Hidden tracks are a proud tradition in popular music. Back before digital media made it nearly impossible to surprise listeners, musicians would hide pieces of music by placing songs in a CDs pregap, double grooving cuts of vinyl, or simply leaving a title off the tracklist. The reasons varied for their inclusion, but a diverse group of artists, including The Beatles, Tool, Aaliyah, and The Clash, have all included hidden tracks on their albums.
While Nirvana were recording their seminal LP Nevermind, they were having difficulty nailing the track ‘Lithium’. Dave Grohl couldn’t keep an accurate tempo, requiring the use of a click track, and when yet another take broke down, Cobain began to vent his frustration. Cobain barked at his bandmates to play the noise jam that they often ended shows with. During the one and only take of the song, Cobain smashed his guitar, requiring the session to end for the day as there wasn’t a second left-handed guitar to use.
The spontaneous burst of anger, which sounded more like Sonic Youth than the Pixies sound that the band were going for on most of the album, was eventually given the title ‘Endless, Nameless’. The regular sessions resumed the following day, and when the band were assembling the tracks into an order, they rediscovered the jam at the end of the long list of takes from ‘Lithium’. The band decided to include it at the end of the album, although the reasoning behind it has been debated.
According to record executive Robert Smith, who worked as vice president of marketing at the band’s label Geffen Records, the song’s inclusion “was kind of a joke for the band to do, as in we’re not going to list it in the packaging, or mention it exists,” he said, adding: “It’s for that person who plays the CD, it ends, they’re walking around the house and ten minutes later… Kaboom!”
According to Grohl, “the original reason for it was because ‘Something in the Way’ is sort of a slow song. It’s the last song on the record and most likely to be listened to by someone who would have a carousel player. So, why not screw up their little carousel deal?”.
There is also conjecture that Cobain, a lifelong Beatles fanatic, wanted their own version of Abbey Road‘s hidden track ‘Her Majesty’ for Nevermind. In any case, most CDs contain roughly ten minutes of silence after ‘Something in the Way’ before launching into the raucous blast of noise that is ‘Endless, Nameless’. The first pressing of the CD omitted the song, however, and Cobain issued a pointed phone call to demand its inclusion on the second pressing. It might have been impromptu, but once Nevermind was assembled, it became an essential piece of the album.