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The Best Hoaxes in Music History

on May 03, 2013, 12:01am
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Hoaxes: We’ve all fallen for them at one point or another. As technology gets smarter, society moves faster, and the industry burns brighter, seeking substantial facts becomes irksome and timely, so much so that few souls ever really try anymore. Instead, double checking for many is consulting another site or Twitter handle, leaving the thread to sources short, thin, and likely intangible.

For the entertainment industry, hoaxes have always existed — after all, everyone wants a good laugh — they’ve just become more complicated and harder to distinguish, which means countless troublemakers are cackling these days.

Consequence of Sound isn’t afraid to admit we’ve fallen for a few of them, even despite our best efforts. With that in mind, we thought we’d vent some by compiling a list of the best hoaxes in music history. Some are ancient, while others were scripted as recent as a week ago.

Enjoy — with a smirk.

Daft Punk, Glastonbury, and The Third Twin

daft punk 2013

What’s the hoax? The urgent desire to see the willfully-reclusive Daft Punk return to the live stage has made fools of us all. Sometimes the hype manifests itself in relatively harmless forms, such as fan-made Coachella posters that inevitably feature the robots at the top of the bill. Occasionally, pranksters get creative, successfully trolling the masses with a fraudulent LA Times article leak and more recently a fake Glastonbury website confirmation. Correction, make that GlastoMbury. Yes, a troll took the time and expense to register a domain for their ruse.

What these hoaxes prove is that fans are willing to abandon caution and cold, robot logic when it comes to Daft Punk, and the stench of desperation draws in predators like a bucket of fresh chum. More malevolent than the trolls are outright scammers, such as the mysterious parties that sold tickets to a nonexistent performance in Shanghai back in 2009.

Most baffling is the notion that Daft Punk themselves were responsible for a hoax of their own, leaking a rejected Tron 2.0 score onto the internet under the name The Third Twin. Although the songs in question were blatantly amateur approximations of the beloved style, the promoters of Spain’s Arenal Festival booked the doppelgangers for a performance, advertising a relation to the duo, a connection which has since been officially debunked.

The source: The truth is out there…somewhere.

Hoax Score: 8.5 out 10

-Frank Mojica

Fake MF Doom Gigs

mfdoom600 The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s the hoax? It turns out that it’s hard to connect with or believe a performer who wears a face-obscuring mask. Fans of the metal-faced emcee DOOM started to report differing heights and sizes of the man on stage, arguing that the product was often an imposter sent to walk the stage as a vocal track of the real deal played over the PA. As if that weren’t enough, “DOOM” has a tendency for ghillie suits, puffy coats, and other form-denying outfits, making the size assessment difficult at best.

The source: Reports of lackluster DOOM performances range pretty far back, increasingly attributed in forums and blogs to the impostor option. The man also known as Daniel Dumile claims that the size differences are due to extreme weight loss, fans connect it to influence from Dr. Doom’s robotic impostor/minions, but a promoter admitted that as long as someone showed up in the mask things were the same. Dumile added, though, that “looking at it has nothing to do with what it sounds like,” which seems kind of like a “No, these are absolutely not impostors, but if they were it would be totally fine, so maybe they are, so what?”

Hoax Score: 9.9999 out of 10 – Or, until DOOM actually comes clean.

-Adam Kivel

Nine Inch Nails’ Strobe Light

strobelight cover art The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s the hoax? Diehard fanatics of Nine Inch Nails are cognizant of Trent Reznor’s histrionics on the Internet, namely his hilarious escapades on Twitter. So it’s remarkable that this April Fool’s joke went by and even duped anyone. Back in 2009, the elusive frontman announced the sale of a new album titled, Strobe Light. Not only was it produced by Timbaland, but it allegedly featured Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin, Jay-Z, Bono, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Al Jourgensen (!), and, uh huh, even Maynard James Keenan. Red flags, right?

Sort of. At the time, Reznor was tossing out free music left and right; what’s more, everyone was still on their toes in the early post-In Rainbows age. So, conceivably, the guy gave his fans’ hearts a jolt for an hour or two. But not too long considering that anyone who actually attempted to purchase the album were dealt with the nefarious “Blue Screen of Death”.

