The History Of The Mystery Track – Nirvana Gets Sappy For Charity

On October 26, 1993, a new compilation went on sale.  No Alternative was the third album spearheaded by The Red Hot Organization, a New York-based non-profit co-founded by lawyer John Carlin and Leigh Blake, a longtime activist and TV/film producer.

Established in 1989, there were two goals for the organization:  raise awareness about the dangers of AIDS & HIV through TV documentaries & public awareness campaigns, and raise money for a cure through the sales of CDs & associated home videos.  Following 1990’s Red Hot + Blue (a various artists tribute to Cole Porter, a legendary closeted gay songwriter) and 1992’s Red Hot + Dance, it was modern rock’s turn to join the cause.

The CD version of No Alternative lists eighteen songs by some of the biggest and most influential acts of that era, some of which were written and recorded exclusively for the compilation.  But as purchasers of that record immediately discovered upon placing their copies in their players, there are actually nineteen.

Sometime in the late 80s, a young Kurt Cobain made a demo at his family home in Washington State.  Accompanied solely by his electric guitar, he laid down this unpolished first version of a song he would revisit and revise constantly for the next several years.  (This original recording, long bootlegged, would make its official debut on both versions of the soundtrack to the 2015 documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck.)

Originally titled Sad, the song would alternately be known as Verse Chorus Verse and Sappy.  According to Wikipedia, Nirvana first played it in concert at a show in Germany on November 13, 1989.  Another live version, this one from a gig in Switzerland captured sixteen days later, almost made the cut for what ultimately became From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah.

In the first week of the new year, while still signed to Sub Pop, Nirvana worked with producer Jack Endino at his Reciprocal Studios.  On January 2, 1990, according to Endino, the band, with Chad Channing on drums, spent seven hours trying to record one solitary track.  The next day, they returned for an additional three hour session.

“This was when they came in and just did one song, ‘Sappy.’  That was the first time I knew that Kurt was fallible, because everything he’d done had been brilliant to me up to then.  And then there was this song which just didn’t seem that interesting.  And he was determined to get it.  And I was like, ‘No, write some more songs, Kurt!'” he later told Gillian Gaar.

Why was the futile process taking so long?

“They literally wanted an Albini drum sound,” Endino told Gaar.  They also “spent a lot of time experimenting with reverbs and gated room mics and just doing lots of strange stuff during the mix.”

This version finally emerged on Sliver: The Best Of The Box in 2005.

While continuing to play it in concert (the DVD on the With The Lights Out box set features a performance captured during a California show on February 16, 1990 while the expanded version of Bleach includes another audio rendition from a show a week earlier in Portland), Nirvana would return to the studio to try again.

In the first week of April that same year, they began the demo sessions for Nevermind with Butch Vig at his Smart Studios in Wisconsin.  Seven songs, including Sappy, were put on tape.  20 years later, it would finally make its official debut on the deluxe edition of Nevermind.  By the time Nirvana relocated to Sound City in California to record the album in 1991, Channing had been replaced by Dave Grohl.

During the sessions that spring, Sappy was dusted off for another go.  This time, Cobain seemed happier with the result.  In his Journals (later released in 2003) the song was continually appearing on hypothetical track listings for a time.  But when Smells Like Teen Spirit was completed, Sappy suddenly disappeared from contention.  This version remains unreleased and might possibly be lost forever thanks to that covered up fire in Universal’s music archives.

“Sometimes you get a song and you record it one way and you go, ‘The song just didn’t happen,’ Vig explained to Gaar.  “Then you try it again.  But after three tries, you’ve gotta give up.  You have to realize the song is not meant to happen.  But maybe Kurt heard something that we didn’t hear, and that’s what he was trying to get, and he never got it.  Sometimes that happens; you get these mental images of a song, and you know it’s going to be good, but if it gets to a certain point and it never gets there, it kind of drives you crazy.”

It wasn’t until the band recorded In Utero with Steve Albini in Minnesota’s Pachyderm Studios in the dead of winter in February 1993 that the song was finally recorded in a manner Cobain deemed acceptable for eventual release in his lifetime.  A serious contender for the album (when it was still Verse Chorus Verse which was also an early title for the overall collection), when the Red Hot Organization came calling for a song, rather than work up a new one, they offered Sappy instead as an exclusive.

With In Utero scheduled for a mid-September release, over a month before No Alternative’s debut, the cold hearted Geffen Records didn’t want Nirvana’s name attached to the charity project.  (Ironically, its founder David Geffen has long donated and raised millions for AIDS charities.  Red Hot itself has generated over ten million for the cause in its own right.)

It’s not clear if the company resorted to threatening a lawsuit in order to assure that Sappy, still known as Verse Chorus Verse at this point, would become a mystery track, but Red Hot ultimately relented and agreed not to mention it in the track listing, in the liner notes (which do mention that there are actually “nineteen songs” instead of the credited 18) and in any promotion published in magazines.  (On their official website, where they finally publicly acknowledge the song, they diplomatically explain that Sappy was hidden “for legal reasons”.)

By not advertising Nirvana’s association with the project, since they were the highest profile act on the disc, No Alternative was doomed to be a poor seller, at least in North America.  Despite selling less than 300000 copies, however, it still managed to raise a million dollars for AIDS charities.  (It did better overseas.  To date, it’s been purchased more than a million times globally.)

Curiously, Sappy wasn’t the only song to be named Verse Chorus Verse in the Nirvana catalogue.  During the making of Nevermind, there was another Verse Chorus Verse (also known as In His Hands), with a completely different melody and lyric, first laid down during those 1990 demo sessions.  (It was briefly added to live setlists in 1990 before being dropped forever.)  Because it remained unreleased for years (until it appeared on the 20th Anniversary reissue of Nevermind), Cobain simply recycled the title for Sappy.

Despite Geffen’s insistence on downplaying Nirvana’s involvement in order to not interfere with In Utero’s promotion and sales, the song still generated some decent radio airplay and became a fan favourite both in its live and studio incarnations.  When the With The Lights Out box set emerged in 2004 (Courtney Love told Spin magazine that Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl wanted to call it Sappy which she opposed), only the No Alternative version was included and properly listed.  In 2013, when In Utero was expanded into a two-disc set, the mystery track was remastered and fully credited in a new mix by Albini.

As for live shows, after a four-year break, Cobain revived it for some selected dates on the final Nirvana tour.  It was performed for the last time on February 25, 1994 during a gig in Milan, Italy.

Three months earlier, the band taped their famous Unplugged show for MTV.  After they played the Ledbelly cover, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, the band walked off stage and never returned.  In her 2013 memoir, former VJ Kennedy reveals that wasn’t supposed to happen:

“…Unplugged producer Alex Coletti told me they all disappeared into the control room at Sony Studios where he and other executives begged the band to go out and do an encore with some better known songs (‘Teen Spirit,’ cough, cough…) but no one was down for that, though Dave and Krist were more accommodating and were willing to try ‘Sappy’ from the No Alternative record, but Kurt flexed his fascist muscle and said no bueno, so the thing was wrapped.”

When he spoke to Gillian Gaar, Jack Endino remained unimpressed with Cobain’s tenacity:

“It’s just not a memorable tune…I mean, Kurt just could not give up on that song!”

But on his website, Endino admits that the No Alternative version of Sappy is the definitive and best version.

He’s absolutely right.  In his original demo, where he open picks instead of strumming chords, Cobain plays a brief intro before singing the opening verse, the same way he played it in concert before Nevermind.  On No Alternative, he sings and plays right at the top with Grohl and Novoselic jumping in just after the first couplet.  A much stronger approach.

On the Montage Of Heck recording, which is decidedly slower than the full band versions, Cobain sings low and deep (something he almost never did on disc which makes it all the more special), whereas on all the other takes he adopts his signature mid-range melodic croak.

Although there are some slight lyrical tweaks on all the available versions, the basic sentiment is the same.  Cobain warns his female friend that she’s in an abusive relationship.  First, she can’t be sexual with anyone else.  (“And if you save yourself, you will make him happy”)  Second, she won’t have any freedom (“He’ll keep you in a jar”) and be treated like a caged animal (“He’ll give you breathing holes”).

Some of the lines are repeated while others (“And if you cut yourself…And if you fool yourself…You’ll wallow in the shit”) are only sung once.  All the while, there is always an urgency and deep concern for her well being.

The peculiar chorus (“You’re in a laundry room/Conclusion came to you” or is it “The clues that came to you”?) suggests the bitter irony of a victim belatedly recognizing she’s a prisoner forever stuck in this dilemma.  Endino seriously undervalued this song.  It’s the best Nirvana mystery track.

Speaking of stubbornness, Cobain also wouldn’t give up on the name Verse Chorus Verse.

As first noted by Charles Cross in Heavier Than Heaven, his excellent biography of Cobain, when Geffen Records rejected the first mix of In Utero, the frontman had a somewhat sarcastic back-up plan as he noted in his journals at the time:

“After many lame reviews and reports on carmudgeonly, uncompromising vinyl, cassette, eight-track-only release <of I Hate Myself And Want To Die [another working title for In Utero], the Steve Albini original mix of the album>, we release the remixed version under the title Verse, Chorus, Verse.”

According to Cross, Cobain also wanted a disclaimer that read “Radio-Friendly, Unit-Shifting, Compromise Version”.  Geffen refused.  Less than a handful of the original mixes would officially surface 20 years later on the 20th Anniversary reissue of In Utero.  The rest have long been bootlegged.

In 2013, No Alternative, which had previously only been available on CD and cassette (the latter excluded Sappy but included two extra tracks only found on the analog format), was finally pressed and released on limited edition double vinyl for its own 20th Anniversary.  On all three thousand copies, Sappy remains an Unlisted Bonus Track on track six at the end of side four.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 5, 2020
2:15 a.m.

The History Of The Mystery Track – Nirvana’s Jam Song

Kurt Cobain was aggravated.  Nirvana was in the middle of take three of Lithium, a key future single off Nevermind.  The problem was timing.  Drummer Dave Grohl kept speeding up the tempo, throwing off Cobain’s guitar playing.

It was sometime in May 1991.  The band were recording with future Garbage drummer Butch Vig at the famed Sound City Studios in Los Angeles.  (More than 20 years later, Grohl would make a documentary about the place.  He actually possesses the original soundboard.)  Of all the songs they would record for their most famous album, Lithium would prove to be the most difficult to finish.

When Grohl once again played too fast, Cobain stopped the take.  Then, he started playing a completely different song.  Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic soon followed his lead.

For years, Nirvana had often warmed up playing what they called The Jam Song.  It was loud, aggressive, buzzy and surprisingly structured.  Cobain would turn on his distortion pedal when he wanted to thrash around and he would turn it off when he wanted to play more melodically.  When it came time to sing, Cobain for the most part would simply scream out improvised nonsensical lyrics.  The Jam Song would ultimately end with him creating as much cacophonous noise as he could before completely running out of steam.

That memorable day at Sound City the band once again launched into their rehearsal number.  Cobain stepped to the microphone and screamed out short words and phrases, many of them lost in the swirling maelstrom.  Everything seemed to rhyme with “I am”.  To this day, no one can properly decipher everything he was trying to sing.  Searching for lyrics often results in curious misinterpretations.

With the exceptions of a softly groaning “mama”, during the first melodic break, and “I’m sorry”, during one of the thrashings, not much else gets through perfectly clear.  And yet, it really doesn’t matter.

The point is the rage, the frustration being burned off in a surprisingly compelling performance.  For years, I detested this song.  I always found it incredibly self-indulgent and tedious.  Funny how the passage of time can fix and correct your opinions.  (Ironically, the opening 20 seconds became the theme song for the college radio version of this series, so clearly even then it had some redeeming qualities.)

This version of The Jam Song has aged unexpectedly well, despite still being an acquired taste and yes, self-indulgent.  Why do I like it now?  The spontaneous release, hard-edged and raw as it remains, is somehow less aggravating than before despite running over six minutes.  It’s curious how Grohl struggled with the time signature on Lithium and yet is in perfect sync with his bandmates here.

Maybe it’s because of all the hard rock I’ve heard and thoroughly enjoyed in the decades since Nevermind’s release.  Maybe it’s because I’ve grown to love The Velvet Underground who pioneered the kinds of ear-splitting sound experiments Cobain is channeling.  Maybe it’s because the song sounds heavily influenced by The Jesus Lizard.  Or maybe I was never in the right frame of mind to embrace such a deliberately punishing number.

In this current, uncertain climate where there is so much to get pissed off about, an uncontained rager like this is welcome medicine, if only for a brief moment.

At some point near the end during what turned out to be the only take of this song, Cobain smashed his left-handed Mosrite guitar and left the remnants in the studio.  (He eventually received a replacement to finish making the album but it took a while.  The busted ax ended up being displayed in the Experience Music Project Museum (now the Museum of Popular Culture) in Seattle.)  Plus, he blew out his voice, a common occurrence throughout the sessions.  Unbeknownst to the band, after that spoiled Lithium take, a wise Butch Vig kept the tape rolling.  The band liked what they heard.

Once Nevermind was complete, everyone agreed that there would be twelve listed songs in total.  In the meantime, the band quickly mixed The Jam Song with a supervising Vig letting them do whatever they wanted.

“It wasn’t until a week or two later, when they went to do the mastering, that Kurt decided he wanted it on,” Vig later told Jim Berkenstadt and Charles Cross, the latter Cobain’s eventual biographer.

The plan was to include that instantaneous freak-out as a Buried Song on track twelve.  For the first time, they gave it an official title:  Endless, Nameless.

“It was kind of a joke for the band to do, as in, ‘We’re not going to list it in the packaging, or [mention] it exists.” Robert Smith, Geffen Records Vice President of Marketing, told the aforementioned authors of Classic Rock Albums:  Nevermind/Nirvana.  “It’s for that person who plays the CD, it ends, they’re walking around the house and ten minutes later…kaboom!”

But a funny thing happened on the way to the mastering stage.

At Masterdisk Studio in New York, where the Nevermind tapes were shipped, Howie Weinberg was responsible for transferring the 24-track mix into a stereo two-channel release.  Although he did master Endless, Nameless, he seemed to have misunderstood what he was supposed to do with it:

“In the beginning, it was kind of a verbal thing to put that track at the end.  Maybe I misconstrued their instructions, so you can call it my mistake if you want.  Maybe I didn’t write it down when Nirvana or the record company said to do it.  So, when they pressed the first twenty thousand or so CDs, albums, and cassettes, it wasn’t on there,” he later told Berkenstadt and Cross.

Actually, it was closer to fifty thousand, not including the three hundred cassettes that were sent to professional music critics, none of which included Endless, Nameless.

The problem may have stemmed from the possibility that the song wasn’t on or properly listed on the same finished reel as any of the other Nevermind songs, with each side of the original cassette getting its own reel (six songs from Side A on one, six songs from Side B on another).  When you open up the two-disc 2011 reissue, you’ll see a photo of the cover of one particular reel box right in the middle of the packaging.  Dated July 27, 1991, all that’s listed are three “B-Sides”, Aneurysm, Even In His Youth (both of which were added to the Smells Like Teen Spirit single) and Endless, Nameless which has the added instruction, “used for CD only”.  There is no demand for it to be added to Nevermind.

At some point, Nirvana acquired an early copy of the album and as Grohl recalled during an interview on an Australian radio station, the entire band was shocked and displeased:

“We popped it on.  We listened to it.  ‘Oh, let’s check to see if that track is on there.’  And it wasn’t there!”

Most infuriated was the ever attentive Cobain who soon made an angry phone call to Weinberg demanding to know why the song wasn’t on Nevermind.

“I got a heavy call from Kurt screaming, ‘Where the hell is the extra song?'”

A sheepish Weinberg replied, “Oh fuck.  Don’t worry.  I’ll fix it right away.  No problem.”

“Fix it!” Cobain reminded him, as if he didn’t get the message the first time.

Weinberg, who felt bad about the mistake, would redeem himself by inserting Endless, Nameless at the end of track 12 in a new master.  Ten minutes and three seconds of silence after the conclusion of Something In The Way at 3:48, the extra song begins at 13:51.  Cobain and company were then satisfied.

“It was a cool way to put a song on the album that maybe did not fit it [thematically],” he noted in Classic Albums, “like a separate album of its own.  In the end, it was my fault.  It was hilarious that it was forgotten, but it was part of the whole scenario.”

In a weird moment of irony, Weinberg claimed he had put many mystery tracks in the play-out grooves of previous vinyl releases, a far more difficult process as The Beatles learned with Sgt. Pepper.

Are you an aspiring guitar player who would love to learn how to play Endless, Nameless?  Don’t bother buying the Nirvana songbook.

“It wasn’t a good guitar song for scoring.”  Rita Legros of Hal Leonard Publishing asserted in Classic Albums.  “I don’t think they could score it.”

The songbook was supposed to directly warn purchasers on its cover that indeed it’s “not an appropriate song for guitar scoring”, hence its conspicuous absence, but for some strange reason it wasn’t added.

“The note just got accidentally left off,” Legros noted.

To make up for Weinberg’s screw-up, when Come As You Are was released as a single on March 3, 1992, Endless, Nameless became a properly listed B-Side, along with live versions of School (from Bleach) and Drain You.  When Nevermind was reissued and expanded for its 20th Anniversary Edition, the song was once again buried at the end of track 12 on disc one.  This time, listeners only have to wait eighteen seconds to hear it, because of the space needed for all the added non-album B-Sides.  It begins at 4:06.

When Nirvana went on tour in 1991 and 1992 to support the original collection, Endless, Nameless was often their closer and always resulted in trashed instruments and destroyed staging, which would continue during the ill-fated In Utero tour.  It was the ultimate blow-off song.

In the super deluxe edition, a live version from their 1991 Halloween show at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle was included as a properly credited finale on an exclusive bonus CD.  This version clocks in a little over seven and a half minutes.

