A problem that some music aficionados find with more recent recordings is their pristine polish and unnatural mixing. Accidental moments that occur during the recording process tend to get cut from the final mastering of the track – creating an unrealistic representation that takes away from the rougher qualities of a song.
However, it hasn’t always been this way. In the earlier days of modern recording, the creaks and cracks were much more prevalent than they are today, with less production tools to work with. As the years rolled on, many artists started to intentionally leave in the errors rather than mask them – which brings us to our latest top ten.
This list includes those songs which don’t hide their mistakes, but rather, lay them bare for the world to hear. In doing so, they exude a more real and natural portrayal of the artist’s musicianship. Nothing can be perfect, and refreshingly, these ten tracks embrace their imperfection to the max.
10. The Police – Roxanne
One of the most enduring tracks in The Police’s discography is the reggae/pop hybrid “Roxanne.” Its excellence aside, the popular tune has one glaring error which can be heard just four seconds in, thanks to an undeliberate move by group linchpin Sting. During recording, he accidentally leaned back on his piano, creating a tuneless sound that surprisingly wasn’t edited out of the final master. However, the little chuckle heard after it suggests that the boys found it all too amusing to omit.
9. Led Zeppelin – Black Country Woman
Even a group with the musical pedigree of Led Zeppelin aren’t always faultless – and they don’t want you to think they are either. They embrace their masterful improvisation skills on the freewheeling banger “Black Country Woman.” What makes this one unique is that not only do they leave the error in, but they leave in their discussion about whether to edit it out or not. At the very beginning of the song, an airplane can be heard shooting through the skies overhead. The band members can be heard saying “What about this airplane?” before frontman Robert Plant quips “Nah, leave it.”
8. Pearl Jam – Rearviewmirror
This deep cut on Pearl Jam’s second LP Vs. is a cracking one, but it seems that it was a painstaking one too. Rumor has it that the producer on the album Brendan O’Brian was putting the group through their paces in the studio – striving for a perfection that wasn’t coming. The arduous process was typified by drummer Dave Abbruzzese during the end of the track. That clattering of drum sticks you hear? That’s Abbruzzese chucking them against the wall in pure frustration.
7. The Who – Eminence Front
Another classic musical act to slip up on occasion were legendary rock band The Who – most notably on their 1982 single “Eminence Front.” In a rare appearance for Roger Daltrey on backing vocals, the croaky crooner fluffs his lines for the first chorus section. He times it wrong, and starts the line off with an incorrect word. He tries to switch it but the damage is already done. It was amended on the remastered version, but it remains in the original pressings.
6. R.E.M – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight
R.E.M.’s anthemic gem “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” contains a little error that stems from some of the most bizarre lyrics that the band’s ever produced. During the insane line “a candy bar, or falling star, or a reading from Dr. Seuss,” frontman Michael Stipe lets out an audible laugh before going into the song’s stunning chorus. It occurs at 2:33, and was left in the mix without a care in the world – proving that this sometimes very deep group can sometimes get very silly.
5. Nirvana – Polly
This haunting cut from Nirvana’s classic stunner Nevermind is best known for its nightmarish tale of a rape of a young girl in 1987, but some may not know that it also has a mistake uttered by Kurt Cobain towards the end of its running time. Before the third verse, Cobain gets a bit of a head-start on the vocals, coming in too early for the “Polly” line. The song is an absolute corker, and this little mistake certainly doesn’t take anything away from its brilliance.
4. Ella Fitzgerald – Mack the Knife
Improvisation certainly wasn’t in the script when jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald sung this swinging number in 1960, however, that’s exactly what transpired. After forgetting the words to the chorus of this scintillating live rendition, Fitzgerald somehow wings it by making up the lyrics, surprisingly without missing a beat. It certainly did nothing to hurt her though – she went on to win two Grammy Awards for her supreme skills, not only for her vocal ability on the track, but also for her ability to switch it up on the fly.
3. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
In this rare case of musical discrepancies, a mistake actually caused a major life changing event to occur for one of its creators. Yes, during a moment in Pink Floyd’s superb cut “Wish You Were Here,” something buried in the mix made guitarist David Gilmour give up his smoking habit completely. What was it you ask? Well, he mistakingly coughed before the main guitar comes on – something which he says made him give up the cigs after hearing it played back.
2. Metallica – Master of Puppets
“Master of Puppets” by Metallica remains one of the best songs ever spawned under the heavy metal umbrella, but have you noticed the one very peculiar discrepancy during the track’s guitar solo? It revolves around a note that guitarist Kirk Hammett accidentally hits – one which pierces the ears with its high pitch squeal. While tearing it up for the scorching solo, Hammett somehow pulled the string off the fretboard, creating this unique musical mistake – one which he says he’s never been able to duplicate since. “Master of Puppets I’m pulling your strings” indeed.
1. The Beatles – Hey Jude
The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” is a rousing anthem that still resonates today, however, it’s not exactly flawless from a technical standpoint. If you skip to around the 2:58 mark, you’ll hear a cry of “f**king hell!” ringing out. It’s thought that either John Lennon or Paul McCartney couldn’t reach the piano chords they were going for, leading to this frustrated outburst. You can even heard the word “chord” being said before it too – a rare moment of weakness for the Fab Four.