Hoaxers have always been with us, whether through the news, television, or the Internet. The music industry is not without its fair share of practical jokes as well, sometimes perpetuated by the artists themselves, and sometimes put on by the fans.
10Nine Inch Nails
As the lead singer, songwriter, and sole consistent member of industrial rock legends Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor has gained a reputation as a visionary innovator. Less well known is his love of practical jokes. Back in 2009, Reznor suddenly announced that he would release an album called Strobe Light via the Internet, suspiciously timed to be available on April 1. The album, supposedly produced by Timbaland and featuring such tracks as “This Rhythm Is Infected” and “Clap Trap Crack Slap,” could supposedly be downloaded for “$18.98 plus a $10 digital delivery convenience fee.” Each download came with an exclusive photo and a free Gmail account from sponsors Google.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, the date of the release should have been a red flag, not to mention the album art and the reassuring disclaimer that your email address “will be kept confidential and will not be used for spam, unless we can make some money selling it.” Naturally, the whole thing was an April Fool’s gag, put on by Reznor himself.
Just a few months earlier, Reznor’s fellow rocker Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden fame) had genuinely put out an album produced by Timbaland, which the Nine Inch Nails frontman publicly dismissed as embarrassing. It seems that the April Fool’s hoax was simply Reznor’s way of further mocking Cornell’s new pop direction.
The Mystery To Me Tour
As well as highly acclaimed and influential albums such as Rumours and Tusk, Fleetwood Mac is known for the turbulent relationships and frequent lineup changes that defined its early career (drummer Mick Fleetwood is the only member to stay with the band throughout its history). Things came to a head during the tour to promote their 1973 album Mystery to Me when it emerged that guitarist Bob Weston was having an affair with Fleetwood’s wife. Weston was eventually fired and the band informed their manager, Cliff Davis, that the tour would have to be canceled.
Furious, Davis simply formed a new Fleetwood Mac and sent the fake band out to continue the tour as planned. Davis insisted that he owned the group’s name and was therefore entitled to do whatever he wanted with it. Most fans of the group (and the real Fleetwood Mac members) felt otherwise, and a series of lawsuits ensued to further complicate the band’s troubled history.
Oddly, the ruse did actually produce a real band called “Stretch,” made up of members of the fake Fleetwood Mac, who had a hit with “Why Did You Do It?” The real Fleetwood Mac won a lawsuit against Clifford Davis and promptly fired him as their manager. From that day forward the band never had another manager again.
Some call him a musical genius, others see him as an overrated egomaniac, but Kanye West has certainly had a remarkable impact on the recent music scene. In 2010, Kanye performed the song “Mama’s Boyfriend” for a closed audience at Facebook headquarters, and rumors soon spread that it was one of the tracks to be included on his forthcoming album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Of course, when the album was released, the song was nowhere to be found—which led fans to take matters into their own hands.
A bootleg version of the song was “discovered” on the net a short while later and received widespread coverage, with many music sites promoting the track as authentic. However, it was later revealed that the song had been created by taking West’s vocal track and placing it over a homemade beat. According to the song’s real producer, Q-Tip, a number of different versions of the song were produced (one featuring a guest appearance by Soulja Boy), but it was never officially released in any form. The fan-created “bootleg” version didn’t resemble any version of the real track.
Platinum Weird were supposedly formed in 1974, only to quickly collapse and fade into obscurity, before being returned to the spotlight in 2006 by former member Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame. In reality, the band would turn out to be one of the most elaborate and well-planned hoaxes in musical history. An actual album (sounding vaguely similar to Fleetwood Mac) was actually produced for the hoax, as well as a documentary narrated by Dan Aykroyd.
According to the hoax, the band’s lead singer, Erin Grace, was a flighty individual who would disappear for days at a time before showing up with a whole collection of songs written during her mysterious absence. The band was said to have performed their opening gig at Mick Jagger’s birthday party, which quickly led to them becoming underground legends and eventually signing to Elton John’s own label. However, “Erin” (who never existed) simply disappeared one day, leading to the band’s disintegration.
The real story is that the whole thing was a joke put on by Stewart himself, along with songwriter and American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. Rounding up a few famous friends, including Christina Aguilera, Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Annie Lennox, Stewart made a “rockumentary” about the band to coincide with the release of their “lost album.” As expected, the band, although completely fake, has many fans to this day.
In 1976, a rumor began to circulate that, over a decade earlier, The Beatles had secretly recorded an album under the name “Klaatu” as a followup to their famous album Revolver. Coinciding with the better-known “Paul is dead” rumor, the album was said to have been recorded and then discarded after Paul McCartney died and was replaced with a lookalike named Billy Shears. The “lost recordings” supposedly surfaced again in 1975 and were compiled into the album in question, which was released the next year.
The truth is that Klaatu was an actual band which released multiple albums (their final US album came out in 1980), and that they never had anything to do with The Beatles at all. The rumor began after a music journalist for the The Providence Journal, Steve Smith, began promoting his theory that the two bands were one and the same. Later, a Connecticut DJ named Charlie Parker backed the theory on air and it became widely believed. Diehard fans, as they always seem to do, discovered a number of clues “proving” the theory, choosing to completely ignore the hard fact that Klaatu existed long after The Beatles fell apart, continued to make music, and have completely denied any connection to the more famous group.
“Putting Ketchup in the Fridge”
Just a few years ago, Radiohead supposedly leaked a song from the band’s early days called “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge” or alternatively “How Do You Sit Still.” However, as you’d expect by now, the song turned out have nothing to do with the band. In reality, the track was produced by a Canadian baker named Christopher Stopa, who wrote and recorded the song in 2002 and recognized it when it emerged credited to Radiohead online. His original recording was titled “Sit Still.”
Ironically, just a few months later, two real Radiohead recordings made their way onto the Internet, having been recorded by the band for their 1986 demo tape. Although Radiohead fans can treasure such rare finds, the downside is that it makes separating the real bootlegs from the fake ones that much harder.
The Fecal Matter Demo
There are now so many fake Nirvana recordings circulating that entire webpages have been dedicated to keeping track of them. One of the most convincing fakes emerged in 1997, when a man named William Clarke claimed to have discovered a lost demo recording by Fecal Matter, a pre-Nirvana project formed by Kurt Cobain and drummer Dale Crover of The Melvins. Clarke passed the recordings to an overeager trader and music collector named Rob Holmes.
Once Holmes got a hold of the recordings, things quickly escalated beyond a simple prank. Many avid collectors rejoiced that a “lost work” from Cobain’s earlier days had finally been found. Though some had their doubts (notably because, despite Crover’s supposed involvement, the fake demo lacked any drums), many fans were willing to believe the recordings were the real thing. However, suspicion grew until 1998, when William Clarke finally put the hoax to rest by admitting to faking the recordings. The real Fecal Matter demo was apparently discovered by a trader in 2000, although it has not subsequently been circulated.
3The White Stripes
Jack And Meg White Are Related
The White Stripes hit the music scene hard, with an original sound and a boatload of talent shared between band-mates Jack and Meg White. Initially, the pair were thought to be brother and sister. However, this turned out to be a lie spread by the band themselves. In 2002, a Detroit newspaper revealed the truth by uncovering and publishing the pair’s 1996 marriage certificate.
Why did they lie? Jack White himself eventually revealed some of the reasoning in an interview with Rolling Stone: “It’s funny that people think me and Meg sit up late at night, in front of a gas lamp, and come up with these intricate lies to trick people. If we had presented ourselves in another fashion . . . how would we have been perceived, right off the bat? When you see a band that is two pieces, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, you think, ‘Oh, I see.’ When they’re brother and sister, you go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ You care more about the music, not the relationship.”
Perhaps his reasoning was sound, perhaps not, but the lie fooled many, and continues to do so to this day.
The Publius Enigma
Released in 1994, The Division Bell is one of Pink Floyd’s most successful albums. With a theme of solving problems through communication it went on to sell over 17 million copies. Ironically, the release of the album also generated a hoax by an unknown Internet user with the handle “Publius,” who claimed that a series of secret messages could be uncovered within the art and lyrics of the album itself.
The tactic this mysterious figure used to keep his hoax going was a common one—volume. He (or she) made post after post on Usenet claiming that there was a riddle hidden in the album. At first, most Usenet users were annoyed by the posts, and attempted to rebuke them, yet the more the matter was discussed, the more people began to believe it. Some have claimed that “Publius” was secretly a member of the band, posting anonymously in order to add a sense of mystery to the release. Speculation was increased after the word “Publius” was apparently featured in several Pink Floyd concerts. When asked about the short sound clip at the beginning of the album and the puzzling phone conversation at the end, guitarist David Gilmour did say that “he liked puzzling people.” Drummer Nick Mason subsequently suggested that the whole thing was a marketing ploy by somebody at the record label.
Whether the riddle is even real or not remains unknown. Pink Floyd fans are split into two camps—those who believe the posts and work tirelessly to uncover the “hidden riddle,” and those who couldn’t care less and prefer to simply enjoy the album for the masterpiece it is.
The Third Twin
If there is any band in the modern music industry that has retained a sense of mystery, it’s the legendary French duo known as Daft Punk. The pair have never publicly revealed their faces, preferring to leave their fans to focus on their music, including the soundtrack for the 2010 movie Tron.
Shortly before the movie was released, a band named The Third Twin put out some songs that turned out to sound remarkably similar to the soundtrack. This led to claims that The Third Twin was actually Daft Punk themselves, releasing music under the new name to avoid contract disputes. Supposedly, the band recorded 12 tracks for the Disney movie, which were rejected by the company shortly afterward. Not wishing to let the music go to waste, Daft Punk simply put them online under a different name so they could be enjoyed by all.
As is the case with most rumors, the whole thing should have been taken with a grain of salt. When asked about the affair, the band’s management denied the whole thing, saying that none of the songs recorded for the Tron soundtrack remained unused. Unfortunately, in today’s connected world these sort of rumors can spread before anyone has a chance to stop them.