What Should We Call It? (Naming an Album)

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by Chris Familton

Choosing a name for the collection of songs that you’ve spent hours, days or often years sweating into existence can be a stressful and difficult exercise. There are countless tales of bands leaving it to the last minute with no inkling of what to christen their creative work. There are also many albums where the musician has a theme, concept and a title clearly defined in their mind as they write, or at the very least, record their album; Neil Young’s Greendale being a good example.

Over the years there have been some seminal albums with names that sound as perfectly formed as the music contained within. Of course it can be hard to separate the title from the music much in the same way that a child becomes their name, even if it initially sounded like a ridiculous moniker. Marquee Moon, Raw Power, Meat Is Murder, Nevermind, Loveless, Sweetheart of the Rodeo – they all convey emotion and a visceral connection to the music they are attached to.

Conversely there have been some absolute clunkers attributed to albums regardless of how good the music is. Eric Clapton’s latest Old Sock, Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water only scrape the surface of terrible album names that could never be redeemed by the music they grace. One wonders if those around them ever thought to pipe up and say “Excuse me Sir Paul, with all respect do you really think it is a good idea to call your album Kisses on the Bottom?” Maybe the names were all just victims of a bad sense of humour or a tragic pun like Toby Keith’s Shock’n Y’all or Blink 182’s Enema of the State but regardless there is no excuse for sabotaging all that hard work in a few syllables or words.

Often a song title will provide the name of the album. Mostly this is the case, presumably as the chosen song in some way represents the mood or theme of the record or because it is a catchy phrase that will linger in the listener’s mind. Too often acts take the cop-out route and go with their own name – the self-titled syndrome. Perhaps it was John Lydon’s PiL who found the best way to circumvent having to decide on something when they christened their 1986 release – Album.

this piece was first published as an interview sidebar in Drum Media streetpress 

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