When Nirvana played the 1991 Redding Festival, Endless, Nameless was their big finish.  (It’s only available as a bootleg.)  When In Utero was reissued and expanded for its own 20th Anniversary package, the super deluxe edition includes the complete Live And Loud show that MTV taped on December 13, 1993.  (It’s also available on DVD in the box and separately.)  In the original, highly edited broadcast, only a portion of Endless, Nameless was shown.  A bonus CD features the complete take and once again, it’s the last song on the CD.

On September 3, 1991, while on tour in Europe just before the release of Nevermind, they recorded another studio version of the song, this one wildly uneven and in its dying breaths, far more annoying, during a John Peel BBC Session.  Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, it was officially released thirteen years later on disc two of the With The Lights Out box set.  The chorus lyrics of The Vapors’ Turning Japanese are heard far more clearly here.

Yet another version appears on a bootleg appropriately titled Endless Nameless 1992-1993.  This particular rendition, from another 1993 Seattle show, is considerably shorter, running just under five minutes.

The extraordinary success of Nevermind (it has sold over ten million copies in America alone, not to mention an additional twenty million collectively in the rest of the world) meant that many people were exposed to Endless, Nameless.  There is no doubt that despite the long established presence of mystery tracks in the rock era, it inspired, as historian Alan Cross once wrote to me in a fax more than twenty years ago, a “plethora” of new ones.  According to Entertainment Weekly, the year the album came out there were 7000 new releases.  Six years later, there were 70000.  Many feature numerous types of uncredited material.  Even today, in this vulnerable digital era, we are still getting more examples.

The Wildhearts, a hard rock British band, named their 1997 album Endless Nameless.  But when asked directly by a fan in a 2002 website Q & A whether the Nirvana mystery track inspired this obvious tribute, lead singer Ginger pleaded ignorance.  Considering that he’s a fan and Nevermind was an enormous global phenomenon, it stretches credibility that he didn’t know about the song.

As for Lithium, once a click track was implemented the day after Endless, Nameless was recorded, Grohl finally got his timing right and the band were able to lay down an excellent backing track.

“In an interview commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the album’s release,” Danny Goldberg, Nirvana’s then-manager remembered in his revealing 2019 memoir about Cobain, “Dave said it ‘was like being stabbed in the heart,’ but he acknowledged that the end result was worth it.”

Rolling Stone seemed to agree.  It named Endless, Nameless the 60th best Nirvana song.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 21, 2019
1:40 a.m.

Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 1:40 am  Comments (1)  

The History Of The Mystery Track – Britney Spears & The Backstreet Boys Hype Millennium

Jive Records had an idea.  They had signed a new artist, an ambitious 16-year-old girl from Louisiana.  Already a show business veteran, she was ready to move on from children’s Television, commercials and live theatre.  Quickly disinterested in sticking with a girl group called Innosense she briefly joined, she wanted the spotlight all to herself.  Jive was the only label willing to take a chance on her.

Her first single, co-written by Max Martin, was a fairly standard but irresistible I-dumped-you-but-I-still-love-you-and-want-you-back pleader and, as it turns out, easily misunderstood.  Martin wrote the lyrics in his native Swedish and the English translation came out a little awkward.  The song’s premise was otherwise straightforward.  A lovesick protagonist ultimately wants to know if their ex has similar feelings.  “Give me a sign,” they plead.  “Hit me, baby, one more time.”

When a demo of the song was presented to TLC, they were appalled.  They wrongly thought the chorus advocated violence against women.  So they passed.  They weren’t the only ones.

By the time the kid from Louisiana heard it, she knew it was a hit.  It took her two days in May 1998 to nail the vocals in Martin’s studio in Sweden.  As she later revealed to Rolling Stone magazine, she listened to Soft Cell’s cover of Tainted Love for inspiration.

As her first single was being prepared for release in October 1998, Jive wanted to add something extra to the CD, an advertisement of sorts for another one of their newest signings.

Imajin (pronounced Imagine) were four Black teens from New York also working on their first professional recordings.  (Aged 14 to 16, unlike most pop vocal groups of the era, they were talented old-school musicians who played their own instruments.)  They had already found success with their own debut single, Shorty (You Keep Playin’ With My Mind), which cracked the Top 30.  Jive was getting ready to release the follow-up.

Why not promote this song on their labelmate’s first single?  Both were scheduled for autumn releases.  (Free cassettes featuring both artists were already being handed out to kids during the Louisiana teen’s early mall showcases.)

With deep concerns about the original title, Hit Me Baby One More Time became the unnecessarily mysterious …Baby One More Time despite no change to the lyrics.  Although those concerns turned out to be well founded (some critics had the same wrongheaded reaction as TLC), Britney Spears would go on to have her first massive chart success.

After the conclusion of track two, a rare B-side called Autumn Good-Bye, an Unlisted Audio Track begins with the singer addressing the listener on track three:

“Hi!  This is Britney Spears and thanks for buying my first single, …Baby One More Time.  Right now, I’d like to introduce to you some friends and labelmates of mine.  They’re called Imajin and this is a sneak preview of their new single, No Doubt.  Hit it, guys.”

For the next minute and sixteen seconds (really the actual opening of the song), you’ll hear a catchy piece of fluff from this young R&B quartet until it fades out near the end of the second chorus.  The full song, an uptempo popper about a guy trying to convince a girl he likes to get busy with him without making her feel pressured to do so, runs three and a half minutes.

While …Baby One More Time topped the Billboard Hot 100 in early January 1999, Imajin’s No Doubt didn’t even make it to the Top 40.  (It fared much better on the Hot R&B Singles chart where it entered the Top 20, just like Shorty.)  Not even having a young Meagan Good appear in the accompanying video, which is included on the credited enhanced multimedia portion of Spears’ own single, made any difference.  (Scrubs alumnus Donald Faison makes a cameo in the beginning of it as an annoyed, sleep-deprived man.  He’s the brother of Imajin frontman Olamide Faison who currently appears on Sesame Street.)

Imajin released their self-titled album on October 26, 1999, 369 days after the surprise shoutout on …Baby One More Time.  Despite the inclusion of their only hit, Shorty, and the earlier unlisted push from Spears on her single, it failed to make much of an impact.  (No Doubt is track eight.)  After offering a few more tracks to soundtracks, the band backed up Baby DC on a standalone single and released one more of their own.  Both flopped as well.

Unable to find another breakthrough, Imajin broke up sometime in 2000.  That didn’t stop Jive Records from trying the same sales tactic again.

The same week …Baby One More Time the single hit number one on Billboard, …Baby One More Time the album also debuted in the same position on the Top 200, a first in American music history.  Two seconds after Spears’ cover of Sonny & Cher’s The Beat Goes On fades out on track 11, she once again addresses the purchaser of her CD in a Buried Audio clip that begins at the 3:43 mark.  Her scripted patter is very similar to the earlier mystery track found on her single:

“Hi!  This is Britney Spears and thank you so much for buying and listening to my first album.  It means so much to me that you enjoy listening to my songs as much as I love singing them.  Now, I’ve got something very special just for you.  I’m gonna give you a private sneak preview of some new music from an upcoming album by some labelmates of mine, The Backstreet Boys.  Hit it, guys.”

It had been two years since the Backstreet’s Back album broke this Florida-based quintet in America.  (Their international self-titled debut first started taking off in Quebec in 1996.)  And there was much anticipation for the follow-up.  Eventually entitled Millennium, it would be the most popular record they would ever make.

As Spears begins to talk about this “private sneak preview”, the first song clip fades in and we’re in the middle of the chorus.  When it fades out, she comes back.

“That was called I’ll Be The One and I think it’s gonna be number one.”

Released as the fourth and final single in the spring of 2000, The One, as it was ultimately called, was not a chart topper.  It peaked at #30 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  (It fared much better in Canada where it entered the Top 5.)  Curiously, the group had originally planned on releasing Don’t Want You Back instead.  The change came about because of a sabotaged vote on MTV’s Total Request Live.  Viewers were asked to make their own choice but once Nick Carter called in to give a push to The One, the fanbase followed his lead.

The mystery clip of the song doesn’t sound like it was directly taken from the finished album version, at least not that brief instrumental build-up.  The chorus is clearly from Millennium but it’s not clear if this portion was incomplete or ultimately discarded from the final mix.  Either way, you can understand why it wasn’t a bigger hit.  It’s routine fare.

“Next up is something a little different from the boys.  It’s called Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely.  I know you’re gonna love it.”

An enormous adult contemporary hit (it reached as high as number two in the spring of 2000 and stayed on that chart for over a year), this third single from Millennium was indeed an audience pleaser.  It peaked at number six on the Hot 100.  (It was number one in Canada.)  This unlisted clip joins the song in progress at the 42-second mark just as A.J. MacLean sings the tail end of the last line of the first verse (“…will be done”) and fades out right after the group chorus as the Spanish guitar and the string section start to take over at 1:12 of the finished track.

“And last, but definitely not least, a beautiful ballad called I Need You Tonight.  Thanks again for supporting me and I hope to see you all at my shows very, very soon.  Bye.”

Strictly an album cut, I Need You Tonight (it was originally titled Heaven In Your Eyes) was produced by Mutt Lange, the famed hard rock producer who twiddled the knobs for AC/DC and Def Leppard.  His then-wife Shania Twain sings uncredited back-up on the track, according to Wikipedia.  This unlisted snippet fades in as Spears very quietly and unenthusiastically signs off.  We’re entering the 52-second mark of the full-length song from Millennium as an overwrought Nick Carter warbles the last bit of the first verse and goes right into the chorus.  This final clip fades out just as he begins verse two (“I figured out what to say to you”) as we only get as far as the 1:38 mark of the finished song before the CD shuts off.  Thank God.

Interestingly, this was not the first time Jive secretly offered fans an early taste of Millennium.

Long before they handed out fully credited cassette samplers, way back in early January 1998, The Backstreet Boys released All I Have To Give, the third and final single from Backstreet’s Back, their second album.  A year later, the song was rereleased.  On the two-track US version, track three reportedly features uncredited snippets of The One (when it was still known as I’ll Be The One), Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely and I Need You Tonight.  On the expanded five-track US release, it’s apparently the unlisted track six.  According to discogs.com, the mystery track on both singles runs a little over two minutes.

Almost a year later in mid-November 1998, a VHS tape entitled A Night Out With The Backstreet Boys began circulating officially.  (The DVD came out two years later.)  Besides highlighting a concert taped for German Television in March of that year, there was a bonus CD called Selections From A Night Out With The Backstreet Boys, featuring six audio versions of tracks that appear in the video.  The seventh and final track features a much longer trailer for the same three songs Spears introduces a few months later on …Baby One More Time in the exact same order but with longer running times.  There’s no mention of it in the track listing on the back cover.  This uncredited preview runs almost four and a half minutes.

Instead of Spears doing the shilling, after that same brief instrumental snippet of The One at the top (six seconds worth), the clip continues with Howie D & Kevin Richardson (they also reportedly appear on the shorter All I Have To Give mystery track), clearly speaking off the top of their heads, urging the listener to not turn off the CD:

“Howie:  Hey, hey, wait up!  Wait up!

Kevin:  Hold up!  Stop!  Don’t touch anything yet because, uh, we’re looking forward to seeing you guys on the 1999 world tour.  But at the same time, we got some sneak previews of, uh, some of the material we’ve been working on for the next album, right, Howie?

Howie:  Yep.  You’ll find these songs and much more on the up and coming album in 1999.  So, hope you enjoy ’em.

Kevin:  So, check ’em out and we’ll see you guys soon.  Peace.”

As they start to wrap up their intro, this unfinished mix of The One rises in volume and then we’re into the first verse (“Guess you were lost when I met you”).  At the 1:27 mark, the song’s chorus ends cold and immediately after, you hear the beginning of Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely.  This time, we get past the brief instrumental break after the chorus and just as Richardson sings the opening line of verse two (“Life goes on as it never ends”), it fades out completely at 2:46.

At 2:47, you’ll hear the start of I Need You Tonight.  The song fades out at pretty much the exact same point as it does on the …Baby One More Time album, just as Carter finishes singing the first line of the second verse, wrapping up the mystery sneak peek at 4:23.

I haven’t been able to confirm if this banter is the same found on the All I Have To Give single.  (One superfan on Twitter believes it is but wasn’t completely sure and I never heard back from her again.)  The CD is long out of print and it’s been extremely difficult to find an online version of the unlisted preview, despite numerous, fruitless searches.

So, just to recap, for half a year, there were three separate mystery tracks promoting an album that would go on to become one of the biggest of the decade.  Astounding.  If only Imajin had this much institutional muscle behind them.

At the time, Spears wasn’t happy about doing her own Backstreet Boys promo.  As she told Entertainment Weekly in their March 12, 1999 issue, “If I would’ve known I had a choice, I wouldn’t have done it.”

What’s curious is why she was ordered to do it at all.  All I Have To Give sold 900,000 copies while the Night Out videotape/CD package sold three million.  The most astute fans were already aware of Millennium’s future release.  But, then again, young attention spans can be fleeting.  Jive Records were clearly not taking any chances.  These mystery ads ultimately paid off enormously.

“It worked,” Jezebel writer Maria Sherman told The Ringer about her own reaction to hearing the secret sales pitch on …Baby One More Time.  “It’s really cheesy marketing that I think nobody would enjoy now, but it really did work.  And I think I’m not alone in getting into them that way.”

She was 7 in 1999.  Today, now a professional journalist, she’s planning a book about boy bands in 2020.

Spears certainly didn’t hold it against the Backstreet Boys themselves who, according to Billboard, weren’t even aware of the mystery pitch for them on …Baby One More Time.  When she met Richardson in the late 90s, as she later recalled in a quote reprinted in the 1999 book Britney Spears: Backstage Passes, “He was so beautiful–he’s prettier in person than in pictures.  And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ I didn’t know what to say.”  The other guys didn’t do anything for her.

In turn, they were big fans of hers.  Each member has their own favourite Spears song.  (Tellingly, none of them picked …Baby One More Time, a song the group rejected as a possible recording of their own for Millennium.)

It’s not clear how many copies of …Baby One More Time feature the Millennium presentation.  Andrew Fromm, who wrote I Need You Tonight, speculated to Billboard Magazine in May 2019 that it’s probably only on “the first 200,000 copies”.  That seems a little low considering how well the CD was selling in those early months of 1999 not to mention the gap between its release and Millennium’s monstrous debut.  Regardless, if you buy a new copy today, the mystery track is not on there.  (Good luck finding a used edition.  It took me years (and two purchases) to finally snag one with the Millennium preview.  You’ll have an easier time finding it on YouTube.)

After failing to make Imajin a significant crossover act, along with the earlier mystery track ads on All I Have To Give and Selections From A Night Out With The Backstreet Boys, Spears’ personal promotion for the quintet four months before their return to a much brighter spotlight clearly had some kind of impact.  Millennium entered Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart at number one selling a still remarkable 1.1 million copies, a record that would eventually be significantly broken the next year by *NSYNC.  (No Strings Attached would sell over two million its first week.  Adele has the current record with over three million.)  On that same chart, …Baby One More Time had actually moved up from number six to number three after almost 20 weeks in release.  Both albums would remain in the Top 10 for much of the rest of the year.

As of this writing, twenty years later, Spears’ debut album has now sold over 12 million copies in America alone.  Millennium’s overall total is over 15 million.  Unlike with Imajin, Jive Records correctly deduced that Spears’ new audience in early 1999 were either already fans of The Backstreet Boys to begin with or, like Sherman, after having heard the mystery track on …Baby One More Time, easy converts.  This unusual approach, to an undetermined extent, had finally worked.

In 2016, Spears openly declared herself a fan of the band.  She probably would’ve done it a lot sooner had she not been dating the frontman of their biggest rivals during the making of …Baby One More Time.  The following year, both started lucrative residencies in Las Vegas.  Spears was scheduled to return for a second run in early 2019 but real life has gotten in the way.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 21, 2019
12:34 a.m.

Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 12:34 am  Comments (1)  

The History Of The Mystery Track – Radiohead’s Censored Breakthrough

“’Smells Like Teen Spirit’ had the kind of feel we’re after…When it came on the radio, you had no choice but to listen to it.  You couldn’t just drive along and ignore it; it came out at you.  I hope we’ll come out of people’s speakers in the same way.” (Thom Yorke in Melody Maker, May 9, 1992)

“That song will always be there…And in five, six, ten years’ time, people will be saying that ‘Creep’ is a f[uck]ing classic record.  We know that.” (Yorke in New Musical Express, October 10, 1992)

“There’s a pervading sense of loneliness I’ve had since the day I was born.” (Yorke in Rolling Stone, September 1995)

In the late 1980s, Thom Yorke started attending classes at Exeter University.  It was a challenging period for him.  Feeling very out of place in an extremely privileged institution, despite making friends (and enjoying a side gig as a DJ) he still felt very self-conscious and isolated at times.  It didn’t help matters that there was a significant problem with his left eye and that he was quite awkward with women.

In his childhood, several surgeries were performed to try to get it moving normally (it was paralyzed from birth) but the ultimate result was not only a drooping effect that gave Yorke a distinguished look that he decided to stick with, he now had limited vision.  He had already been bullied about it for years.

At Exeter, Yorke developed a massive crush on a fellow student.  While it was happening he started writing lyrics for a potential song:

“When I wrote it,” he told the NME in 1992, “I was in the middle of a really, really serious obsession that got completely out of hand.  It lasted about eight months.  And it was unsuccessful, which made it even worse.  She knows who she is.”

It’s not clear what actually happened.  Did he ask her out and she said no?  Did she say yes and lived to regret it?  Did he ask more than once, getting firmly rejected every time?  Or was he too shy to make a move but so obvious about his feelings that even she knew what he was up to and kept her distance?

A few months later, in another edition of the NME, Yorke regretted ever admitting the song was autobiographical:

“I got into a lot of trouble over that.  I shouldn’t have admitted to her being a real person.”