The source: Who else? The man himself. Some suggest it was a long con towards fellow veteran Chris Cornell, who had just released his abysmal solo record, Scream, also produced by Timbaland.

Hoax Score: 4.4 out of 10

-Michael Roffman

Fake Fleetwood Mac

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What’s the hoax? Amidst internal strife and after losing a string of guitarists – the last of whom, Bob Weston, was booted for having an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s then-wife, Jenny Boyd – Fleetwood Mac cut short their “Mystery to Me” tour. Band manager Clifford Davis put together a fake Mac with no actual members to fulfill the band’s obligations, telling audiences that Mick intended to join the tour later.

The public eventually caught on, as did the band, instigating a lengthy legal battle over who had the rights to the name “Fleetwood Mac”. Davis eventually lost the case, and the “fake Mac” formed Stretch, scoring a hit with “Why Did You Do It?”, aimed at Mick for what they alleged was his involvement in the debacle. The title of the next Fleetwood Mac album? Heroes Are Hard to Find.

The source: Clifford Davis and “fake Mac”/Stretch: Elmer Gantry, Kirby Gregor, Paul Martinez, John Wilkinson, and Craig Collinge. And if you believe those guys, Mick Fleetwood was in on it, too.

Hoax Score: 10 out of 10 – That shit actually happened.

-Ben Kaye

Jai Paul’s Fake Debut and Mixtapes

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What’s the hoax? One Saturday night in April quickly escalated into an all-out celebration amongst R&B fans when Jai Paul mysteriously dropped his “debut album” on Bandcampor so we thought. Prior to end-all commencement of online high fives and all-caps statuses and tweets, Paul had only released two official singles “BTSTU” and “Jasmine”. An enamored group of fans, who gathered together on a Kanye West message board, even curated an unofficial mixtape, Everlasting, which contained a series of unfinished demos scoured from the Internet.

The Bandcamp site was equipped with ambiguous hashtags hinting at London-based zip codes and other acronyms as well as a titleless 16-track. Fans unhesitantly whipped out their credit cards to exchange £7 for the much-anticipated “holy grail” of underground R&B. Unfortunately, this dream was cut short by XL Recordings, who yanked the BandCamp account the following day. In their defense, Jai Paul supplied some input through his first public statement on social media, stating “To confirm: demos on bandcamp were not uploaded by me, this is not my debut album. Please don’t buy. Statement to follow later. Thanks, Jai.”

The source: According to an official press release, Paul’s “debut” was a leak consisting of “various unfinished recordings from Jai’s past” lifted from a stolen laptop. XL also claimed to be in the process of giving refunds to purchasers. (I still have yet to see a deposit in my bank account.) Regardless, this recent unveiling has accumulated a storm of positive publicity to Jai Paul’s name, generating the craving for his official album to be higher than ever before.

Hoax Score: 6.5 out of 10 - Though the leaked-demo bit is believable, it seems that this release was designated to hold over Jai’s most dedicated fans with new material until he drops his official debut album.

-Sam Willett

Kanye West’s “Mama’s Boyfriend”

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What’s the hoax? This one’s confusing and sort of a clusterfuck. Back in 2010, while promoting what would go on to become his magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West performed a track called “Mama’s Boyfriend”. Its first appearance dates back to July 2010 at an a capella performance inside Facebook’s headquarters, which Yeezy expanded upon a month later amidst a surprise, stripped down set alongside John Legend at New York City’s The Box. As the story goes, the end of the year arrived, the album was championed by critics and fans, yada, yada, yada, but the track was nowhere to be found.

That is, until seven months later, when G.O.O.D. Music Blog posted a mysterious studio rendition of said track. “Mama’s Boyfriend” was fully realized, sounding like a classic Yeezy anthem, down to the beat, the hook, and the samples. Naturally, the blogosphere exploded, posts were published, and the track was another critical hit.

