Today’s kids have no idea what they are missing when it comes to CDs being a thing of the past. Namely, the hidden track. What a thing of beauty, truly embraced in the ’90s by musicians and fans alike, only to slowly fall away come the 2000s, popping up sporadically, until the true death knell sometime around 2010.
The resurgence of vinyl doesn’t help any because an artist can’t “hide” a song on vinyl. But on a CD, with no indication there was another song on the back cover or written about in the inside booklet, it would often be a delightful surprise.
Sometimes it was a song that didn’t make it to the record for a damn good reason. Other times, it was just a band being silly or even vulgar, the latter making the cut once or twice below.
Alanis Morissette – “Your House”
As if Jagged Little Pill wasn’t a treasure trove of great music already, this gem is buried after the final track fades. There are shades of “Uninvited” here, at least as far as the songstress’s haunting, conspiratorial tone goes. The fact that it’s a cappella makes it feel like even more of a “find,” if that’s possible. The Canadian rocker didn’t make the listener wait some five minutes for this creepy yet beautiful ballad about showering at an ex’s place; it comes on quick enough. While other artists made their hidden tracks a true treasure hunt, Alanis Morissette included what we would later refer to as the bonus track. She just didn’t call it that, or make any mention of it on the CD case.
The Afghan Whigs – “Miles Iz Ded”
The Whigs know how to close out a record. “Faded, ”off their impeccable Black Love record, finishes that sucker off so beautifully, to follow it up with anything would have been a travesty. “Miles Iz Ded,” the hidden track on Congregation, came long before that though, with singer Greg Dulli’s cigarette-beaten, gravelly vocals a perfect fit for a song about seduction and alcohol. The desperation brought about by a last call is relayed as cathartically as the emptiness brought about by a romance ending on the aforementioned “Faded.” Dulli remains one of the most underrated vocalists still in the game.
Green Day – “All By Myself”
Managing to be both silly and vulnerable simultaneously, this hidden track on Green Day‘s Dookie clocks in at only 1:40. As Beatles-esque as it is, it’s a clear indicator that “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” was on its way to a fanbase who at this “Basket Case” time had no idea how much they wanted and needed it. Sure, it’s an ode to masturbation—which is perhaps why it was hidden in the first place—but it also aptly illustrated what Billie Joe Armstrong could do all on his lonesome (literally and figuratively), armed with only an acoustic and his thoughts. It was the ballad that paved the way for the other better-known ones…when they came around.
Nirvana – “Endless, Nameless”
Never ones to make things easy, the Seattle trio buried this fan-favorite a solid 10 minutes after their breakthrough, and groundbreaking, record Nevermind comes to an end. Catch is, it’s attached to the official final song, “Something In The Way.” When that song appears to simply still be fading out, the most stalwart of fans will take note (and their time) to get to what Kurt Cobain and co. have up their sleeve. For they know it will be worth the wait. (Plus, you can fast forward on CD, but that’s beside the point.) The jam-heavy, chaotic closer did get its due, though, when it appeared by name as the B-side to single “Come As You Are.”
Better Than Ezra – “Pork Und Beans”
Too quickly dismissed as one-hit wonders (with that hit being 1995’s infectious rocker “Good”), Better Than Ezra can rock out with the best of them. Their setlist usually included a Led Zeppelin medley midway through that was as confounding to the ’90s crowd as it was up to snuff. “Pork Und Beans” (aka “Streetside Jesus”) would seem to let one in on that fact in the sense that it’s the collegiate trio’s foray into industrial metal, of all genres. It begins a little over a minute after the end of “Coyote” on their biggest record, Deluxe, and is the epitome of a curveball. Again, lest you’ve seen them live.
Limp Bizkit – “Stereotype Me”
This track is a trick as far as hidden ones go. It comes not at the end of Three Dollar Bill, Y’All$ but is instead tacked on to the band’s George Michael cover on the debut CD. Left off the single (as Fred Durst no doubt saw to it that his band’s energetic cover of the late Michaels’ big hit “Faith” was released as one), it would have lessened the effect of said cover anyway. It’s a great cover, with Wes Borland giving his guitar a workout on the otherwise breathy beauty of a song and DJ Lethal illustrating the art of the scratch. What, then, would buyers of the single have made of a song that clocks in at less than two minutes and is pure Limp, all distortion and attitude? Although, a song with a title like “Stereotype Me” tied to a Michael cover is quite the statement when you sit back and think about it. Which was the point, of course.
Everclear – “Hating You For Christmas”
One of the ’90s most criminally underrated bands, Everclear continue to make great music to this day, and this should-be Christmas anthem found its way onto their smash So Much For The Afterglow record. It’s pure Art Alexakis: heart on sleeve, middle finger extended upright for the world to see, lyrics awash in disgust and zero regret. Tacked onto final track “Like A California King,” it’s not quite as hidden as so many hidden tracks were in the ’90s but, instead, was there for those inclined to grab onto it in the throes of tragically relating so much to the album’s hit single, “Father Of Mine.”
Pennywise – “Slowdown”
This epic rocker has popped up on more than one pressing from the impressive Californian punk rockers but is best known as the hidden track on Unknown Road, the band’s second full-length. From its foot-stomping start to its cymbals-bashing finish, “Slowdown” is exactly what the band most definitely do not do on this song or even as a band in general. Ever. Here it comes blasting out of speakers shortly after listed final cut “Clear Your Head” ends. And that’s exactly what the first few notes of “Slowdown” will do for the listener.
Beck – “Analog Odyssey”
This Mellow Gold hidden track is quite literally exactly what the title says that it is: an analog odyssey. The groundbreaking Grammy-winning artist totally has fun for just under two minutes messing around with analog, producing trippy sound upon trippy sound. The warping of audio takes place just after final track “Blackhole” ends, which is apropos, as it sounds as if the listener has fallen into one, only to recover and take a ride on the rewind button. This is Beck’s third album—the one boasting “Loser,” what some would deem his biggest hit ever. After songs such as “Soul Suckin Jerk” and “Mutherfucker,” the LSD feel to the LP’s hidden track is actually welcome.
Nine Inch Nails – “Physical (You’re So)”
A companion piece, perhaps, to their hit “Closer,” this hidden track is that rare number to become a hit in its own right, if not simply a fan favorite. An even more interesting fact is that it’s actually a cover song. Not only that, it finds Trent Reznor doing to ’80s icon Adam Ant what Johnny Cash would later do to him with the Nine Inch Nails’ opus “Hurt”: He slows Ant’s ditty down to a point where it’s barely recognizable. Known best for his hit “Goody Two Shoes,” however, Ant was decidedly not one himself, and his oeuvre aptly illustrates that. Reznor simply renders this song a more simmering, sexy ode to the skin on skin. You can find it “hidden” on the band’s 1992 EP, Broken.