The eventual recording of Creep is one of those extraordinary accidents a good fiction writer could never invent.  While rehearsing songs for their first album, the band decided to do a run-through of Yorke’s self-loathing anthem, a practice they had grown accustomed to.  In his book Over The Edge: The Revolution And Evolution Of New Rock, historian and longtime radio host Alan Cross noted that one member of the band had a serious problem with the song:

“Guitarist Jonny Greenwood hated ‘Creep’ and was always looking for ways to sabotage the song whenever he was forced to play it.  He was trying to be obnoxious during one session of recording the Pablo Honey album.  The band was warming up with ‘Creep,’ as usual, when Jonny turned up all of his amps and cranked his effects pedals wide open just before the chorus.  Testing everything out, he banged the strings a couple of times, producing a couple of very noisy crunches before he began to play the buzzsaw chords of the chorus.  He figured that if he made enough noise, the rest of the group would take the hint and dump the song.  At the very least, he could make things rock a bit.”

As it turns out, the joke was on Jonny:

“Unbeknownst to the group, the engineer had a tape running in the control room and once the song was over, he played back what he had recorded.”

Unintentionally, Greenwood had actually improved the song.  His interrupting guitar attacks gave Creep an added intensity it had been seriously lacking and it also provided a clever transition from the verses to the choruses.  It was the Smells Like Teen Spirit moment the band had been striving for.

The band would record the song a second time and that would be the master take.

But there was a problem.  Creep sounded a little too much like The Air That I Breathe, an old Hollies song.  This would ultimately result much later on in a rather amicable settlement with Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood, the writers of the earlier track, after their publisher sued Radiohead.  They now earn royalties from the song.  They would’ve earned more had the band not been candid about their musical thievery.

Creep would make its official debut in the UK on September 21, 1992.  The reception to it was not positive.  Although there was some support for it in the music weeklies, most critics were dismissive and the buying public mostly ignored it.  (It barely entered the Top 80.)  Still determined to keep on progressing, the band moved forward continuing to put together their first album.  (Ironically, Anyone Can Play Guitar would be their first UK hit in early 1993.)

Meanwhile, in Apartheid Israel, a DJ named Yoav Kutner, the Jewish John Peel, was handed a copy of the song by an EMI plugger.  Near the end of 1992, he started playing it on his popular armed forces radio show, “sometimes three times an hour”, according to Slate.  The reaction this time was very different.  To show their appreciation (and their ignorance for the illegal occupation of Indigenous Palestinians), Radiohead started playing shows there and made a couple of local TV appearances.  (They would unapologetically return in 2017 dishonouring the BDS campaign.)  When they arrived, they were mobbed by highly excitable fans.  When they returned to the UK, it was back to obscurity.

In 2000, a New York Times Magazine profile noted a similar situation in America:

“A music director at a San Francisco college station found the single in a Berkeley record shop’s import rack and added it to his station’s playlist.  Within weeks it was an underground rage up and down the California coast.”

Not long after the original recording of Creep, Radiohead had another issue to resolve.  The band realized the lyric “so fucking special” was not going to get them on the radio, especially when it’s heard three times.  So Yorke made a last-minute change that would unexpectedly break them in North America:

“The replacement word is ‘very,’” he told a laughing John Harris of the NME.  “It’s the best option, really…The alternative was putting in a bleep, and that was never going to work.  At least ‘very’ sounds sarcastic.  I can sing that without feeling a twat.”

When Harris correctly pointed out that he made a not so radical compromise, Yorke didn’t deny it:

“Oh yeah, of course we have.  We know we have.  And it’s pretty obvious that we have – so anybody with any brains will realize that, see through it and go and buy the proper version.”

Indeed, when Creep was made available as a CD single, only the uncensored album cut was included.

Several months after Pablo Honey’s modest release, Creep started getting significant airplay on KROQ, the influential modern rock FM station that would later break Alanis Morissette.  Other stations would soon add it to their own playlists.  Around the same time, both MTV in the US and MuchMusic in Canada started airing the performance video and putting it in high rotation.  The radio version provided the soundtrack.  (By 1994, even Beavis & Butthead gave it their own seal of approval.  The album went Gold in September and has since been certified Platinum.)

Meanwhile, Radiohead was resistant to re-releasing the song in the UK.  In the end, EMI got its way.  This time, Creep entered the Top 10.  They were no longer anonymous in their own country.

When Pablo Honey debuted in February 1993, this safe for work mix was not included on early pressings of the album.  But eventually it would be, just only on later North American editions.  It’s not clear when it became an Unlisted Bonus Track on track 13, but if you buy the album today it should still be on there.  However, when the album was reissued with a bonus disc of non-album B-sides and rarities in 2009, the radio version was removed from disc one.  Two other versions of the song, an acoustic take and a BBC radio session from June 1992, appear on disc two.

There’s no question the superior take is the album version.   How can it not be?  “So fucking special” says it all. That said, the radio mix is easily one of the best mystery tracks of all time.

Interestingly, while the hook of the album cut begins immediately, on the unlisted radio mix, drummer Phil Selway hits his sticks as a count-in before the band plays.  This means this version runs a few seconds longer.  Also, it’s very clear Yorke re-recorded his entire vocal, not just “so very special”.  Everything else is exactly the same.

It’s hard not to think of the incel movement while listening to Creep today.  “I don’t care if it hurts/I want to have control,” Yorke sings at the start of the second verse.  “I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul.”  An impossible standard even Yorke knows he’ll never meet.  (“But I’m a creep/I’m a weirdo”)

“I want you to notice when I’m not around,” he dreams almost pathetically before he makes clear his passive/aggressive feelings for his elusive target of lust.  (“I wish I was special/You’re so fucking special”)

Tapping into his permanent sense of alienation during the chorus (“What the hell am I doing here?/I don’t belong here”), by the end of the song he’s scared her off for good (“She’s running out again/she’s running out”).

At the start of the song, he puts her on a pedestal.  (“You’re just like an angel/Your skin makes me cry/You float like a feather/In a beautiful world”)  By the end, he angrily pouts and gives up.  (“Whatever makes you happy/whatever you want”)

While the song didn’t have the mass appeal of Smells Like Teen Spirit, it nevertheless entered the Billboard Top 40 and remains the biggest hit the band has ever had in America.  Despite eventually churning out dozens of big songs on FM rock radio, they wouldn’t have another Top 40 hit until Nude (from In Rainbows) fifteen years later.

Creep would be played on every date of the Pablo Honey tour for two years but all five members of Radiohead grew to resent its crossover success.  (Be careful what you wish for.)  First of all, there were deep worries about it being their only hit.

“…the thing about being a one-hit wonder: you know, you do come to believe it.” Yorke told the New York Times Magazine in 2000.  “You say you don’t but you do.  It messed me up good and proper.”

Second of all, Yorke didn’t want to be known as The Creep Guy (for many legitimate reasons) nor did Radiohead desire to be forever pegged as The Creep Band since it would significantly limit their artistic growth.  In that same NYT interview, Yorke bemoaned having to constantly answer press inquiries about the song, especially the ones about whether his parents screwed him up beyond repair:

“You can’t imagine how horrible that was.”

The internal resentment was so intense the band for years would not refer to it by name.  It was “that song” or “the previous song that shall remain nameless”.

In 1994, they released My Iron Lung, a deliberately sarcastic response to Creep.  The hook is very similar and then there’s this memorable lyrical passage:  “This is our new song/Just like the last one/A total waste of time”.  The humour was lost overseas.  It didn’t chart in America.

Despite endless requests for Creep during live shows, the band pulled it from the setlist for the rest of the decade.  (One such incident inspired Spirit Of The West’s 1996 song, Let The Ass Bray.)  Since 2001, they have only played it on rare occasions, every eight or nine years or so.  It wasn’t until 2016 when they toured in support of A Moon Shaped Pool that they made it a semi-regular part of their shows.  Thanks to all the brilliant, commercially successful albums they had released in the decades after it put them over, they could finally stop being so uptight about it.

Long after its first release, Creep’s popularity has continued to grow, just as Yorke boldly predicted in 1992.

The song was covered once by Prince during his 2008 appearance at Coachella, although he reversed the pronouns of the characters and extended the running time to almost ten minutes.  After someone posted a video of it on YouTube, he ordered it taken down and it was, much to Yorke’s disappointment.  “Well, tell him to unblock it.  It’s our song.” he said upon being informed of the situation, as noted by Yahoo! News.  Macy Gray did her own rendition for her album Covered, as did Carrie Manolakos whose live rendition in 2012 became an Internet sensation, as reported by The New Yorker.

In an unexpected moment of irony, Lana Del Rey declared in 2018 that the band’s publisher was planning on suing her because her song Get Free was a little too similar to Creep.  They wanted to collect all her royalties, she claimed.  She says she counteroffered with 40%.  While there was no lawsuit, Warner/Chappell Music didn’t deny they were hoping to collect some money, just not all of it.  It’s not clear if there was ever a settlement.  Del Rey, who has always maintained she didn’t steal from Radiohead, still sings Get Free in concert without any apparent consequence.  Unlike Radiohead, she cancelled her show in Apartheid Israel respecting the BDS movement for a Free Palestine.

In 2008, when EMI offered the public a Radiohead greatest hits collection, Creep reentered the Top 40 in the UK.  The band had already left the label in 2004 to pursue more profitable distribution options.  In 2019, as noted by Wikipedia, the song is “the UK’s most streamed song released in 1992” with over ten million downloads.

As for the Exeter student Yorke once pined for, the unknown subject of his breakthrough song, in 1992 he was long over her and believed she had moved on, too:

“I’m sure she didn’t give a shit, really.  She never gave a shit.” He asserted to the NME.  “She wasn’t even that nice, anyway…”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
2:59 a.m.

Published in: on December 17, 2019 at 2:59 am  Comments (1)  

The History Of The Mystery Track – The Rolling Stones Honour “Stu”

Ian Stewart wasn’t feeling well.  He’d been “suffering from acute respiratory problems for several days”, according to author Barry Miles.  On December 11, 1985, the night before his doctor’s appointment, he was on stage at the Old Vic Tavern in Nottingham, England playing a gig with his band Rocket 88.  Despite his discomfort, he didn’t appear to be in any serious danger.

“I was waiting for him in a hotel,” Keith Richards revealed to Rolling Stone in 2002.  “He was going to see a doctor and then come and see me.  Charlie [Watts] called about three in the morning:  ‘You still waiting for Stu?  He ain’t comin’, Keith.'”

“Next evening, he went to a Harley Street specialist for a heart scan,” Bill Wyman noted in his 1990 memoir Stone Alone.  After it was completed, he returned to the waiting room.  All of a sudden, he couldn’t breathe.

He never smoke, he never drank, he never abused drugs.  But at the age of 47, Ian Stewart had instantly succumbed to a massive heart attack.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.  It was less than two weeks to Christmas.  (His only son, Giles, was just 14 at the time.  Stewart was divorced.)  And his other band were in the middle of a serious crisis.

The Rolling Stones had been toiling away on the follow-up to Undercover for nearly a year.  It was originally scheduled for a June 1985 release.  Then it was rescheduled for September.   In the end, Dirty Work would finally surface in late March 1986.

The problem was Mick Jagger.  Every member of the band knows that when a Rolling Stones project is happening, it becomes the number one priority.  No matter what you’re working on, you have to set it aside to come back to the fold.

Jagger wouldn’t delay sessions for his first solo album, She’s The Boss, and that pissed off Richards.  After the lacklustre reception for Dirty Work, instead of going out with the band on a tour, Jagger would instead commence writing his second solo record, Primitive Cool, which dropped in 1987.  To drum up business for the follow-up, he also did solo shows in Japan and Australia and played Stones songs without his bandmates, further inflaming Richards.

Relations between The Glimmer Twins had become so icy they stopped talking to each other for nearly three years.  (Instead, they cut promos on each other in the media.)  The absence of the peacemaker Ian Stewart had never been more glaringly felt.  (They eventually reconciled in Eddy Grant’s studio before embarking on the enormous Steel Wheels album and subsequent tour.)

Eight days after his sudden fatal heart attack, every member of the band, along with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and numerous other rock and roll luminaries, attended Stu’s funeral.  While sitting together in one of the pews, Richards turned to Ronnie Wood and asked rhetorically:  “Who’s gonna tell us off now when we misbehave?”

Dirty Work has ten listed songs and one Unlisted Bonus Track.  Track eleven features a mid-tempo piano solo that lasts about 30 seconds.  There’s no mention of it anywhere in the liner notes.

That’s Ian Stewart playing a snippet of Key To The Highway, an old blues number by Big Bill Broonzy, a longtime Stones favourite.  (It actually has its own title:  Piano Instrumental, according to The Rolling Stones:  All The Songs, The Story Behind Every Track.)  The song was recorded in France at the Pathe-Marconi Studios on February 27, 1985 and in its full version, Keith Richards assumes lead vocals.  (It remains locked in a vault.)  Mick Jagger was absent from the studio that day, a regular occurrence during much of the sessions (he eventually showed up in the final stages to add all his vocals for most of the chosen tracks) which needlessly exasperated the tension with his longtime songwriting partner.  (Most of the Dirty Work outtakes feature Richards singing lead.)

21 years earlier, The Rolling Stones first recorded the song with Stewart and Jagger during a November 8 session at the famous Chess Studios in Chicago.  This version of Key To The Highway was never officially released but has been bootlegged for decades.  Another outtake version was recorded during the sessions for Exile On Main Street and later leaked.

During the making of the 1994 album Voodoo Lounge, the band tried laying down another take which ultimately didn’t make the cut.  It too was eventually made available in an unauthorized manner.  Key To The Highway has been played live by the band numerous times throughout the decades, including a few that were captured for TV broadcasts.  Richards himself later played the song with Eric Clapton in concert.  Clapton had recorded his own studio version for the Derek & The Dominos album.

On February 23, 1986, Key To The Highway was appropriately part of the setlist for a special tribute concert at the 100 Club in London held in honour of Stewart’s legacy.  A year after his sudden death, Richards played Key To The Highway as a guest performer during a club show with former bandmate Mick Taylor.

Stewart was an unusual character.  Originally born in Scotland (he would eventually relocate with his family to England before his teens), he would grow up looking like a cross between Jay Leno and Morrissey.  Blame a bad case of the measles for his prominent chin which made him self-conscious.  (“At around age 16, he had a revolutionary operation to try to reduce his jaw size,” according to Bill Wyman.)  He started playing piano “between the ages of five and seven”, reported Wyman in Rolling With The Stones, and never looked back.  (He also played the banjo in his youth and pursued athletics like rugby and weightlifting.)  His love of the blues never dimmed in his lifetime.  He later developed a passion for golf, his favourite pastime outside of music, “like his mum”, noted Wyman.  His only vice was a steady diet of cheeseburgers.

In his interactions with the Stones, he was blunt and direct, but never in a mean spirited way.  (Ironically, before he became a teenager, he was much more introverted.)  You always knew where you stood with him.   He was indisputably the conscience of the band.  Known for his biting humour, he was also a blues purist.  And, as it turns out, an integral figure in British rock and roll history.

In 1962, a fellow blues enthusiast who had started calling himself Elmo James placed an ad in Jazz Scene Magazine.  He wanted to put a band together.  Stewart would be the first to make contact.

The 24-year-old shipping clerk specialized in playing boogie woogie piano (he had already been playing gigs as part of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated with a drummer named Charlie Watts who also played with him later on in Rocket 88) and after he auditioned for Lewis by pounding out a number of ragtime songs on a ravaged upright piano from a pub in Soho called The Bricklayer’s Arms, he was immediately invited to join.

Over the course of the next year, many members would come and go until the first settled line-up in 1963.  Stu, as everybody called him, was mostly responsible for recruiting Richards, Jagger, Watts, and Wyman.

“It was his vision, the band, and basically he picked who was going to be in it.” Richards confirmed in Life.

James would eventually revert back to his birth name:  Brian Jones.

Because everybody else in the band were starving artists (except Wyman who worked during the day), Stu, who also had a steady job, would routinely supply money and food whenever he could.  “He was a big-hearted guy,” Richards later wrote in Life.

Enter Andrew Loog Oldham.  Already a PR veteran in his teens having worked for Brian Epstein and The Beatles, he was hired to be the band’s first manager in the spring of 1963.  Because The Fab Four had cleaned up their Teddy Boy image by wearing suits and charming the pants off the media with their polite cheekiness, Oldham instinctively knew that The Rolling Stones had to be promoted as their polar opposite (although initially they too wore the suits and ties but only for a short while).  They needed to be perceived as the bad boys of British rock.  Considering how they lived (in absolute filth and squalor) and acted (thieving was a necessity for survival), it wasn’t far from reality.  In his autobiography, while living with Jagger and Jones, Richards recalls that recording equipment was placed in their bathroom unbeknownst to their apartment building neighbours and friends.  They always played back the results for a laugh.  Chuck Berry would be proud.

Despite his characteristic outspokenness, the straightforward Ian Stewart neither looked the part of a rebel nor did he act like one.  (He dressed like a preppie and always had short hair.)  He was as straight as they come, so Oldham ordered Jones to fire him, which he did right in front of his bandmates.  Immediately recognizing his overall importance to the band, he was quickly offered a different job (which he immediately accepted) and would be seriously underpaid for the rest of his life (although he was the first Stone to buy a Jaguar).

For the next 22 years, he had a rotating list of duties.  First, he was the band’s fiercely loyal and protective road manager, driving them to gigs, setting up their equipment (until they could afford proper techies) and preventing them from getting seriously hurt during a startling number of audience riots.  (He once got hit with a bottle right in the old noggin.)  When he came to fetch them from their dressing room, as Bill Wyman noted in Stone Alone and Keith Richards cheerfully confirmed in his 2010 autobiography, he would cheekily address them as his “angel drawers”, “my little three-chord wonders” or most memorably, “my little shower of shit.”

