So the humble CD has seen better days, but let’s not forget that – while it ruled the physical-format roost – it was a good friend to us all. It had plenty of quirks and distinctions which were unique to the format – like those little spokes which made it impossible to get the damn thing out of the case, or the fact that they scratched incredibly easy and then skipped mercilessly, or their massive overpricing, or their limited 74-minute storage capacity, or …
Ahem. Let’s concentrate on one of the more nostalgic elements, shall we? Who remembers the phenomenon of the ‘hidden track’ – the cheeky musical additions to albums which went unlabelled or unheralded. Vinyl records could contain such hidden delights, true (via the technique of ‘double-grooving’), but CDs remained the dominant format for these sneaky add-ons. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones …
5. ‘Zero Is Also A Number’ – Nick Cave
A real oddity, this. In 1996, ‘Songs In The Key Of X’ was released – a compilation album of music influenced by (or featured in) seminal TV series ‘The X-Files’. Cave’s brilliant ‘Red Right Hand’ was a full-fledged album track, but the sleeve notes contained a cryptic message: “Nick Cave and the Dirty Three would like to remind you that zero is also a number.” By holding down the rewind button for a few minutes at the very start of the CD, listeners could discover a hauntingly beautiful secret track that actually surpassed the rest of the album. Mulder and Scully would have been proud.
4. ‘Running The World’ – Jarvis Cocker
Expectations were high for the ex-Pulp frontman’s 2006 debut album. As good as it turned out to be, it was the inclusion of ‘Running The World’ (hidden 30 minutes after the closing track) which made it an essential purchase. Jarvis’s finest moment, maybe? Warning: the lyrics are really, really NSFW.
3. ‘Poor Song’ – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
When viewed against their subsequent albums, the debut long-player from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (‘Fever To Tell’) can seem a little underwhelming. There are plenty of standout moments to be found, though: the exquisite ‘Maps’ goes without saying, but ‘Poor Song’ – a dark, raw number tacked onto the end of the album – stands up too.
2. ‘Train In Vain’ – The Clash
Originally intended as a giveaway promotional song for the NME, this was later added to the classic album ‘London Calling’ – after all the sleeves had been printed. Listeners who grabbed a first edition were surprised to find an extra song nestled at the end of an already-long album … and probably even more surprised to find it was the best track on there. And, like, one of the best songs of all time.
1. ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ – Eels
So Mark ‘E’ Everett decided this stone-cold classic didn’t suit the tone of his 1999 opus ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’, and slapped it on the disc as a hidden bonus. The record company had other ideas, however, releasing it as a single and forcing poor E to take part in a promotional video (the song was included in the soundtrack of goofy 90’s comedy ‘Road Trip’). He has to joke around with the actors. Just look at his face.