Throughout the entire history of art, we’ve seen plenty of hits, and plenty of misses. Many times, the misses have lead to people questioning why that particular piece of art was produced in the first place. But how often do we think of the reverse? What about all those amazing pieces of art that have never seen the light of day?
Frequently, we hear rumours of famous recordings in the world of music which haven’t surfaced for one reason or another. Sometimes, we’ve seen tragedy strike the band, leaving the group unable or unwilling to release their material, or in some cases we’ve seen artists withhold their works for personal reasons – at other times, it just hasn’t been good enough to release.
While we’ve touched on this topic before, the vast annals of music history mean that there are always going to be works of art that haven’t seen the light of day, and there will always be unreleased music that we’ll want to give a spin. So join us as we take a look back at some of the famous unreleased or lost recordings that we’d give anything to hear.
‘Eros’ – Deftones
After the release of Deftones’ fifth album Saturday Night Wrist in 2006, they band were on the verge of breaking up. With the intention of making the best album they could to overcome any tensions within the group, the band set to work at the start of 2008 to record an album that tentatively titled ‘Eros’. However, recording sessions were halted in late 2008 when Deftones bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a serious car accident which ended his career.
After being comatose for nearly five years, Chi Cheng passed away in April of 2013. While the group had recorded and released material in the interim, Eros had remained unfinished, waiting for Cheng to return to the recording sessions. Following Cheng’s death, Deftones frontman said the chances for the album’s releases looked good, but to this date, it has still not been released, namely due to the band not being terrible happy with the quality of the material. To date, the only taste we’ve had of the unfinished recordings is a sole track called ‘Smile’, which can be heard below.
‘Born Again’ – Boom Crash Opera
In the late 1980’s, Boom Crash Opera were all over the Aussie charts. With their singles such as ‘Hands Up In The Air’, ‘Onion Skin’, and ‘The Best Thing’, the group were staples of the Aussie live scene. By the time the 90’s rolled around, their popularity had started to wane somewhat, but their fans were still hungry for any material they would release, regardless of the experimental direction the group were starting to take. Sadly, the group’s record label didn’t believe in the group as much as their fans did.
In 1995, the group unleashed Born, a planned double-album which was released in a curious manner. Released in a double-CD package, the space for the second disc was reserved by a paper slip which advised fans to look out for the follow-up disc, Born Again, which was supposed to be coming soon. Due to the lukewarm reception that Born received, the group’s record label dropped the band, whilst keeping the rights to the unreleased album. To date, Born Again is yet to make an appearance, though the band have moved on and have continued to work on further music. Check out ‘Gimme’, one of the tracks from the half of the album that was released, below.
‘Lifehouse’ – The Who
In 1969, The Who released their classic rock opera Tommy, which has gone on to be considered one of the most influential rock albums of the time. Emboldened by the success of Tommy, the group decided to capitalise on their success by recording yet another rock opera, this time, one called Lifehouse. Intended to be an album that focused on a post-apocalyptic world, the original version of the album was scrapped in favour of creating a more straightforward rock album.
The album they chose to record instead was Who’s Next?, one of the group’s most famous records. Containing tracks such as ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, and ‘Baba O’Riley’, the album was made up of abandoned ideas from Lifehouse. The group would later revisit ideas from the abandoned sessions on their record Who Are You. While we may never know what Lifehouse was going to sound like, we did manage to get Who’s Next? instead, so maybe this one was actually for the best.
‘Illiteracy Will Prevail’ – Fecal Matter
If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of Nirvana, you may have wound up looking at a band called Fecal Matter. Consisting of Kurt Cobain and Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of the Melvins, the group lasted for two years and managed to record a sole demo tape entitled Illiteracy Will Prevail. The holy grail of Nirvana fans, the tape has managed to elude the general public for over 30 years.
While numerous tracks of varying quality and questionable sources are said to have leaked from the album over the years, the only recording to be officially released is ‘Spank Thru’, released on the Nirvana compilation Sliver, in 2005. It shows a young Kurt Cobain still finding his feet in the songwriting game, but it gives us a pretty good idea of what was to come in the very near future.
