No one knows who wrote it. No one knows where it came from or when it was recorded. No one knows the title. No one can really make out the lyrics. For 12 years, internet sleuths, music nerds, and DJs have tried to find the answers, and for 12 years they’ve failed. But perhaps the strangest thing about the so-called “most mysterious song on the internet” is this: it kind of rules.
Rolling Stone recently did a deep dive into the bizarre story of this “most mysterious song on the internet.” The song itself is a mix of new-wave rhythm, piercing guitars, slashing synthesizers, and melancholy, gothic baritone vocals. Take a listen for yourself here. It’s killer, right? I’m starting to think I might be the one responsible. Did I get drunk and write a goth anthem 12 years ago and forget? It sounds like something I’d do, but no, the vocals aren’t whiny enough.
The “Mysterious Song” is also allegedly much older than 12 years, that’s just how long it’s been since it was put on the internet. According to Darius S., who asked Rolling Stone to not reveal his last name for privacy’s sake, he taped the song off the radio in 1984 while he was an angsty teenager in the town of Wilhelmshaven, Germany. He says:
It was just one of many songs I recorded and didn’t know the artist. I believe I didn’t hear an announcement. Maybe I heard it partially and missed the artist’s name. Everything is possible.”
It was his sister, Lydia H., who began the detective work, and it’s easy to understand why. When you hear a song that grabs you but you know nothing about, you’ll raze heaven and Earth to figure it out. She began uploading a clip of the mysterious song (to avoid copyright issues) to various newsgroups and forums in 2007. Still, no one knew anything.
This year, it became the subject of an episode of the YouTube show Tales from the Internet, which has been viewed over 300,000 times since July. Also in July, the full song was finally uploaded to the internet. When a person on the internet reached out to Lydia H. to request a copy of the full song, she agreed. Later she became wary of copyright infringement and deleted the link, but not before the song had been shared and uploaded numerous times to various places. Rock and roll finds a way.
Since then, the “Mysterious Song” has captured the imaginations and time of communities dedicated to solving the mystery. Thousands of hours have been spent on investigating the track, to no avail. Even the DJ who may have originally played the song on the radio when Darius taped it is stumped. Paul Baskerville has no memory of the song at all, and says that the typed out lists of songs he played on the radio have long since been trashed. He says it’s possible that the song could be in his collection of over 10,000 records, but he adds “If you’re a collector, you know most of what you have.”
As with all things in the internet detective world, many false leads have been generated by trolls and by people who are simply mistaken alike. Some claim it’s an early Depeche Mode B-side, or a Joy Division demo (definitely not). One troll generated hope by claiming they knew the song and the band but quickly dashed that hope by saying it was the last song the band recorded “before all being shot dead while attempting to climb over the wall and escape to West Berlin.” Good story, but more than likely a bald-faced lie.
Then there’s the possibility that it’s a hoax by Darius S. and Lydia H. Lydia acknowledges that possibility:
“At this moment we cannot prove it all. The pictures of the tape my brother took can be fake. And even the tape that still exists could (at least theoretically) could have been recorded only last week. But I am not one of those persons who only need some attention. There’s no need for my brother or me to create such a big hoax, which only takes plenty of time and efforts.”
So the hunt goes on. The internet doesn’t give up easily and those involved in the hunt are the most tenacious of all: indie-rock nerds. And the legend is steadily growing too: the “Mysterious Song” was even reported on by the local news in Darius’ town in Germany in August. But still to no avail. Maybe the most likely answer is that whoever wrote it is well aware of the search but, in true goth fashion, wants nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s some sort of misguided self promotion. Or maybe it’s just one more rock and roll legend that will never be solved. Which means, of course, that as far as the goals of cold-war era European goth rock go, it’s the most successful rock song of all time.