It existed in some form or another long before 1994, but Green Day’s seminal Dookie served as many modern music fans’ first introduction to the concept of “the hidden track.” Stick around long enough after “F.O.D.” and you’d hear some jaunty fingerpicking and the then-familiar voice of drummer Tré Cool. His song was called “All By Myself” and the whole thing was a thinly veiled ode to masturbation. We even wrote about it a few years ago.
It resonates because it was kind of the perfect hidden track, one that not only sounded different than the rest of Dookie, but also, for its teenage audience, was taboo as all hell. It was a dirty secret. It needed to be hidden.
As pointed out by this excellent piece on the hidden track by Tedium, that wasn’t the case with most songs of that nature. Some ended up being hits themselves, others went on to anger management, and others just became gimmicks. Now, with streaming culture having more or less rendered the traditional album obsolete, the hidden track has gone the way of the dodo. Even tucking a little song after a spell of silence during the final track doesn’t work, as listeners can simply view the song’s length on Spotify. That wasn’t the case on the humble boombox, which would tick along unbeknownst should you forgot to hit stop, only to spring to life again when you least expected it.
Look up Dookie on Spotify now and you’ll see “All By Myself” listed as the album’s final track. For any early adopter of the album, that just doesn’t feel right.