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In the field of recorded music, a hidden track (sometimes called a secret track or ghost track) is a piece of music that has been placed on a CD, audio cassette, vinyl record or other recorded medium in such a way as to avoid detection by the casual listener. In some cases, the piece of music may simply have been left off the track listing, while in other cases more elaborate methods are used. In some rare cases a "hidden track" is actually the result of an error that occurred during the mastering stage of the record's production.
On indexed media such as compact discs, double-grooving cannot be used, but there are additional methods of hiding tracks, such as:
Similar to the above example, have the song as a separate unlisted track with its own index point.
Placing the song after another track (usually, but not necessarily, the last track on the album), following a long period of silence. For example, Nirvana's song "Endless, Nameless" was included as a hidden track in this way on their 1991 CD Nevermind, after 10 minutes of complete silence. Although it was not the first hidden track to use this technique, this hidden song gained significant attention.
Placing the song in the pregap of the first track, so that the CD must first be cued to the track, and then manually back-scanned; these are often referred to as Track 0 or Hidden Track One Audio (HTOA). The 'downside' of this method is that the CD player will not play these tracks without manual intervention (although this serves the purpose of a hidden track well) and some models (including computers) are unable to read this content. See List of albums with tracks hidden in the pregap.
Placing the song in pregaps on other tracks on the album.
Using many short tracks of silence before the hidden track. On Lazlo Bane's debut album 11 Transistor the eleventh song "Miday Train" is followed by 57 silent tracks 4 seconds each with "Prada Wallet" (sometimes referred to as "The Birthday Song") being the 69th track on the album. The total length of silence between two songs is 3:48. Another example is Danzig's album, Danzig 4, on which after the twelfth song, there are numerous blank tracks, until reaching the 66th track, the monotone chant, "Invocation", or Bowling for Soup's Drunk Enough to Dance, Track 28, "Belgium".
Making the track playable only through a computer.
Hide the song in a mixed and/or distorted way which must be undone to play it.
Other ways include placing the song even at the start of another song.
Often it is unclear whether a piece of music should be considered a hidden track. For example, "Her Majesty", which is preceded by fourteen seconds of silence, was originally unlisted on The Beatles' Abbey Road but is listed on current versions of the album. This is allegedly the first instance of a hidden track (except that The Beatles has a hidden track after "Cry Baby Cry", referred to only as "Can You Take Me Back", see "Cry Baby Cry" for more). The song snippet at the end of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered by some to be a hidden track, by others to be noise not worthy of such a designation, and by others to be part of "A Day in the Life".
Most bands that decide to include a hidden track presumably do so simply to surprise fans that find it, or for humorous effect in the case of joke tracks. Sometimes, the tracks are hidden for specific reasons:
In some rare cases, it is used to avoid legal issues. An example is Ramones' Loco Live American version, which has the song "Carbona Not Glue" hidden after "Pet Sematary" on track 17. It was originally recorded on their album Leave Home, but the makers of the spot remover Carbona, a registered trademark, objected. Therefore reference to the song was removed from the album and cover.
"Train in Vain" by The Clash, which appears at the end of London Calling, was left out of the vinyl's track listing simply because it was a last-minute addition to the album, when the sleeves were already printed. It is thus not a real hidden track. It was originally intended as a promotional giveaway for NME. The later CD versions list the track on the sleeve. The album "Driving Rain" by Paul McCartney contains the song "Freedom" hidden because of a similar reason.
Green Day's "All By Myself" (by drummer Tré Cool) was added as a secret song to Dookie due to the low sound quality of the original live recording.
The X-Files: The Album, features a hidden track at 10 minutes and 13 seconds into the final track. The track consists of series creator Chris Carter explaining the series mythology and meaning behind the alien conspiracy. The hidden track even includes spoilers and minute details in the show's overall plot that had not yet been resolved on the show itself when the album was released. This track was included as both a surprise to devoted fans who would seek out answers in cross promotional merchandise and as a mystery to new fans who would need to watch the show more closely to better understand the track.
Eugene Mirman's album The Absurd Night Club Comedy of Eugene Mirman includes a hidden track making fun of hidden tracks and telling the listener that he or she has a (very bizarre) mission.
The Jam's All Mod Cons unlists the song "English Rose" and its lyrics on original vinyl copies because Paul Weller believed the title and song meaning to be personal. They have been added to re-releases of the album.
Sometimes hidden tracks have become quite popular and received heavy radio airplay, and occasionally climbed the charts.
The Beatles' track "Her Majesty" off their 1969 album Abbey Road is considered the first hidden track in recording history. The original pressings of Abbey Road did not list "Her Majesty" on the back cover song title listing, nor the record label; subsequent LP pressings and then CD issues were issued revealing the track. However, two years prior, in 1967, on the UK version of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, there was the now-famous "inner groove" that appeared after "A Day in the Life" at the end of side 2. It was an unexpected, untitled, and uncredited Beatles recording - so this might be deemed a precursor to the hidden track.
The Rembrandts had a sudden radio hit in 1995 with "I'll Be There For You", the theme song to Friends, so it was added at the last minute to their third album LP. As a result the song was a hidden track on the early printing since the CD packaging had already been completed by the time the song was added. A sticker was however added to the outer shrink wrap advertising the song's inclusion.
"Skin (Sarabeth)" by Rascal Flatts, a hidden track from their 2004 album Feels Like Today, received enough airplay to chart in the Top 40 on the country charts. By mid-2005, the album was re-issued with the song officially listed as a track, coinciding with the song's release as a single.