‘Untitled Fourth Album’ – The Velvet Underground
Back in 1969, The Velvet Underground had released their third album, a self-titled record, intended to be complete 180 from what they had delivered with their second record, White Light/White Heat. This self-titled record was very received, and even earned itself a spot at #314 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. The group then reconvened to record what would be their fourth album, however, due to a large number of professional and personal difference, these recording sessions were scrapped, and the album never surfaced.
While 1985’s VU compilation saw a small amount of these abandoned sessions collected for a widespread release, we still haven’t managed to properly see the album in the way it was meant to be released. A 2014 reissue of the self-titled album saw a collection of the 1969 sessions as a bonus disc, but many of these tracks had been remixed from their original states. While we can view some of these tracks to this day, and many of these tracks exist in famously bootlegged live versions, we still have no proper release of the lost fourth Velvet Underground album in the way that it was meant to be heard.
‘All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling’ – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
One of the most famous and enigmatic post-rock groups of all time is the Canadian group Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The group, while often and media-shy and reclusive, boast a famously voracious fanbase whose dedication is beyond what many bands could dream of. For the vast majority of the fanbase though, they share a common goal; to finally hear what Godspeed’s demo tape sounds like.
The group’s demo tape, All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling, is a little different in that it was a cassette-only release which was limited to 33 when it was actually released in 1994. However, apart from small mentions of it by the band, almost no information about it is known, except that it bears almost no resemblance to the music the group would later make. In 2013, a Reddit user claimed that he had a copy of the tape, an even went so far as to upload some questionable audio files to prove his story. The user soon disappeared, causing many commentators to believe his claims were a hoax. While this user may have just been scared off by the group’s vast fanbase, we may never know if this album does exist, or what it sounds like.
‘Carnival Of Light’ – The Beatles
In 1968, Paul McCartney agreed to contribute a piece of music to an art show held by British designer David Vaughan. The contributed piece, entitled ‘Carnival Of Light’, is said to be one of the longest, and most psychedelic of all the pieces of music recorded by The Beatles. Consisting of distorted guitars, church organs, and screamed phrases from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it doesn’t appear to be on of the Fab Four’s most palatable works.
The track is said to be incredibly avant-garde, and certainly not something that would be found on any of the group’s records, so naturally, we want to hear it. Surprisingly though, Paul McCartney actually wants us to hear it, and has actively campaigned to have the track released. He tried to get it released back in 1995, but George Harrison denied its release, and if McCartney wants it to be released now, he would need consent from Ringo Starr and the widows of Lennon and Harrison.
However, considering all he has done for music in the past, we’re sure McCartney will find a way to let us finally hear this unreleased piece of Beatles history. While we wait though, check out one of The Beatles’ best forays into the realm of avant-garde, ‘Revolution 9’, below.
‘Hail And Farewell, Gothenburg’ – The Mountain Goats
Sadly, there are many examples of these famous recordings being leaked to the public, but not in the way that the artist intended. Sure, in your heart you can enjoy what you’re hearing an be somewhat satisfied that your long search is over, but often, you know that this isn’t the same as hearing an officially released version that mimics the true vision of the artist. Such is the case of Hail And Farewell, Gothenburg, by The Mountain Goats.
Originally recorded in 1995, the record was reportedly mastered at an incorrect speed by The Mountain Goats’ frontman John Darnielle. While he had fully intended to re-master the album and release it later, the album leaked out into the public without his consent, and was shared around by an excited fanbase, keen for more music. Disheartened by this leak, Darnielle abandoned the project, with no intention to release it as he had planned. While we have a version of this album available to listen to, it is in no way the same record that John Darnielle wanted to release. As a result of this leak though, Darnielle has stated that he now destroys the master tapes for any tapes he doesn’t wish the public to hear.
‘First Rays Of The New Rising Sun’ – Jimi Hendrix
In much the same way as the Velvet Underground’s album above, we’ve seen a lot of this record released, but in the same vein as Jeff Buckley’s Sketches For My Sweetheart, The Drunk, who knows how much resemblance this bears to the intended vision? With recording for this album beginning back in 1970 prior to Hendrix’s death, it was intended to be a double album.
