What media/pop culture "easter eggs" are format-specific?
December 12, 2017 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Tom Petty dropped a message to CD listeners in the middle of his Full Moon Fever record, which was not on his cassette or LP. An early-in-the-HDTV-days episode of My Name is Earl had a sign that was visible to people watching in 16:9 HD but not in 4:3 SD. Do you know other pop culture easter eggs that are format-dependent? (Note: I am not looking for "this deleted scene is only available on the special-edition DVD;" instead I am curious about little additions that exploit the format itself.)
posted by AgentRocket to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You will probably like this list of messages in the matrices of records. I remember the ones from Black Flag.
posted by jessamyn at 6:54 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

They Might Be Giants Factory Showroom has a secret track that can only be heard by rewinding your CD player back from the beginning of the first track.
posted by Ampersand692 at 7:15 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Gremlins 2: The New Batch has a scene that plays out differently in the VHS version than it did in the theatrical one.
posted by Del Chimney at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Songs in the key of X CD of X-files themed music has the same thing Amerpsand692, a song before 0:00 on track one.

Also, I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but there was a time when CD-media videogames would have audio music tracks on them, so if you put the game in a CD player it would play music from the game. Also, there were music CDs that had data sections if you put the music CD into your computer , containing videos or a website-like interface. These were both late-1990s things.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is maybe a little different from what you're looking for, but: years ago, there was a vinyl Monty Python album, Matching Tie and Handkerchief, that had three sides -- that is, they somehow did the pressing so that on side A, depending on how the needle fell, it would play either sketch 1 or sketch 2.
posted by holborne at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Semi-related story: Nirvana's Nevermind CD had a "hidden track" if you let it keep playing after the last song (Something in the Way).
However, I must have gotten an earlier pressing of the CD, because my copy did not have the hidden track. The last track was (something like) 4 minutes, not 20. So when I heard about this hidden track, I *thought* there was some weird trick I had to do to the CD player in order to get that last track to play.
I tried multiple players. I tried in the car and out of the car. I was stumped, since everyone said all you needed to do was keep listening. Eventually I was able to convince myself and my friends that I just had an unusual copy of the disc.

The side effect was that I was able to rip Something in the Way to mp3 much more easily, of course.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2017

"Intro" - first track on side two of Todd Rundgren's "Something/Anything".
posted by davebush at 7:50 AM on December 12, 2017

NIN - "Year Zero". The CD changes color when it gets warm from spinning.
posted by davebush at 7:52 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Wikipedia has a list of albums with hidden tracks (there are lot, and the list is probably not comprehensive).
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:55 AM on December 12, 2017

A ton of records have text messages scratched into the vinyl after the run-out groove. (Sorry, just saw the first reply).
posted by davebush at 7:55 AM on December 12, 2017

If you had the original disk for Karateka for the Apple ][ and inserted the floppy upside down, it would play a second copy of the game...with the screen mirrored and upside down.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

"'Fingertips' is a series of twenty-one short tracks ranging in duration from 4 to 71 seconds, totaling 4:35. The liner notes, in reference to these tracks, include the message 'the indexing of this disc is designed to complement the Shuffle Mode of modern CD players.'"
posted by clavicle at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Gesocm's "Minidisc" - "Minidisc was the world's first ever MiniDisc-only release and was designed to take advantage of the format's (then exclusive) zero seek time: Minidisc contains 45 pieces split into 88 tracks which are intended to be played in shuffle mode, creating a quasi-unique, aleatoric arrangement every time it is played."
posted by davebush at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Check out mutli-sided records, where one of the multiple grooves in the record will be played depending on where you start the needle. The trickier ones, like Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante, have tracks hidden midway through the record, so if you always played that side from the start you'd never find it.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:50 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Radiohead's booklet hidden beneath the "Kid A" CD tray.
posted by davebush at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few TV shows have quick bits you can only appreciate by pausing and/or rewinding your DVR.

Chuck Lorre's "vanity cards" at the ends of his shows' episodes
The Simpsons' opening sequences have a variety of Easter eggs.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:01 AM on December 12, 2017

a secret track that can only be heard by rewinding your CD player back from the beginning of the first track

This is called a pregap track , commonly marked Track 00, A kind of hidden track
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2017

I'm not sure whether this qualifies, but...

Websites are distinct for being (nearly) the only software for which the source code is fully accessible and visible to the user. Some site developers take advantage of this by leaving hidden messages that are intended for random strangers passing by. So for example, if you view source on any page on Flickr, you'll see a large comment block containing their old two-color disc logo rendered in ASCII graphics with a remark for job hunters.
posted by ardgedee at 9:12 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of The Tensor's theory that the opening of Star Wars Episode IV was particularly impressive in movie theaters in the 70s.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The tv show Lost did something similar with their various websites created for their fictitious companies. There were little messages and clues hidden in the source code of the website or pictures would actually be gifs that would display differently if enlarged or viewed separately. I seem to remember one site would have pop-up chat box where a 'hacker' would try to communicate once you had been on the site for a period of time and/or click on specific links.
posted by porkygrrl at 9:32 AM on December 12, 2017

I fondly remember the Ash album 1977 (released 1996)... if you started track 1, but then rewind the CD back BEFORE the track begins (pregap), there are two secret tracks hidden in the negative numbers... the album also features a track at the very end of the album after a long silence in which the band members are being sick.

As a teenager I never experienced the reverse CD pregap track thing anywhere else, and according to Wikipedia they only appear on the original pressing of the CD.
posted by 0bvious at 9:36 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Information Society's 1988 album Peace and Love, Inc. had a hidden text file in the vinyl album.

