What’s In A Name? – Nine Songs With Titles That Clearly Came From Some Other Dimension

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Whether it be a song title or album title: my general advice would be the same:

Less is more.

Pet Shop Boysalbum discography is a testament to this approach: All fourteen studio albums have a one word title.

And, a rumored new release for 2023.
“Pet Shop,” indeed.

Or:
There’s the numbering option favored by Chicago, which is off-putting to me.

Too many numbers. I have a mental block when it comes to differentiating Led Zeppelin I to IV, never mind the 30+ of Chicago.

There was a Leeds band of the 00s; ¡Forward, Russia! who extended this to song titles, naming them in chronological order of writing which didn’t then translate to running order.

Their debut album confusingly opened with Thirteen before randomly travelling back and forward between Seven and Nineteen.

Just the thought of it makes my head hurt.

So: Here’s a random selection from the other extreme, for whom brevity is somewhat lacking:

And this was before he went off into strange directions. As per the repository of all information that is Wikipedia:

Fertile ground for the reluctant teen dream, as Scott retreated from his pop idol status. In this instance, he was referring to the Soviet led repression of the Prague Spring.

This was from “Scott 4,” which was his first self written album. Perhaps its not surprising that the general public weren’t ready for this level of political discourse in a three-minute pop song. It became his first album to miss the charts.


Pretentious much?

I couldn’t stand P!ATD when they first arrived. The song titles didn’t help. Maybe I wasn’t the right age by that point to join the emo cause. These are all from the debut album. File under: “not half as clever as they think they are.”


Early Pink Floyd. So I would have said, “Drugs were involved.”

Except that this was post-Syd Barrett “Ummagumma,” when they were still trying to work out their identity without him.

A Pict is an ancient Scotsman. Specifically a people that lived in northern and eastern Scotland who did not get on with the colonising Roman neighbours to the South.

As per Dig It Scotland: ‘Pict’ comes from the Roman name Picti, meaning “painted people” and it is traditionally thought to refer to the practice of tattooing or body painting.

Very progressive. They’d fit right in with modern times.

I’d have thought that the Pict would be more likely to bludgeon the small furry animals with a blunt instrument and eat them than get their groove on.

But who am I to question Roger Waters?


To be fair, there are only three words to this title.

It’s just that one of those words is taking up a lot of room. You would be forgiven for looking at the title and thinking I leant on the keyboard, but I can assure you that what you’re looking at is the Welsh language in all its impenetrable glory.

According to the 2021 Census, just over half a million of residents of Wales identify as Welsh speakers. If you ever visit you’ll find all the road signs are in English and Welsh – which may confuse the hell out of you as you wonder why they named every hospital “Ysbyty Hospital.” For the uninitiated, the language does appear to be lacking in vowels.

Llanfair…… is a village on the Isle of Anglesey on the north west Welsh coast. In English it means, ‘St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool of Llandysilio of the red cave’. Which is no easier to remember, and more a very specific direction than a placename.

It’s famous for its train station which requires a very long board to display the name.

SFA have always worn their heritage on their sleeve: All four tracks on this, their debut release, are in Welsh. In 2000 they released Mwng (“mane” in English.)

Which became the biggest selling Welsh language album ever

Tagging on ‘In Space‘ reveals another facet of their identity for a sense of humour and being somewhere just outside the norm.


I was going to make a joke about how we can only guess at what the title was going to be before their lawyer got involved.

Perhaps something along the lines of: ‘Rudy Giuliani redacted redacted redacted with a redacted’. Feel free to make up your own possibility. Just keep it to yourself, as the TNOCS legal team isn’t quite so hot as that of Fall Out Boy.

Introducing:
Jayden, The Second-Year Law Student Intern,
the newest wacky tnocs.com office character.
Gary recommended him. What could possibly go wrong?