In 1997, it was released as a compilation of the surviving master tracks, with the intention of making the record as close as possible to Hendrix’s original vision. While it is unknown how much of the original record was completed when Hendrix died, or how close the final album was to Hendrix’s vision, we can take solace in that we’ve heard at least something from these sessions, but of course, we wish Hendrix was still around to give us the album that he always wanted to make.
‘Red Devils Collaborations’ – Mick Jagger
From a memoir we may never read to his collaborations with the Red Devils, Mick Jagger has a way of keeping his art safe from prying eyes. Back in 1992, the Rolling Stones frontman was hard at work recording a solo album which would eventually be released under the name Wandering Spirit. In the meantime though, Jagger’s producer, Rick Rubin, had been working with a young blues rock group called the Red Devils and suggested the group collaborate with Jagger.
Taking a break from his solo album, Jagger reportedly recorded an entire album’s worth of covers of his favourite blues tracks. To date though, only one song, ‘Checkin’ Up On My Baby’, has been released officially. Considering the penchant that Jagger has for blues, and with an accomplished band such as the Red Devils behind him, we can only wonder why this album was shelved. Whatever the reason though, we hope that Jagger one day releases it, maybe the same day he releases his memoir.
‘The Commission’ – Jay Z & The Notorious B.I.G.
If you’ve ever given The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death a spin and wondered what the heck ‘the commission’ that Biggie talks about in ‘What’s Beef?’ is, well, we have the answer for you. Apparently, prior to his death, Biggie Smalls was in talks with Jay Z to record music together as a supergroup of sorts that would be called The Commission.
If the lyrics in ‘What’s Beef?’ are to be believed, The Commission would have been made up of himself (Franke White), Jay-Z (Iceberg Slim), Puff Daddy, Lance Rivera (Uncle Paulie), Lil’ Cease (Caesar Leo DeGenero), and Charli Baltimore. While Jay Z and Biggie had collaborated before, this would’ve been an absolute landmark in the world of hip-hop, bringing together two of the genre’s biggest names for an album length journey into lyrical mastery. While there are varying rumours as to whether the material was ever recorded, we can only sit and hope that The Notorious B.I.G.’s vaults will one day be opened further to find these fabled collaborations.
‘Unfinished Album – Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead were a cultural phenomenon. From their inception in the mid 60’s to their demise in the mid 90’s, they had a following which many of social commentators have described as almost cult-like. With a history of positive, communal jam-music, and a reputation for putting on of the best live shows you could witness, the Grateful Dead’s breakup was a shock to a tight-knit musical community.
In a manner similar to the aforementioned Deftones album, the Grateful Dead were in the process of recording a follow-up to their 1989 album Built To Last when frontman Jerry Garcia passed away. While the group had been recording music since the early 90’s, work was in full swing by late 1994, but by August 1995, Garcia had sadly died, leaving the group without their leader. The group had considered finishing the album in preparation for an eventual release, but this was also abandoned. Thankfully, due to a dedicated group of fans who had recorded the Dead’s music religiously, some live versions of the tracks that would have featured on the album do exist, and quite frankly, it’s just as good as any of the stuff they officially released.
‘Early Releases’ – Boards Of Canada
While we’ve written about the enigmatic nature of Scottish duo Boards Of Canada before, the Sandison brothers’ music has an origin story that has intrigued fans for years now. The group came to prominence in the late 90’s with their debut album Music Has The Right To Children, however, the duo had been making music for 12 years by this point. A vast majority of this music, has never been heard outside a select group of family and friends.
At least half a dozen cassette recordings exist from the late 80’s onwards which chronicle the group’s musical formation. Until the early 2000’s almost no information was known about these recordings, but when a number of questionably sourced tracks surfaced online, fans began digging deeper. What is known now, is that the brothers had decided to produce numerous tapes of their music as gifts to friends and family. By the time the mid 90’s rolled around, they had decided to release their music publicly, but to date, they have not spoken about releasing their early material to the public. Whether we’ll ever hear these tracks remains to be seen, but with an output that is frequently cited as genius, you can be sure we’re waiting with bated breath.Write a Letter to the Editor