You might know a guy who knows a guy who has a bootleg; you might have downloaded some low-quality mp3s; you might have actually dreamed that you heard these but these are 10 albums that never got released so trust me: You Never Heard Them.
There are generally three reasons why albums like these never get released. Either the artists are not sure what to do (read: too high) to follow up their last big hit like Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys with Smile. Or studio execs get cold feet about an album that may be unmarketable like The Dave Matthews Band with "The Lillywhite Sessions". Or sometimes a band just decides to go in a different direction or even break up like The Beatles with Get Back. Sometimes all three happen.
I didn't included the above examples in my top 10 because they are three of the most famous lost albums of all time and they're not so lost anymore so you've probably heard them by now in some form or another. Here are 10 albums that never came to be:
10. Homegrown - Neil Young
Neil Young is no stranger to the lost album. For a while, fans sought after "The Missing 6" and this isn't even one of them. Young recorded Homegrown, even had the cover artwork created, but at the very last moment he decided it was too depressing and overly personal so instead he released the depressing and overly personal Tonight's The Night which itself was an unreleased album he recorded a few years earlier. Most of the tracks from Homegrown eventually found homes on other albums though. And as for "The Missing 6", I think they're down to the Missing 2 now.
9. Cigarettes and Valentines - Green Day
Meant to be the follow-up to 2002's Shenanigans, the entire project was scratched when the master tracks were stolen from the studio. Rather than re-record, Green Day instead started over and ended up recording what would become the award-winning album American Idiot. According to many involved, what had been recorded as Cigarettes and Valentines was far inferior to American Idiot and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong called the theft a "blessing in disguise."
Strangely, many believe that the album actually has been released but under the name Money Money 2020 by a band named The Network who may or may not be Green Day in disguise.
8. Electric Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen's critically acclaimed 1982 album, Nebraska, with its spare and haunting acoustic sound was actually the demo for the album recorded by Springsteen at home with a 4-track cassette recorder. A second version of the album was recorded with the full E Street Band but Springsteen and his producers felt that the demo worked much better so they released that instead. The full band version, nicknamed "Electric Nebraska" has never been released in any form and probably never will be.
Not a whole lot of people out there are clamoring for this one as many probably take The Boss' word for it that the right version was released.
7. Songs From The Black Hole - Weezer
To follow-up their successful self-titled "blue album" in 1994, Rivers Cuomo and his band Weezer planned on doing a concept album/'space opera'. The story included a large cast of characters with different parts that would be sung by Cuomo, then-bassist Matt Sharp, Rachel Haden of that dog and Joan Wasser of The Dambuilders (though she actually never knew at the time that Cuomo planned on using her for this). The plot involved robots and the Star Corps Academy and a boy named Jonas and... ugh, I don't know but even Cuomo eventually lost interest in this after going off to Harvard for a while and rewrote some of the songs to put on their great 1996 album Pinkerton.
6. Power of the Dollar - 50 Cent
Nothing scares studio execs like an attempted hit. After rapper 50 Cent was shot nine times in an incident in 2000 supposedly in reaction to a song on his upcoming album Power of the Dollar, Columbia Records decided not to release it. On the album 50 namedrops hip hop industry moguls and street hustlers from his hood alike. Oh, and there's also a song called "How to Rob an Industry Nigga" that explains how 50 would rob at gunpoint various real life industry people. Listen it's one thing when RCA gets nervous about a Dave Matthews album not being radio-friendly but it's another thing when the fallout of releasing an album could lead to a cap in the ass. You can't be too hard on Columbia Records in this situation.
Unlike others on this list, this album can actually be heard pretty readily. It has become very popular as a bootleg and one single, "Thug Love", featuring Destiny's Child was even released before the album got killed.
5. Lifehouse - The Who
After their success with the rock opera, Tommy, Pete Townshend and The Who planned on a new concept album that was so complicated no one but Townshend could understand it. At the time he was getting deep into Indian spirituality and science fiction and was hell bent on developing a computerized instrument that would play an individualized music theme based on a person's biographical data and then using it to play large interactive concerts in which The Who would be directing audience members to participate in the music.
The story of Lifehouse takes place in a 21st century, polluted post-rock-and-roll Britain where people wear Lifesuits that simulate a better life and the main character is named "The Hacker" (sound familiar Wachowski bros.?)
Eventually Townshend brought it all back to earth and dumped a lot of the songs he wrote into Who's Next and Who Are You. He revisited the concept years later on his own in a six disc box set called The Lifehouse Chronicles that no one has probably ever listened to.
4. Dream Factory/Camille/Crystal Ball /Black Album - Prince
Prince is a prolific artist and, like my dad used to say, there's something kind of funny about him so it's not surprising that he has a number of lost albums that got scrapped either by himself or by frightened studio executives. Trying to follow the chronology of these recordings gets kind of messy but it seems to start with Dream Factory in 1985 which reached the mastering stage before personal conflicts within his band, The Revolution, led to the the dissolution of both the band and the album.
Then things started getting weird.
Experimenting with sped-up vocals, Prince decided to release an album under the pseudonym Camille just to see how people would react to it. Some actually think that the personality of "Camille" took over Prince for a time. Again this album reached the mastering stage but Prince felt it wasn't enough and needed to go the double album (no wait! Triple album!) route with what would almost become Crystal Ball. Warner Bros. had no idea how they'd sell a 3 album set so Crystal Ball eventually became his masterpiece Sign O The Times.
Then things started getting really dark.
To follow up Sign O The Times, Prince decided to get nasty and gritty, recording dark and violent songs about sexual depravity. Word has it that Prince had been corrupted by the "Spooky Electric" and once he broke free of it's grasp he recalled The Black Album just after it's release and worked fast to release the happier Lovesexy instead. Many feel this is right about where his career began to plummet.
3. Household Objects - Pink Floyd
A great example of the old "What the hell do I do next?" predicament. To follow up the already legendary Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, Pink Floyd decided to record an album using only homemade instruments made of things like rubber bands and cardboard boxes and glasses of water. Before long the band began to wonder what the hell they were doing and abandoned the project. None of it has ever been heard.
2. The New My Bloody Valentine Album
Shoegazers like me suddenly look up really quick when we hear the words "The New My Bloody Valentine Album" but just forget about it, never going to happen. Not quite sure how to follow up the influential 1991 album Loveless, MBV leader Kevin Shields has had a number of aborted attempts but nothing that will ever likely get released. About 5 years ago Island Records finally released MBV from their contract, under which they never actually produced a record. All the other band members have moved on to other things but Shields is said to be working on some remastered reissues of a few unreleased tracks.
1. Chinese Democracy - Guns N Roses
Wait, why is this one on here? This is coming out soon isn't it? God I hope not. About 15 years late and $13 million in the hole, this follow up to 1991's Use Your Illustion is far more entertaining in limbo then it will ever be if it sees the light of day. Having lost every other member of the original group during the lead up to this album (and gaining some odd collaborators like Shaquille O'Neal who rapped on a track that is not planned for release...ever) Axl Rose has been plugging away on this album for years and claims that it will be released in May 2007. He had better hurry up because in the last few years three bands have released their own albums called Chinese Democracy, not including the band Offspring who threatened to name their 2003 album Splinter after Axl's long stagnating project just to mess with him but changed the name at the last minute.
There are a lot more lost, unreleased albums out there. Feel free to comment below with others you might know of.