Early songs the stars left behind

Ill-advised novelty singles, dubious dance-pop directions, fits of pique or simply just sub-par tunes that should never have been released – open enough closets and you’re sure to discover a few interesting skeletons. Here are the early songs that had the stars wishing life came with a ‘clear history’ option.

Radiohead – Pop Is Dead

Radiohead’s 1993 breakthrough hit Creep used to be the albatross around the band’s neck. By its critics considered self-pitying and derivative, it became so unrepresentative of the band’s subsequent material – and yet so oft-requested – that they refused to play it for a long time, although they have relented in recent years; their rendition at 2017’s Glastonbury festival sounded almost sincere.

Pop Is Dead, on the other hand – another single from the same year – has long been consigned to the dustbin of history. A clumsy music biz satire, the band’s Ed O’Brien called it a “hideous mistake”. It didn’t even make the bonus disc of Radiohead’s 2008 ‘Best Of’ compilation and is currently unavailable on streaming platforms. Which is probably for the best.

Alanis Morrissette – Too Hot

You probably assumed that Alanis Morissette’s mega-selling 1995 album Jagged Little Pill was her debut. The singer certainly didn’t go out of her way to dispel that notion, but in fact she had already issued two albums of rather different material in her native Canada. They have never been reissued, and a quick internet search reveals why: 1991 debut single Too Hot was a Paula Abdul-style pop number, complete with big hair, “ch-ch-check this out” samples and energetic dance moves – a world away from the sassy alt-rock with which she made her name. Interestingly, Morissette’s 2002 album was called Under Rug Swept. Ironic, don’t you think?

Charlie Puth – The Pickle Song

Before he scored a global mega-hit with his Wiz Khalifa collaboration See You Again, Charlie Puth was a teenage YouTube sensation with fuzzy hair, fond of posting goofy rap songs about his “sexy shades” and being hit in the face by a pickle. Not that you’d know it by checking his YouTube channel, which hastily ‘refreshed’ as soon as Puth’s serious singing career took off, destroying evidence of his teenage efforts.

Of course in this day and age, it’s nigh on impossible to erase your internet history, and there are plenty of unofficial YouTube channels who have been only too happy to preserve Puth’s embarrassing past for posterity. At least, as the above interview proves, Puth is good-humoured when confronted with his old videos. And with an estimated net worth of $5m, he can afford to be.

Paul Simon – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

As he reiterates to The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert in the clip above, Paul Simonhas always loathed this early Simon & Garfunkel song. It’s not too hard to see why, its twee positivity (“hello lamppost!”) jarring with Simon’s attempts to establish himself as a more complex artist. He usually ignores all requests to perform it, but made an exception for this satirical rendition.

Bob Dylan – Ballad in Plain D

Several of Bob Dylan’s best songs were served with a few drops of vitriol and a side-order of disdain, but the legendary singer-songwriter admits he went too far on Ballad of Plain D, from his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. Written in the immediate aftermath of his break up from artist Suze Rotolo, the lyrics took aim, clumsily, at Rotolo’s sister Carla, branding her jealous and “a parasite”. “I must have been a real schmuck to write that,” Dylan admitted to interviewer Bill Flanagan in 1985. “I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I’ve written, maybe I could have left that alone.” Unsurprisingly he never performed it live.

Morrissey – Thes Ordinary Boy

It’s an unspoken rule of album reissues that you can add as many bonus tracks and alternate takes as you like, just don’t mess with the original tracklisting. But Morrissey(due to perform at 6 Music Live 2017) isn’t one for conforming to unspoken rules, so when fans picked up the reissue of his debut album Viva Hate in 2012, they were surprised to find Track 9 – The Ordinary Boys – had been replaced with an outtake from the same sessions, Treat Me Like a Human Being. As the reissue has now superseded old versions of Viva Hate on streaming services, it’s as if The Ordinary Boys never existed.

Why? Its content isn’t particularly controversial, compared to other Morrissey songs of the era. Sure, it’s hardly a classic, but Treat Me Like a Human Being isn’t markedly better, sounding almost unfinished. Perhaps Mozzer was just embarrassed about having inspired noughties lad-rockers The Ordinary Boys? Who knows. As with similar revisions to the tracklists of his albums Maladjusted and Southpaw Grammar, we’ll just have to chalk it up to the whims of one of British pop’s most committed contrarians.