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15 Legendary ‘Lost’ Alternative Albums

Kevin Winter/Simone Joyner, Getty Images

There’s nothing more maddening to music fans than knowing albums from their favorite artists languish in vaults, never to be heard. Well, maybe Auto-Tune is a bit more maddening, but that’s a whole different topic.

Some musicians are legendary for their deep vaults: Prince, Ryan Adams, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix. Others, like Bruce Springsteen, for example, have single albums (in Springsteen’s case, a fully electric Nebraska) that grizzled, old, peg-legged album collectors swap tales about like the one that got away (“I seen her once in a dank basement in New Jersey. She were 12 inches ’round if she were a foot, and black as your soul.”)

Lost albums aren’t the exclusive domain of classic rockers and Ryan Adams, though. Many alternative and indie artists have finished records only to tuck them on a shelf, or due to legal issues or lack of interest from their labels seen their work crated up and stored somewhere in the vicinity of the lost ark.

Here in no particular order is our list of 15 alternative and indie lost treasures that we’d love to see get an official release.


Green Day

‘Cigarettes and Valentines’



American Idiot isn’t too bad for a substitute. Prior to recording their 2004 classic, Green Day had a whole album’s worth of material stolen. Keep an eye on those master tapes, kids.



Scissor Sisters




Scissor Sisters spent 2008 and 2009 recording new material, then rolled it all up into a giant disco ball and tossed it in the nearest trash can and started over. The end result was Night Work, but we’ll always wonder what went on during those 18 months of recording.



Adam Ant




Adam Ant’s roots stretch all the way to British punk’s first graduating class. He was playing bass in Bazooka Joe before the Sex Pistols first gig (which, by the way, he attended). But by the mid-’80s, his sound had turned much more commercial. Persuasion, a solo album completed in 1991, features guest spots from members of Chic, Cameo and head Ant Marco Pirroni.  Apparently, the label didn’t like the finished record and shelved it, leaving millions of Ant People wondering what could have been.



Mountain Goats

‘Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg’



Plagued by technical issues, John Darnielle decided against releasing Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg back in 1995. Sounds pretty good to us, but we’re fans.



Smashing Pumpkins

‘Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music’



Billy Corgan has never been accused of doing things in a conventional manner, so no wonder Machina II is the only unreleased album on this list that was actually released – kind of. After Virgin refused to release this 2000 follow up to Machina, Corgan printed 25 copies on his own dime and leaked them. The album was posted online for free, but it was long before it was a common practice. We might still be seeing an official release soon. Stay tuned.



The The

‘Gun Sluts’



In 1997, when Sony rejected Gun Sluts as too uncommercial (as if The The were ever really commercial), Matt Johnson packed his suitcases and moved the band to Interscope. If the title track is any indication, Sony made a big mistake.




‘Forever Valentine’



“Great unreleased Ryan Adams albums” is its own list, but this 11-track gem from Whiskeytown is the one that got away. Featuring Ben Folds on piano, 1997’s Forever Valentine was canned because it somehow violated the band’s recording contract.




‘Three Dudes, Six Sides, Half Studio, Half Live’



Here was the plan: Minutemen fans would send the band a list of their favorite cuts, the band would pick the winners and then record them live for a triple album. Unfortunately, singer-guitarist D. Boon was killed in a car accident before the votes came in, but a 1986 album appropriately named Ballot Result was cobbled together from existing recordings to complete the project. So technically Three Dudes isn’t so much an album that was never released as an album that never had a chance to happen, but we still wish we could’ve heard it.



Manchester Orchestra

‘Nobody Sings Anymore’



If the handful of songs that eventually surfaced from Nobody Sings Anymore don’t sound like Manchester Orchestra to you; well, they didn’t sound like Manchester Orchestra to the band, either. Nobody Sings Anymore was slated to be their 2005 debut, but after both lineup and style changes, they moved on and instead released I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child in 2006.







In the dark days before the Grohl, Nirvana recorded with a drummer named Chad Channing. That’s Channing on their 1989 debut, Bleach, and he also gets a credit on Nevermind’s “Polly,” which was one of eight cuts the band recorded with him at Butch Vig’s Wisconsin studio. A couple of those tracks made it onto the With the Lights Out box set in 2004, but we’d love to hear all eight songs in their original order, just as they appeared on the demo tapes the band sent out to all the major labels.




‘Songs From the Black Hole’



“Rock musical” is a phrase guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of many music fans, but when Rivers Cuomo is the man behind the music we’re there. Unfortunately, he never finished Songs from the Black Hole as Weezer were still riding the success of their 1994 debut. Instead, he shelved the project and enrolled at Harvard. That’s the bad news. The good news is that many of the songs are available as B-sides, demos, and some even showed up on Pinkerton in 1996.



The Clash

‘Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg’



Combat Rock in 1982 marked the Clash‘s greatest commercial success, but it also marked the end of the band. We’ll leave the details for another time, but suffice it to say, your basic band quarrels grew unbearable, among other things. That bickering did in what would have been another double album from the Only Band That Matters. Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg was edited down from 18 tracks to the 12 classics that appeared as Combat Rock. What a great candidate for a special deluxe edition!



The Strokes

Pre-‘Angles’ sessions with Joe Chiccarelli



After they released 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, the Strokes teamed up with producer Joe Chiccarelli, then tossed out everything except one song (“Life Is Simple in the Moonlight”). It eventually showed up on 2011’s Angles.



David Bowie




Bowie wasn’t always Bowie, you know. He had to go through the same growing pains as every other artist, making singles that nobody bought and trying on musical styles as readily as he tried on dresses and Ziggy leotards. In 2001 the Dame re-recorded 11 of these early tracks for an album named Toy. These were eventually canned in favor of new material for the album Heathen. Some of the Toy tracks popped up on 2014’s Nothing Has Changed compilation.



Zack de la Rocha




Rage Against the Machine were an amazing band, and the void left by their breakup has never been filled. Frontman Zack de la Rocha reportedly spent years working on a solo album with the likes of Trent Reznor and Questlove, among others. If the singer’s 2009 side project One Day As A Lion is any indication, that solo album would have been every bit as cool as it sounds.


Next: 17 Cover Songs Better Than the Originals

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