a guitar riff that sounds like it should accompany Godzilla on his march to a boxing ring, it's quite the attention grabber.
Sadly, before David Lee Roth can even get a single word in, everything stops not even 30 seconds later. Supposedly the plan was for the full-length version of "Growth" to be the first song on their next album, Fair Warning. However, that never happened, leaving us all to wonder once again just exactly how we can break into the vaults at Van Halen's 5150 studio. – Matthew Wilkening
Nirvana, 'Endless, Nameless' (1991)
Within one of the most celebrated albums in history, Nirvana hid the song 'Endless, Nameless' at the end of Nevermind. On the original release of the album, listeners had to let the disc finish and wait about 10 minutes for "Endless, Nameless" to kick in.
The experimental and chaotic track goes back to the noise influence Nirvana incorporated on their early demos, and for fans who like their music weird, "Endless, Nameless" delivers in an uncomfortably spellbinding way. – Graham Hartmann
John Mellencamp, 'Let It All Hang Out' (1989)
Perhaps because it was much more light-hearted than the mostly brooding, introspective songs on 1989's Big Daddy, John Mellencamp left a closing cover of the Hombres' late '60s rave-up "Let It All Hang Out" off the record's tracklisting.
Somewhere soon after, the singer (or someone at his record label) thought better of it, issuing the song as a single and even producing the Beauty and the Beast-go-dancing video many of you are probably watching right now instead of reading any of these words. – Matthew Wilkening
Green Day, 'All By Myself' (1994)
Green Day's multi-platinum breakthrough disc Dookie ends with a quirky, 80-second acoustic ditty that features frontman Billie Joe Armstrong singing lyrics penned by drummer Tre Cool about being "all by myself" – and nearly breaking down into hysterical fits of laughter in the process, possibly due to being really stoned. Not surprisingly, the lo-fi "All By Myself" was left off the official Dookie tracklisting, but it remains a favorite among Green Day's biggest fans. – Joe Robinson
Alice in Chains, 'Iron Gland' (1992)
Hidden in Alice in Chains' classic album Dirt lies "Intro (Dream Sequence) / Iron Gland." It went unlisted on this sophomore project, only to be found tucked between "God Smack" and "Hate to Feel." The bizarre track pays homage to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," as well as the classic horror film The Shining. – Graham Hartmann
Black Sabbath, 'Blow on a Jug' (1975)
Being upstaged in a highly unexpected manner reportedly inspired Black Sabbath's oddball (and mercifully brief) hidden track "Blow on a Jug," which can be found at the end of the song "The Writ" on their 1975 album Sabotage.
Lead singer Ozzy Osbourne was perplexed, according to black-sabbath.com, when Free, Traffic and Sabbath were all outshined at a 1970 festival by none other than Mungo Jerry of "In the Summertime" fame – who yes, featured a jug player. "He was playing fucking jugs and he stole the day!" Osbourne exclaimed. "So, it just shows you it doesn't matter what anybody thinks. After Mungo Jerry, we didn't have a hope. Blowing on fucking jugs!" – Matthew Wilkening
The Clash, Train in Vain' (1979)
It would be just like the Clash to intentionally hide what just might be their most poppy and infectious track ever from public view, but that's not why "Train in Vain" wasn't originally mentioned on the tracklisting for their 1979 masterpiece London Calling.
Instead, the song was simply hastily written and recorded in a 48-hour span near the end of the sessions for the album, and originally intended to be given away free with a British music magazine. When that deal fell through, the Classic added the track to London Calling, even though the cover art had already been printed. – Matthew Wilkening
Smashing Pumpkins, 'I'm Going Crazy' (1991)
The gorgeous string-laden acoustic ballad "Daydream," sung by then-bassist D'arcy Wretzky, seems to close out the Smashing Pumpkins' 1991 debut Gish, but a 30-second ditty titled "I'm Going Crazy" actually ends the album. The unlisted surprise launches about 10 seconds after the conclusion of "Daydream" and basically amounts to frontman Billy Corgan singing about a descent into madness, repeating the line "I'm going crazy" several times over tambourine and fuzzy guitar. – Joe Robinson
Tool, "Maynard's Dick" (2000)
Tool put out a limited-edition box set in 2000 titled Salival. Along with a collection of music videos and live performances of both original songs and covers (including an awesome version of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter"), Tool hid a track at the end of the song "L.A.M.C." A partially acoustic track dedicated to the nether regions of frontman Maynard James Keenan, "Maynard's Dick" is a must-hear for Tool fans. It even utilizes burping and farting noises to close out the piece. – Graham Hartmann
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