The track "300bps N, 8, 1 (Terminal Mode or Ascii Download)" was, well, exactly that. A recording of an acoustic modem transmitting a block of ASCII text at 300 bits per second, 8 bits/byte, no parity bit, one stop bit (8N1). You could play it back trough the handset of your phone and into a modem and view the text message.

Of course, if you're familiar with modem sounds back in the day this wasn't much of a "hidden" file at all. But very few probably took the time to decode the message.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, the album was from 1992, not 1988.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:20 AM on December 12, 2017

Backmasking as a way to deliberately hide messages (as contrasted with indecipherable eerie sounds) is really only a practical technique on vinyl records and reel-to-reel tape.
posted by ardgedee at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aziz Ansari breaks off from reading the text to address audiobook listeners in his Modern Romance audiobook. He also tries to describe the charts and pictures included in the book.
posted by amarynth at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2017

They Might Be Giants Factory Showroom has a secret track that can only be heard by rewinding your CD player back from the beginning of the first track

AFI also hid one of these in their album Very Proud of Ya. Apparently it's called the pregap, and here's a list of albums with a hidden track in the pregap.
posted by capricorn at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2017

One of the Trans Am LPs (I think Surrender to the Night?) ends each side of the record with a groove that loops an endless tone. I'm sure this is done on other records, but I don't know what the practice is called.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2017

Jack White's Lazaretto LP is basically every vinyl easter egg in one basket: https://pitchfork.com/news/55075-jack-whites-lazaretto-ultra-lp-contains-hologram-in-vinyl-tracks-hidden-under-labels-more-fun-stuff/
posted by Gortuk at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Gear Daddies had ten songs on their CD "Billy's Live Bait," but the last one had some silence and then launched into the rink rat cri de cœur "(I Wanna Drive the) Zamboni."

SLYT here if you're not familiar; everyone else, feel free to sing along like the fans in the video.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Maybe not an Easter egg per se, but the vinyl and cassette releases of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper contained several tracks that were truncated or omitted on the CD release. The odds are good you've never even heard the full version of "Nightmare on My Street."
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:18 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

That makes so much sense, Faint-of-Butt. I had that tape and I remember the songs a certain way, but when I have "re-heard" them decades later they just sound wrong or incomplete. I thought they were remixes, didn't know they were CD versions.
posted by jozxyqk at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nine Inch Nails' remix album Further Down the Spiral has the track "Erased, Over, Out" where the words "release me" creepily repeat if you play the song on CD and hold down the fast forward button.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:50 PM on December 12, 2017

Dead Kennedys - In God We Trust, Inc. cassette version.
The original cassette version compiled all 8 songs on Side A and left Side B intentionally devoid of any sound. Printed on the cassette's second side was the explanation, "Home taping is killing record industry profits! We left this side blank so you can help."
posted by zengargoyle at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Late afternoon dreaming hotel, that’s called a lock groove. When I was a college DJ, some funk, soul, disco records from the 60s and 70s had them at the end and they’d be a funky little indefinite jam.

To answer the question, flaming lips put out a record called Hit To Death in the Future Head. The CD, but not the cassette, had a 24 minute long noise track. It is literally the same clanging sound for 24 min straight.
posted by holyrood at 6:42 PM on December 12, 2017

holyrood: Superconductor's album Hit Songs for Girls did the same thing: The CD and cassette versions had a very long found-sound and noise collage (over 30 minutes in the CD version) and the LP didn't.

I don't know how much I'd consider format-specific sequencing an easter egg, as much as just padding or trimming content to fit, like editing a minute out of a TV show rerun to fit more commercial breaks. In the 80s, CD and cassette wrappers sometimes had stickers stating when they were edited to fit the media, so these were neither secret nor especially good. People were not exactly thrilled about spending more to get less music than on other versions.

Off on a slight tangent: "Album" to describe a long-playing record comes from the era of 78 rpm records, in which an entire symphony or a compilation of an artist's hits would be collected in a book of four or more disks -- it was literally a hefty physical album of music. Early 33 1/3 rpm LPs were often reissues of 78 rpm albums so the name stuck. Four disks meant eight songs per album, a rough maximum of 40 minutes of music, easily fitting on an LP. But if the 78 rpm album had more than four disks, for example for a classical music concert, there might have to be content edits to fit a single LP, though I couldn't find any easy examples of that.
posted by ardgedee at 3:21 AM on December 13, 2017

Hah, I spoke too soon. Frank Sinatra Conducts The Music Of Alec Wilder was originally an album of six tracks on three 78 rpm disks. 12" LP reissues were resequenced and padded with seven extra tracks. Mind, I'm citing this mostly as a counter-example to easter-eggness, since in each edition the packaging is pretty overt about what it contains.
posted by ardgedee at 3:26 AM on December 13, 2017

Sigue Sigue Sputnik's album "Flaunt It!" has commercials between the tracks. As I recall, the commercials were real, and they had sold the space to finance the recording. My original players would advance to the next track number when a commercial started, but the time counter would stay at 0:00 until the next song actually began. My first attempts to rip the disc to mp3 got the songs but skipped the commercials (I no longer remember what software I was using). Now, ripping the disc will append the commercial to the end of the previous song, but it was quite an annoying mystery back in my younger days.

This may not count as an easter egg, though, since they required no additional effort to hear during normal play.
posted by Devoidoid at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2017

The movie Clue had three different filmed endings when it was released in theaters. Depending on which print each theater got you'd only see one of them.

This highly abstract track by Aphex Twin contains an image when you view the sound as a spectrogram.

The 8 track version of Pink Floyd's Animals album has a completely different guitar solo that isn't on the LP/CD etc version, played by someone who wasn't even in the band yet.
posted by tremspeed at 10:58 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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