Monday, 10 September 2012

Top 10 Silliest AAA Album Titles (News, Views and Music Issue 161)

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to write about except empty vacuous pop music and the flipping Spice Girls reunions. It goes without saying that occasionally each and every one of our respected stars at least reaches towards genius. However, it’s also true to say that occasionally some of them reach too far – and fall flat on their face. Hence this week’s top ten article, for which we’ve chosen the 10 daftest AAA album titles we could think of! No doubt we’ll restore the balance with a ‘top 10 greatest AAA album titles’ at some point in the near future, but for now have a chuckle at this little lot. Groups have been restricted to one entry each so they don’t feel we’re picking on them – although repeat offenders like the Jefferson family and The Kinks (who had several entries that nearly made the list with ‘Something Else’ ‘The Road’ and ‘Part One: Lola vs Powerman And The Money Go Round’) deserve a special mention:

The Rolling Stones “December’s Children (And Everybody’s)” (1965) A marvellous piece of gobbledegook, this is the American version of the album known in Europe by the only slightly more comprehensible title ‘Out Of Our Heads’. Apparently the title was coined by the first Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in a desperate attempt to try and look hip – which didn’t really work (the Stones were many things but – thankfully - never tried to fit into the beatnik literary scene suggested here). ‘December’s Children’ they could have gotten away with (although given how early in the Stones’ career this is surely April showers would have been a better fit?) – but the addition of ‘And Everybody’s’ sounds too much like a knee-jerk re-action to ‘oops, don’t want to put the fans off!’ At least the band were trying I suppose – after the release of ‘Rolling Stones no 2’ I had a nasty feeling all their albums were going to be numbered...(on that basis their last album ‘A Bigger Bang’ would have been titled ‘Rolling Stones no 22’).

The Who “Magic Bus – The Who On Tour!” (1967) A fair title for a live album you’ll all be thinking, especially with the front cover of the band (minus Keith Moon) fooling around on a psychedelically painted bus. But what if I was to tell you that this isn’t a live album at all, just a shoddily packaged collection of B-sides and unissued tracks put together by the Who’s American record label? You’d be pretty annoyed, right? Well, so were the band’s fans and indeed the band themselves, who thought they were being photographed for a tour poster rather than an album sleeve. A shame, because the use of the title here meant The Who were never allowed to use the ‘Magic Bus’ idea for any of their ‘proper’ live recordings, where it would have been a good fit (especially here in the psychedelic era). If the record label – Decca to name names – had really wanted the title and picture that badly then for heavens sake why not record a real live album to go with it?! (‘Live at Leeds’, released in 1970, became the first live Who album and its plain brown bootleg-resembling sleeve may well have been a ‘protest’ at this front cover!) As for studio records, the Who’s impenetrable ‘Face Dances’ (based on a song that didn’t even make the finished album) only missed the list by a whisker.

The Hollies “Sing Hollies” (1969) To be fair I understand the reasoning. The Hollies had, after all, just released an album of Bob Dylan covers and naturally enough titled it ‘Hollies Sing Dylan’. This was also their first album of homespun recordings since Graham Nash had left the group and newboy Terry Sylvester joined – despite being a scouser to their Mancunians there’s surprisingly little change in the band’s sound and their determination to make this fact known to the public by making a ‘Hollies’ record comes through loud and clear. Taken out of context, though, ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ simply sounds daft – who else were they meant to be singing?! The Beatles?!? (Actually, there’s an album I’d love to own!) And what’s with that cover – beige lace shirts seems like a bad unfashionable look for a band trying to look as ‘hip’ as ever and even my sartorially challenged self wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those shirts. Other Hollies discrepancies include calling two separate studio albums (and dozens of compilations) ‘The Hollies’, thus confusing collectors for many years to come and forcing them to add the release dates after each edition so fans know if they’re talking about the 1965 version with the black-and-white front cover or the 1974 reunion one all decked out in grey.

Stephen Stills “Stephen Stills II” (1971) At least this title is logical, I suppose, but it doesn’t leave much evidence of Stills’ amazingly prolific imagination, seeing how this album is sandwiched between ‘Stephen Stills’ and the Manassas collaboration ‘Stephen Stills Manassas’ (with ‘Stills’ the title of Stephen’s next solo record). That, surely, is at least one record title too many and leaves fans extremely puzzled as to which Stephen Stills record they are talking about. The CSN parent family don’t get off scot free either, what with albums titled ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’ and ‘CSN’! Jefferson Starship “Red Octopus” (1975) The silliest of many album titles best described as ‘quirky’, there’s a feeling that the well is running dry by 1975 after such genius-borderlining-on-stupidity-album-titles as ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ (and the forthcoming ‘Nuclear Furniture’. Well, I know what it means!) This album – curiously the best-selling of all of the Starship’s run despite being no better or worse than the four albums either side of it – makes the list just for sheer oddity. None of the songs make mention of anything to do with octopuses or with anything being ‘red’ – and I for one have never heard of a ‘red octopus’ - the band clearly just wanted a bonkers title without any associations, which leaves them squids in in terms of sales but lots of fans scratching their heads trying to make sense of it all.

