As it's Easter, here's a list of some of the concealed songs, secret messages and coded innuendos hidden in plain sight within your record collection.
1. Beyoncé - Encore for the Fans
In the heady days of CDs, artists would often like to stick a song somewhere secret, just to make full use of the extra space on the disc, without making their albums drag on and become boring. All you had to do was get to the final song, hear it out, and then watch the display to see if the time kept ticking. If it did, extra songs were on the way. Nirvana did it (Endless, Nameless on Nevermind), Alanis Morissette did it (Your House, on Jagged Little Pill), even Laura Marling did it (Alas, I Cannot Swim on the album of the same name).
Stepping up to the plate, Beyoncé gave a 10-minute, three-song extra track marathon on her first album B'Day, featuring Encore for the Fans, Listen and an extended mix of Get Me Bodied. She also, being a busy woman, dispensed with the waiting time. Oh, and if you bought the album at the American megastore Best Buy, you'd get another hidden song called First Time.
2. Super Furry Animals - Citizen's Band
Of course, some artists found the idea of expecting their fans to wait a while, then receive a hidden song to be a little obvious, and took to hiding songs in the tiny gap before the first track. The way to access them was to wait until your counter ticked down the seconds before starting, then hit the rewind button.
Artists who've hidden their own songs in this way include McFly (Get Over You, on Room on the 3rd Floor), Queens of the Stone Age (The Real Song for the Deaf, on Songs for the Deaf) and Kanye West (Goodnight, on Graduation), with Super Furry Animals being early adopters of the trend. If you have a copy of their 1999 album Guerilla, and your CD player isn't too modern, you may find a lovely mid-tempo power ballad called Citizen's Band, which is not unlike their early single Hometown Unicorn (as featured in their 2015 Glastonbury set).
3. The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief
One aspect of the vinyl revival that doesn't seem to have made a return (yet) is the cutting of the grooves in a record so they can play one of two different tracks, both occupying the same space on the disc, depending where you put the needle. The Monty Python team put together the most elaborate version of this with their 1973 album The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief.
The second side - frustratingly, both sides were labelled 'side 2' - was cut so that listeners could access one of two different suites of skits and sketches (examples of which can be found above). They didn't tell anyone either, which must've been enormously confusing.
4. Oasis - Bonehead's Bank Holiday
The CD was the primary medium of the Britpop years, but plenty of retro-minded rockers wanted to give an incentive to anyone who had hung on to their record decks. Oasis, who, as Noel's Desert Island Discs interview shows, were always very sure of themselves, issued double vinyl versions of both Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory? with an extra track for completists.
Definitely Maybe had Sad Song, a typically plaintive Noel-led affair, but Morning Glory had Bonehead's Bank Holiday, in which Noel sings the last of his great nonsense lyrics (see also: Digsy's Dinner, Supersonic) over a Serge Gainsbourg groove, while an audibly drunk Liam and Bonehead sarcastically read out the lyrics in fake West Country accents. They were never this much fun again.
5. Franz Ferdinand - Michael
The history of backmasking - recorded messages that have been reversed and inserted into music - is long and messy. Some people believe (including the occultist Aleister Crowley) that backwards messages have a subliminal effect and can be used to control people's actions. Some of them will then spend time and effort listening to records backwards to see if there's anything worth hearing, and possibly end up making wild accusations of Satanism, using the sounds they hear to construct sentences that weren't ever there.
Knowing that this goes on, artists from Frank Zappa to Iron Maiden started inserting backwards messages, just to mess with everyone's minds. The Pink Floyd song Empty Spaces has Roger Waters saying, "Congratulations. You've just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the funny farm, Chalfont…", while ELO put, "The music is reversible but time is not. Turn back," into their song Fire on High. Franz Ferdinand, being kind sorts, offered this to anyone seeking Satanic messages in their song Michael: "She's worried about you, call your mother."
6. Razorlight - Vice
Songs with phone numbers in are not that rare, but most of them are written by picking the numbers that sing best in a melody. Some artists are more thorough, though. When recording their single Vice in 2004, Razorlight's Johnny Borrell went into a little rant at the end, handing out his actual mobile number at the time - "You can take this number down and ring it right back / Ring it back, it's 07761010233 / Ring it off the wall". Needless to say, that's exactly what Razorlight fans did.
A year later, Alicia Keys repeated the same trick in her song Diary, but fans found themselves listening to a pre-recorded voicemail. Rappers Mike Jones and Big Sean have since gone the full Borrell, however, on their songs Back Then and Dark Sky Paradise, respectively.
7. Aphex Twin - Equation / Formula
It does say something about the kind of sounds that tend to feature on Aphex Twin records, if he can hide a noise derived from a reading of his own face, using a scientific instrument, and not have people wondering what is going on. Looking at the end of his single Windowlicker through a spectrogram, a spiral pattern appears (he'd inserted it using a virtual synth program called MetaSynth that would convert images to sound).
The real shock came with the song's b-side, entitled ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] +Fexti[n−1]], but more commonly known as Equation or Formula. When viewed through a spectrogram, a face very similar to Richard James's appears at the end. The full spectrogram of the song is here, with the face appearing at around 5m 25s.
8. The Smiths - William, It Was Really Nothing
The run-out groove on vinyl records can be a blank canvas for all sorts of hidden messaging. Many music fans have puzzled over the meaning of "A porky prime cut" etched into the clear area around the label (it was the calling card of audio engineer George "Porky" Peckham, who also cut the Monty Python album above), while other artists have chosen to send messages such as "if you can read this, TAKE A BATH" (Against Me!, Reinventing Axl Rose), or "In space... no one... can... hear... you... clash!" (The Clash, spread across six sides of their Sandinista! LP).
The Smiths were also particularly good at this game, putting "everyone is a flasher at heart" in the run-out groove of Girlfriend in a Coma, and "the impotence of ernest" and "romantic and square is hip and aware" on the 12" of William, It Was Really Nothing.
9. The Shamen - Ebeneezer Goode
Sometimes artists want to sing about forbidden things in an innocent way, to give anyone in on the joke a little giggle. That's the double-edged thrill of most music hall songs, or the hits of George Formby (and his little stick of Blackpool rock). There are also songs that artfully codify drug use as if it's another kind of thrill entirely, or may do (it's hard to be coy and empirical at the same time). These include Got To Get You Into My Life by The Beatles, There She Goes by The La's and Can't Feel My Face by The Weeknd.
The Shamen, on the other hand, went to No.1 in the charts with a song about a pretend Victorian party animal called Ebeneezer Goode, featuring the chorus "Eezer Goode, Eezer Goode", a 'coded' phonetic message of such painful obviousness it made Britney Spears' If You Seek Amy look like a crossword clue from The Times.
10. Ash - Intense Thing
Of course, some artists really like to push the boat out. On the Ash mini-album Trailer, released in 1994, there's an extended noise at the end of the song Get Out, which is a sped up and reversed version of an early demo of their song Intense Thing. As the technology to process the audio was not widely available for years afterwards, the song wasn't discovered until 2006.
But the winners must be 1980s synthpoppers Information Society, who put a track on their 1992 album Peace and Love, Inc. which was titled 300bps N, 8, 1 (Terminal Mode or Ascii Download). Fans were expected to set their computer modems according to the title, then play the song down the phone line - in the days before wifi - which would then lead to download of a text file telling the fictional story of a scary moment when the band played a gig in Brazil.