Last week I read an article about a fantastic viral marketing campaign for Fringe, in which secret vinyl albums produced under the name Violet Sedan Chair, have been distributed to random record stores across the nation. The album, called Seven Suns, is a tie in to the show’s January 21 spring premiere, in which Walter gets to meet Roscoe Joyce, keyboardist for the fictional band and one of Walter’s musical heroes. In a brilliant strategy to drive all of us fans crazy, Fox is not letting on which stores have received copies, or even how many there are. Each copy of the vinyl album is reputed to be unique, with different clues to the rest of the season in the lyrics, liner notes, etc.
Of course, being an avid Fringe fan as well as a puzzle lover, this was irresistibly exciting news to me, so after calling every record store in the phone book and coming up dry, I started to dig in other ways. It didn’t take long to come across the article of Wired magazine guest edited by J.J. Abrams over a year and a half ago – the issue on mysteries and secrets. The entire magazine is full of puzzles, and I’m anxiously awaiting my back-ordered copy in the mail, but there were two articles that were immediately obvious as being very important to the Violet Sedan Chair treasure hunt. The first, a small article listing several albums over the last forty years or so with hidden tracks or messages, includes Seven Suns in it’s examples, and references a missing eleventh track. The article appears to have gone largely unnoticed at the time, but has caught the interest of clue over the last week. The second is an article by J.J. Abrams, from that same issue of Wired.
Hey guess what? This Easter egg hunt, this album thing, has been in the making for nearly two years.
The article is about the lost art of exploring, and the demystification of mystery. It’s about Google sometimes being too much of a good thing, and how the end is worth waiting for, because it’s the questing that’s the point. And in it he says
“Think back, for example, to how we used to buy music. You would have to leave your apartment or house and actually move your ass to another location. You’d get to the store, where music would be playing on the stereo. Music you may not have heard before. Perhaps you’d ask the clerk what it was and she’d send you to a bin – those wooden containers holding actual albums or CD – and you’d look through it, seeing other album covers that might catch your eye. You’d have a chance to discover something.”
Whoa. That was in April of 2009.
He also tells us
“Some painstaking work went into this incredibly cool issue. (There are things occurring within these pages that are not apparent at first or second glance. That’s the only hint I will give you.) I urge you to dig.”
And so I did. I started digging, all over the place, and I found all kinds of cool stuff out there that I haven’t even begun to put together. I’m having a ball, and I know lots of other Fringe fans who are having fun with it as well. But I was fascinated by this image, that appeared next to the “Musical Mystery Tour” Wired article.
The map contains (mostly) the names and track lists of eleven albums, including those of the fictional Seven Suns. I started playing with it, tracing the titles around, looking for lost or hidden words. This proved to be pretty damn blinding without making some marks, so I color coded the albums and traced their routes a couple of different ways.
- The words “And Low” followed by a “1” or a “2” or possibly an “s in the bottom right corner, seem to have no connection to anything at all.
- There are lots of missing letters and/or words, mostly due to the track lists going off map. Here’s the complete list, separated by album: LIFE IN, AR, EMERGENCY EXIT, D ORIA YOU LOUNG, M, G G C, S, V G S T
- Other oddities: The letter “A” from the misspelled “cemetaries” on Viva La Vida, and possibly another letter “A” from “strawbeary” on the same album. Or it could just be the wacky lettering. The letters”RDZ RIGHT” are the only black letters in an otherwise white font for Pac’s Life. The solfÃ¨ge “si” from Seven Suns could be “is” if viewed upside down.
- Nevermind is the hardest path to follow – it jumps all over the place. I guess that makes sense when seeking Nirvana.
- Except for one exception, noted below, all hidden messages listed do appear somewhere on their respective albums.