Except it was a fake, at least according to Universal Music, who wrote the following statement:

The version of the Kanye West recording “Mama’s Boy” that arrived on blog sites earlier this week is entirely bogus and unsanctioned, and violates the artist’s creative intentions. As is often the unfortunate case, an unknown party or parties got a hold of Kanye West’s vocal track and added their own soundbed to it, effectively and falsely releasing it as a Kanye West track from the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sessions. The result in no way resembles the final song Kanye West intended his fans to hear, and he is deeply disappointed that one of the most personal, meaningful and special songs he has ever written would reach people in this way. Needless to say, measures are being taken to identify and prosecute the persons responsible for leaking this material.

Check out the “bogus and unsanctioned” version for yourself here.

The source: Someone who’s really, really great behind the knobs.

Hoax Score: 808s and Broken Links

-Michael Roffman

Platinum Weird

platinumweird The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s The Hoax: It’s fun to make up bands with friends, and most of the time the garbage you make up that one night after a six pack of Milwaukee’s Best doesn’t really amount to much. Unless, of course, you’re Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Kara DioGuardi (American Idol judge) and you write songs that sound like they could be Fleetwood Mac B-sides from the ’70s so you make up an elaborate back story about a band called Platinum Weird, who “recorded these songs in the ’70s but never released them” and invent a fictional lead singer who DioGuardi idolized and say that DioGuardi and Stewart wanted to remaster the album and rerelease it with new vocals (DioGuiardi’s) and trick thousands of people into believing this whole thing was actually true because you have not only the chairman of Interscope records in on the joke, but Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Stevie Nicks helping to corroborate your story until, after you produce a “mockumentary” about the band and air it on VH1, the network has to come clean about the hoax. Then it does amount to much. They were so callous that they even called their album Make Believe, which was actually released in 2006.

The Source: Dave Stewart and Kara DioGuardi, sly dogs.

Hoax Score: 6 out of 10 – But only because AllMusic gave Make Believe 3 stars.

-Jeremy D. Larson

Paul is Dead

Paul McCartney

What’s the hoax? In the midst of a tumultuous Sgt. Pepper recording session during which Paul McCartney butted heads with George Harrison over his newfound love of sitar ragas and John Lennon’s enthrallment with Yoko Ono, Sir Paul thundered out of the studio, burned up the whitewall tires of his Aston Martin, and crashed headlong into a stone wall. James Paul McCartney, tragically cut down at the tender age of 24.

Here’s where the “folk tale” gets ridiculous: To cover it all up, The Beatles replaced him with a doppelgänger by the name of William Campbell, allegedly the winner of a Paul McCartney look-alike contest. Want proof? Just spin the last few seconds of “Revolution 9” in reverse. It’s clear as a bell – the words “turn me on, dead man” are spectrally echoed over and over, 14 times in all. On second thought, doesn’t it sound more like “mun yawwnduhmenn”?

To date, there’s been countless artifacts that attempt to confirm the conspiracy: the cover of Abbey Road, McCartney’s black rose in Magical Mystery Tour, the whole “I Am the Walrus” debacle, and weird, obscure things like Terry Knight’s oft-forgotten song, “St. Paul”. Most assume it’s all bollocks (and they’d be right).

The source: First referenced by Tim Harper in Drake University rag The Times-Delphic, the hoax really picked up steam after a mysterious caller instructed Russ Gibb of Michigan’s WKNR-FM to play the repetitious “number nine, number nine” that concludes “Revolution 9” backwards. Though a UK version of the hoax is said to have predated our own conspiracy theorists, not much is known about its origins or details.

Hoax Score: Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 out of 10 – Simply for its influence in pop culture.

-Henry Hauser

Nirvana’s “Demos and Bootlegs”

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What’s the hoax? Prior to the release of Nirvana’s long sought after box set, 2004’s With the Light Out, fans circulated countless demos and bootlegs on P2P servers and various FTP sites. The 28.8-56k era blossomed with fan forums, specifically NFC: Nirvana Internet Fan Club, which housed the most vibrant community for fans of the Seattle trio. One lingering problem that persisted for the club was the endless pile of fake recordings that popped up. Mislabeled demos, random covers, and alleged tracks off the holy grail of Nirvana rarities — the Illiteracy Will Prevail demo tape for Kurt Cobain’s earlier band, Fecal Matter — were submitted, speculated over, denied, rinse and repeat.

Obscure songs by Anal Cunt or The Disenfranchised were passed around under the Nirvana moniker, while other users took a creative turn and actually attempted to pass off their own guitar experiments as early recordings by Cobain. A few even poked fun at the whole scene by labeling Puddle of Mudd tracks as unreleased singles. It became so insane and convoluted that deciphering what was real and what wasn’t took over any discussions on what recordings were actually out there. For reference, here’s a clean, solid list for reference.

In hindsight, what’s funny and tragic is that a small percentage of Nirvana fans, both young and old, continue to be fooled by these fakes. A number of comments on message boards and even YouTube suggest they’re favorites amongst a few fans — favorites!

The source: The several nostalgics who had way too much time on their hands in Suburbia.

Hoax Score: 0 out of 10 – The whole practice sucked. Too many hours were wasted on slow downloads, while too many souls were crushed from the results.

-Michael Roffman

Radiohead’s lost “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge”

radiohead1997 The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s the hoax? If it sings like a Thom Yorke, if it sounds like a Radiohead, then it probably is a Radiohead, right? Yeah, no. The whole Internet thought it had opened an early Christmas present when a song entitled “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge”, reportedly a The Bends/OK Computer-era B-side, popped up on YouTube. The vocals sounded right, the pretty-yet-languorous guitars and drums seemed to fit the purported time period, so the blogosphere took it and ran. No one seemed to pay much mind to the inanity of the title; if there are two things the ‘Net will just go apeshit for, it’s Daft Punk rumors and Radiohead rumors.

The source: This here 4chan thread, where some goon claimed to be friends of an ex-EMI exec who burned the recording from a company computer. Along its way across the web, the name of the song changed from “Haven’t Got a Prayer/Haven’t Got a Hope” to “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge” thanks to this 4chan meme featuring Seinfeld’s George Castanza. Finally, the song itself turned out to be a 2001 demo from a Toronto man named Christopher Stoba, who at the time had given up music and opened a bakery. Stoba would later release a studio version of the song under its proper title, “Sit Still”.

Hoax Score: Heinz 57

-Ben Kaye

The Masked Mauraders

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What’s the hoax? Rolling Stone published a review in 1969 of the “supergroup” The Masked Marauders, which was supposedly a double-album A-list jam session between Jagger, McCartney, Lennon, Dylan, and a bunch of other heavyweights at the time. People didn’t pick up on the sarcasm of the review (lines like, “It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life,” just felt so real, man) so they did the only respectble thing they could do: actually get a band together and record the fake album at a major studio. The album was released, sent to record stores, and bought by more than 100,000 rubes and the single “Cow Pie” actually got to #114 on the Billboard Charts. And they say snarky reviews are useless.

The source: Greil Marcus and his disdain for trendy supergroups at the time. Just think this Witch House/Chillwave band name generator, but actually following through on the joke.

Hoax Score: Four-and-a-half stars, and this is probably as good a time as any to tell you this: There is a band on Consequence of Sound that I’ve been writing about and reviewing and posting news about for three years and they do not exist. They are not real. They have been shared on Facebook and Tweeted about and I’m not going to tell you which band, but I have written a review of their fake record and wrote news about their fake tour and their fake song that I found. You didn’t even know, did you?

-Jeremy D. Larson

Vampire Weekend’s Lemon Songs

lemon sounds vampire weekend

What’s the hoax? At first glance, Lemon Sounds could feasibly be the (then) unannounced new Vampire Weekend album. Isn’t that the same dress on Contra? But wait… wasn’t she wearing a pale yellow Polo shirt then and those hands are a bit masculine, even if painted. So we should have seen it coming when the cover art to Lemon Sounds was unmasked as the graduate work of New York’s School of Visual Arts student, Thomas Calabrese.