“In the early tours it was just me and the band travelling around.”  Stu later recalled as noted in The Rolling Stones:  An Oral History.  “As the shows got bigger, especially in America we would start to get guys who would take care of the equipment and I would make sure the travel and hotel arrangements were together…”  He would also “make the arrangements setting up the rehearsals with the musicians and for the recording sessions.”

Starting in 1968, Stewart would also run The Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Unit, a travelling eight-track recording studio that would be rented out to some significant bands of the era and beyond.  The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd and the fourth untitled album by Led Zeppelin, the one that included Stairway To Heaven, were both recorded with that equipment, as was Houses Of The Holy and the Stones’ own Exile On Main Street.  Stu, who had already appeared on Boogie With Stu on Led Zeppelin III, delivered a memorable performance happily plunking away on the keys on Rock And Roll which was later licensed for a series of TV ads promoting the Cadillac CTS and other General Motors brands in the early 2000s.

In their most famous song, Deep Purple even referenced the Mobile Recording Unit in the first verse of Smoke On The Water (“to make records with a mobile”).  They used the equipment to make Machine Head.  A couple months after Stu’s death, the Unit was taken over by Wyman until he quit the band in 1992.

When blues legend Howlin’ Wolf made his London Sessions album in the UK in 1971, Stewart appeared on four tracks.  When the album was reissued and expanded in 2002, there he was on ten additional songs.  He was thanked second just behind Jagger in the liner notes.

In 1980, Stu appeared on stage with George Thorogood & The Destroyers for a concert that featured two songs that later appeared in The Rolling Stones pay-per-view special, The World’s Greatest Rock N’ Roll Party.  It was later officially released on home video in 2014.

Although not officially recognized as a full member (thanks to Oldham who was later replaced by Allen Klein), which meant he would no longer be photographed with the band for publicity purposes, Stu still appeared on numerous Stones recordings, both live and in the studio.  He can be heard tinkling in concert on a number of tracks on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out and Love You Live.  And that’s him on the original studio versions of Brown Sugar; Tell Me; Star Star; Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadows?; Time Is On My Side; Heart Of Stone; Dead Flowers; It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll; She Was Hot; The Last Time; Honky Tonk Women; It’s All Over Now; 19th Nervous Breakdown; Get Off Of My Cloud; Under My Thumb and Jumpin’ Jack Flash.  He also backed up the band on numerous album cuts and B-Sides.

Why didn’t he play piano on every Stones track?

“I don’t play minor chords,” he told producer and pianist in his own right Jim Dickinson as he later recounted to Bill Wyman.  “When I’m on stage with the Stones and a minor chord comes along, I lift me hands in protest.”

As a result, a rotating list of players, including the late great Nicky Hopkins and Billy Preston, filled his role on some other famous Stones tracks like Wild Horses (Dickinson played on that one); She’s A Rainbow and many, many others.

“…Nicky couldn’t play what Stu could, and vice versa.” Charlie Watts said as recounted in According To The Rolling Stones.  “Stu didn’t possess the finesse of the musical touch that Nicky had…Stu never played like that.  Stu was rumbling, with his left hand going at some ridiculous speed.  Stu had a very physical way of playing.  He was one of those players where the piano would bounce up and down.  The way he played was more like drumming.”

An unapologetic Stu had firm musical beliefs on what was acceptable and what wasn’t which the band didn’t always agree with, although as Richards notes in Life, he did ultimately soften his harsh criticism of Jerry Lee Lewis, a rare change of heart.  Amusingly, he hated the name of the band.  (“It sounds like a troupe of fucking Irish acrobats.”)  But he was overruled.

Stu played a major role in what has become the signature Stones song.  The band was struggling to figure out how to capture the right sound for this lick Richards had come up with and nearly forgot about.  As Stephen Davis reported in Our Gods Almost Dead, “Ian Stewart went over to Wallach’s Music City [in Los Angeles] & came back with a new Gibson fuzz box, the first one the company made, and told Keith, ‘Try this.’  It made the record.

The song was Satisfaction.

Stu was also instrumental in finding key replacements for departing band members.  When Brian Jones suddenly died in the summer of 1969, the pianist suggested Mick Taylor who stayed with the band for half a decade playing on some of their greatest singles.  Stu also played a role in Ronnie Woods joining the band when Taylor left.  Actually, as Woods recalled in The Rolling Stones: An Oral History, were it not for a certain Faces frontman, he would’ve become a member a lot sooner:

“…I remember when Brian died, Ian Stewart rang up the Faces rehearsal room, which we were using to get the band together initially.  [Stu is the reason they got that rehearsal space in the first place.]  He spoke to Ronnie Lane on the phone, and said, ‘Would Woody like to join the Stones now that Brian’s gone?’  And Ronnie Lane said, ‘No thanks, he’s quite happy where he is.’  I didn’t find this out for five years [laughs].”

“It’s really hard to remember when he wasn’t there,” Mick Jagger observed in the documentary 25 X 5: The Continuing Adventures Of The Rolling Stones, “but we used to rehearse in pubs and Stu would be there.  He was a lovely boogie woogie piano player.  He was very different from us because he was so straight and we were all a bit crazy.”

When the Stones were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in January 1989, Jagger eulogized Stu to audience applause calling him, “a great friend, a great blues pianist whose odd but invaluable musical advice kept us on a steady bluesy course for most of the time.”  Despite Oldham’s cruel actions in 1963, Ian Stewart, the sixth Stone (but really the first to join making him the second after Jones), was inducted as an official member.

“I honestly don’t like Andrew Oldham as a person.” Stu told a then teenage-Bill German, the publisher of Beggars Banquet, the official Rolling Stones fan zine in 1981, still steaming after nearly two decades.  If Oldham needed help of any kind, “I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.

In the liner notes of Dirty Work, besides being thanked for his contributions to the album, the band included this separate statement about his legacy:

“This album is dedicated to Ian Stewart[.]  ‘Thanks, Stu, for 25 years of boogie-woogie.'”

So, why the unlisted snippet of Key To The Highway on track 11 and not the full version with Richards on vocals?  Considering how buried Stewart’s piano playing is on the 1964 version (a frequent occurrence during his other recordings with the band), it made more sense to isolate his work on the 1985 take in order to briefly showcase his exceptional, often underappreciated skill.

Also, Stu was an intensely private person who never considered himself a rock star, so offering an unlisted tribute in his honour is apropos.  Even his 2004 biography, limited to less than a thousand copies, was not made available in bookstores.  You could only order it online from the publisher’s website.

“…Stu always did what he wanted to.” Keith Richards recalled in According To The Rolling Stones.  “He eventually ended up with his own band, Rocket 88 [formed in 1979], and did all the other things he wanted to do, like promoting all of his mates, pushing the people he thought were good, which is what he loved to do.  He’d fix somebody up with some gear or get them a rehearsal room.  Stu just loved the day-to-day mechanics of band working.”

“He never changed from the day I first knew him,” Charlie Watts observed in the same book.

“Ian Stewart.  I’m still working for him.”  Richards admitted in Life.  “To me the Rolling Stones is his band.  Without his knowledge and organization, without the leap he made from where he was coming from, to take a chance on playing with this bunch of kids, we’d be nowhere.”

When Beggars Banquet publisher Bill German asked Stu in 1981 why he was so loyal to the band, Stu simply answered, “I like the music.”  When he asked him if he would “do it all again?”, the man wasn’t hesitant:

“…oh yeah, sure, I’d do it all again.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 16, 2019
2:47 a.m.

The History Of The Mystery Track – Friends Again Soundtrack

The title is perhaps a little too self-aware:  Friends…Again.

In November 1999, right in the middle of its sixth season on NBC, Warner Bros. released a second collection of songs connected to one of its biggest sitcoms.  It had been four years since the release of its predecessor and much had changed.  Ross and Rachel had gotten together (including a drunken impromptu Vegas wedding) and broken up a couple of times (including an eventual divorce).  Insecure Chandler found himself in the middle of a lusty affair with a once indifferent Monica.  An dimly arrogant Joey got fired from Days Of Our Lives.  And Phoebe became a surrogate mother for her Scientologist brother.

The alternative rock that blasted glam metal off the charts at the start of the 90s was now being replaced by a new wave of teen pop at its conclusion.  You would never know it from listening to Friends Again.  Influential legends like R.E.M. and Lou Reed have been replaced by commercial college rockers Smash Mouth and Semisonic.  Highly respected songwriters like k.d. lang and Joni Mitchell are cast aside for photogenic newcomers like Lisa Loeb and Duncan Sheik.  The Barenaked Ladies have been swapped for another Canadian alt-pop outfit The Waltons.  Despite the trades, most of the tunes on this sequel are decent toe-tappers.  Even forever unknowns like Deckard and 8Stops7 offer good studio performances.

Once again, uncredited dialogue clips from the show have been scattered throughout the CD.  (Some are funny, others are hit and miss.)  There’s no indication of this in the track listing on the back cover.  But when you open up the liner notes and look at the label side of the CD itself, the vague description “Friends Sound Byte” pops up six times in both places at the end of specific track numbers.  Furthermore, an advertising sticker placed on the cellophane of the front cover reads “Also includes bonus excerpts from the FRIENDS television show…”  However, there are two others not mentioned at all.  Plus, there’s an Unlisted Bonus Track on track 14.  Let’s go through all nine mystery tracks in chronological order.

The properly credited track one features Friends’ warm-up guy Jim Bentley introducing the six cast members to an enthusiastic studio audience response during an unspecified taping in 1999 as the instrumental version of I’ll Be There For You (the TV version) is heard prominently in the mix.  Right after it concludes at the 38-second mark, Rachel confides in Phoebe and Monica:

“Ross kissed me.

Phoebe:  No! [squealing with delight] Yes!  Yes!

Monica:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Oh my God!

Rachel:  It was unbelievable!

Monica:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  [audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Ok.  Alright.  We want to hear everything.  Monica, get the wine and unplug the phone.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Ok.

Phoebe:  Rachel, does this end well or do we need to get tissues?

Rachel:  Oh, it ended very well.  [wine glasses clinking]

Phoebe:  Oh.

Monica:  Do not start without me!  [audience laughter]  Do not start without me!

Phoebe:  Ok.  Alright.  Let’s hear about the kiss.  Was it like, was it like a soft brush against your lips?  [drinks being pored] Or was it like a, you know, ‘I got to have you now’ kind of thing?  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  Well, at first it was really intense, you know, [more drinks being pored] and then [taking a breath], oh God, and then we just sort of sunk into it.

Phoebe:  Oh.  So, ok, was he holding you?  Or like was his hands like on your back?  [light audience laughter]

Rachel:  No, actually, first they, they started out on my waist, and then they slid up, and then they were in my hair.

Monica & Phoebe:  Oh.  [audience laughter]”

Then, while enjoying slices of pizza, Ross tells Joey & Chandler his perspective:

“And, uh, and then I kissed her.

Joey:  Tongue?

Ross:  Yeah.

Joey:  Cool.  [audience laughter]”

This scene begins three seconds into the eighth episode of the second season, The One With The List, and lasts for another minute and change.  Ross and Rachel’s momentous first kiss happens in the second-to-last scene of the previous episode, The One Where Ross Knows.  This aftermath scene plays out exactly the same way on the show as it does on the CD.

The next mystery track starts at 4:05 on track three:

“Chandler:  Ok.  Last night at dinner?  It’s like all of a sudden we were this couple, ok?  And this alarm started going off in my head, you know?  ‘Run for your life!  Get out of the building!’  [audience laughter]

Monica:  What is it with you people?  I mean, the minute you start to feel something you have to run away? [light audience laughter]

Chandler:  I know!  That’s why I don’t want to go tonight.  I’m afraid I’m gonna say something…stupid.

Monica:  [softly]  Oh, you mean like that guy thing where you act all mean and distant until you get us to break up with you?

Joey:  Hey, you know about that?  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  Look, what do I do?  I want to get past this.  I don’t want to be afraid of the commitment thing.  I want to go through the tunnel to the other side!  [audience laughter]

Joey:  Well, I’ve never been through the tunnel myself cuz, as I understand it, you’re not allowed to go through it with more than one girl in the car, right?  [turns to Ross who pretends to agree] [audience laughter]  But it seems to me it’s pretty much like anything else, you know.  Face your fear.  In this case, you have a fear of commitment.  So I say, you go in there and you be the most committed guy there ever was!  Go for it, man.  Jump off the high dive.  Stare down the barrel of a gun.  Pee into the wind!  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  Yeah, Joe, I assure you if I’m staring down the barrel of a gun I’m going to be pretty much peeing  every which way.  [audience laughter]”

This heavily edited sequence is taken from the fourth episode of the third season, The One With The Metaphorical Tunnel.  On the TV show, Chandler walks into Monica’s apartment with his black cordless phone ringing (what happened to the white one from season one?).  He wants Joey to answer it because he knows it’s his girlfriend Janice and he’s trying to get out of their date.  Joey refuses and the phone stops ringing.

After Rachel asks him, “What’s the big deal?  Why don’t you want to see Janice tonight?”, the CD version commences at 6:47 with Chandler talking about his previous outing with her at a restaurant.  In the TV show we get a clearer picture of what happened at dinner:  “….when the meals came, she put half her chicken piccata on my plate, and then she took all my tomatoes!  [audience laughter]”

Also not heard on the CD is Ross mocking Chandler for this while also trying to understand why this is such a big deal to him (“And that’s bad because you hate chicken piccata?  [light audience laughter]…You didn’t want to share your tomatoes.  Tomatoes are very important to you.  [audience laughter]”

To the first question, Chandler responds “No,” he doesn’t hate chicken piccata.  Then, we’re back to the CD version as he finishes the rest of his opening lines, minus an additional “No” that precedes “It’s like all of a sudden we were this couple…”

In another deleted portion not heard on Friends Again, a scoffing Rachel responds to Chandler’s paranoia:

“Ugh, men are unbelievable.  Janice just thought she was giving you chicken.  She didn’t think she was giving you scary chicken.  [audience laughter]”

Monica’s dialogue from the CD version is heard next but as Chandler responds on the actual episode he cuts himself off when he stares at Monica’s stuffed boob (part of her uniform working as a waitress at a 50s-themed diner where she later met wealthy Pete), understandably deleted because it’s a visual gag.  He then finishes the rest of his dialogue and Monica responds in the same way she does on the mystery track.  However, Rachel’s humming in agreement with her is cut from the CD.

After Chandler claims he wants to be a better boyfriend, just to make sure he understands the metaphorical tunnel, in another cut portion, Ross tells Joey, “Where’s there no fear of commitment.  [audience laughter]”

As Chandler turns around to ask Monica, “Do you have any [ideas]…”, he accidentally hits her fake boob with his open hand and after staring and pausing in embarrassment, he turns back to the boys, “Do we have any thoughts here?” in another understandably deleted section.

During Joey’s speech, there are a couple of lines not heard on the CD:

“You have a fear of heights?  You go to the top of a building!  You’re afraid of bugs.  [pause]  Get a bug.  [audience laughter]”

After Joey urges Chandler to be “the most committed guy that ever was”, Rachel’s deleted response is, “Amazingly, that makes sense,” as Monica softly moans in agreement, also excised.  Before Joey finishes the rest of his speech, his “Oh, yeah!” is missing from the CD, an insecure Chandler asks, “Do you think?” in another omitted moment.  The rest of the scene is exactly the same as it is on Friends Again.  Chandler would take quite a while to finally realize that fear of commitment isn’t the real reason his relationship with Janice is doomed.

Onto the next mystery track that begins at 3:05 of track five:

“Phoebe:  [chuckling]  That’s fine.  Go ahead and scoff.  You know, there are a lot of things out there that I don’t believe in.  But that doesn’t mean they’re not true.

Joey:  Such as?

Phoebe:  Like crop circles or the Bermuda Triangle or evolution.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  [chuckling in disbelief]  What, you don’t, uh, you don’t believe in evolution?

Phoebe:  I don’t know.  It’s just, you know, monkeys, Darwin, you know, it’s a nice story.  I just think it’s a little too easy.  Heh.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Too easy?  The process of every living thing on this planet evolving over millions of years from single-celled organisms is, is too easy?  [light audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Yeah, I just don’t buy it.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Uh, excuse me.  [chuckling]  Evolution is not for you to buy, Phoebe.  Evolution is scientific fact, like the air we breathe, like gravity.

Phoebe:  [chuckling]  Oh, ok.  Don’t get me started on gravity.”

This is taken from the third episode of the second season, The One Where Mr. Heckles Dies.  (Mr. Heckles, who originally had a different name in season one, was Monica & Rachel’s odd downstairs neighbour who thinks they make too much noise.)  After Heckles’ body is taken away from the apartment building, the gang gather back at Monica’s apartment.  Phoebe claims she can still “sense” his presence and yells at him to go towards the light.  The CD version of the scene begins at 4:21 of the TV show as she responds to the collective skepticism.  With the exception of a missing “Too” from Ross and the sound of a cookie dish sliding on the coffee table (both deleted from Friends Again), everything is exactly the same.

In the show, the scene continues with an incredulous Ross trying to understand why Phoebe doesn’t believe in gravity.  Then, they’re interrupted by Treeger the super and Heckles’ attorney who reveals that the solitary old man with no family and no money has left all his junk to Monica & Rachel.

While the gang realizes he was a bit of a hoarder (and a lot like Chandler when it comes to being picky about dating women) as they clean out his place, a peeved Ross continues to interrogate Phoebe about her anti-evolution stance.  When he later brings over his “suitcase of facts” that contains 200 million year old fossils to Monica’s kitchen, Phoebe gets the better of him by pointing out that she’s not actually against evolution, she just doesn’t think it’s the only answer.  Like a good defense attorney she gets him to admit that maybe, based on famous past scientific reevaluations, there’s a small chance he could be wrong.  “I can’t believe you caved,” she marvels.  An ashamed Ross, too stunned to speak, quietly walks out with his suitcase, and the subject is never brought up again.

The next Buried Audio clip appears at the 3:14 mark of track seven:

“Rachel:  I just wish we hadn’t lost those four months.  But if time is what you needed just to gain a little perspective.  [gently slaps his cheek as she ends her last line] [audience laughter]

Ross:  [yelling]  We were on a break!  [audience laughter]  And for the record, it took two people to break up this relationship!

Rachel:  Yeah!  You and that girl from the coffee place which yesterday you took full responsibility for!

Ross:  I didn’t know what I was taking responsibility for, ok?  I didn’t finish the whole letter!

Rachel:  What?

Ross:  I fell asleep!

Rachel:  [mocking]  You feel asleep?  [audience laughter]

Ross:  [exasperated]  It was 5:30 in the morning and you had rambled on for 18 pages!  [light audience laughter] [shouting]  Front and back!  [audience laughter]

Rachel [infuriated] Ohh.

Ross:  Oh, oh, oh and by the way, y-o-u-apostrophe-r-e means “you are”.  Y-o-u-r means “your”!  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  You know, I can’t believe I even thought of getting back together with you!  We are so over!

Ross: [pretending to be upset] [shouting]  Fine by me!  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  [shouting] Oh, oh, and hey, hey, hey!  Those little spelling tips will come in handy when you’re at home on Saturday night playing scrabble with Monica.

Monica:  [offended]  Hey!

Rachel:  Sorry.  [audience laughter]  I just feel bad about all that sleep you’re gonna miss wishing you were with me!

Ross:  Oh, no, no.  Don’t you worry about me falling asleep.  [shouting]  I still have your letter!  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  [shouting]  And hey!  Just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy, and it is a big deal!  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  [shouting]  I knew it!”

One of the most famous Ross & Rachel scenes from the show, this very funny clip is taken from the end of the fourth season premiere, The One With The Jellyfish.  The reunited couple is in bed together cuddling when Rachel brings up the infamous letter she wrote at the beach house earlier in the show much to Ross’ annoyance.  The CD version begins at the 21:17 mark of the episode.

After Ross shouts his catchphrase, an entering Chandler asks Monica, “Coffeehouse?” To which she replies, “You bet.”  This exchange is not heard on the CD.  They don’t make it out the door because a now dressed Ross and Rachel continue their fight in the living room in the same manner they do on Friends Again.  Only the audience laughter at Chandler’s last line has been cut.

Moving on to track nine and the fifth hidden clip that starts at 4:31:

“Chrissie Hynde:  [singing and playing acoustic guitar]  Smelly cat/smelly cat/what are they feeding you?  [light audience laughter]

Phoebe:  [cutting her off, clears her throat]  No, no, no.  I’m sorry.  [clears her throat again] [singing]  It’s smelly cat/smelly cat.  [audience laughter]

Chrissie:  [clears her throat and tries again]  S-S-Smelly cat/smelly cat.

Phoebe:  [cutting her off again]  Better.

Chrissie:  Yeah?

Phoebe:  Yeah, much better.  Good.  And you know what?  Don’t, don’t feel bad because it’s a hard song.

Chrissie:  Yeah.  [audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Wanna try again?

Chrissie:  Yeah!  From the top?

Phoebe:  [a bit peeved]  Ok.  There is no top, alright?  [light audience laughter]  That’s, that’s the beauty of Smelly Cat.  [light audience laughter]  Um.  [clears throat]  Why don’t you just follow me?

Chrissie:  Ok.

Phoebe:  Mmhmm.

Phoebe & Chrissie:  [singing in unison & playing together] Smelly cat/smelly cat/what are they feeding you?  [Chrissie sings high harmony]  Smelly cat/smelly cat/it’s not your fault.  [Chrissie quickly strums guitar and stops]

Phoebe:  That’s too much.  [audience laughter]

Chrissie:  Sorry.”

The longtime leader of The Pretenders (who appear on both the Friends soundtrack and Friends Again) plays Stephanie Schiffer, a rival musician who plays one paid gig at Central Perk, much to a jealous Phoebe’s dismay.  (Hynde does a solo acoustic version of the song heard on the earlier CD collection, Angel Of The Morning.)  The scene where Phoebe tries to teach her her signature song is the coda of the episode starting at the 24:17 mark.  It’s exactly the same as it is on the CD.

Right after the mystery track on Friends Again, still on track nine, Hynde starts counting into the next listed track, a double take on Smelly Cat.   First, we get a vocal reversal of the mystery track version (Kudrow as Phoebe doing the high harmony this time), followed by a quick, full-band, punky version.  When it’s over, Phoebe is still not impressed with her.

The sixth mystery snippet is on track eleven and begins at the 4:37 mark:

“Chandler:  Ok, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about us, you know, a lot of, uh, ‘us’ thinking, and uh, well I guess there’s only one way to do this.  [gets on one knee, light audience laughter]

Monica:  [concerned] What are you doing?

Chandler:  Monica…

Monica:  No, no, no.  Don’t, don’t, don’t do it.

Chandler:  Will you marry me?  [women in the audience squeal with delight]

Monica:  [softly]  Chandler, why are you doing this?

Chandler:  I’m doing this because I’m sorry?  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Do you, um, do you really think the best reason to get married is because you’re sorry?

Chandler:  Oh, no.  The best reason to get married is pregnancy.  [chuckles] [audience laughter]  Sorry’s pretty much fourth, you know, behind being ready and actually wanting to get married.  [laughs, audience laughter]  [deadpan]  Will you be my wife?  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Do you know that none of that stuff came from me?  I mean, I never said that I wanted to have babies and get married right now.

Chandler:  Yeah, I know.  But I was really confused.  And then I talked to these guys.

Monica:  Who?  Two divorces & Joey?  [audience laughter]

Ross:  [offended]  Hey!

Joey:  She’s right, you know?  [audience laughter]

Ross:  [whining]  Yeah, but still, cheap shot.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  You know when I said that I want you to deal with this relationship stuff all on your own?  Well you’re not ready for that.

Chandler:  [loudly relieved]  I didn’t think I was!  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Oh my God.  [chuckling]  What would you have done if I said yes?

Chandler:  Well, I would’ve been happy because I would’ve been able to spend the rest of my life with the woman that I love.  [pause]  Or you would’ve seen a Chandler-shaped hole in that door.  [audience laughter]”

At the 19:22 mark of the fifth season episode, The One With The Girl Who Hits Joey, a desperate Chandler, still wracked with deep insecurities about being a committed partner in his most serious relationship, makes his first attempt at proposing to Monica.  Earlier on in the episode, Chandler realizes he’s not ready for marriage or fatherhood.  Monica storms out on him when he claims they’re in a “casual” relationship.  Ross stupidly advises him he needs to make a “big gesture” to win her back.

In the actual episode, the fifteenth of that year, the women in the audience squeal twice, the first time when Chandler gets down on one knee.  Only the second reaction is heard in the clip on Friends Again.  Joey’s comment, “What a bad idea,” and Rachel’s, “Oh, I can’t not look at it,” have also been deleted from the CD version.

When Monica asks Chandler, “Why are you doing this?” his first response is only heard on the TV episode:

“I don’t know.  [audience laughter]  But I know I’m not afraid to do this.”

After Chandler proposes, Monica kneels down with him and says, “Chandler, umm, I want you to take just a minute and I want you to think about how ridiculous this sounds.”  An embarrassed Chandler replies, “Yeah, I’m kinda wishing everyone wasn’t here right now.  [audience laughter]”  All of this was cut out of the CD version including Monica calling him “honey”.  The rest of the scene plays out exactly the same in both versions.  Chandler, of course, would eventually get it right with his final proposal to her at the end of season six, one of the most touching moments in the show’s history.

Another unlisted excerpt is heard beginning at 3:47 on track twelve:

“Joey:  Hey Ross, will you pass me that knife?

Ross:  [pretending to be defiant]  No, I will not!

Joey:  [taken aback]  Oh, it’s ok, you don’t have to be so mean about it.

Ross:  You’re right.  I’m sorry.  Will you marry me?  [Rachel laughs hard, audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Aww, and I was gonna ask you to marry me because I forgot to say hello to you last week.  [audience laughter] [Joey chuckles]

Rachel:  Oh, no, wait, Pheebs.  I think for something like that you just ask them to move in with you but I’m not sure.  Chandler?  [light audience laughter]

Chandler:  [chuckling, getting a little annoyed]  Ok.  How long is this gonna go on?

Monica:  [chuckles]  Well, I think the length of teasing is directly related to how insane you were so, a long time.  [audience laughter, Rachel & Phoebe laugh]

Ross:  This is fun.  Ah, hey, Rach, remember that whole ‘we were on a break’ thing?  Well, I’m sorry.  Will you marry me?  [Ross laughs] [audience laughter]

Everybody but Ross:  That’s not funny, man!  [audience laughter]”

This is the coda scene from the same episode that happens right after Monica and Chandler make peace following his botched proposal.  Beginning at the 21:28 mark, it takes place at Central Perk and is exactly the same as it is on the CD.

The last mystery clip begins at 3:41 on track thirteen.  After 21 seconds of silence following The Waltons’ Beats The Hell Out Of Me, we’re back at Central Perk for another performance:

“Phoebe:  [quietly strums guitar and sings]  I found you in my bed/How’d you wind up there?  [audience laughter]  You are a mystery/Little black curly hair  [audience laughter]  Little black curly hair/Little black/Little black/Little black/Little black/Little black curly hair  [holds last note while lowering the volume] [stops singing] [audience laughter and applause] [talking]  Thank you.”

That’s right.  Phoebe is singing about a pubic hair.  Ross picked the wrong time to eat cake.

This memorable clip is taken from the third episode of the sixth season, The One With Ross’ Denial.  The TV version begins at 18:37 (the guitar intro is one second longer and actually starts right at the end of Monica and Chandler’s fight over his Merge sign in the bedroom idea).  After she finishes her song (screenwriter Seth Kurland wrote the lyrics while Lisa Kudrow composed the melody), Phoebe tells the customers, “Now if you want to receive emails about my upcoming shows then please give me money so I can buy a computer.”  This part was cut from the CD.

Ode To A Pubic Hair (the actual title of the song) was referenced three years later in the ninth season episode, The One With Ross’ Inappropriate Song.  Phoebe mentions it along with Pervert Parade during her awkward dinner with Mike’s parents.

Friends Again concludes with two versions of Friends ‘Til The End (I’ll Be There For You), both performed by Thor-El (is that a Superman pun?), also known as Almighty Thor.  A longtime collaborator of KRS-ONE, he’s the lone rapper in this otherwise pop/rock Caucasian collection.  The first version, track thirteen, is properly credited.  The second, track fourteen, is not.

Despite being a remix overseen by KRS-ONE (who is credited for it and acknowledged in the liner notes), it’s really not that much different from the regular mix, nor is it an improvement.  Sampling the hook and The Rembrandts singing the chorus of the original TV theme (now backed by female back-up singers), Friends ‘Til The End is faster paced but far more annoying, like the protagonist in the song who can’t stop mooching off his buddy.  Thor-El, who wrote all his rhymes, sounds a little too much like DMX’s younger brother and not in a good way.

Unlike the original Friends Soundtrack, Friends Again failed to find much of a following.  Despite the later emergence of three additional releases, it would be the last CD from the show to feature uncredited material.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 8, 2019
6:09 p.m.

The History Of The Mystery Track – The Beatles & Queen Elizabeth

“For our last number I’d like to ask your help.  Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands?  And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.”

On the evening of November 4th, 1963, The Beatles taped a famous set at The Prince Of Wales theatre in London, England.   It was the annual Royal Command Performance (AKA The Royal Variety Show), a multi-act concert for charity with a history that precedes the first World War.  The Beatles were part of an an extensive bill that included movie star Marlene Dietrich, Elvis Costello’s father Ross MacManus and Wilfrid Brambell who later played Paul McCartney’s “very clean” fictional grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night.

The performance aired six days later on ITV and was watched by more than a third of the country.  (BBC Radio also aired all four songs they played that night.)   Despite being invited every year until their acrimonious break-up in 1970, this would mark their only appearance at the event.

Backstage, before they went on, John Lennon openly planned to make a cheeky remark at the expense of certain Royal Family members in attendance before their finale Twist & Shout.  He went through with it minus an expletive.  In the end, Lennon was talked out of saying “fucking” before “jewellery.”  (You can hear his comments at the tail end of Til There Was You on disc two of Anthology 1.  He later made an oblique reference to this moment in Mean Mr. Mustard.)

Unfortunately, Queen Elizabeth, then 37-years-old and just a decade into her ongoing reign as the figurehead of Ol’ Blighty, was not in attendance that night.  (But her mother was and she reportedly had a great time at the show.)  She was absent because she was five months pregnant with Prince Edward, her youngest child, who would be born the following March.

On June 12th, 1965, her annual Birthday Honours List was announced.  Like every year, hundreds of names from various fields are invited to join the British Empire.  Besides honouring veterans (which was not the original plan when these awards were first conceived in the 1910s), there is also a Civil Division category mainly reserved for recognizing politicians and various other types of government workers, journalists, athletes, scientists, activists, educators but almost never entertainers.  Today, most of the names are quite unrecognizable with the exception of four:  George Harrison, John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

It’s hard to fathom today just how incredibly controversial it was in 1965 to award pop stars membership into the British Empire.  (In the current political climate, almost no one raises a fuss about this anymore.  Many rock stars gladly accept an invitation.)  A small number of past recipients (we’re talking grumpy conservative war veterans) were so offended, they disgustedly returned their medals in protest.

Lennon had the perfect retort:

“Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war – for killing people…We received ours for entertaining other people.  I’d say we deserve ours more.”

(Ironically, on November 25th, 1969, Lennon himself would do the same thing, but for different reasons.)

When the British press were allowed to announce the list (they were embargoed until given the official go-ahead from the Royal Family), McCartney was actually on holiday in Portugal with his then-girlfriend, the actress Jane Asher.  Not scheduled to return home from their two-week vacation until the day after the official announcement was finally made, the couple returned a day early (manager Brian Epstein insisted) as the local papers trumpeted the MBE story on their front covers.  The press greeted them at the airport.

Four months later in late October, The Beatles arrived at Buckingham Palace to once again have their ears shattered by the incessantly loud sounds of thousands of their fans screaming in ecstasy as they walked in to receive their medals.  (They had to wait for Lennon who finally showed up over an hour late.)

“It was like in a dream,” Lennon recalled years later.  “It was beautiful.  People were playing music, I was looking at the ceiling – not bad the ceiling.  It was historical.  It was like being in a museum.”

At the hastily arranged press conference that followed the quick yet heavily structured morning ceremony, Paul remarked of the head of the Royal Family, “She’s lovely, great.  She was very friendly.”

“She was just like a mum to us,” 24-year-old Lennon recalled fondly despite previously not really being much of a fan of the monarchy, a sentiment that extended to the entire band at that point.  A less impressed Harrison added:  “She just said, ‘It’s a pleasure to give this to you.’  That’s what she said.  She actually said it to everyone.”

The Queen ended up making small talk with the fellas wondering what they were working on and asking about their history.  McCartney recounted, “Then she said to me, ‘Have you been together long?’ and I said, ‘Yes, many years,’ and Ringo said, ‘Forty years,’ and she laughed.”

In early 1967, The Beatles released Penny Lane.  One of the characters in the song is “a fireman with an hourglass and in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen”.  This marked the first time McCartney had ever directly referenced Queen Elizabeth in a song lyric.  It would not be the last.

On January 9, 1969, McCartney introduced to his bandmates a fragment of a new song that he had written at his home in Scotland.  For a minute, McCartney loosely played on the piano what he would eventually record on acoustic guitar six months later.  Sometime later that month, the band attempted to jam it out in a rehearsal that lasted almost two and a half minutes.  These moments were originally filmed at the Twickenham Film Studios (where the Beatles shot interior scenes for the movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help!) for possible inclusion in the movie, Let It Be.  (Neither made the cut.)  In fact, many songs that ended up on the Abbey Road album were unveiled for the first time during that tense-filled month-long period.

A few months after the Let It Be project was temporarily shelved for future retooling and polishing the following year, McCartney convinced longtime producer George Martin to return to the studio for one last recording project with his bandmates.  The result, of course, was Abbey Road, one of their best-loved albums.

During the filming of Let It Be, a bunch of unfinished songs were tested out by the band and ultimately rejected for the eventual theatrical documentary and subsequent album.  But while working on Abbey Road, they were given a second life.  Instead of fleshing out these little, incomplete segments into properly structured three-minute pop songs, the band decided instead to stitch them together into a medley, one that would almost cover an entire side of vinyl.

The original plan was to put it all on side one but eventually, The Huge or The Long One, as this cycle of tracks became known, was relegated to the flip side.  Either way, Abbey Road was going to end with a song being cut off.

On the afternoon of July 3, 1969, Paul McCartney arrived at Abbey Road Studios to record Her Majesty, his 23-second tribute to Queen Elizabeth, while he had the studio all to himself.  Recorded live and only taking up two tracks of eight-track tape, he made three proper attempts, only two of which were complete takes.  (When the 50th Anniversary reissue of Abbey Road was released in the fall of 2019, all of them were bundled into a single track.  The earlier outtakes from the Let It Be filming were curiously excluded.)

Phil McDonald, the engineer who recorded the session, asked Paul if he wanted to hear the playback of take three.  Paul liked what he heard and the song was added to The Huge, right between Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.   Chris Blair, who was asked to fill in as tape operator, recalled to author Mark Lewisohn his memories of that day:  “I was extremely nervous on the session and my mind went completely blank.  Paul sat down and did ‘Her Majesty’ and I couldn’t for the life of me think how to spell Majesty on the tape box.  I rang upstairs, all around the building, asking people how to spell Majesty.”

Once everything was recorded, Paul got a chance to listen to a rough 15 minute and 30 second edit of the medley it in its entirety.  The order ran as follows:

  1. You Never Give Me Your Money
  2. Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard
  3. Her Majesty
  4. Polythene Pam
  5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  6. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight
  7. The End

John Kurlander, the second engineer on the recordings, recalled to Mark Lewisohn the day in late July the decision was made by Paul to ax Her Majesty from The Huge:

“He said ‘I don’t like Her Majesty, throw it away,’ so I cut it out – but I accidentally left in the last note.  He said ‘It’s only a rough mix, it doesn’t matter,’ in other words, don’t bother about making a clean edit because it’s only a rough mix.  I said to Paul, ‘What shall I do with it?’  ‘Throw it away,’ he replied.”

But Kurlander didn’t throw it away as he explained to Lewisohn:

“I’d been told [by the bigwigs at EMI, The Beatles’ record company] never to throw anything away, so after [Paul] left I picked [the discarded tape of Her Majesty] up off the floor, put about 20 seconds [actually, 15] of red leader tape before it and stuck it onto the end of the edit tape.  The next day, down at Apple, Malcolm Davies cut a playback lacquer of the whole sequence [longtime roadie Mal Evans took the tape to Apple on 31 July, returning it to EMI on the same day] and, even though, I’d written on the [tape] box that ‘Her Majesty’ was unwanted, he too thought, ‘Well, mustn’t throw anything away, I’ll put it on at the end.’  I’m only assuming this, but when Paul got that lacquer he must have liked hearing ‘Her Majesty’ tacked on the end.  The Beatles always picked up on accidental things.  It came as a nice little surprise there at the end, and he didn’t mind.  We never remixed ‘Her Majesty’ again, that was the mix which ended up on the finished LP.”

The ending chord of Mean Mr. Mustard can be heard right at the top of Her Majesty because that’s how the two songs were edited together for the medley.  And the last chord of Her Majesty is cut off because the rest of it ended up at the beginning of the next song in The Huge, Polythene Pam.  (Thanks to the 50th Anniversary edition of Abbey Road, you can now hear this original version of The Long One with Her Majesty reinserted into its original slot.)

When the final mix of the medley was ready for his approval, McCartney had a listen.  He preferred this reworked version and signed off on it.  But fifteen seconds after The End concluded, the tape kept rolling playing nothing but silence until the final crashing chord of Mean Mr. Mustard startled him as his rejected Her Majesty suddenly started playing.  Realizing that listeners would probably have the same reaction, it was decided to keep the song where it was.  But in order to maintain the surprise, Her Majesty would not be listed in the track listing.  It wasn’t until 18 years later when the first CD edition arrived that it was finally acknowledged, in this case as track seventeen.  Two additional reissues have kept it as a properly credited song.  However, the 2009 vinyl reissue has turned it back into a mystery track.

“It was quite funny,” McCartney later remarked to his longtime friend and biographer Barry Miles in 1997, “because it’s basically monarchist, with a mildly disrespectful tone, but it’s very tongue-in-cheek.  It’s almost a love song to the queen.”

“Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl/But she doesn’t have a lot to say,” McCartney sings at the start of the track.  Never formally educated, Queen Elizabeth was originally very self-conscious about her limitations and often appeared shy during public functions, although in 1965 when she met The Beatles she certainly didn’t have any trouble showing interest in their career.

“Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl/But she changes from day to day”

Around the time of Sgt. Pepper, it was reported that The Queen wasn’t exactly on board with their psychedelic period.  McCartney appears to be slyly referencing this.  (When he addressed the vast critical loathing for the Magical Mystery Tour TV Special (which aired on Boxing Day 1967), he infamously retorted:  “It wasn’t the worst programme over Christmas.  I mean, you couldn’t call the Queen’s [Christmas Day] speech a gas, either, could you?”)

“I wanna tell her that I love her a lot/But I’ve got get a bellyful of wine/Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl/Someday I’m gonna make her mine, oh yeah/Someday I’m gonna make her mine”

Although The Beatles were nervous to meet The Queen to receive their MBE medals, as far as we know, none of them, including McCartney, had any alcohol on their breath.  They, did, however sneak a quick cigarette in one of the palace bathrooms, not a joint as Lennon wrongly asserted later on.  (Harrison set the record straight years later.)  Regardless of its blending reality with schoolboy fantasy, while it’s far from brilliant, Her Majesty remains a curiously endearing throwaway.  (This Esquire journalist absurdly believes it’s their best overall song.)

In 1997, McCartney would once again find himself face to face with the head of the monarchy.  On this occasion, he would be knighted and given the official title of Sir.  (Ringo Starr would get his turn 20 years later.)  In 2018, he would also be named a Companion of Honour, essentially the Royal Family’s version of a lifetime achievement award.

For her part, in 2007, to honour the 50th Anniversary of McCartney and Lennon’s first fateful meeting at a church picnic when they were still high school students, she released a supportive message “with much pleasure”.

In 2002, McCartney was the headliner for the star-studded Party At The Palace as Elizabeth the 2nd, approaching her 60th year on the throne, looked on.  And yes, he played Her Majesty, the only time it’s ever been part of his setlist.  (The Dave Matthews Band have covered the song in concert, as well.)

In the autumn of 2019, a now 77-year-old McCartney was interviewed by the UK’s Express newspaper.  Five decades after his unusual tribute to the Queen, he continues to sing her praises.  In fact, his admiration for the 93-year-old figurehead has never been higher:

“I think she’s a great figure in history.  When everything’s falling apart in Britain she seems to be the glue.”

When she was first coronated back in 1953, McCartney found her “very attractive” and “like a glamorous film star”.

“She’s very intelligent,” he asserted, having now met with her on a handful of public occasions.

Back in 2012, he told the Telegraph, “She’s fabulous.  I’ve got a lot of time for her.”

In the same interview, while discussing Her Majesty, McCartney marvelled at how he was able to get away with it and not face any severe consequences for pretending to make a play for Prince Philip’s wife:

“It’s just a cheeky little song.  It sort of sums up how things have changed, doesn’t it?  You can write songs like that and not get sent to the Tower.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 25, 2019
7:29 p.m.

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 7:29 pm  Comments (1)  

The History Of The Mystery Track – Hidden Laughs & More Rembrandts On The 1995 Friends Soundtrack

The unexpected explosion of I’ll Be There For You, first a weekly TV theme in 1994, then an expanded pop song in mid-1995, convinced greedy NBC and Warner Bros. executives that more money was there to be made from music associated with their blockbuster sitcom.  In the summer of 1995, plans were hatched to put together what would become the first of five soundtracks spread out over the next 24 years.

A month into the second season, soundtrack number one debuted in October.  Simply titled Friends, the cover featured all six cast members lying down on a mattress, with “brother” and “sister” and a later, rejected romantic couple paired off through handholding.  Mostly aimed at the Nirvana Generation, superstar bands R.E.M. and Hootie & The Blowfish shared space with alt-rock legends Lou Reed, The Pretenders and Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.  Newcomers like Grant Lee Buffalo and Toad The Wet Sprocket were squeezed in with Canadians k.d. lang and the Barenaked Ladies.

Bookending all of them were the very reasons for this release.

The Rembrandts’ original theme kicks things off on track one while the Stickered Bonus Track version from L.P. (now properly listed on the second edition of that album and beyond, as well as on here) appears on track thirteen.

A quick perusal of the liner notes reveals additional, unlisted content:

“‘FRIENDS’ excerpts performed by Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.”

With the exception of a dark Phoebe folk medley noted in that same paragraph (complete with songwriting credits), you have to listen to the CD to not only find out what these other excerpts are but also where they’re all located.  I found most of these clips really funny in my 20s.  More than 20 years later, there are still some one-liners that have held up relatively well.  Let’s go through them all in the order they appear.

As the final chord of the TV Version of I’ll Be There For You rings out on track one, Chandler Bing starts talking at the 47-second mark:

“I am telling you, years from now, schoolchildren will study it, as one of the greatest first dates of all time.  [audience laughter]  It was unbelievable.  We could totally be ourselves.  We didn’t have to play any games.

Monica:  So have you called her yet?

Chandler:  Let her know I like her?  What?  Are you insane?  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Oh, guys.  It’s gross.

Chandler:  It’s the next day.  How needy do I want to seem?  I’m right.  Right?

Ross & Joey:  Oh, yeah.

Joey:  Let her dangle.

Ross:  Yeah.  [audience laughter]

Monica: Oh.  I can’t believe my parents are actually pressuring me to find one of you people.  [audience laughter]

Phoebe:  God, come on!  Just do it!  Call her!  Stop being so testosterone-y!  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  Which, by the way, is the real San Francisco treat [a reference to Rice-A-Roni].  [audience laughter]”

This 46-second snippet is from the 20th episode of season one, The One With The Evil Orthodontist.  It begins at the 1:38 mark of the show, right after the opening credits.  Like the CD, the theme song leads right into Chandler’s opening dialogue.  For some reason, this quick exchange which comes after Chandler’s opening line but before he ends his first set of lines was omitted from the CD version:

“Phoebe:  Yay!

Chandler:  I’ll say yay!”

Chandler does end up calling the woman but gets her answering machine.  It turns out she’s not an easy person to get a hold of.

The next mystery clip begins at the 3:18 mark of track 3:

“Rachel:  Okay, okay, Roger was creepy.  But he was nothing compared to Pete Carny.

Monica:  Which one was Pete Carny?

Rachel:  Pete The Weeper?  Remember the guy who used to cry every time we had sex?  [audience laughter] [imitates a weepy Pete]  ‘Oh!  Was it good for you?’  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Yeah, well, I’ll take a little crying any day over Howard The ‘I Win’ Guy.  [imitates Howard]  ‘I win!  I win!’  [audience laughter]  I went out with the guy for two months.  I didn’t get to win once.  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  How did we end up with these jerks?  We’re good people.

Monica:  I don’t know.  Maybe we’re like some kind of magnets.

Phoebe:  [excitedly]  You know my friend Abby who shaves her head?  [audience laughter]  She says that if you want to break the bad boyfriend cycle you can do like a cleansing ritual.  [light audience laughter]

Rachel:  Pheebs.  This woman is voluntarily bald.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Ok, well, what kind of ritual?

Phoebe:  Ok.  We can, umm, we can burn the stuff they gave us.

Rachel:  Or…?  [light audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Or…or we can chant and dance around naked.  You know, with sticks.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Burning’s good.

Rachel:  Burning’s good.  Yeah.

This 70-second snippet is from the 14th first season episode, The One With The Candy Hearts, which aired five days before Valentine’s Day 1995.  The scene starts at 4:58 on the show and is actually a bit longer.  Dialogue has been trimmed in a few places for the CD version.  The first comes right after Monica says, “Maybe we’re some kind of magnets.”  Thinking she’s being literal, Phoebe then says:

“I know I am.  That’s why I can’t wear a digital watch.  [audience laughter]”

Monica replies:  “There’s more beer, right?  [audience laughter]”

When Phoebe remembers her bald friend Abby, she begins with an omitted “Oh!”, then asks her question which is heard on the CD.

In the full TV version, Monica answers, “No,” she doesn’t know Abby.  Then Phoebe says, “Ok, well, I have this friend Abby who shaves her head.  [audience laughter]”  Her following “But” is not on the CD but her line about the cleansing ritual is.

Another deleted portion occurs after Rachel says that Abby is “voluntarily bald”.  A nodding Phoebe replies, “Yeah!  [audience laughter]”  Then says, “So, we can do it” meaning the ritual “tomorrow night, you guys.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  It’s perfect.”  The rest of the scene, picking up with Monica asking what the ritual entails, plays out right to the end as it does on the CD.

A few seconds after k.d. lang’s underappreciated Sexuality fades out on track five, a rare moment where silence separates a listed song from buried audio here, the next uncredited Friends scene begins at 3:20 with the sound of burning:

“Phoebe:  Ok.  So now we need, umm, sage branches and the sacramental wine.  [light audience laughter]

Monica:  All I had is, is oregano and a Fresca [soft drink].

Phoebe:  Um…[excitedly] that’s ok!  [audience laughter] [Phoebe pours them into the burning bucket]

Monica:  Ok.

Phoebe:  Alright, now we need the semen of a righteous man.  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  Huh.  Ok, Pheebs.  You know what?  If we had that, we wouldn’t be doing the ritual in the first place.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  Can we just start throwing things in?

Phoebe:  Umm…yeah!  Ok!  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  Ok, Barry’s letters, [Dentist Barry was her fiance she left at the altar in the pilot.] Adam Ritter’s boxer shorts.

Phoebe:  Oh, and I have the receipt from my dinner with [an unpronounceable African name; she pops her cheek with her tongue] [audience laughter]

Monica:  Hey, look, there’s a picture of Scotty Jared naked.

Phoebe & Rachel:  Oh!

Rachel:  Let me see.  Hey, he’s wearing a sweater.

Monica:  No.

Phoebe & Rachel:  Ew!  [audience laughter]”

This scene, also from The One With The Candy Hearts, starts in the actual episode at 12:54.  Nothing has been cut for its uncredited inclusion on the Friends soundtrack.  However, in the show, the scene continues with Phoebe accidentally putting in her MCI card (which she haplessly tries to memorize as it burns) and Rachel foolishly dumping in “the last of” her Italian ex-boyfriend “Paolo’s grappa” wine which turns out to be quite flammable as the fire exponentially grows in size.  (The overhead light shown in the episode’s coda is a little blackened.)

At the 17:01 mark, three firemen, who have experience with such Valentine’s Day “boyfriend bonfires” (this is the third they’ve extinguished this year), have already saved the day.  The fire is put out before the scene even begins.  They offer advice on how to prevent any more out-of-control mini-infernos.  In the last scene, the girls ask them out, thinking the cleansing ritual worked.  But then we learn two of the men aren’t single.

Moving on to the next clip.  You’ll find it on track seven.  Just as R.E.M.’s It’s A Free World Baby fades out, Joey and Chandler try to convince a suddenly glum Ross to have a boys’ night out:

“Joey:  Ross, check it out.  Hockey tickets, Rangers/Penguins, tonight at the Garden, and we’re taking you.  [pats Ross on the shoulder]

Chandler:  Happy Birthday, pal!  [pats Ross on the shoulder]

Joey:  We love ya, man.  [hugs Ross and kisses him on the cheek]

Ross:  [soft chuckle] [light audience laughter]  Funny, my birthday was seven months ago.  [light audience laughter]

Joey:  So?

Ross:  So, I’m guessing you had an extra ticket and couldn’t decide which one of you got to bring a date?

Chandler:  Well, aren’t we Mister-The-Glass-Is-Half-Empty.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Oh my God.  Is today the 20th, October 20th?

Monica:  I was hoping you wouldn’t remember.

Ross:  [groans] Oh.

Joey:  What’s wrong with the 20th?

Chandler:  Eleven days before Halloween?  All the good costumes are gone?  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Today’s the day Carol and I fir[st] consummated our…physical relationship.  [to Joey]  Sex.  [light audience laughter]  You know what?  I, ah, I’d better pass on the game.  I think I’m just gonna go home and think about my ex-wife and her lesbian lover.  [audience laughter]

Joey:  [suddenly excited] The hell with hockey, let’s all do that!  [audience laughter]”

This Central Perk conversation is from the fourth episode, The One With George Stephanopoulos, which actually aired on October 13th.  Joey’s invitation to Ross starts at 2:58.  Once again, a couple of lines have been cut from the CD version.  After Ross makes sure Joey knows he’s talking about sex with his ex-wife, Mr. Tribbiani replies:

“You told your sister that?

Ross:  [slight chuckle]  Believe me, I told everyone.  [audience laughter]”

The scene continues like it does on the CD.

Eventually, in the full TV episode, the boys convince Ross to go with them to the hockey game (they promise to buy him a big foam finger) but while at Madison Square Garden, he gets hit with a puck and they take him to the emergency room.

The next unlisted excerpt appears on track nine at the 4:06 mark.  While taking a break from assembling his furniture after his recent divorce from gay Carol, Joey & Chandler try to encourage Ross as he worries he won’t ever find another partner:

“Ross:  What if there’s only one woman for everybody, you know?  I mean, what if you get one woman, and that’s it?  [slight pause]  Unfortunately, in my case, there was only one woman…for her.  [light audience laughter]

Joey:  What are you talking about?  One woman.  [audience laughter]  That’s like saying there’s only one flavour of ice cream for you.  Let me tell you something, Ross.  There’s lots of flavours out there.  There’s…rocky road, and cookie dough, and – bing! – cherry vanilla.  [audience laughter]  You can get ’em with jimmies or nuts or whipped cream.  [Ross lightly chuckles]  This is the best thing that ever happened to you!  You got married.  You were like, what, 8?  [snorts] [audience laughter]  Welcome back to the world!  Grab a spoon!

Ross:  I honestly don’t know if I’m hungry or horny.  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  Then stay out of my freezer.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  [skeptically]  Grab a spoon.  You know how long it’s been since I grabbed a spoon?  Do the words ‘Billy, Don’t Be A Hero’ mean anything to you?  [audience laughter]  You know, here’s the thing.  Even if I could get it together, um, enough to, you know, to ask a woman out, who am I gonna ask?”

These are actually two shortened scenes cut into one from the very first episode known as The One Where It All Began.  Before it begins on the Friends CD, there’s a line from the TV version that’s been excluded.  Ross says, “You know what the scariest part is?”  And then the CD version commences at the 15:13 mark.

After Chandler tells Ross to “stay out of my freezer”, the show cuts to Monica on her date with the creep who lies about being impotent so he can bed her.  We then cut back to the boys in Ross’ apartment at the 17:44 mark as he continues his speech from the CD version.

The TV version has Joey leaving after Ross’ exaggerated reference to the 1974 anti-Vietnam War Paper Lace song.  He needs to get ready for a date with a woman whose name he can’t remember.  (“I got a date with Andrea.  Angela.  Andrea.  Oh, man.”)  It turns out to be Julie.  Ross concludes his speech from the CD at 18:15.  All of this sets up the scene near the end of the episode where Ross suggests a possible future get-together with Rachel who seems up for the idea.  But then, nothing happens for another season.