- The Wired article mentions creepy imagery on Radiohead’s Kid A, which does not appear in the labyrinth. It makes no mention of Guero or Odelay, both of which do.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind: U2, 2000
- Beautiful Day
- Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
- Elevation – Hidden Message: Call to me and I will answer you, And I will tell you great and mighty things which you don’t know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
- Walk On
- In A Little While
- Wild Honey
- Peace On Earth
- When I Walk The World
- New York
- Early versions of the cover released to the press show a departure sign that reads “F21-36”, however, this was changed to J33-3 in reference to the Bible verse Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto me and I will answer thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Bono referred to it as God’s phone number. -Wikipedia
Viva La Vida or Death and all His Friends: Coldplay, 2008
- [Life in] Technicolor
- Cemetaries of London
- Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
- Yes – Hidden track: Chinese Sleep Chant
- Viva la Vida
- Violet Hill
- Strawbeary Swing
- Death and all His Friends – Hidden track: The Escapist
- Unlike the rest of the others present, there is no album title before the track list. The beginning of the track list is not present [1.Life in] Instead, the word “Missing” (Track 4 of Guero) is wrapped neatly around where the the missing data should be.
- “Cemetaries” is misspelled
- Strawbeary is misspelled, unless it’s just the wacky font.
- Hidden Tracks on the Album: Chinese Sleep Chant, The Escapist
Guero: Beck, 2005
- Que onda Guero
- Girl – Hidden message: Al Jaffee
- Black Tambourine
- Earthquake Weather
- Hell Yes
- Broken Drum
- Go it Alone
- Farewell Ride
- Rental C[ar]
- [Emergency Exit]
- Guero… is a Mexican slang term in Spanish for a pale-skinned or blonde-haired person. Beck cites having been referred to as a “guero” throughout his childhood, lending the title of the album and the track “Que Onda Guero” [sic] – Wikipedia
- Al Jaffee is an American cartoonist, best known for his work in Mad magazine. He created the magazine’s signature Fold-in feature in 1964. His name appears briefly on a television screen in the video for Girl.
- The Track list goes off the map after “12. Rental C” and does not reappear. The words “Car” and “Emergency Exit” are missing.
Nevermind: Nirvana, 1991
- Smells Like Teen Spirit
- Come As You Are
- Territ[oria]l Pissings
- Drain [You]
- [Loun]ge Act
- Stay Away
- On a Plain
- Something in the Way – Hidden Track: Endless, Nameless
- Lots of missing letters in this one, due to the several breaks in the linear progression of the track list. Missing letters are: D,ORIA,YOU,LOUN
- The Hidden track Endless, Nameless appears the cd pressings of the album, but apparently was not included on the LP.
Pac’s Life – Tribute Album, Various Artists, 2006
- Untouchable (Swizz [M]ix)
- Pac’s Life
- Playa Cardz Right (Female)
- Whatz Next
- Don’t Sleep
- Soon as I Get Home
- Playa Cardz Right (Male)
- Don’t Stop
- Pac’s Life (Remix)
- The letter M is absent from Swizz Mix on the first track, due to the list going off the map. It’s possible that the entire word “Beatz” may also be missing, since that’s the full name of the artist in question, but I doubt it.
- Lots of linear breaks in the track list
- The color of the font changes briefly from white to black where the letters RDZ RIGHT curve around the corner of the map.
- The words “Yes you’ll see me, I’ll be back“ appear mirrored near the rest of the track list, but not directly connected to it. According to the Wired article, Tupac fans claim to hear this phrase back masked on the album, but interestingly the only references to this I can find are in direct connection with the Wired article itself.
Dookie: Green Day, 1994
- Having a Blast
- Welcome to Paradise
- Pulling Teeth
- Sassafras Roots
- When I Come Around
- Comin[g] [C]lean
- Emenius Sleepus
- In The End
- F.O.D. – Hidden Track: All By Myself
- Missing letters: G,G,C
- Hidden track above
Led Zeppelin III: Led Zeppelin, 1970
- Immigrant Song
- Celebration Day – Hidden message: Do What Thou Wilt
- Since I’ve Been Loving You
- Out on the Tiles
- Gallows Pole
- Tangerine – Hidden Message: I think it says “So mote it be” but I could be wrong. It’s really tiny.
