Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

What's In A Name? (album titles)

Album titles.   A their best, they can help evoke the mood of the music within or announce the band's attitude, be it humorous, agressive, self-indulgent or self-loathing.  At their worst, they simply copy the song title that’s most likely to get radio play (Genesis's Invisible Touch wins the "Most Shameful Album Title" award in my book).

Some album titles are legendary: Exile on Main Street, The Dark Side of the Moon, Blood on the Tracks, Physical Graffiti, OK Computer.  Others are forgettable, like the self-titled debuts of countless bands or the predictable Roman numeral titles that follow (the band Chicago wins the award for this category, their last album titled Chicago XXXII).  Some albums have numbers that have nothing to do with chronology: 90125, 5150.  Others have letters and numbers that represent words: OU812.  Some are lengthy and cumbersome: A Momentary Lapse of Reason, St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Don’t Shoot Me – I’m Only the Piano Player.  Others are sparse and to the point: Valotte, Imagine, Fragile, Tommy, Graceland, Trust.  Some album titles help define a band’s attitude: Destroyer, Ballbreaker, Pyromania, Lovesexy.  Others are more elusive: In Through the Out Door, Panorama, Green, Skylarking.  Some are funny: Bricks Are Heavy, Got Any Gum?  Others are introspective: Blue, Even in the Quietest Moments…  Some album titles copy other artist's songs and books: Night and Day, Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams, Tales of Mystery and Imagination.  Others have songs that have inspired filmmakers and authors to do the same: Jumpin' Jack Flash, Sweet Caroline, Are You Experienced?

The worst album title I can recall is The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken by REO Speedwagon.  Even Kevin Cronin, the band’s lead singer, regretted this title years later, though that may have had more to do with the album’s poor sales.

As a kid, I was always enthralled with Journey’s album titles (and their accompanying artwork): Infinity, Evolution, Departure, though in hindsight the titles are incongruous with what was basically a solid pop band.  A better pairing of music and album titles is the band Yes.  If a fan was displeased after purchasing the album Tales from Topographic Oceans, a double album that contains only four songs, he couldn’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

But my vote for the greatest album title of all-time: The Ego Has Landed by Robbie Williams.  I've never listened to the album itself, but it hardly matters.  The title is brilliant, and I wish to hell I’d thought of it first.

Copyright, 2015, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved