Tuesday, August 26, 2008

on hidden tracks.

In preparation for this entry, I checked Wikipedia, as per my usual approach to writing something where I don't want to come off like a jackass. I have to admit that I was semi-surprised to find an official entry for 'Hidden Tracks' on Wikipedia but then, I guess I shouldn't have been. Everything's on there. However, reading the entry really left me pretty unsatisfied. That entry doesn't talk about any of the memorable hidden tracks from my childhood! (Except for Endless, Nameless, but everyone knows about that. What's the fun in writing about that?) So then I started thinking...maybe what I'm talking about is different?

I love hidden tracks, in general. I like the idea behind them, and I like the creativity (I guess that should be in quotes, cuz it's not always the case) that it takes to include them on a certain work of art. However, what I think that I'm realizing is that what I love more than hidden tracks is this battle (this tug-of-war is a better phrase) between musician and listener. I like the fact that there's some kind of relationship, even if it used to be one-sided and they included this joke at the end of the disc, but never really got to see the results. (This, again, is something that I'll take up more at a later date and relates to that never-actually-delivered-but-always-promised entry on the nature of communication and how MySpace is, actually the devil, but damn do those young kids love it. But I digress...) That's not so much the case anymore, seeing as most bands that actually know anything about the technology that's running the world now and give more than two shits about their fans do everything they can to get in touch with those fans, but that's how it was when I was young: we had to just hope and pray that the band we worshiped at the feet of had actually meant what we thought. We had no way of knowing. Unless we got on the fan mail listing, which was iffy at best.

Regardless, I love the ways in which they used to interact. And so, in thinking about this entry over the last couple days and weeks, it stirred in me some powerful memories. When I was in 8th grade, at the end of the year, my class took a trip to Washington, D.C. This trip was extremely memorable for me for several reasons, many of which center around music. It was around this precise time that Soundgarden's Down on the Upside was released. I'll never forget the excitement associated with that album. Of course, we were pre-hipsters, so we were all immediately dismissive of the actual music contained on the disc, claiming that Superunknown and Badmotorfinger especially were far superior.

But the main excitement over this disc was not over the music itself (which, BTW, I've since come to love a lot. I'm a sucker for that grunge sound, what can I say?) but over a rumor that rapidly spread once the first person bought the disc: there was a hidden track on this disc! And it was different and unique! Instead of putting it at the end of the music, this track was hidden on the other side of the CD! We were psyched, and everyone bought the CD so they could flip it over in their Walkmans, obviously to no avail, ultimately. If you've seen the CD, this might not seem a ridiculous claim to you, I mean, it does look weird, but it doesn't look like anything that would play via a CD player. Only middle school students could fall for this (and to be honest, I have no idea how this rumor even started. But let me tell you, honestly and truthfully, this rumor took hold, man. People were dead-convinced they could make this work) and so we did, and felt burned, but we didn't forget it.

And so it was when, a mere four months later, when R.E.M. released their disc New Adventures in Hi-Fi the rumor took hold again. By this point, we were older and wiser, much more versed in what CD's look like and what would be necessary for them to play the oh-so-coveted other side! Again, if you've seen the actual disc, you'll know that this was quite the progression. However, all our progression was for naught - there was no track hidden on the other side of the CD. In researching for this article, I found no mention of a CD that was ever released with one, in fact. What a missed opportunity! Whatever band would have been smart enough to do so would have ignited a fury that would have followed that band through hell or high water. That's the kind of loyalty that money can't buy, folks.

So...how did this all start? Well, I swear to God that I have the most genuine memory of a hidden image of the guys in the band the Toadies under the black CD tray of Rubberneck that used to come standard in all CD cases, before they started getting all clear and see-through and amazing. But scouring Google leads to no results for "toadies rubberneck hidden image" - what's up with that? Of course, we all remember the infamous map hidden underneath Weezer's best disc, Pinkerton. Is that were all these crazy memories are coming from?

Could be. Or I could just be psyched that I'll finally get to play the other side of a CD...even if it is in a different format. As a last note, this is obviously why I love ARG's like NIN did for Year Zero and will defend those albums until my dying breath. It ultimately doesn't even matter to me if the music is any good; the experience is something that I'll never forget, and that improves not just the music, but my memory of the album, which is, perhaps, even more important.

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