Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Post Has No Title

I figure the practice of giving songs titles that have nothing to do with the lyrics is a way of keeping some street cred, of distancing yourself from easy pop worship by casual fans. If you want to know what's going on with a band that gives its songs obscure names, you can't just hear them on the radio; you've got to buy the album , or at least download some of it. The true fans will be into the band enough to recognize that the song's real title is "Sliver," and they get to laugh at the Johnny-come-latelies who start screaming for "Grandma Take Me Home."

I think Led Zeppelin was the first well-known, major band to give songs those kinds of titles regularly: "Black Dog," "D'yer Mak'er," etc. I have been reliably assured that "Kashmir" doesn't quite fall into this category.

At the same time, though, the mighty Zep would haul out the occasional "Stairway to Heaven" or "Whole Lotta Love," where it would be pretty unmistakable which song you were talking about. Near as I can tell, it was New Order that took this to the next level: Hardly any New Order song titles reflect what's in the lyrics. "Blue Monday"? "True Faith"? What has that got to do with anything? I am a New Order fan, and I have to occasionally remind myself which song is which, although not with the titanic "Bizarre Love Triangle."

And it's pretty ridiculous. Why can't they just give us a name that we can quickly associate with the song? Some really good bands do a lot of this kind of thing these days, like Radiohead or the Shins, and it's time for them to cut it out. You know what the Beatles called that song that went "Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be"? Coldplay would have called it "Armored Arrow," but the Beatles called it "Let It Be."

5 comments:

MJN said...

Actually, the title "D'yer Mak'er" is quite descriptive of the song. Hint: In American English, the title would have been "D'ja Make 'Er?"

I still have to remind myself which Bob Dylan song is "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" and which is "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

Innocent Bystander said...

I just spent an hour going through my list of favorite pop songs (1,487 in all), and found only 14 such songs. No fewer than FIVE of them are from Simon and Garfunkel:

1. 59th Street Bridge Song
2. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
3. Kathy's Song
4. Bookends Theme (not the instrumental, but rather, "Time it was...")
5. El Condor Pasa

And three of the 14 I found are of the form "X's song":

1. The aforementioned "Kathy's Song"
2. "Danny's Song", Loggins & Messina
3. "Annie's Song", John Denver

Gavin said...

Duchamp also engaged in this despicable practice--look, you can call it "Fountain" if you want, Marcel, but it's clearly a urinal. And what's up with Mondrian calling that painting "Broadway Boogie Woogie"? Shouldn't it just be "A Bunch of Yellow, Red, and Blue Squares"?

Tom Nawrocki said...

As Gladys Knight said, "Ceci n'est pas une Pip."

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