A fun trend
developed by creative musician
s and engineer
s who wanted to give their audience a little extra for their buck
. A secret track is just what the name implies: it is an extra music track on your newly purchased album
that isn't listed in the song directory.
There are different ways of doing this, depending on the medium. I'll describe the most famous methods of accomplishing this with the following mediums: CD, DVD, vinyl, and cassette. Feel free to msg me about new methods and different mediums, and also if you should happen to know how and where this trend originated.
The compact disc format offers some pretty inventive ways of hiding material.
- The most popular of which is the extended last track. It's a simple matter of letting the last track on the CD run on in silence, long after the song itself has finished. Most listeners aren't watching their CD player constantly while listening to their albums, and are aware that the CD player will turn itself off once the CD is finished, so there's a good chance they won't notice that the CD keeps running even though nothing's playing. Once you've lulled the listener into assurance that the CD is finished, usually after a couple of minutes of silence, you drop in the secret track.
An album that deserves special mention for using this method ingeniously is Tool's ep, "Opiate". The secret song, "The Gaping Lotus Experience", starts 6 minutes and 6 seconds into the 6th (and final) track. Get it? :)
- Another way to do it is the track 99 trick. A CD can hold a maximum of 99 tracks (100, if you count track 0; see below). This is accomplished by having the tracks between the last official song and track 99 be blank -- usually two or three seconds of silence. So, say that your new CD has 14 official songs. Track 15-98 would then be blank, three-second silent affairs, and track 99 would contain the secret track.
This method does give itself away easily, because once the listener inserts the CD, the CD player will most likely inform him/her how many tracks are on the CD.
Notable uses of this method includes Nine Inch Nails' EP, "Broken", which included not one, but two secret tracks - both track 98 and 99 were used. Even more notable is Marilyn Manson's "Antichrist Superstar" LP, whose 99th track loops smoothly into the 1st track on the CD (if your player is set to 'repeat').
- Lastly, there is the track 0 method. Track 0 on a CD is usually reserved for the header information (how many tracks, how long, etc.). It is, however, also possible to store audio data on it. Since most people would assume an album begins with track 1 (as in, the first song), this is by far the cleverest method, imho.
Since most CD players won't let you select track 0, the only way to listen to these tracks is to start playing track number 1, then rewind into track 0. Some new CD players, however, have caught on to these shenanigans and have made it possible for users to select track 0. The method isn't too popular, though, since some old CD players won't let you rewind past track 1.
Albums that have used this track include the soundtrack to "X-Files: Fight the Future", as well as a Michael Jackson album (can't remember which).
As far as I know, there is only one way of including a secret track on cassette tapes. And it's not a very good one. This probably explains why producers/artists rarely include secret tracks on cassette version of their albums.
It is essentially the same trick as the "extended last track" described above - ie. extending the last song with some silence, then dropping the last track in.
Every day, manufacturers seem to devise more and more ingenious ways of hiding material on DVDs. Actually, it all merely boils down to hiding material on unused chapters of the DVD, but the methods with which to discover these are usually hidden in various obscure places. Some DVDs let you see the hidden material by highlighting hidden menu options; others require you to hit various buttons on your remote during the films playback. Still more require you to actually chapter search to the appropriate chapter.
The best way to find out if your new DVD disc has some hidden material on is to search the web. There are a number of databases online that make a living of cataloguing DVD secrets.
Ahh, the good old vinyls! This is where you'll find some truly obscure ways of hiding material. You'd think a linear medium like the vinyl record, in the same way as the cassette tape, would be a tough one to hide material one, right? Not so.
- Obviously, you can do the extended last track thing, but it's too easy to spot. Nevertheless, I actually have a Slipknot picture disc that does this; apparently owing to a careless direct transfer from the CD original. Quite silly.
- A much better one is the double groove trick. You can't tell from looking at the vinyl, but one of the sides may be double-grooved. This means that there are two grooves running parallel to each other. If a secret track is hiding there, it all depends on which groove the pick-up lands in when you drop the needle. Of course, the vinyls would be engineered so that were you to start the vinyl from the first song, it would first make contact with the "correct" groove.
A surprising number of albums actually do this. The one I know best is, again, Tool's EP, "Opiate". Here, depending on where you drop the needle, you will either hear the secret track, or the official song, "Cold and Ugly".
- Then there's the last groove trick, popularized by the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album. On the 2nd side, there is a final groove that runs in the "out" portion of the vinyl, between the end of the last track and the label. It is usually silent, but the Sgt. Pepper album actually includes a short, one-second snippet of random dialogue. The groove loops continuously, meaning if you were to construct a sensible ultra-short loop, you could actually make a secret track that repeated infinitely.
- Some vinyls have reportedly had hidden tracks on the center label itself. I haven't found conclusive evidence to support the existence of such secret tracks, but it's a definite possibility -- hence I've included it. Problematically, a lot of turntables will have problems playing the label, because the length of the arm wasn't constructed to reach that far. Furthermore, you would be leaving nasty finger prints on the grooves every time you picked up the vinyl (unless you were holding it on the edges).
Feel free to msg me with additions/corrections.