Do any Pearl Jam albums have hidden tracks?

by John Reynolds , Jessica Letkemann on July 18, 2006

Rearviewmirror may contain thirty-three hits that encapsulate Pearl Jam’s pre-Avocado career, but five songs not on that greatest hits collection might summarize the band’s milestones even more precisely. In fact, some people might not even know these songs exist! That’s because they’re … (whisper) <lean in closer> … hidden!

Dating back to the days of vinyl, a “hidden track” is simply a song on an album that is not listed in the track listing of an album’s packaging. “Look under the couch! Check behind that door! Lo! Where can it be? Like playing a game of Hide-And-Seek with a two-year-old, it usually takes only a few minutes to realize there is a hidden track on an album. After a varying amount of silence after what you think is the last track, a hidden track will play. Sometimes it’s a real song, sometimes a musical experiment, and very often a band’s inside joke.

In Pearl Jam’s case, there are unofficially five albums that have hidden tracks. These hidden tracks differ in length and style, but share a common theme: like Cliffs Notes to a book, these songs digest an album’s worth of material and summarize the mood and underlying theme of that album all in one hidden track.

Master/Slave

How to find: On Ten, “Release” fades out at approximately 5:05 and “Master/Slave” comes on at about 5:18

Approximate wait time: About 13 seconds.

The eerie bass-and-mumbles miasma of echoes starts off Ten for about forty seconds, segues into “Once”, and then reprises full force for nearly four minutes after “Release” fades. This is PJ’s first foray into arty ambient rock, setting the precedent for many future returns to the genre. The story goes that during the sessions for Ten, in March and April of 1991 at London Bridge studios in Seattle, Eddie, who was once dubbed “the man who never sleeps”, and Jeff turned a mutual fit of inspiration and insomnia into the hypnotic musical experiment that bookends the album.

The song originated as a Jeff Ament bass line, according to Rick Parashar in a 2002 interview with Guitar World, “I heard the bass line and then we kind of were collaborating on that in the control room, and then I just started programming on the keyboard all this stuff; he was jamming with it and it just kind of came about like that.”

“That’s away from rock music rules,” Eddie is quoted as saying about the song in the book Pearl Jam by Mick Wall. “The whole ambiance, that whole wash, it floats you away. I was singing vocals through a headphone plugged into an amp and Jeff was playing his twelve-string bass with a violin bow through a wah-wah pedal. And I was hung upside down in anti-gravity boots while Jeff put a microphone at the bottom of a swing and just pushed. It was just Jeff and I at four o’clock in the morning.”

The song’s title “Master/Slave” is a term you are guaranteed to find on many pieces of equipment in a recording studio. It refers to devices (slaves) that are hooked up to a controlling console (master). When the controls on the master are manipulated, it prompts a corresponding change on the slaves, allowing one device to control many other attached devices in one pass.

“Hummus”

How to find: On Yield, “All Those Yesterdays” fades out at approximately 4:01 and “Hummus” comes on at about 5:04

Approximate wait time: About one minute, three seconds.

1998′s Yield already includes a curiously-titled instrumental percussion track called “The Color Red”, mysteriously represented in a Prince-ian way on the album artwork by an image of a red circle. Later, just a minute after the album’s last track “All Those Yesterdays”, an track called “Hummus” adds more intrigue for fans who like to decipher the meanings of PJ’s songs.

The makeup of the song consists of two guitars playing parallel melodies and is accompanied by Jack Irons drumming, opportune hand-clapping, and the occasional under-the-breath shouts of “hummus!”. Does this arabian-tinged melody explain the reason for shouting the name of an arabian-style dip? We may never know. From the sounds of the laughter after the very last “hummus!”, this maybe be an inside joke that most fans will be on the outside for.

Thanks to Justin Noszek for validating “Hummus” as the official title, and not “Untitled”

“Writer’s Block”

How to find: On Binaural, “Parting Ways” fades out at approximately 3:45 and “Writer’s Block” comes on at about 6:49

Approximate wait time: Three minutes, four seconds.

