While most bands are happy to have recorded any songs that people want to listen to, some relish in going out of their way to hide songs. Whether they’re left in weird places on records or CDs, or just tacked on anonymously after other listed songs, hidden tracks have been one of pop music’s more curious phenomena over the last half century. Here are ten of the weirdest hidden tracks from otherwise mainstream pop and rock artists, which run the gamut from novelty songs to bizarre studio experimentation, or even just plain goofing off.
#1. “Rock and Roll Party” by Kiss (from Destroyer, 1976) – As Kiss albums go, Destroyer is about as experimental as the band gets (outside of Music from “The Elder” of course). Producer Bob Ezrin augmented the band’s meat and potatoes rock sound with a string section, a children’s choir, and assorted ambiance and sound effects. But none of that matches the sheer weirdness of what has since been labeled as “Rock and Roll Party.”
Seconds after the final song on the album, “Do You Love Me,” fades out in hard rock glory, in comes this trippy minute-plus sound loop that sounds like the aural equivalent of an acid flashback. It appears to be a mix of the choir from an earlier album track, “Great Expectations,” as well as part of a Paul Stanley stage rap from Alive! – wherein the Starchild informs the crowd that, “it looks like we’re gonna have ourselves a rock and roll party!”
#2. “Plexiglass Toilet” by Styx (from The Serpent Is Rising, 1973) – The best way to ensure that a hidden track never gets heard is to put it on an album no one will buy anyway, which is just what Styx did with “Plexiglass Toilet.” The Serpent Is Rising, which is easily one of the band’s worst-selling LPs, already didn’t have a lot going for it. To make matters worse, a rather pedestrian song called “As Bad As This” (written by co-founder John Curulewski) switches gears more than halfway through and becomes a Harry Belafonte-esque Calypso pastiche called “Plexiglass Toilet.”
Sounds like that might be a fun diversion, right? Check out a sample of the lyrics and get back to me on that.
Don’t sit on the Plexiglas toilet
Said the mama to her son
Wipe the butt clean with the paper
Make it nice for everyone
But don’t sit down on the Plexiglas toilet yeah!
A boy of five stands close to the toilet
Holds the lid up with one hand
Won’t let go the lid for fear that
On his banana it will land
Don’t sit down on the Plexiglas toilet yeah!
#3. “Hummus” by Pearl Jam (from Yield, 1998) – Pearl Jam is no stranger to weirdness, as anyone who’s heard Vitalogy can attest. But for some reason they felt the need to obscure this particular slice of oddness on the back of another song. So you’re listening to 1998′s Yield, as fine a PJ album as you’re going to find, and really digging the closing track, “All Those Yesterdays.” And then, after several seconds of nothing, comes this off-kilter, Middle Eastern-tinged ditty called “Hummus.” It’s bizarre, mostly wordless, and yet almost as engaging as anything else on Yield. Hell, it’s the one ray of humor on an otherwise seriously earnest record.
#4. “My Second Album” by Stone Temple Pilots (from Purple, 1995) – I’ve written before about how Purple is the album where STP really started to stretch their creative wings, but to be honest I wasn’t even thinking of this song. After 45 minutes of hard rock catharsis comes this… this… lounge song. You might think that’s Scott Weiland busting out his best crooner voice, but it’s actually Richard Peterson, a Washington-based musician who the band discovered by accident. In fact, “My Second Album” comes straight from one of Peterson’s self-funded albums. And yes, he loves Johnny Mathis.
#5. “Wah Wahs” by Joe Walsh (from But Seriously, Folks…, 1978) – Faithful Popdose readers will have already heard the Platters That Matter podcast where Dw. Dunphy and I discussed this fantastic record. If you stuck around to the end, and I know you did, you heard the tail end of the album’s lone hit song, “Life’s Been Good.” It’s basically just 45 seconds of Walsh (presumably) and some of the other musicians or studio personnel making sounds that put me in mind of the pigs from Angry Birds. I’ve never seen an official name for this track, which I’ve also seen called “A Flock of Wah Wahs.”
#6. ”The Real Song for the Deaf” by Queens of the Stone Age (from Songs for the Deaf, 2002) — You know that obnoxious sound you hear when some punk kid’s car — usually one with a stereo worth five times as much as the car itself — rolls down your street late at night with the bass cranked so high your collectible Lord of the Rings figurines rattle off the shelf and break? (I am not speaking from personal experience, mind you.) That’s pretty much the sound of “The Real Song for the Deaf,” which was originally hidden as a pre-gap song on Songs for the Deaf. In other words, you purposefully had to rewind from the beginning of track 1 to hear it. Whether or not you want to do that, I won’t judge.
#7. “Cosmic Christmas” by the Rolling Stones (from Their Satanic Majesties Request, 1967) — Truth be told, more than one track from Their Satanic Majesties Request should have been hidden, but that’s another topic for another time. The story goes that one of the working titles for the album was Cosmic Christmas, which obviously didn’t stick.
Instead the name was given to a hidden coda tacked at the end of Side A, after the conclusion of “Sing This All Together (See What Happens).” It’s nothing more than the melody to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” but played like an atonal dirge, as if performed by the house band in Hades.
#8. “Hello CD Listeners” by Tom Petty (from Full Moon Fever, 1989) — By the time Full Moon Fever came out in 1989, there was no question that records and cassettes were on the way out as the music mediums of choice for the majority of music fans. But Tom Petty, gracious soul that he is, was not about to rub it in the faces of vinyl or tape devotees. So at the conclusion of “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” which came at the end of Side A for records and tapes, Petty recorded a message for fans with a CD copy. In it he asked for nothing more than a few seconds of patience. What a swell guy!
#9. [untitled] by Queen (from Made in Heaven, 1995) — Taking full advantage of the running time a CD affords, co-producer David Richards (working with Brian May and Roger Taylor) offered up a most unusual way to end the last-ever Queen studio album. After the final listed song on the record, ”It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise),” and a four-second track called “Yeah,” comes this 22-minute exercise in pure ambient mood music. It’s probably the most anti-Queen song the band ever released, and yet I can’t think of a more fitting way to close the book on Made in Heaven. The track offers a final moment of peace in the wake of incalculable loss.
#10. “The Run-Out Groove” by the Beatles (from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967) — Last but certainly not least, we have the progenitor of the hidden album track. Although it doesn’t have an official name, if you’ve ever heard Sgt. Pepper’s you know what I’m referring to already. After a lengthy silence following the thunderous chord that ends “A Day in the Life,” listeners with young ears — and a British pressing of the album — can hear a brief, high-pitched tone (15 kHz to be exact), followed by a repeating loop of nonsense chatter and a phrase that sounds something like, “it never could be any other.” Played backwards, this gibberish sounds suspiciously like the phrase “We’ll fuck you like a Superman.”
That this bit of studio trickery was etched into the run-out groove of Side B — meaning that unless you take the needle off the record it will play endlessly — explains how it got its name. What it doesn’t explain is how any of the Beatles would know anything about Superman’s sexual prowess, unless they didn’t have the Comics Code Authority in the U.K.