- That’s the Way
- Bron-y-aur Stomp
- Hats Off to (Roy) Harper
- “So mote it be”, and “Do what thou wilt” were inscribed on the lacquer of the Original album. Do what thou wilt is from Aleister Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema. Both phrases are associated with the occult in general, and Wiccan traditions specifically.
Their Satanic Majesties Request: The Rolling Stones, 1967
- Sing This All Together
- In Another Land
- 2000 Man
- Sing this All Together (see what happens)
- She’s a Rainbow
- The Lantern
- 2000 Light Years From Home
- On With the Show
- Kinda blank on this one
Purple Rain: Prince and the Revolution 1984
- Let’s Go Crazy
- Take Me With U
- The Beautiful Ones
- Computer Blues
- Darling Nikki
- When Doves Cry
- I Would Die 4 U
- Baby I’m a Star
- Purple Rain
- The mirrored message “Hello, how are you? I’m fine: cause I know the lord is coming soon.” appears near to, but not in direct progression with, the rest of the tracks in the list. This differs slightly from the same message as reported by Wikipedia: “Hello, how are you? Fine, fine. ‘Cause I know that the Lord is coming soon. Coming, coming soon” This is backmasked at the end of Darling Nikki.
Odelay: Beck, 1996
- Devil’s Haircut
- Lord Only Knows
- The New Pollution
- Where It’s At
- High 5 (Rock the Catskills)
- Ramshackle – Hidden Track: Computer Rock
- Missing letter: S
- Hidden Track named above
Seven Suns: Violet Sedan Chair, 1971 (Fictional)
- Seven Suns (Rising)
- Slow [V]ibrations
- Hovercraft Mother
- She’s Doin[g] Fine
- Long List of Lovers
- Keep Climbing
- 500 Years
- La[st] Man in Space
- Seven Suns (Setting)
- Re Fa Mi Si Sol La
- The album title is likely some kind of reference to the Buddha’s discourse on the end of the world, or the sermon of the seven Suns. In short, the Buddha tells his disciples that there will come a time when all rain ceases to fall, resulting in the death of all plants, seeds, and vegetation (followed presumably by the deaths of everything else.) After a long time, a second sun will appear in the sky, which will cause all the brooks and ponds and other small bodies of water to dry up. After another very long time, a third sun will appear, causing the great rivers (such as the Ganges) to dry up. Progressively, separated by long periods of time, more suns will appear, until they number seven. The fourth will destroy the great lakes of the world. The fifth will dry up the oceans until they are less than a finger’s depth. The sixth will heat the ground itself, and volcanic eruptions will be rampant. And when the seventh sun appears….the earth itself will burn in a ball of fire, until neither ash nor soot remain. The Buddha delivered this sermon to his disciples as an illustration of the impermanence of life. This manner of ending sounds very like modern scientific theories of what the literal ending of the world will be like, when our sun goes nova.
- Missing letters: V,G,ST
- “Si” is an antiquated solfege for the seventh scale tone in English speaking countries. “Si” was changed to “Ti” in the nineteenth century in order to give each syllable a different starting letter. “Si” is still used in some other languages.
- If you look at it upside down, “Si” becomes “is”
- On a keyboard, play D,F,E,B,G,A to hear the title of Re Fa Mi Si Sol La assuming “Si” is actually “Ti”.
- Lol at that last note
- Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
- Treble Clef lines: EGBDF – mnemonic: every good boy does fine
- Bass clef lines GBDFA – mnemonic: good boys do fine always
- My brain hurts
So there’s what I’ve Observed. I’ve been anagramming all the missing letters and such, but haven’t come up with anything solid. Anybody else want to take a stab at it?
This is my first blog post. I’ve been thinking about starting a website for years, but was finally spurred into action by the disappearance of Fringe-Forum.com, my favorite Fringe discussion site. I’m going to be setting up a forum as well, where I want to discuss all things Fringe, as well as the Whedonverse and lots of other dorky things, so check back in a few days if you’re interested. No copyright infringement of any kind is intended. I don’t own any of the Fringe trademarks or characters, or music mentioned, or images from Wired – I just love them a lot. Don’t eat me.
The nifty virtual keyboard I found: