#482: Modified Listening Experiences

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GETTING MORE TALE #482: Modified Listening Experiences

With modern music technology and software, it has never been easier to not only take your music anywhere, but now you can even modify the albums you buy.  Using some simple tricks you can change aspects of the tracklist to make the album suit you.   You have probably done this yourself.  Many do regularly, by shuffling the track order.  Let’s go a little deeper than that.

The first time I experienced the concept of modifying an album’s tracklist, I was just a kid.  It was 1985, and I was recording the first W.A.S.P. cassette off my next door neighbour George (R.I.P.), from tape to tape.

“If you don’t like the song ‘Sleeping in the Fire’,” he said, “You can just push pause on this tape recorder.  Then un-pause it when the song is over.  Your copy won’t have ‘Sleeping in the Fire’ if that’s how you like it.”

Even then, I couldn’t imagine a reason to copy an entire album sans one song.  I kept the tape running and never hit pause, but George’s advice kept tumbling around in my brain, for years.   Over time I began experimenting with tracklist modification.  Never to remove songs, mind you, always to add or improve.

Here are some examples of modified track lists in my library.

1. Adding bonus tracks

COOPSingle B-sides just kind of float around in most collections.  Due to their short running time, I don’t often spin CD singles.  On a PC hard drive they tend to get lost while full albums get more play.  To give some of these B-sides a little more air time, in many cases I have chosen to add the songs as “bonus tracks”, at the end of the associated album.  This works best when it’s just one or two tracks.  More than that can extend an album listening experience too long.

Sometimes, different versions of albums will have unique bonus tracks.  Perhaps there’s one on the vinyl version that is on nothing else.  Japanese editions, deluxe versions, European editions, iTunes editions…there are usually lots of bonus tracks out there, but always on different versions of the disc.  Why not take them all, and make your own “super deluxe edition” with all the bonus tracks in one spot?  Listening to an album modified in this way can be a bit longer than the usual, but ultimately it’s rewarding to hear the entire body of work in one smooth sitting.  My MP3 player is loaded with my complete version of Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and it’s just 10 minutes shy of two hours long!

In extreme cases, there are so many bonus tracks out there that you may need to consider creating an entire “bonus disc” folder to house them all.

2. Removing gaps

The 1990’s were such a quaint time.  Remember “hidden bonus tracks”?  At the end of the album, instead of stopping, the CD would continue to play several minutes of silence.  Then you would be surprised by a hidden unlisted song!  A notable example is “Look at Your Game, Girl”, the infamous Charles Manson cover that Axl hid away at the end of The Spaghetti Incident.  There was only a 10 second gap on that CD; still annoying but other albums had much longer pauses before the hidden track.

I use Audacity to remove the long gaps, or to isolate the hidden song to a track all its own.  As much as I enjoy a “pure” listening experience the way the artist intended, these long gaps are pretty easy to sacrifice.

3. Restoring an intended song order

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Rock and roll is full of stories about bands who couldn’t get their way when an album was released.  W.A.S.P. for example wanted their song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” to open their self titled album.  Now you can add it there yourself!  (W.A.S.P. also added the song to the start of the remastered version of the album.)  You can even use Audacity to adjust the volume levels, so that everything matches.

A better example is Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story.  The piano ballad “Don’t Leave Me Alone” was only on the cassette version of the album.  The CD couldn’t contain all the songs without making it a double, so that one had to be left off.  Now you can re-add it yourself, right where it belongs at the end of “side two” and before the big side three suite.  Now you can hear the whole album as Extreme intended, seamlessly.

Pardon the pun, but I took an even more “extreme” approach to their second album, Pornograffitti.  The instrumental track “Fight of the Wounded Bumblebee” was written as a longer piece with a slow bluesy coda.  This second half was recorded solo by Nuno Bettencourt as “Bumble Bee (Crash Landing)” for a guitar compilation.  Using Audacity, I combined both tracks to restore the song to its original full structure.  This is about as close as we will ever get to hearing the tracks as written.  I dropped the new longer track into the album tracklisting and voila!  Still seamless, but now with a new darker mood before “He-Man Woman Hater”.

Indeed, the possibilities are limitless.  Steve Harris often complained that the Iron Maiden album No Prayer for the Dying should have had live crowd noise mixed in, like a live album.  Now you can do that yourself.  With a deft touch, you can even edit songs down yourself or extend them by looping sections.

With the advent of the computer as a listening device, the sky is now the limit.  How would you modify your listening experiences?

 

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65 comments

  1. This is an awesome post. I don’t tend to mess with things too much, unless I’m making a mixed CDr for the car. I usually just put the album on and let it play.

    Also: there’s an extra song for III Sides? HOLY CRAP!! Was it ever on a single or anything that I could find it?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would utilize the pause button back in the day. And fill in the rest of the cassette with my favourite songs from that particular artist. You’re right though, with Audacity, you could add cross fading.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought about it: originally I was going to say I was a purist back in the day and wanted to hold on to the same original track listing of the source material, but, keeping the sides? No, I don’t think so. I’d fill up side A and continue with side B, then whatever space was left, I’d fill up the cassette with other tracks I liked.
          Most of the time, there wasn’t any time to ponder how the dub was going to go. I’d be borrowing it from other friends who wanted their albums back ASAP, so I just wanted to get it on there as quick as possible.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Oh, yeah total gamble trying to figure out if a song was going to fit in that last little bit of tape on side A lol
          I hated dead space between too. My mixed tapes had hardly any dead air in them.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I minimized dead space unless I was going for effect. But I did always try to keep side one and side two on their original sides — I would add my “bonus tracks” to the end of each side.