The clack-clack-clack of a typewriter is the metaphor in “Writer’s Block”. This “song” consists of a sequence of seven-stroke passages on a typewriter, each followed by a hard carriage return, and finally a punctuating sound similar to the SHIFT-LOCK. The keystrokes are bathed in reverb, and even after the first carriage return, Ed can be heard mumbling something like “Help” or “Hell” or “<insert word here>”.

In a 2000 interview for NYRock.com, Ed talked about the “Writer’s Block” he endured during the recording of Binaural:

NYRock: On the last track of the album one can hear you frustratingly hacking away on your typewriter. Rumor has it that you were suffering from a severe writer’s block….

Eddie: I almost went completely crazy. I kept changing the lyrics and then changed them again, just to write another version. I ended up with several versions and then used the best and just put them together and that worked surprisingly well. But before I did that, I thought it would never happen, I’d never be able to finish it.

NYRock: Knowing writer’s block it sounds pretty hellish to me….

Eddie: It was my own personal hell. I had a great time but at the same time the lyrics just didn’t come together and I was wrecking my head. Somehow I still can’t believe that it’s all done and over with, that I finally got the lyrics together.

“4/20/02″

How to find: On Disc Two of Lost Dogs, the brief “Bee Girl” fades out at approximately 1:43 and “4/20/02″ comes on at about 6:03

Approximate wait time: Four minutes, twenty seconds.

“4/20/02″ is a poignant musical dedication to the late Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice in Chains. The song – including just Ed on vocals and electric guitar – has lyrics that spit in the faces of the bevy of Staley vocal imitators and mourns the loss of a man crippled with drug addiction. Although Staley died on April 5, he was not found until two weeks later, and news of his death propagated on April 20.

In 2002, Ed told VH1 about when the song was written and why it became a “lost dog”, “(4/20/02) almost seemed like something we could have put out on the radio that week. It was called ’4/20/02,’ which was the day I heard about it. We didn’t release it because we had too many songs (on Riot Act).”

The silence following “Bee Girl” until the hidden track is the longest of any hidden track on any Pearl Jam album. It is not without significance, though, as “4/20/02″ appears 4 minutes, 20 seconds after “Bee Girl”.

“Untitled” aka “Inside Job Outro”

How to find: On Pearl Jam, “Inside Job” ends at approximately 6:32 and “Untitled” comes on at about 6:36

Approximate wait time: Only four seconds.

Pearl Jam has experimented with various instruments to get just the right sound on their songs. From countless brands of electric guitars, to fretted vs. fretless bass guitars, and even accordion on “Bugs”, the band has never resisted experimentation. Just a few seconds after Pearl Jam‘s “Inside Job” is an airy piece whose instrument is not immediately identifiable. Is it guitar? Is it a keyboard? Has it even been recorded backwards?

In an unpublished expert from an interview with Jeff Ament for Billboard Magazine, Jeff talked about this half-minute instrumental piece: “That’s something Ed recorded on a sitar. Originally it was a little bit longer. It took me a little while to understand where he was headed with the sequence. But ending with that song… the front of the record is so extroverted but it ends up so introverted. That chiming sitar piece almost takes it almost even further inside.”

While the “Inside Job outro” ends the latest album, most recently a recording of the song has started concerts. Starting in Pittsburgh on June 23, 2006, the song has been used as the pre-recorded entrance music as the house lights go out and the show is about to start.


Special thanks to Jonathan Cohen at Billboard Magazine. “Master / Slave” section originally appeared in “Deciphering The Illusion” from Tickle My Nausea Issue #21 Summer 2001, by Jessica Letkemann


In the spirit of the “hidden track”, this is a “hidden paragraph”. Using white text on a white background, you’ll probably find this either by accident or if you’re highlighting the text. If you have found this, send an email to contact@twofeetthick and if you’re the first to respond, we’ll send you a little PJ prize.

John Reynolds ( Twitter: @jjjrrr )
A New Jersey based programmer, John handles TFT’s programming and technical aspects. He also conceives and writes his share of TFT’s articles and sections. John’s first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 12, 1992.
Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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