Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Stylus magazine takes on the history of the hidden track.
In the history of hidden tracks, The Clash’s “Train in Vain” from their 1979 epic London Calling is noteworthy for earning that label entirely by accident. According to engineer Bill Price, the sleeve work for the record had already been printed when the band finished working on the song and decided to include it on the album. Oh yeah, one other thing—it was by far the album’s biggest hit.
Regardless of whether or not the song was intended to be “hidden,” the effect on the listener is the same. After listening to one hour of what may be the greatest rock album of all time, stuffed chock full of political sloganeering, tales of urban mayhem and suburban supermarkets, and even a rumination on the Spanish Civil War, out of nowhere comes three minutes of ridiculously catchy power pop about nothing more basic than jilted love. And you know what? It fucking rocks. So it doesn’t really matter that the track wasn’t even supposed to be hidden—The Clash could get away with making a song like “Train in Vain” an unlisted bonus on the album of the decade. They were, after all, The Clash.