Later I found out they really were advised to change the name, and it isn’t just a weak joke. According to the Fall Out Boy fandom site, it was to be ‘My Name Is David Ruffin and These Are The Temptations.’ Which gets bonus marks for replacing one unwieldy title with another.

Apparently referencing Ruffin’s attempt to give himself prime billing as “David Ruffin and The Temptations,” with the song concerning the pitfalls of fame and ego. The record company legal team thought it may leave them open to action from Ruffin’s estate.

For actual lame jokes, FOB do supply another legal themed title which could also have done with a veto from the lawyers, this time on grounds of taste; “I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me and You)


My first exposure to Ray was “The Streak. A UK #1 before my time, but a staple of compilations evidencing how wacky the 70s were. Every new thing I learn about Ray just brings him further down in my estimation from an already low bar.

This Stereogum tweet says it all:

And Tom Breihan still scored it higher than “The Streak.

This was Ray’s first hot 100 entry, so while it isn’t as bad as his chart toppers, it carries a lot of shame for those musical crimes to come. Taken from the album 1,837 Seconds of Humor:

Which is about 1,837 seconds too many in my estimation, and possibly infringing some trades description rights.


Where things get really excessive is with these Guinness World Record-bothering albums:

How do you follow up your triple platinum critically acclaimed debut? Well, a title like that is going to draw attention and repel doubters in equal measure.

The title is a poem written in reaction to a hatchet job Spin cover story.

It shows an artist who isn’t going to compromise and is prepared to call out those doling out harsh treatment…

… While coming across as incredibly self indulgent to anyone that isn’t a fan.

The sort of act likely to result in an exaggerated eye roll.

It sold a third of its predecessor, whether any that was due to the off-putting title, who knows? But she remained true to herself. Which, as Scott Walker found, doesn’t necessarily translate to record sales.

It entered the Guinness Book of Records for longest album title, only to be replaced by…

Belgians eh?  Not so much a title as a helpful explanatory note. It held the record for a short time before handing it onto…..

Chumbawamba:

The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or from Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won.”

That’s 156 words and 865 characters. The cover does feature the full title, not leaving much room for cover art.

You may be familiar with them as one hit wonders with that song about getting drunk and falling over, but they’ve a lengthy history.

They started their career as Anarcho-folk-punks in 1986 with “Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records.”

Kicking back against the establishment and the convenient boost to the careers of those appearing at Live Aid.

They may have sounded more proficient by the time of this their penultimate album. But as the diatribe of a title evidences: they still had their principles.

Principles that had previously seen them use the money earned from Tubthumping and other songs to fund the causes they believed in. When General Motors paid them $210,000 for their song Pass It Along to advertise Pontiac cars, they gave half the money to CorpWatch to document the social and environmental impacts of…

General Motors.

“I get knocked down. But I get up again, you corporate weasel.”

I’m not sure the Boy Bands did win. They seem out of favour now as well, unless you enter the world of K-pop.

Still, the general principles stand up.

Anyone got their own opinion on what makes a good or bad song or album title? 

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JJ Live At Leeds

From across the ocean, a middle aged man, a man without a plan, a man full of memories, a man like JJ.

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cstolliver
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April 4, 2023 7:41 am

Fiona Apple can’t fool Microsoft Word — it recognizes each of the 84 words rather than referring to it as one.

On another note … Thank you for teaching me where Llanfair came from … I’ve only known it as the name of the grand estate of the matriarch on ABC’s soap “One Life to Live.”

Thanks for the fun Tuesday-morning take.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chuck Small
Aaron3000
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April 4, 2023 9:31 am

Haha, nice… I briefly mentioned that Fall Out Boy “Lawyer” song yesterday on the mothership, awesome to see that it’s not even close to being the most insane title out there.

Pauly Steyreen
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April 4, 2023 9:56 am

Self-indulgence, thy name is… (fill in the blank, many worthy nominees in today’s column).

LinkCrawford
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April 4, 2023 10:49 am

Thoughts:

I want that Chicago quilt.