Tasked with photographing a lemon and posting it on Facebook, Calabrese added a master twist to try to poll the most ‘likes’ by labelling his work as the new VW record. He compounded the myth by adding an imaginary tracklist on his site with enough references to songs aired live or mentioned in dispatches to convince. The student quickly took his site down once XL Recordings had exposed the story, but appreciating that there was no malice in his ruse, the record label rewarded him — with a basket full of lemons!

The source: Calabrese and various websites who picked it up (including this one).

Hoax Score: 9 Oxford commas out of 10

-Tony Hardy

Jack and Meg White as “siblings”

whitestripesfeature1 The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s the hoax? The White Stripes, sporting red and white outfits, rumbled onto the motor city music scene with a bluesy take on sibling rivalry. Only problem was, Jack and Meg White were not related. Yes, they did share DNA at one time. But it was the fluid kind, swapped between man and wife on a honeymoon rather than the familial, genetic stuff that makes brothers resemble sisters. Jack invented the rumor early on so “[Audiences would] care more about the music, not the relationship.” Unfortunately, this plan backfired on the divorced couple in a classic example of the Streisand Effect, wherein an attempt to conceal information leads to a significant amplification of that private detail.

The source: Jack White and a host of gullible journalists.

Hoax Score: 7 (Nation Army) out of 10

-Dan Pfleegor

Adam Yauch’s Nathanial Hornblower

nathanialhorn The Best Hoaxes in Music History

What’s the hoax? Way before Kanye had his moment with Taylor Swift at the 2009 Music Video Awards, another eccentric hip-hop persona stormed the MTV stage. In 1993, when R.E.M. beat out Spike Jonze and the Beastie Boys in the Best Director category for their “Everybody Hurts” video, the lederhosen’ed, goat-loving, impeccably coiffed Nathanial Hörnblowér stormed the stage, decrying the result as a farce (not to mention claiming he had all of the ideas for Star Wars).

The clearly-definitely-Swiss “uncle” of Adam Yauch, Hörnblowér directed many of the Beasties’ videos, basketball documentary Gunnin For That #1 Spot, and perhaps his finest production, this amazing letter to a critic who panned one of his clips (“In concluding, “Ch-Check It Out” is the always best music film”). Some mistrustful upstarts claim that Hörnblowér was actually Yauch in a goofy costume and beard.

The source: Adam Yauch, by putting on that goofy costume and beard.

Hoax Score: 5 Boroughs out of 10

-Adam Kivel

Pink Floyd’s Publius Enigma

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What’s the hoax? An encoded scavenger hunt for a “unique prize” centered around Pink Floyd’s 1994 The Division Bell album and tour with clues hidden in album art, live visuals, and allegedly hidden in the album’s lyrics. The Enigma originates from the Usenet newsgroup, alt.music.pink-floyd, where a poster named Publius announced the contest/riddle and that he’d serve as a “guide” to point fans in the right direction. Speculation and skepticism ran rampant, but appearances of the words “Publius” and “Enigma” on stage and in print verified the contest to be the real deal.

Over the years, Pink Floyd have regarded the Enigma with vague or dismissive comments. In his biography, Nick Mason said it was the record company’s idea. According to Publius, the band was in on it: “Although all great music is subject to multiple interpretations, in this case there is a central purpose and a designed solution.”

To this day, the riddle has never been confirmed solved and debate about its legitimacy continues. However, this writer has a theory. Might the “unique prize” in fact be something everyone can share? Dark Side of the Moon resurfaced during The Division Bell tour, and with it came imagery inspired by The Wizard of Oz. What if, acknowledging the accidental synch of Dark Side withWizard of Oz, Pink Floyd tailored Division Bell to synch with 1985’s Return to Oz? The resulting synch is very surprising and far more complex than “Dark Side of the Rainbow” ever was. Might this be the long sought after “prize”? See for yourself:

The Source: Anonymous Usenet user “Publius”, possibly Pink Floyd, possibly Columbia Records. More info: The Publius EnigmaWikipedia.

Hoax Score: 7 out of 10 – As long as you’re a believer.

-Cap Blackard

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