Though the days of the music cassette are well and truly over, and despite vinyl’s popular alternative revival, listening to albums in their entirety may be becoming a fading experience.
The rise of the CD player introduced the ‘skip’ button, which allowed listeners to easily neglect their least favourite album songs, rather than face the often frustrating task of having to fast-forward them. From there came downloads (most notably iTunes) which gave the option to purchase only selected, partial tracks from a whole album.
Undeniably, these advancements have altered the way music fans choose to listen. In fact, when you really think about it, the ‘skip’ function and further iPod’s renowned ‘shuffle’ option have become enormous factors themselves in how casual listeners define “amazing albums” and “the hottest new artists”.
Nowadays, it’s only too easy to overlook the mundane and downright appalling album tracks, but this list below instead has compiled 10 such songs that have been taken from comparatively outstanding – if not all-time classic – albums.
‘Revolution 9’ – The Beatles, The Beatles
‘Revolution 9’, taken from The Beatles’ eponymous release (also commonly referred to as The White Album), is easy pickings, and is likely to be found in almost every other article of similar nature.
Released in 1968 as a double album, The Beatles is one of the band’s most critically acclaimed records, along with the likes of Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Abbey Road (1969). Unlike those watertight efforts however, The White Album has a few holes to plug, most notably, Lennon’s experimental “sound collage”.
At over eight minutes, the track largely features a series of tape loops and sound effects often played in reverse, and manipulating the stereo channels by panning across them. It’s an interesting listen once, but from thereafter, it’s a definitive ‘skip’.
‘Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me’ – Pearl Jam, Vitalogy
Despite their hugely successful 1991 debut Ten and follow up Vs.in 1993, Pearl Jam’s third studio release the following year with Vitalogy was also highly praised by critics and still remains a firm fan favourite. The album spawned four singles, and is the source of many other cherished tracks (including ‘Better Man’ and ‘Corduroy’), but it’s the album’s concluding track that should have been left off the album entirely.
‘Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me’, is a soundscape as utterly absurd and discordant as its title. Believed to be taken from an educational video about schizophrenia, the track was created using looped recording of real patients from a psychiatric hospital and features Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer, Jack Irons, on drums. Clocking in at just under eight minutes, the song is also known to fans simply as “Stupid Mop”.
Don’t even bother importing this one into your iTunes Library.
‘Mother’ – The Police, Synchronicity
Taken from the band’s final and most successful album, Synchronicity in 1983, ‘Mother’ is a track written by the band’s guitarist Andy Summers. Despite Sting being the principal songwriter for the band, it was not uncommon for Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland to have their own contributions on albums.
None of these additions however are more abrasive and horrifying than ‘Mother’, which features Summers’ screamed vocals above a feverish, almost vaudeville guitar line, and mars an otherwise brilliant release.
Summers has since talked about the track’s inception, describing it as “a real gonzo moment”, and seems to take pride in that it was a “stand out” on the highly regarded album and “so different and nonthreatening to Sting’s material”. Can’t fault him there, I suppose.
‘Endless, Nameless’ – Nirvana, Nevermind
Nirvana’s Nevermind has become perhaps one of (if not the most) iconic and influential albums of the 1990s, and it would be impossible to single out any track from it as a complete disaster, when so much of the band’s sound is deliberately chaotic and raw. However later pressings of the album contained a hidden track ‘Endless, Nameless’, which had initially meant to appear as the album’s final song, but was accidentally left off.
It’s easily Nevermind’s most jarring and audibly aggressive track, with a sound reminiscent of their Bleach debut in 1989. Yet many fans consider the song an archetypal Cobain masterpiece, though the album’s perceived final track ‘Something In The Way’ seems a much more appropriate end to the record.
However, if there’s any phrase a band like Nirvana would loathe being labelled as, it would be ‘appropriate’, and the tales of fans falling asleep while listening to the album before being startled awake by the raucous cacophony of ‘Endless, Nameless’ – over ten minutes after the official “end” to the album – are delightful.
‘All By Myself’ – Green Day, Dookie
Like Green Day drummer Tré Cool himself, who composed and sang this track from the band’s commercial breakthrough album Dookie (1994), this one’s an entirely different kettle of fish. It’s so horrendous, it’s incredible.
Forget shit memes and cat videos, compilations of Tré Cool doing Tré Cool things are the only forms of social media entertainment anyone could ever need.
So many artists try without success to inject themselves and their own sound and personality into their songs, and stay unique yet true to themselves, but not Tré Cool. ‘All By Myself’ is actually not Tre’s first attempt at song writing either, with his own track ‘Dominated Love Slave’ appearing on the band’s previous album Kerplunk from 1992.
‘All By Myself’ just defies any explanation I could offer to describe the track and do it justice, and is well worth a listen and giggle. But perhaps not the $2.19 iTunes are charging for it after they re-released the album and instead included the track separately as the records’s closing song, rather than as a ‘hidden track’ as it was on CD.
‘My World’ – Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion II
There seems to be a strange dichotomy between bands finding a suitably pleasant, well-rounded ending to their albums, and just throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever the hell they want.
One of Axl Rose’s experimentations into industrial music came to light in one of their most popular albums Use Your Illusion II from 1991, but with ‘My World’ Rose’s creation is comparative to Frankenstein’s Monster.
It’s an incredibly agitating and uncomfortable listen for its entire 1:29 duration as Rose’s ghoulish vocals invite listeners into his world of “a socio-psychotic state of bliss”. ‘My World’ is the spine-tingling musical equivalent of listening to fingernails down a blackboard.
‘Boogie With Stu’ – Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
Another classic rock group who had ambitions to make a double album, Led Zeppelin did so in 1975 with the iconic Physical Graffiti. The band’s desire to stretch the record to a double album, by using demos and outtakes from previous recording sessions does become slightly obvious however, and ‘Boogie With Stu’ is likely the weakest link.
The title is a nod to Ian Stewart, manager and keyboardist of The Rolling Stones, who features on the track, which was taken from the 1970 recording sessions for Led Zeppelin IV. Though the song lacks any lyrical complexity, it is clearly intended to pay homage to classic 50’s rock, with many fans identifying that the track bears some striking similarities to Ritchie Valen’s ‘Ooh, My Head’, which in turn took from Little Richard’s ‘Ooh! My Soul’.
Let’s not bring that up again.
‘Meat Is Murder’ – The Smiths, Meat Is Murder
Perhaps not the best full length effort by The Smiths, but certainly their most political. Morrissey is infamously stubborn with his on-the-nose stance on vegetarianism (in their initial review of the album in 1985, Rolling Stone labelled it as “hysterical carniphobia”).
Why then was the title/statement track left until last on the album’s tracklist? Probably because secretly Morrissey realised that although attempting to highlight an admirable cause, ‘Meat Is Murder’ just doesn’t quite work in song. It is however thought-provoking and quite harrowing hearing the grinding of buzz saws against the sounds of distressed cows crying out in the background, and will forever be remembered as one of Morrissey’s defining songs.
‘Factory’ – Bruce Springsteen, Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Darkness On The Edge Of Town may not be as recognisably iconic a Springsteen’s album as Born To Run or Born In The U.S.A. but it was nonetheless equally well received when it was released in 1978.
The track ‘Factory’ was supposedly written in 20 minutes as an ode to his father, and once again revolves upon the tireless plight of the working class man. It’s actually unfortunate the track is only two minutes in length, and both musically and lyrically it never quite gets anywhere; acting as more of an observation of the lifestyle than a developed reflection, and hence is pretty monotonous and repetitive after a few listens (but perhaps that’s exactly the statement Springsteen is making).
Regardless, it’s undoubtedly one to skip over if you’re listening through the album with your Dad in his car.
‘There’s a World’ – Neil Young, Harvest
Neil Young’s commercial success peaked in 1972 with the release of Harvest, which despite not being received favourably by critics upon its initial release, recent re-evaluations have seen the album voted one of the greatest of all time.
Containing well-known hits like ‘Heart Of Gold’, ‘Old Man’, ‘Are You Ready For The Country’ and ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, two of the album’s lesser-known tracks ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ and ‘There’s A World’ feature the London Symphony Orchestra, Rolling Stone describing the combination as “like a chocolate-covered cheeseburger”.
‘There’s A World’ is barely even recognisable as a Neil Young song, and his trembling vocals against the swell of string instruments is odd to say the least.