Despite that twitter post, I thought Tom was surprisingly gentle/fair to “Everything Is Beautiful” given how much I’m sure he hated it.

Has there ever been a band audacious enough to name their debut album “Greatest Hits”? And their second album “Greatest Hits, Volume 2”? I’ve always thought that would be a great idea.

The polar opposite of some of these album names is Peter Gabriel’s first four albums, which all were simply eponymous.

cstolliver
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April 4, 2023 11:16 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

I knew you would like that Chicago quilt. I kinda like it myself, though I’d have to edit out “Hot Streets.”

LinkCrawford
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April 4, 2023 11:43 am
Reply to  cstolliver

It’s an inconsistent album, but has some great moments! But, indeed, the cover doesn’t fit the motif.

blu_cheez
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April 4, 2023 12:42 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Alien Ant Farm’s first album is called “Greatest Hits” and their second album is called “Anthology” – brilliant!

LinkCrawford
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April 4, 2023 1:09 pm
Reply to  blu_cheez

That is great! I’m glad someone did that.

lovethisconcept
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April 4, 2023 12:18 pm

I was actually thinking about this the other day, although on the flip side. I was thinking about what makes a good album title.

In general, I like album titles that aren’t just named after the lead single. It’s also good if there is also creativity and/or meaning and/or just pure fun to the title. The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get is a favorite.

LinkCrawford
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April 4, 2023 1:07 pm

That album title is an all-timer. Then there’s Joe Walsh’s self-aware album title, You Bought It, You Name It.

lovethisconcept
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April 4, 2023 1:41 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

The album that got me thinking about this was a bold statement that was so very true, The Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis. One of the best ever. Strong contention for absolute best ever.

Zeusaphone
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April 4, 2023 3:07 pm

Firesign Theater had the best album titles during the 60’s. Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers is an essential album with an unbeatable title.

lovethisconcept
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April 4, 2023 3:44 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

I have always been partial to A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing by Sparks as well.

blu_cheez
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April 4, 2023 12:33 pm

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

That’s what she said! Am I right, fellas? Anyone?
.
I always thought the Police song “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” was bad, but, yikes… cool song, though:
https://youtu.be/YC8vxXC0UMc

dutchg8r
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April 4, 2023 2:35 pm

Can I just say, Chumbawumba’s title has to be a DQ. And not as in Dairy Queen. You can’t have multiple complete sentences in the title, with more than one period. Commas, semicolon, ok, but you only get one full sentence if you’re gonna use punctuation. 😄

According to the Oracle of the Internet Where No Lies are Told, there are 2 towns that share the title for longest place names in the US that have no punctuation –

Mooselookmeguntic, Maine (aka ‘Moose Feeding Place’ in the local Native American dialect)

Kleinfeltersville, PA (aka Place Where The Kleinfelters of Yesteryear Decided to Set Down Roots in the ego of the Kleinfelter Patriarch)

I think The Cranberries hold the trophy for Longest Album Title in My Collection with “Everyone Else is Doing It, Why Can’t We?”. Compared to JJ’s list, that’s like a poor bloke from The Seychelles competing against the rest of the world in the 500m Butterfly at the Olympics.

I appreciated the research, JJ, and thank you mt for your visual aids as always.

Final question- what is ‘Mr Blobby’ in Welsh? Sersquishinsington?