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  3. I haven’t played around with this yet, but I think I’ll experiment with it in the future.
    Have you ever had a problem with segues bleeding over into other tracks? I’ve ripped a few CDs to my computer and where there’s no pause on the disk I’ll sometimes get a pause on the MP3, only I get it in the wrong place! So I have a second of a really heavy distorted song right before going into a sweet ballad.
    It’s the most annoying thing ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The key Zack is not trying to do the cross fade when burning the CD. That’s really hard to get right. I like to create a track with the crossfade built in, and then burn that to CD. Give that a try.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I mostly leave things as they are but there are exceptions… I did that Hendrix edit a while back but that was a pretty unusual effort for me! I have added B-Sides as bonus tracks at the end of albums and I had lots of The Darkness B’s so I just made a whole album out of those.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Always loved their B-sides. Typically if I make a B-side “album”, I’ll do it in chronological order by single release.

          Where that doesn’t work well is when remix singles are involved. Then you can get four versions of the same song in a row!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. As far as running orders that aren’t the way the band wanted them… did you know about Queensryche’s ‘The Warning’? Adam commented on my site (on the Hendrix post) and said the band’s preferred running order was changed without their say.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yes!!!! Brilliant discussion there and I never knew that before. Great example of an original running order to restore.

          I did something with Priest – Turbo. I tried to use outtakes to recreate the legendary Twin Turbos. But it wasn’t as good for listening.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh! Another splendid post, Mike – I tend not to mess with albums, though I’ve made shorter, more essential, Use Your Illusion and Slash’s Snakepit albums by removing a couple of tracks. I’ve also used the ol’ Audacity to remove the ridiculously long silences between the final tracks and bonus tracks on Nevermind and In Utero. That’s a handy thing to have …

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I should add that I always keep the original. Whether it’s vinyl, CD, or digital. I just have the ‘preferred listening’ copy on the iTunes, iPod, or whatever …

        You actually might like my Slash’s Snakepit edit!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with KMA on this one. Great post but I tend to keep my albums intact. In fact, these days, I even prefer to lose the bonus tracks, lest the album listening get old. I did however, lose all the empty tracks when I ripped all my CDs. Hello! No more waiting to hear Cracker’s “Euro trash girl”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Another great one was all the spacer tracks at the end of Tool’s Undertow. There were about 50 of them, each a couple of seconds long. Took a long time to get to the hidden track. Even skipping them all was a pain! Crazy.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yup. Spacehog’s Resident Alien had a huge 10+ minute gap before the secret track too.

          You know, I don’t think the kids today would put up with that. They want everything instantly.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Haha maybe. I like to think there are still some great young ones coming up who can lead the rest of us into the future, though. It’s too frightening to imagine the alternative.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. No. You’re right. I just like fashion myself as a crotchety old man sometimes. You have to admit they are spoiled having known every song available to their fingertips, without having to search the ends of every record store. Not that I mind that…

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Another damn generation of hipsters! GET OFF MY LAWN! Hahaha

          It’s true, they’re far more digital than anything else, but I’d love to see the demographics on LP purchases in this resurgence of late. Is it all old fogeys like us, or are there a lot of kids buying it too? Inquiring minds want to know!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Although I am a bonus track guy, I know what you mean. Sometimes I know I would listen to an album a lot more if all those bonus tracks aren’t on there, doubling the length of the thing….

      Like

  7. The wonders of modern technology. I would probably play around with some albums, most notably, I would make “All of My Love” the closing track on Led Zeppelin’s “In Through the Outdoor” album and would only keep one song with Chris DeBurgh, ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude! You nailed it with “All My Love”! If you remember (no worries if you don’t!) my first Zeppelin was the Box Set from 1990. And guess what the closing track was?

      “All My Love”.

      “All My Love” closed a 4 CD box set, capping off the Zeppelin story. How much more epic can you get?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post Mike. Cassettes are what I associate with this – I just used to plug up any unused space at the end of sides with B-sides/live stuff/anything.

    I made the Judgment Night ST better by adding Run DMC ‘Walk This Way’ and Anthrax/PE ‘Bring The Noise’.

    Plus a friend who taped me ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ mixed up the sides of the LP and so I can’t listen to it the right way round now, I always have to go to the second side first. It doesn’t sound right to me otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny that — Kiss Dynasty had the sides swapped on the original cassette! I’m used to the correct running order now, but that wasn’t easy!

      Did you do as Sarca did, or did you put all of “side A” on side A, and all of “side B” on side B?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Flash back to 1987. A kid taped Shout at the Devil for me. He taped side ones, continued taping, and cut off “10 Seconds to Love” mid song. He then flipped the tape and CONTINUED “10 Seconds to Love” where it left off! That was unacceptable! I STILL hear that damn side/flip in my head.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. It shows far too casual an attitude to the music. Certain things in life just aren’t right – murder, animal cruelty, folding down the pages of a book to mark your place and that taping thing. It’s probably written on the back of the 10 commandments.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. That was always a problem with cassettes although often it was down to miscalculating the length of one side of an album. I made this mistake on a couple of occasions but fortunately, they were compilations I was making for myself. Except for the time I recorded an HSAS concert off the radio. Did you know that on the cassette copy of “Hotel California,” they do that with the track “Wasted Time?”

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