I was just reading a bio of Jay Reatard, and they mention that his first self-published cassette with his original band, The Reatards, was entitled “Fuck Elvis, Here’s The Reatards.” It has four of the essential attributes of a great album title, as well as four of the pillars of the punk rock ethic: (1) iconoclasm, (2) boastful swagger, (3) referentiality (in this case to the Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”), and (4) laugh-out loud humor.
So that got me thinking about other great album titles. Not great albums. Just the titles. The record inside could be pure unadulterated crap. But there’s a real art to a great title. So here are a few to fire up a thread on the subject: PJ’s all-time favorite “Got Any Gum?” by Joe Walsh. Or another Joe Walsh classic– “You Bought It, You Name it.”
Then there’s the witty turn of phrase, like “Candy Apple Grey” by Husker Du, or “Good News for People Who Like Bad News” by Modest Mouse, which brings to mind “Bad Music for Bad People” by The Cramps. Along these lines, I’ve always been partial to the title of the Elefant CD “Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid.” Billy Bragg’s collection of B-Sides and rarities “Minding the Gaps” is pretty witty as well (but perhaps lost on those who’ve not spent a lot of time on the London Tube).
Or the cheeky reference to works of the rock-n-roll cannon, like the Stones’ “Let It Bleed” (which, rock legend has it, is so named because they heard the Beatles were naming their new–and final one– “Let It Be,” and Mick, Keith and the boys wanted to take the piss out of the Fab Four by releasing theirs a few months earlier), or, similarly, the Replacements’ “Let It Be,” which made me laugh out loud when I heard the title in 1984 and thought “what balls!” The Butthole Surfers (who surely must be on anyone’s list for best band name) had two referential album titles– “Electric Larryland,” and “Hairway to Steven” in this vein, as did the Dead Milkmen with “Metaphysical Grafitti.” They also gave us “Bealzabubba,” which recalls Too Much Joy’s back to back power pop efforts “Son of Sam I Am” and “Cereal Killers” to take it back to the witty turn of phrase category.
The Pogues “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash” (a reference to the quote by Winston Churchill about the three foundations of the British Navy) has to be up there. I always thought the Meat Puppets “Huevos” was hilarious, even before I found out that, in addition to being Spanish for eggs, it was a Mexican slang term for testicles. It’s subtle and sublime. Unlike “Songs About Fucking” by Big Black, which is sublime I think, but about as subtle as a turd in a punchbowl.
Those are a few off the top of my head. I’m sure that I’m forgetting some of my favorites. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this infatuation…