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 4, 2023 3:31 pm

Some of my favorite indulgent song titles:

Flaming Lips: The Train Runs Over the Camel But Is Derailed by the GnatCharles Mingus: The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass SlippersNurse With Wound: I Cannot Feel You As the Dogs Are Laughing and I Am BlindDeath Grips: You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know Why He Really Loves You It’s Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pill Box HatJohn Cale (with the Dream Syndicate): About This Time Mozart Was Dead and Joseph Conrad Was Sailing the Seven Seas Learning EnglishAs for album titles, I thought of XTC’s second album, but it turns out that the album is actually titled “Go 2.” If if were titled based on what’s actually on the cover, it would be this:

“This is a RECORD COVER. This writing is the DESIGN upon the
record cover. The DESIGN is to help SELL the record. We hope
to draw your attention to it and encourage you to pick it up.
When you have done that maybe you’ll be persuaded to listen to
the music – in this case XTC’s Go 2 album. Then we want you
to BUY it. The idea being that the more of you that buy this
record the more money Virgin Records, the manager Ian Reid and
XTC themselves will make. To the aforementioned this is known
as PLEASURE. A good cover DESIGN is one that attracts more
buyers and gives more pleasure. This writing is trying to pull
you in much like an eye-catching picture. It is designed to get
you to READ IT. This is called luring the VICTIM, and you are
the VICTIM. But if you have a free mind you should STOP READING
NOW! because all we are attempting to do is to get you to read
on. Yet this is a DOUBLE BIND because if you indeed stop you’ll
be doing what we tell you, and if you read on you’ll be doing what
we’ve wanted all along. And the more you read on the more you’re
falling for this simple device of telling you exactly how a good
commercial design works. They’re TRICKS and this is the worst
TRICK of all since it’s describing the TRICK whilst trying to
TRICK you, and if you’ve read this far then you’re TRICKED but
you wouldn’t have known this unless you’d read this far. At
least we’re telling you directly instead of seducing you with
a beautiful or haunting visual that may never tell you. We’re
letting you know that you ought to buy this record because in
essence it’s a PRODUCT and PRODUCTS are to be consumed and you
are a consumer and this is a good PRODUCT. We could have
written the band’s name in special lettering so that it stood
out and you’d see it before you’d read any of this writing and
possibly have bought it anyway. What we are really suggesting
is that you are FOOLISH to buy or not buy an album merely as a
consequence of the design on its cover. This is a con because
if you agree then you’ll probably like this writing – which is
the cover design – and hence the album inside. But we’ve just
warned you against that. The con is a con. A good cover design
could be considered as one that gets you to buy the record, but
that never actually happens to YOU because YOU know it’s just a
design for the cover. And this is the RECORD COVER.” 😀

Last edited 1 year ago by Phylum of Alexandria
Phylum of Alexandria
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April 4, 2023 8:03 pm

Weird, something happened to the formatting. What was once somewhat unwieldy is now near incomprehensible.

mt58
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April 4, 2023 8:33 pm

And somehow: it’s perfect!

mt58
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April 4, 2023 8:34 pm

We’re gonna need a full report on the vibe at “The Hall Of Presidents.”

Ozmoe
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April 6, 2023 11:11 pm
Reply to  mt58

The Hall of Presidents is at Walt Disney World in Florida. Disneyland has Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln. And I hate the fact that I know crap like this off the top of my head.

DanceFever
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April 4, 2023 9:54 pm

From the old school, here’s the original longest named song title from 1942 and held the Guinness Book of Records for at least four decades.
One of my favorite songwriters, Mr. Hoagy Carmichael.
“I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokahama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat of Me Seat-o Hirohito Blues”.

Zeusaphone
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April 4, 2023 10:48 pm
Reply to  DanceFever

Carmichael’s version doesn’t seem to be on YouTube but here’s Bing Crosby doing a cover

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98v7nMnR7c4

DanceFever
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April 4, 2023 11:37 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

Now I can reply, the Sportsmen Quartet recorded in 1942. But thanks for the response!

DanceFever
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April 4, 2023 11:35 pm

For some reason it won’t let me reply to Zeusaphone, but the Sportsman Quartet recorded the song in 1942. Thanks for the reply!

Edith G
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April 5, 2023 12:22 pm

Good compilation and it’s an interesting topic, but it gave me headache. You have to be either a creative person or a very pretentious one to think about putting titles like those.

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