I probably wasn’t the only one to be confounded to hear an extra track at the end of London Calling. What on earth was going on?
Finding this “extra” song was my first experience of the phenomenon known as “hidden tracks”. It made me feel that I was somehow mainlining secret information.
There are several ways to “hide” tracks on records: by not listing them, by making a “double groove” in the vinyl so that either one of the two songs cut into the record will play, or after the advent of CDs by simply “hiding” them with an unexpected track number, or after a long period of silence. There are zillions of CD examples of this.
I was still poring over the sleeves and the lyrics, and as well as being completely blown away by both the depth and the inherent pop sensibilities of the new album, I noticed that the arm hadn’t returned to its perch via the run off groove at the end of side 4, but instead was now playing another song. I scoured the back cover and the inside lyric sheets again, maybe I’d missed something? No, “Revolution Rock” was definitely the last song listed. I was mystified, because this was a new thing to me, and although I was enjoying the secret song, I was wondering how this could happen? Surely LPs were put together by professionals, grown-ups in offices whose job it was to check these things, or just maybe, there had somehow been a terrible mistake. “Train In Vain” was one of Punk’s first secret tracks, one which there was no mention of, on either the sleeve or the label. The song was outstanding, and I decided it must be called “Stand By Me”. I just couldn’t understand why something so good, wasn’t even listed on the sleeve.
“Stand By Me” or “Train in Vain”, was written and recorded at the very end of the London Calling sessions and was intended as a track to be given away on a flexi disc with the NME music paper. This was an arrangement that eventually fell through and so “Train in Vain” was a last minute addition to London Calling.
Songwriter and guitarist Mick Jones explained, “The real story on ‘Train in Vain’ is that originally we needed a song to give to the NME for a flexi disk that NME was going to do. And then it was decided that it didn’t work out or decided the flexi disk didn’t work out so we had this spare track we had done as a giveaway. So we put it on London Calling but there wasn’t time because the sleeves were already done.”
To make up for its exclusion on the artwork, its title is scratched into the run off area of the first pressings on side 4. This was another clue I missed at the time. Later editions of the album, contain artwork and lyrics for the full running order.
The Clash – “Train In Vain”- inner sleeve of the original vinyl pressings for side 4 of London Calling
Subsequent pressings and CD back, with “Train In Vain” clearly listed as track 19.
London Calling was originally released in the UK on 14th December 1979.