Music Article

Hear Em' Through the Grapevine

-- The Beach Boys, Karen Carpenter, Bob Dylan, and others have all recorded records that haven't been released

When Bryan Adams' Waking Up the Neighbours arrived in record stores a few weeks ago, everyone involved — his record company, A&M, in particular — must have breathed a sigh of relief. Starting in the spring of 1988, the pockmarked Canadian took several stabs at recording a new album with two different producers and canned the results each time. He therefore joins a long list of rockers who have recorded and then, for a variety of reasons, opted not to release. Among the albums you may never hear:

The Beach Boys Smile Smile (1967)
The band itself rejected Brian Wilson's wacked-out psychedelic symphony, which included a 15-minute version of ''Good Vibrations.'' Wilson is said to have destroyed some of the tapes, but apparently not all of them: near-complete Japanese bootleg CDs are available.

The Beatles Sessions (1985) A collection of Fab Four outtakes (an acoustic version of ''While My Guitar Gently Weeps,'' for instance), the album nearly made it to the pressing plant before the surviving Beatles and Yoko Ono nixed it. Test pressings circulate on the collectors' market.

Karen Carpenter Untitled solo album (1980)
Recorded in New York with members of Billy Joel's band and featuring songs by Paul Simon and Rodgers and Hart, Karen's attempt to break out of the Carpenters mold was such a departure that both her label (A&M) and her brother Richard shelved it.

Bob Dylan In Concert (1963)
CBS recorded the Voice of His Generation live at Carnegie Hall and Philharmonic Hall for what would have been his third album, but Dylan and his manager, Albert Grossman, decided at the last moment that a rehash of old songs wasn't the right move so early in his career. Two tracks appear on Dylan's The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3 boxed set.

Prince The Black Album (1987)
A dark bump-and-grind journey through sexual and violent landscapes, but perhaps too dark. Some say Prince had a change of heart and canned it himself even after copies had been pressed; others say Warner Bros. thought it uncommercial. All but 26 CDs were destroyed, but bootleg tapes are widely available.

Bruce Springsteen The River, original version (1979)
Had the Boss stuck to plans, this would have been a single (not double) album released a year earlier, and with a different lineup. But when Springsteen decided to record more, songs like ''Cindy,'' ''Be True,'' and ''Loose Ends'' were shelved and the album restructured.

Neil Young Homegrown (1974)
One of many canned Young albums, this one was a return to the folkie style of his 1972 album Harvest. But at a party one night with members of the Band, Young played both Homegrown and another new work, the darker Tonight's the Night, and his peers convinced him to release Tonight instead. A few Homegrown songs did wind up on Young's 1977 retrospective, Decade.

Ringo Starr Untitled solo album (1987)
Complaining that his singing and drumming weren't up to par, possibly due to the excesses that would soon drive him into rehab, Ringo canned this Memphis-made project. Producer Chips Moman wanted to release the tapes anyway, Ringo said no, and a judge ruled in the ex-Beatle's favor, with the stipulation that Starr reimburse Moman $74,000 for studio costs. So the album was shelved, probably for good — but then, do we really want to hear it?

Originally posted Oct 11, 1991 Published in issue #87 Oct 11, 1991 Order article reprints