Chris Williams Rate-a-Record Sampler, by Linkin Park

57-ratearecord

Non-commercial release

Distributed May 8, 2000; released by LPAssociation September 15, 2012

20 min, 26 sec

In almost every case, a band’s debut album is the one that’s going to produce the most demos and b-sides (or, at the very least, the most visible and accessible demos and b-sides). This is, of course, a product of the circumstances surrounding a debut album – there’s always the common quote of “you’ve got your whole life to make your first album, and then a year to make your second.” In many cases, the amount of material produced for that debut album is staggering, and new demos and alternate versions of those songs can be found for years – even decades – afterwards.

Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was not their first studio recording, but it was their first full-length album for a major label. Built on the backs of the (then self-titled) Xero demo tape and the (also then self-titled) Hybrid Theory EP, the final version of Hybrid Theory pulls only two pieces of music from its predecessors; neither of those tracks are present on this CD. Instead, these five tracks are demos written for the final album, all of which appear in moderately changed forms here.

Case in point for discovery: this 6-track demo CD (of which I only have five; I removed the last track for redundancy purposes), apparently distributed to Chris Williams of 99x on May 8, 2000, was not re-discovered and publicized until over twelve years later, on September 15, 2012. The fan site Linkin Park Association was the first to host it, as an exclusive find, and it later spread to every other fan site on the web. At the time it was re-discovered, it was the fifth set of demos from the pre-Hybrid Theory period found, alongside a 9-track internal promo, an 8-track promo, a 7-track version of the 8-track promo, an unmastered version of the otherwise-completed album, and a selection of tracks posted to the band’s official website to promote the upcoming release. This demo contains the earliest known versions of “One Step Closer” (named “Plaster” here), “With You” (named “Dust Brothers” here, after the track’s collaborators), and “Papercut.”

The Rate-a-Record program noted on the cover comes from 99x in Atlanta, where program director (at the time) Chris Williams regularly played new alternative rock tracks and asked his audience to call in and choose their favorite one. Williams and 99x provided early radio play for the band that likely helped begin to establish Linkin Park as they finished up Hybrid Theory and began promoting the album; “Plaster,” in its final form as “One Step Closer,” became the album’s lead single, turning Linkin Park into a commercial sensation practically overnight.

The tracks themselves are, in all honestly, only of interest to Linkin Park fans already deeply familiar with Hybrid Theory and the multitude of alternate versions of every track on that album that had already been circulating among the fanbase. There are differences – occasionally significant ones – but this is one of those albums where you won’t really care all that much unless you’re already a fan of Linkin Park, and have an interest in how a song can change as it goes through the recording process. This EP tells us, essentially, the same things that the other demos told us – “In the End” (“Untitled”) was an early track that made it all the way to the final album, “Points of Authority” was along the same lines, and the others came along later in the recording process. They’re all strong tracks at this point in the process – not quite ready, but well on their way. Any one of them probably could have done fine on Chris Williams’s radio show.

And that’s the takeaway from a piece of music like this – it’s an interesting view into where Linkin Park was in their recording process in May 2000, and it’s fun to compare the versions of each track and see what changed, but not much more than that.

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