Music is apparently a great place to hide secret messages. The Underground Railroad supposedly coded escape plans into slave work songs, and Mozart's music features more secret Masonic symbolism than the back of a dollar bill. Well, it turns out some of the most popular musicians of the past 50 years have been getting in on the action too, and just not telling anyone. It's almost like they knew the internet would be invented, and that the music fans who hang out there would have way too much time on our hands. How else can you explain ...
#10. Jimi Hendrix's Hidden Alien Message
The song "Third Stone From the Sun" from Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced album is a trippy jazz/rock instrumental with some weird noises in the background. It's the only instrumental track in the album and also the one most likely to trigger an acid flashback.
But what's even trippier about it is that if you adjust the speed of your record player to play the song like a 45 rpm vinyl (a format usually reserved for singles), you can suddenly hear two aliens talking by radio as they approach Earth. What's an alien message doing in an album about simple topics like kidnapping ladies and burning stuff? Nobody knows.
Although we have some theories.
Sadly, the only sped-up version we could find has enhanced vocals, meaning they don't sound quite as creepy as they would in the album:
But if you want creepy, you can always trust Nine Inch Nails to take things to the next level: The track "Erased, Over, Out" from their remix album Further Down the Spiral is long and repetitious ... perhaps intentionally, because if you fast-forward through it on a regular CD player, you can clearly hear the words "ERASE ME" being repeated over and over and over. So if you ever heard that song at regular speed and afterward felt an inexplicable urge to format your hard drive, now you know why.
Purging your data is a perfectly natural response to NIN.
#9. Radiohead Hides Entire Booklet (and a Conspiracy)
Radiohead's 2000 album Kid A, a follow-up to the hugely successful OK Computer, seems to be particularly good at spawning conspiracy theories. In an article in The New Yorker, British novelist Nick Hornby called it "commercial suicide," speculating that the band may have intentionally made it weird and experimental as way to piss off the label and get out of their record contract (too bad it went on to be a bestseller). And then there's Spin magazine's Chuck Klosterman claiming that Kid A unintentionally foreshadowed 9/11 a year before it happened.
On a purely unrelated note, this is Radiohead's manager.
Oddly enough, Kid A did include creepy clues to the future, but not on the album itself -- they were hidden in the actual packaging. You see, besides the regular cover booklet with the usual stuff like lyrics and credits, there was a second, slightly more disturbing booklet hiding behind the album's tray. The tray was all black, so the extra booklet wasn't immediately visible. It featured strange art and snippets of lyrics, as well as some other pieces of text that seemed to be random bits of poetry.
It may have also been Thom Yorke's rejected children's book, You Will Never Sleep Again.
But it turns out those pieces of text weren't just random writings from the band -- they were actual lyrics from their next two albums, 2001's Amnesiac and 2003's Hail to the Thief. Yep, the satanic-looking secret booklet printed the lyrics for songs that wouldn't come out for three years. Granted, it's pretty common for bands to leave songs off of albums and re-use them later, but it's still very cool that those who found the booklet got a preview of the future.
Thom Yorke's bed-sheets and walls are covered in "previews" like this.
And what do you know, after Hail to the Thief, Radiohead was finally free of their recording contract and went independent for their next album, 2007's In Rainbows. And speaking of In Rainbows ...
#8. Radiohead's Decade-Spanning Secret Album
Radiohead's In Rainbows came out on 10/10/2007, 10 years after OK Computer, and there are 10 letters in the names of both albums. Additionally, OK Computer's original working title was Zeroes and Ones, or "01," (the mirror image of "10" ... obviously). Even that last part alone is enough to make Radiohead fans start looking for a crazy conspiracy, as you're probably aware if you've ever had to spend a long car ride sitting beside one. The scary part? This time they'd be totally right.
This is what doing a whippet on the highway looks like.
There's a way to combine the tracks from OK Computer (hereinafter referred to as 01) and In Rainbows (hereinafter referred to as 10), to form one huge mega-album. As Puddlegum explains, "To create the 01 and 10 playlist, begin with OK Computer's track one, "Airbag," and follow this with In Rainbow's track one, "15 Step." Alternate the albums, track by track, until you reach "Karma Police" on OK Computer, making "All I Need" the tenth track on the 01 and 10 playlist." It's not that they sound nice together; it's that these songs were definitely meant to make us shit our pants when played like this. In the way that "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End" all flow into each other on The Beatles' Abbey Road, these songs all flow into one another as well, as if they were all recorded in one big session.
Don't believe us? Just listen to it. To get the full effect, you need to set your player with a 10-second crossfade between tracks (more 10s!), but you can notice most stuff without doing that. Then shit your pants.
Is Thom York moody, or is he acting like he just crapped his pants
as a really subtle clue?
This blogger points out that the song "Nude" (10 album), starts with the reverb from "Subterranean Homesick Alien" (01 album) still lingering, and the beats at the end of "Airbag" (01) set the tempo for "15 Step" (10). There's nothing unusual about that ... except when you consider that those songs were written and recorded 10 years apart. The pants-shitting synchronicity also applies to the lyrics. Puddlegum gives some examples and says: "There appears to be a concept flowing through the 01 and 10 playlist. Ideas in one song [are] picked up by the next." In fact, one of the songs from In Rainbows was originally written for OK Computer and not used for 10 years, and the title of another seems to sum up the whole thing: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place."
Alternate way to sum it up.
Remember all that "10" stuff we mentioned up top, about the date, the time between albums, the number of letters in the titles and whatnot? Want more? Radiohead themselves announced In Rainbows only 10 days before it came out (which is rather unusual), and the announcement was followed by a series of 10 cryptic messages posted by the band on their website. That's nothing new: Cryptic messages might be the only way alternative rock musicians know how to communicate. But then Radiohead fans, being Radiohead fans, noticed that the messages emphasized the letter X (one image was titled "Xendless Xurbia"). And, say, isn't "X" the Roman numeral for 10? Plus, let's take a look at this cover art real quick.
Oh, look, two 10s. Huh.
The band has never officially confirmed any of this, though Puddlegum claims Thom Yorke was annoyed by how long it's taken people to figure it out. Come on, dude -- not all of us are insane alien geniuses.
#7. Tool's Epic Do-It-Yourself Song
Three separate tracks from the latest Tool album can be assembled into a different one -- it's like Voltron, only with progressive metal songs instead of progressive metal robots (seriously, those guys had a woman pilot before most airlines). But plenty of bands do multi-part songs, so there's nothing special about it, right?
You can't spell "diVersity" without some of the letters in "Voltron"!
Well, the difference is that, in this case, you don't get the full song by doing something as mundane as playing one track after the other -- you get it by changing the order and playing them at the same time.
By themselves, the songs seem completely different: "10,000 Days" (11:13) is a long prog-rock number, "Wings for Marie" (6:11) is a quiet song that builds up into a crescendo, and "Viginti Tres" (5:02) is just a bunch of weird noises. 6:11 plus 5:02 adds up to 11:13 -- that's because you're supposed to put "Viginti Tres" and "Wings for Marie" together (in that order) and play them at the same time as "10,000 Days."
Sobriety is optional, but not recommended.
If that sounds too complicated for you, check out this demonstration at YouTube-Doubler. You'll notice that the weird sounds from "Viginti Tres" seem to be in sync with the melody of "10,000 Days." That demonstration doesn't include "Wings for Marie", though, which has the most impressive part: Near the end, the vocals from both songs alternate almost perfectly, forming completely different lyrics.
The band has never acknowledged any of this, but if you listen to the full song it's pretty obvious that they did this intentionally ... which is both mind-blowingly awesome and a little bit insane.
Also like Voltron.
#6. Aphex Twin Gives You Nightmares
Calling Richard D. James (the founder and sole member of alternative rock band Aphex Twin) an eccentric is hardly a stretch. He lives in a converted bank office owns a tank and submarine, and has a deranged compulsion to plaster his face all over shit, as seen most prominently in the insanely terrifying music video for "Come to Daddy."
Things like this should not happen in music videos. Or anywhere.
But, apparently, exposing your eyes to images of abject horror isn't good enough for Richard D. James. He wants you to hear those images, too. His 1999 single, "Windowlicker," included a B-side with the catchy name of ...
... (fans just call it "[Equation]," unless they're real douchebags). Five minutes and 30 seconds into the song, a metallic, buzzing noise is heard, which is frankly nothing out of the ordinary for Aphex Twin. What IS fucked up is that when you run that section through a spectrograph (a program that converts sound waves into visible images), this comes out:
You weren't planning on sleeping tonight, right?
The insane, nightmarish grin of Richard D. James himself is entering your ears in the form of sound waves. You can see the image being formed bit by terrifying bit here, if you must. Encoding photographs into sound is actually pretty simple (you just need to find the right software), but not everyone can get away with taking the resulting mess and slapping it into a song.
Richards isn't the only one who has done it, though. Nine Inch Nails hid part of their album's cover art in two songs from the album Year Zero, and lesser-known electronic artist Venetian Snares included spectrographic pictures of his cats ... in an album titled Songs About My Cats.
OK, now we can't decide which one is scarier.