Whether it be a song title or album title: my general advice would be the same:
Less is more.
Pet Shop Boys‘ album discography is a testament to this approach: All fourteen studio albums have a one word title.
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.
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?
Super Furry Animals:
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (In Space) E.P.
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.
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:
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:
When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a kingWhat he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fightAnd he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring
There’s no body to batter when your mindis your mightSo when you go solo, you hold your own handAnd remember that depth is the greatest of heights And if you know where you stand, then you know where to landAnd if you fall it won’t matter, cuz you’ll know that you’re right
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…
Most of the remixes we’ve made for other people over the years except for the one for Einstürzende Neubauten because we lost it and a few we didn’t think sounded good enough or just didn’t fit in length-wise, but including some that are hard to find because either people forgot about them or just simply because they haven’t been released yet, a few we really love, one we think is just ok, some we did for free, some we did for money, some for ourselves without permission and some for friends as swaps but never on time and always at our studio in Ghent.
Belgians eh? Not so much a title as a helpful explanatory note. It held the record for a short time before handing it onto…..
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…
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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