This brings us to Phoebe’s short, uneven, three-song medley on track eleven, the weakest mystery track on the soundtrack.  It begins on the CD at 4:06.  Before and after she sings, she talks to the audience at Central Perk:

“I wanna start with a song that means a lot to me this time of year.  [shakes tambourine bells rhythmically then stops, starts playing acoustic guitar and sings]  I made a man with eyes of coal and a smile so bewitchin’/How was I supposed to know that my mum was dead in the kitchen?  [audience laughter] [shakes bells again]  La lalala la la la lalala la…[sings next song]  My mother’s ashes [audience laughter]/Even her eyelashes/Are resting in a little yellow jar [audience laughter] [sings last time]  And sometimes when it’s breezy/Or if I’m feeling sneezy [light audience laughter]/And now…[stops singing, starts talking]  Ah, excuse me, excuse me!  Yeah.  Noisy boys!”

This was taken from the Christmas episode, The One With The Monkey (the debut of Marcel, Ross’ rescued pet), episode ten of the first season, which premiered on December 15.  In a scene just after the credits, Phoebe reveals she has ten other songs about her dead mother which we thankfully don’t get to hear.  After Rachel introduces her to the little stage at the coffee shop, in a portion not heard on the CD, Phoebe says, “Hi,” and clears her throat.  Then the CD clip begins on the actual show at the 3:52 mark.

The medley heard on the CD plays out the same as it does on the TV show with one major change.  On the CD you can’t hear the two scientists arguing during Phoebe’s third and final song.

According to the liner notes, the songs she plays are, in the order they’re heard, Snowman, Ashes and Dead Mother.  Lisa Kudrow actually wrote her own music.  Adam Chase and Ira Ungerleider, story editors who wrote the episode, provided the lyrics.  One of the “noisy boys” distracting her during her performance of Dead Mother turns out to be David (Hank Azaria from The Simpsons) who ends up being Phoebe’s first serious boyfriend before work breaks them up and takes him out of the country for several seasons.  He eventually returns only to realize he has to compete with Mike (Paul Rudd) who eventually marries Phoebe in the tenth and final season.

What was David arguing about with his colleague?  Who is prettier?  Phoebe or Daryl Hannah?  For the record, David is correct.  It’s “bendy” Phoebe all the way.

On the very next track, track twelve, right after the second Paul Westerberg song, the gang get into a discussion about the importance of kissing.  It starts at 2:59:

“Monica:  What you guys don’t understand is, for us, kissing is as important as any part of it.

Joey:  [chuckling]  Yeah, right.  [audience laughter]  Serious?  [audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Oh yeah.

Rachel:  Everything you need to know is in that first kiss.

Monica:  Absolutely.

Chandler:  Yeah, I think for us, kissing is pretty much like an opening act, you know?  I mean, it’s like a stand-up comedian you have to sit through before…Pink Floyd comes out.  [audience laughter]

Ross:  Yeah.  And, and it’s not that we don’t like the comedian, it’s just that, that’s, that’s not why we bought the ticket.  [audience laughter]

Chandler:  You see, the problem is, though, after the concert’s over, no matter how great the show was, you girls are always looking for the comedian again, you know?  [Ross hums in agreement, slight audience laughter]  I mean we’re in the car, we’re fighting traffic.  Basically, just trying to stay awake.  [audience laughter]

Rachel:  Yeah?  Well, word of advice.  Bring back the comedian.  Otherwise, next time you’re gonna find yourself sitting at home listening to that album alone.  [audience laughter]

Joey:  [confused]  Are we still talking about sex?  [audience laughter]”

This 64-second snippet opens the second episode of the first season, The One With The Sonogram At The End.  No dialogue has been snipped this time but the short music cue during Monica’s opening line is absent on the CD along with the sound of the high five Rachel gives Monica after her last line.

Two more mystery tracks are buried on the last track, track thirteen.

After the Long Version of I’ll Be There For You ends at 3:05, twenty seconds of silence passes before the surprise instrumental version of the original theme begins.  (By the way, The Rembrandts weren’t initially credited for their performance of the theme in the closing credits on the show until episode nine, The One Where Underdog Gets Away.)  This version was sometimes used in place of a final comedy scene on the show, usually at the end of a season finale with a big cliffhanger.  It’s the last piece of music heard in the closing credits of the last episode of the tenth season.  (It’s also heard on the menu pages of the first season DVD box set.)  The best thing about it is, because there’s no vocals, you can hear certain instruments a lot clearer in the mix.  It’s still catchy.

As the final chord rings out, Joey starts talking about his new stand-in gig at the 4:14 mark:

“Joey:  My agent has just gotten me a job…[excitedly] in the new Al Pacino movie!

Monica:  Oh my god!

Chandler:  Whoa! That’s great.

[everybody talks excitedly]

Phoebe:  Kick ass!

Monica:  What’s the part?

Joey:  Can you believe this?  Al Pacino!  This guy’s the reason I became an actor!  [saying Pacino’s famous line from …And Justice For All]  ‘I’m out of order? Peh, you’re out of order!  This whole courtroom’s out of order!’

[light audience laughter]

Phoebe:  Seriously, what, what’s the part?

Joey:  [saying Pacino’s famous line from The Godfather Part III]  ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!’  [light audience laughter]

Ross:  [chuckling]  Come on, seriously, Joey, what’s the part?

Joey:  [nervously stalling]  Uhh…[very soft spoken] I’m his butt double.  [light audience laughter]

Rachel:  [trying to understand]  You’re, you’re his blah, mah, what?  [light audience laughter]

Joey:  [normal volume]  I’m his butt double.  [audience laughter]  Ok?  I play Al Pacino’s butt.  [audience laughter]  He goes into the shower, and then…I’m his butt.  [audience laughter]

Monica:  [slight laughter]  Oh my God.

Joey:  Come on, you guys.  This is a real movie and Al Pacino’s in it.  And that’s big!

Chandler:  Oh, no.  It’s terrific.  It’s, its, you know, you deserve this.  After all your years of struggling you’ve finally been able to crack your way into show business.  [audience laughter]

Joey:  Ok.  Ok, fine.  Make jokes.  I don’t care.  This is a big break for me.

Ross:  Yeah, you’re right.  You’re right.  It is.

Phoebe:  Yeah.

Ross:  So, you gonna invite us all to the big opening?  [audience laughter]”

Taken from episode six, The One With The Butt (you can see a shortened preview of this scene on the first season box set), the scene in the show actually begins with Joey walking into Monica’s apartment talking on a giant cordless phone getting the good news about the Pacino movie from his new agent Estelle (who makes her debut in this episode).  The portion that’s unlisted on the CD begins at 13:59 in the episode and is exactly the same from start to finish.  No deletions this time.  Unfortunately, during his big scene in the shower, Joey overacts with his ass (too much clenching in one spoiled take), which deeply annoys the director (the real James Burrows who directed a bunch of Friends episodes) and ultimately gets him fired.

No worries.  As anyone who watched the show knows, he would eventually become Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days Of Our Lives.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
4:04 a.m.

The History Of The Mystery Track – Pet Sounds & Sgt. Pepper

On March 7, 1966, Brian Wilson released his first solo single.  Originally, Caroline, No was 2 minutes and 28 seconds long.  But Murry Wilson, Brian’s abusive, overbearing stage father, insisted the song be sped up so Brian’s voice would sound younger.  That made the song 12 seconds shorter.  (It made no difference.  Caroline, No barely hit the Top 40.)

Two months later, on May 16, it became the final song on side two of Pet Sounds, the eleventh studio album by The Beach Boys.  Immediately after the song fades out, instead of the usual dead silence, there is an additional coda.

Fifteen days after the single release of Caroline, No, Brian brought in his two beloved pet dogs, Banana (a beagle) and Louie (a weimaraner named after the legendary producer Lou Adler, a close friend of Brian’s who helped put his first wedding together) to Western Studios (now known as EastWest Studios).  Beach Boys historian Brad Elliott told me in an email in 2002, “there really weren’t [any] formal ‘takes’ of the barking.”  With the tape continuously rolling, Brian’s dogs just did their thing until he was satisfied with their performances.  Engineer Chuck Britz claimed in 2016 that the whole session took “6 or 7 hours”.  Brian’s perfectionism was no joke.

But Brian needed something else.  He found it on a 1963 sound effects album called Mister D’s Machine.  It was an album of train sounds put out by Mobile Fidelity Records, a label founded in 1958 that, according to Elliott, “primarily released albums of train recordings.”  The record just happened to be in the Western Studios music library at the time Brian was looking for a special sound.  Elliott told me via email that Brian selected track one, No. 58:  70 MPH Through Edison.  He only used 35 seconds of it.

The finished result is, well, truly bizarre.  I’ve never really understood why it even needed to be added to Caroline, No.  It feels intrusive and out of place.  While the single version of Caroline, No has grown on me a lot over the decades, I still don’t like this coda.

According to Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story, Brian recalls the moment he played “a dubbed-down acetate” of Pet Sounds for his first wife, Marilyn, while in their bedroom.  After the full album version of Caroline, No concluded, Brian remembers telling her, “Can’t you see me on the back of that train?  I can.  Just going away.”  After shelving Smile, his ambitious but doomed follow-up (which would finally be completed several decades later), Brian stayed in bed for four and a half years.

Up until recently, I felt this new ending wasn’t even part of the song, but rather a separate piece of Buried Audio.  Although both Brian and historian Brad Elliott have asserted Banana & Louie barking at the train is in fact part of the album version of the song (and I’m no longer going to disagree with them), that coda has sometimes appeared on its own on different releases and not always properly credited, either.

In early 1972, Warner Bros. offered a mail-order, multi-artist double compilation called The Whole Burbank Catalog, the first of many such LPs not available in stores.  Their purpose was to expose audiences to as many different artists as possible with the hope they would go out and buy their respective studio albums (although some of the songs, previously unreleased, were exclusives to these collections).  The two-dollar price tag was imprinted right there on the front cover.  (Warner had no intention of making money off of them.  They were purely promotional tools for their roster.  Now long out of print, they have become sought after collector’s items on the used market.)  Burbank alone featured some of the biggest names of the era (Fleetwood Mac (when Peter Green was still in the band), Alice Cooper, T. Rex) and those who would become better known years later (Captain Beefheart, Bonnie Raitt).

The coda to Caroline, No is an Unlisted Bonus Track on side four.  It’s the tenth track and pops up right after Arlo Guthrie.  “The trailer starts three seconds after the previous track, ‘Ukulele Lady,’ ends,”  Elliott told me in an email.

The compilations were originally put together by Warner executive Stan Corbyn who later wrote a memoir of his time at the label.  “When he didn’t have time to compile the albums anymore, he passed the torch to me,” Dr. Demento told me in an email in 2002.  This series of “loss leaders” continued on until 1986.  “(They did one or two more after I left the label.)” Dr. Demento revealed.

Why was Banana & Louie barking at a train record included as a mystery track?

“Using the ‘Caroline No’ tag probably came about because Warner Brothers had just done the deal with the [Beach Boy]s to put out the late 1960 albums on Brother/Reprise,” Elliott reasonably speculated to me.  (Brother was Brian’s independent boutique label.  Charles Manson once auditioned for him, thanks to Dennis Wilson’s urging, in his own home studio.)  He pointed out that the single mix of Caroline, No was properly listed on another compilation entitled Middle Of The Road, also released in 1972.  The Pet Sounds album would be repackaged with early editions of Carl & The Passions – So Tough which followed the release of both compilations that same year.

For his part, Dr. Demento, who slipped in lots of uncredited things on these now hard-to-find Warner Bros. mail-order vinyl releases, told me in his email, “Those hidden tracks were just random inspirations.”

“I did it just for fun.  Warner Bros. Records at that time had a well earned reputation for having more of a sense of fun than its competitors, and they encouraged me, at least to a point.”

In 1993, a special 24 karat Gold CD edition of Pet Sounds was issued.  Further confusing things, the coda to Caroline, No has been separated from the original single mix.  Instead of sharing space on track thirteen, on this edition only it can be heard as a separate piece on track fourteen.  It’s even been given a proper title in the track listing:  Conclusion.

Because of his relentless attention to detail and the dramatic departure from their earlier work, the making of the Pet Sounds album was fraught with tension.  As Brian recounted in his first autobiography, at one point singer Mike Love, who was worried about messing with the lucrative girls-cars-surfing songwriting formula that made the band consistently successful (he denies this today) and was growing irritated with the constant vocal re-takes, snapped at him:

“Who’s gonna hear this shit?  The ears of a dog?”

Besides the million people who eventually bought the album, there was one band in the UK who was paying very close attention.

On April 21, 1967, a day after recording sessions for the Magical Mystery Tour EP had begun, The Beatles had one last piece of business to complete for the album they had been working on the previous five months.

Pet Sounds, itself inspired by Rubber Soul, had been released while they were finishing up Revolver in the summer of 1966 and only influenced the creation of one song, Here, There & Everywhere.  It had a much bigger impact on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, especially on She’s Leaving Home.

The band had long wanted to put something goofy in the play-out groove, the end part of a vinyl record that is usually silent and indicates to the listener that it’s time to switch sides.  Before the invention of automatic record players, which would shut off the second the music ended, the needle would forever play on back and forth in that space until you manually lifted it.

It wasn’t feasible for The Beatles to record something to fill it back in 1963 when they made their first album, Please Please Me, which was recorded in a single, day-long session.  There just wasn’t enough time.  Plus, it’s unlikely Parlophone, their label, would’ve approved anyway.

But by 1967, they were the biggest band on the planet and while they still had to fight for some creative control (in the case of Sgt. Pepper, certain celebrity cut-outs had to be removed from the famous cover for various reasons), if they wanted to put something unlisted in the play-out groove, no one was going to stop them.

For five and a half hours, starting at 7 in the evening, all four members walked into the Abbey Road Studios for the last Sgt. Pepper recording session, stepped up to the microphone and started talking nonsense.  When they weren’t rambling, they were singing.  And when they weren’t singing, they were giggling.  There was a good reason for the giggling.  According to their friend Barry Miles who witnessed their silliness, they were “completely stoned.”

“They just went down into the studio,” producer George Martin told Geoffrey Giuliano years later, “and [I] said, ‘Sing the first thing that comes into your head when I put the red light on.’  And they did that.”

Somehow, in all that tape, they found two whole seconds worthy of looping on Sgt. Pepper.

The band also decided to add something else.

As a tribute to Banana & Louie, a high-pitched tone that only they could fully hear was sequenced right after A Day In The Life and served as a lead-in to the tomfoolery embedded in the play-out groove on side two.

“Actually, the 20,000-hertz tone went on the end of the album after I had been explaining to the blokes how there were certain frequencies that human beings could not hear,” Martin recounted in his 1994 book about the making of Sgt. Pepper.  “I mentioned that dogs, however, were able to hear much higher frequencies than we could.  Inevitably, this prompted Paul to say, jokingly, ‘You realize we never record anything for animals, don’t you?  What about my dog, Martha?  Let’s put on something only a dog can hear.'”

Longtime Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn disputes this.  He claims “John Lennon suggested that they insert a high-pitch whistle especially for dogs, 15 kilocycles, to make them perk up.”

“It was a problem when the record came to an end,” Paul McCartney told his official biographer Barry Miles in 1997, “and no one could be bothered to get up and turn it off.  ‘I know, we should put something on that!’  I could handle that, because that’ll be a mantra!  That’s fine.  I can handle five hours of that and if nobody gets up, it won’t bore us.  Hours of random tape was recorded but we just chose one little bit that we liked:  ‘Couldn’t really be any other; Couldn’t really be any other; Couldn’t really be any other,’ something like that.”

Engineer Geoff Emerick told Lewisohn there really wasn’t that much thought put into the mystery track:

“They were all there discussing how to end the LP but the decision to throw in a bit of nonsense gibberish came together in about 10 minutes.  They ran down to the studio floor and we recorded them twice–on each track of a 2-track tape.  They made funny noises, said random things; just nonsense.  We chopped up the tape, put it back together, played it backwards and threw it in [the mono and stereo masters of Sgt. Pepper].”

As it turns out, that was the easy part.  Putting both the high-pitched noise and the two-second loop on the actual vinyl was far more difficult and time consuming.

Harry Moss was the man responsible for that job.  According to Emerick, as he recalled to Lewisohn, Moss struggled:

“It took Harry about 8 attempts to get it right because the slightest incorrect placing of a stylus at the very beginning of the LP side can put the concentric groove out.  We had to enquire if putting musical content in the run-out groove would tear the metal when the records are stamped out at the factory.”

According to Moss, putting something in the play-out groove was not an original concept:

“I was told by chaps who’d been in the business a long time that cutting things into the run-out grooves was an old idea they used to do on 78s.”

Nevertheless, as he told Lewisohn, that didn’t make his job any easier:

“Cutting Sgt. Pepper was not too difficult except that because we couldn’t play the masters I had to wait for white label [test] pressings before I could hear whether or not I’d cut the concentric groove successfully.”

As for the tribute to Banana & Louie, “It was done at the same pitch as the police dog whistles.”  Moss’ own dog would “suddenly sit up and look around” whenever he played it.

Because of how long it was taking to put these uncredited bits on copies of Sgt. Pepper, during its original release on vinyl they would only appear on the first British pressing, presumably a million copies since that’s how many pre-orders there were, which meant that Brian Wilson’s dogs probably never heard it.  (It’s not clear when they actually died.  One of their last known photos, with the entire Beach Boys, was taken in 1976.)  It would be thirteen years before Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove, as it later came to be titled, first saw release in America, initially on the bootlegged Collectors Items before its official, credited unveiling on Rarities.  (Collectors Items was scrapped by Capitol Records in favour of its eventual replacement.)

For some inexplicable reason, shortly after Sgt. Pepper’s triumphant unveiling in late May 1967, an indeterminate number of fans decided to play the mystery track backwards.  What they supposedly heard shocked them as McCartney recounted to Barry Miles in his officially sanctioned biography:

“I had this very open house then, because I was living on my own [on Cavendish Ave.]…I had quite a few visitors there, but these kids came in one day and said, ‘What’s all that swearing when it goes backwards on the end of the loop about?’  I said, ‘No, it doesn’t, it says, ”It really couldn’t be any other.”’  They said, ‘It does do it, though, we’ve done it.’  I said, ‘No, it bloody doesn’t.’  I said, ‘Well, come in, look, we’ll get my record player.’  We put the record on, then you could turn the turntable backwards.  It probably hurt the motor, but you could turn it backwards, and sure enough, it said something like ‘We’ll fuck you like Superman; We’ll fuck you like Superman; We’ll fuck you like Superman.’  I said, ‘Oh, my Gawwd!'”

For the record, there were no subliminal messages intentionally placed forwards or backwards in the play-out groove of Sgt. Pepper.

“We had certainly not intended to do that but probably when you turn anything backwards it sounds like something…If you look hard enough you can make something out of anything.”

In a much earlier interview, McCartney insisted, “You get a pure buzz after a while because it’s so boring it ceases to mean anything.”

Actually, the word I’m thinking of is annoying.

In 1987, when it came time to release Sgt. Pepper on CD, it was decided that the mystery loop and the high pitch noise would be buried on track thirteen, right after A Day In The Life.  But as George Martin remembered to Geoffrey Giuliano, they had to make a compromise:

“CDs don’t have run-out grooves.  What we thought would be nice was to go back and have that again, so we just gave the sound as though it were a run-out groove.  We had several revolutions going on and it gradually fades at the end.  Giving an idea to people what it was all about.”

Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove would reappear unlisted again on the 2009 remastered edition of Sgt. Pepper and the 50th Anniversary expanded edition in 2017.

When A Day In The Life’s final sustained piano chord finally peters out, that high-pitched tone (which humans can actually hear, just not as intensely as animals do) is first heard at the 5:06 mark.  Four seconds later, you’ll hear one of The Beatles giggle and then the loop (which is repeated twelve goddamn times) starts until it’s thankfully faded out.  For the record, McCartney is actually singing, “Never do speak any other way.”

As for The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, it made its own debut on CD in 1990 to belated acclaim and financial success.  On this version, Banana & Louie are still barking at the train right at the end of Caroline, No on track thirteen.  But they’re also heard at the end of the properly listed bonus cut, Hang On To Your Ego (the original version of I Know There’s An Answer) in what is clearly Buried Audio on track fifteen.

In the eighteen-second clip which starts during the fade at the 2:57 mark, you’ll hear Marilyn Wilson, Brian’s first wife, call out Banana.  After both dogs stop barking, The Beach Boys’ frontman turns to his engineer Chuck Britz and asks:  “Hey, Chuck, is it possible we could bring a horse in here without…if we don’t screw anything up?”

An incredulous Chuck replies:  “I beg your pardon?”

A frustrated Brian then says, “Honest to God [unintelligible], the horse is tamed and everything,” and the clip fades out.

Considering the fact that Brian had a giant sandbox constructed inside his living room (which Banana & Louie mistook for a giant litter box), such a gnarly request was not out of character.  In the end, the improbable idea was thankfully abandoned.  This unlisted studio banter would later reappear in slightly longer form on The Pet Sounds Sessions, a celebratory four-disc box set issued in 1997.  (It was supposed to be out the previous year to coincide with the album’s 30th Anniversary.  It also appears on the updated version of the box set released in 2016.)  The fully credited Dog Barking Session (Outtakes) appears on track 24 on disc three.  (It actually cuts out Marilyn at the start and begins a few seconds after the 1990 version’s starting point before revealing more of the wacky in-studio conversation.)

Disc two features two mystery tracks tucked away at the end of track nineteen.  46 seconds after the really cool instrumental version of Here Today (without the album fade but with Brian politely cutting the musicians off after they nailed the take), you’ll hear a much clearer version of one bit of mysterious background chatter heard on the completed mono cut of the song (with vocals) on the Pet Sounds album.  (Elliott informed me that this was captured on March 25, 1966, during a vocal session.  It begins at 1:46 and ends at 2:02 on the finished mono version of Here Today.  There’s other chatter captured briefly at the 1:16 mark but good luck deciphering it.)

After someone briefly sings, “Hoo hoo hoo hoo” (“Sounds like either Brian or Alan [Jardine]; I can’t say for sure,” Elliott wrote to me.  My own guess would be Brian.), a moaning, echoey Bruce Johnston asks an unknown fellow, “Do you have that attached to the flash you have rigged up?”  The man quietly replies, “Yeah, I do.”  Bruce satisfactorily responds, possibly with food in his mouth, “Very good.”  The man says, “Here we go.”  Then Brian orders the playback to be stopped and for his bandmates to get ready to sing.  (“Top, please!”)  The whole time you hear the instrumental break of Here Today playing on a studio monitor.  Strictly for those who always wanted to know what they were saying.

Nobody knows who that man is but what we do know is that he was hired to take snaps of the band while they were making the album.  “The details of who that photographer was have been lost to time,” Elliott asserted to me.  (A different photographer, George Jerman, took all the snaps of the band, minus Johnston, at the petting zoo.)  According to Rolling Stone, the mystery photog had bought his camera equipment while touring with the band in Japan.  (When Pet Sounds was being mastered in stereo for the first time, Brian decided to delete both bits of studio chatter from the mono version of Here Today as well as other tracks.  Now all you hear are the finished songs.)

Five seconds after that eighteen-second clip concludes, you’ll hear a faded-in double-tracked Brian repeatedly singing “Sometimes I feel very sad”, a key line from I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, while his bandmates harmonize behind him.  It lasts fifteen seconds and then fades out.  (This is heard twice in the finished song.)  I honestly never fully appreciated this mystery track, or the full song in general, until now.  It’s clearly one of the standouts on Pet Sounds.

On the full version of I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, there’s an additional vocal competing for attention with Brian and his harmonizing bandmates (“Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into”) which isn’t heard in the unlisted snippet.

For its 40th Anniversary, Pet Sounds was reissued with yet another mystery track.  Like the 1999 edition, it features both mono & stereo versions of the album with one version of Hang On To Your Ego serving as a dividing point on track 14.  But after the stereo mix of Caroline, No (complete with the added coda) ends on track 27 on the 2006 reissue, there’s now 13 seconds of silence.  And then, with 31 seconds remaining on the CD at the 3:03 mark, you’ll hear a snippet of the isolated background vocals from the finished version of Wouldn’t It Be Nice.

This portion begins at the 35-second mark of the original song and fades out (in the unlisted isolated version) at 1:04 just as Brian sings the title.  Sometimes you don’t always fully appreciate the pitch perfect harmonies of these classic songs until everything else is removed from the mix.

In 2002, Brian and his talented touring band performed four straight nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England with many British rock stars, past and present, watching with great admiration in the audience.  For the first time ever, his most famous work was traditionally played from start to finish, sounding uncannily at times like the original 1966 recordings.

The resulting CD was Pet Sounds Live, a surprisingly moving recreation of all thirteen songs in the exact order they appear on the 1966 release.  (Age may have forced occasional lower key changes but Brian hasn’t lost his vocal heart.  In particular, he nails God Only Knows, the song brother Carl sang on the original album.)  While the crowd enthusiastically applauds the end of the finale, Caroline, No, the train sound from Mister D’s Machine rolls on like it does on the original Pet Sounds.  But Banana & Louie’s barking is conspicuously absent.

Two years earlier, Brian launched the Pet Sounds Symphony Tour, which reworked all the songs as classical pieces.  In a 2000 Toronto Sun article by music critic Jane Stevenson promoting the shows, she revealed that Banana & Louie had long since been replaced by five other dogs.

Two were terriers named Paul and Ringo.

(Special thanks to Brad Elliott & Dr. Demento.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 5, 2019
12:55 a.m.

Published in: on November 18, 2019 at 11:31 pm  Comments (1)  

The History Of The Mystery Track – The Rembrandts Ride The Friends Wave

On Thursday, September 22, 1994, NBC debuted a new sitcom at 8 p.m.  Three handsome men and three beautiful women in their 20s hanging out in each other’s apartments and the local coffee house cracking wise and bemoaning their less than stellar lives despite being good-looking, middle class white people in implausibly large apartments with affordable rent.

Friends became an immediate success and by the time it returned for its second season the following year, it was a phenomenon.  For a decade, we were sucked in to the soap opera antics of Joey, his best friend Chandler, his eventual wife Monica, her brother Ross, his on-again/off-again girlfriend Rachel and their mutual pal Phoebe.  We laughed and we cried.  But now, we also cringe at the “slut” shaming, the homophobia and transphobia we didn’t always acknowledge in real time.  (Some will also argue the show “fat” shamed, as well.  But I always liked Fat Monica because she was cute, charming and clumsily endearing.  Even more will make the stronger case that the show was too white and lacked diversity, a common problem with network TV.  The real New York is far more multicultural.)

Despite being a runaway hit (even today in syndication, it remains very popular), Friends has always been controversial.  There are as many vocal detractors as there are die-hard supporters.  Nothing has fueled this divide more than its theme song.

Danny Wilde and Phil Solem were longtime veterans of the California music scene.  In 1981, they were in a band called Great Buildings.  But after their one and only studio album tanked, they went their separate ways working on other projects until they reunited to form The Rembrandts at the end of the decade.

Up to this point, they had exactly one hit:  That’s Just The Way It Is, Baby, from their self-titled debut, which cracked the Top 20 in 1990.  In the autumn of 1994, they were in the process of completing their third album, the cleverly named L.P., when their manager received a phone call.

Friends executive producer Kevin S. Bright was a big fan of the band.  He wanted Wilde and Solem to help write the show’s opening theme song.  To help spark their creativity, he sent over an unaired copy of the pilot which featured R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) as a temporary placeholder.

“We liked it,” Wilde later told TV Guide, so The Rembrandts went to work pitching ideas in a meeting with the show’s creators.  “We got the offer on Wednesday [September 14],” Solem revealed on the CNN Special Report, Friends At 25, “[and] went over the arrangement on a Thursday with the music director Michael Skloff…”

“We went into the studio,” Wilde explained to Billboard Magazine in 1995, “and cut a [51]-second version of the theme song…It was so fast.  We cut it on a Saturday [September 17]; we worked in a 20-hour session.  We cut it and mixed it in the same session, because it had to be finished on Monday [September 19] so that they could go on line with it, because the show was airing that Thursday.”

“It was wham, bam, bing-bang, boom,” Wilde said to TV Guide in the mid-90s.  “Phil and I figured it would be this anonymous little song.”

There was no chance of that happening.

Charlie Quinn was the program director for WYHY-FM, a Top 40 channel based out of Nashville.  Tom Peace was the music director and also an announcer.  Realizing how popular the Friends theme song was becoming, they decided to tape the original 51-second recording as it played on TV.  Then, they looped it twice to turn it into a three-minute track, adding some instrumentation at the end and started putting it on the air.  As they say in the biz, it “got phones”.  Listeners called in repeatedly demanding replays and wondering where to get their own copies.  According to Friends: A Cultural History, at its peak, this bootleg version of I’ll Be There For You was played close to 60 times a week in early 1995.  Very quickly, other stations started adding it to their own playlists.

Word quickly got back to Elektra Records, The Rembrandts’ label.  With L.P. pretty much “in the can”, it took three months for Wilde and Solem to expand the original theme into a proper three-minute single.  As a result, the album’s release was ultimately moved from March to May 1995.

“Let’s just say it was the record company’s idea,” Wilde told The Los Angeles Times in July 1995. “We were asked very politely to put it on the album.”

“It was an open door and we were kind of sucked in like a vacuum.” Solem told the same paper.  He also told Billboard:  “Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it.  There was no way to get out of it.”

Despite suggesting ideas and making slight changes, The Rembrandts were not officially credited as songwriters of the original TV theme.  (The lyrics were chiefly written by future Storage Wars guest star Allee Willis while much of the music was composed by the show’s music director Michael Skloff.  According to Willis, Skloff came up with the title.)  This time, they were determined to have more input.

The good news was they already had the first verse and chorus.  Now they needed a second verse, a middle eight section and a guitar solo.  The producers, including Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman (her then-husband was Skloff who she divorced in 2015), helped collaborate during the process of expanding the original cut but it was tough to settle on a finished lyric.

“There was a version that we did with a different second verse and a completely different bridge,” Solem revealed to Buzzfeed in 2014. “We tried to make it more like what the rest of the songs on our album were and they didn’t like it because it kind of went a little dark.  It never got put out, but there’s some secret copy floating around.”

An MP3 copy of that rejected version used to be posted on The Rembrandts’ official website but has since been taken down, unfortunately.

Eventually, a substitute lyric was settled on and the band rerecorded the music expanding the length to three minutes and five seconds.  Whereas the original theme was known as the TV Version, this new take would naturally be known as the Long Version.

Because the band had already settled on a track listing for L.P. and all the artwork had already been completed, this new version of I’ll Be There For You would become a Stickered Bonus Track (a little advertising sticker noting its inclusion would be added either to the outside cellophane on the front cover or permanently on the front door of the actual CD case), but only for the first pressing (roughly 250000 copies).  Thanks to the album selling well (it was eventually certified Platinum making it their biggest seller), follow-up pressings updated the packaging.  I’ll Be There For You would eventually be properly credited as the fifteenth and concluding track in all the right places.  The band insisted there be a ten-second gap of silence after track fourteen to symbolically separate it from the rest of the album.

Upon its release, thanks to constant radio airplay, it became a massive hit, although curiously it only peaked at #17 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart (it was paired with L.P. single This House Is Not A Home), three spots below That’s Just The Way It Is, Baby’s highest position.  (It went to number one for five weeks in Canada.)

Shortly thereafter, a video was shot over three days in Studio 8H (the home of Saturday Night Live) in New York’s Rockefeller Centre (it was originally supposed to be taped in Los Angeles but it was difficult to get everybody together in the same place) which featured all six cast members who cancelled their vacations to participate (the first season had already wrapped).  According to The Rembrandts, there was a different plan for the video:

“There was a scene that the director had specifically written where the cast was going to be trying to get into one of our shows, as if they would do that,” Solem revealed to Buzzfeed. “They were going to get into one of our shows and apparently, they were going to bring this frozen fish and use it to, like, knock us out.”

But the cast hated the idea and it was scrapped.  Entertainment Weekly revealed another rejected concept in its June 2, 1995 issue:

“The first video script called for Marcel [Ross’ pet monkey] to portray the director…” but he was booked for other projects and therefore unavailable.

Instead, the cast clowned around the appropriately all-white Studio 8H set sometimes stepping in to pretend to play the band’s instruments.  The video debuted in mid-June on MTV and MuchMusic and like the audio version on radio it was put into immediate high rotation.

The constant presence of I’ll Be There For You split the public into two, distinct camps:  Keep Playing This Song Because I Love It and Please Make It Stop Or I Will Kill Someone.  For 25 years, I’ve been in the first camp.

I like the hook, the clapping, the harmonies, the simple, relatable lyrics about still being loved and cared for despite being a perpetual screw-up, the true meaning of friendship.  Billboard Magazine compared the track to The Beatles’ I Feel Fine and The Monkees’ Pleasant Valley Sunday.  There’s no question the twangy arrangement has a very mid-60s feel about it.

On a couple of award shows, when played as entrance music, presenter Matthew Perry couldn’t help but mock the song:

“I can never get enough of hearing that song,” he cracked at the 1996 American Comedy Awards.  “Oh, keep playing that song!” he zinged at the 1997 Emmys.  So, put him in the second camp.

According to Jennifer Aniston many years later, he wasn’t the only annoyed cast member.

“No one was really a big fan of that theme song,” she declared to the BBC in 2016.

During the last outtake shown before the end credits of We’re The Millers, an otherwise terrible 2013 comedy, Aniston’s co-star Jason Sudekis plays some “victory music” which turns out to be I’ll Be There For You.  As everybody in the scene except a surprised Aniston cheerfully sings along, like the audience, even she can’t help but laugh and smile.

For his part, Weird Al Yankovic did a parody called I’ll Repair For You (Theme From Home Improvement) which has never appeared on any of his studio releases.  When he asked permission to include it on Bad Hair Day, the producers said no, so it was left off the album.  (They felt the original was already getting too much negative attention.)  He only plays it live in concert.

Not everyone has a sense of humour.  In 2004, Blender Magazine named it the 15th worst song ever.

However, in 1996, it was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals category.  Sadly, The Rembrandts lost to Hootie & The Blowfish.

The monster success of I’ll Be There For You proved to be too much for Phil Solem, albeit temporarily.  The constant grind of touring and promoting over the last half decade, plus not knowing how to push the band forward creatively in order to not be solely defined by this unexpected smash, burned him out so he left the band in 1996.  He briefly formed T.H.R.U.S.H. which disbanded by the end of the decade.

His former bandmate kept the band going with a fourth album in 1998.  Spin This! was billed under the name Danny Wilde & The Rembrandts.  Containing no Friends-related material or breakout singles it bombed.

But this second split would be followed by yet another reunion.  Coming to terms with their association with Friends, Solem and Wilde made peace with it in 2000 and resumed recording together.  In 2004, the year Friends went off the air, they rerecorded I’ll Be There For You for their compilation Choice Picks, which was reissued in 2005.  A proper Greatest Hits CD of their original recordings (including a couple of rare Great Buildings cuts) arrived the following year, even though the band only had three legitimate hits.  They also played their most famous song on a bunch of shows as the sitcom was signing off.  They remain an active band today and continue to record new material.

Regardless of the unfairly harsh criticism (surely the result of an overexposed, overplayed song), I’ll Be There For You would remain the theme song for Friends for every one of its episodes, all 236 of them.  Many have wondered how much money The Rembrandts have made off both versions.  Surely, it’s in the millions, right?

“Let me put it this way,” Danny Wilde revealed to the Los Angeles Times in 2004.  “I can’t retire on it, but it’s putting my kids through college.”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 17, 2019
1:53 a.m.