Paul McCartney and Wings “At The Speed Of Sound” (1976) Wings’ fifth album, this album follows such curious titles as ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and is a pre-cursor to the oddity ‘Back To The Egg’, but at least those two make some zany kind of sense (‘Rose’ being accompanied by a sleeve featuring flowers and motorbikes, hinting as some kind of updated idea on beauty and ‘Egg’ focusing on evolution, in keeping with the retro spirit of much of the contents). ‘The Speed Of Sound’ title, though, is just daft: to play this record at the speed of sound you’d need a special machine and if it did play that fast it would sound all squeaky and odd. Which, perhaps, explains some of the lower moments on the record. As for the sleeve – few bands can compete in terms of dullness, with a curious ladder-and-letters motif and some over-exposed images on the back sleeve that seem to suggest the band are moving ‘faster than the speed of sound’ but simply makes them look drunk. The rumour is ‘Sound’ is the next album due out in the McCartney ‘deluxe’ editions – let’s hope it all looks rather more beautiful than this curious original. Eerie website co-incidence #332: Janis Joplin’s ‘Light Is Faster Than Sound’ has turned up on random on my mp3 player while writing this passage at odds of at least 9000 (tracks) to one! McCartney’s solo titles are much more interesting than his Wings era ones (‘Tug Of War’ ‘Press To Play’ ‘Flowers In the Dirt’) though even he’s resorted to calling an album ‘McCartney II’ like those above (he waited a decade since ‘McCartney’ to use the title though!) and another bizarre, meaningless title ‘Chaos and Creation In The Back Yard’ is a second shoe-in for the list.

Ringo Starr “Ringo’s Rotogravure” (1976) A rotogravure is a special type of camera that can transfer ink onto an etched shadow and can create a really haunting, special type of image. A Ringo is an ex-Beatle who seems to love being rude to fans and his home city of Liverpool. And angeresd them all bymaking sub-standard albums like this, with the unlistenable studio conversation-plus-sound effects ‘Spooky Weirdness’ from this album at least a candidate for the biggest ever waste of vinyl (after the Spice Girls, natrurally). By 1976 this demand for album titles with alliterative puns is getting increasingly desperate to the point where the title no longer makes sense. Put the two together and you get a monocle-eyed Ringo on an album sleeve shot the normal way (not on a rotogravure) and some of the worst rock and roll covers on record by anybody anywhere, ever (this is Ringo’s equivalent of Lennon’s ‘Lost Weekend’ and the sessions suffered just as much; not co-incidentally this is the last time Lennon is heard on record during his ‘Lost Weekend’ and before his ‘retirement’; he’s never sounded drunker or more out of control). Ringo is also not immune to the ‘1,2,3,4’ syndrome, although at least his album ‘Ringo the 4th’ comes complete with an album sleeve of the drummer dressed up to look like a King which shows a bit of imagination.

Dire Straits “Money For Nothing” (1987) ‘Hello, this is the boss of Vertigo on the phone....yeah, I’ve got an idea for a guaranteed best-seller this Christmas...Dire Straits, yeah, they’re the biggest sellers we’ve got at the moment but alas if I know Mark Knopfler they’re gonna take ages recording the follow-up to ‘Brothers In Arms and I’ve been thinking ‘how about a compilation to tide us over?...Yeah I don’t know what to call it...Erm, how ‘bout we name it after whatever Dire Straits’ biggest hit?...Yeah I don’t either, get someone to look it up...And no, I don’t care what title that would make it, just stick it out anyway...’ And that might be the story of how possible the most cynical/stupid mistake of the entire history of the record era came into being. Rule of selling #1: make the purchaser think they’re going to buy a bargain, something special they’ll treasure. Do not, under any circumstances, tell them they are being ripped off in such a blatant way. Money for nothing? Well, let me tell you, with just one exclusive live track (the hardly earth-shattering ‘Portobello Belle’) and one unavailable-on-album-but-you-don’t-want-to-own-it-‘cause-its-horrid-single (‘Twisting By The Pool’) ‘Money For Nothing’ sounds about right. What was wrong with naming it ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘The Walk Of Life’? I’d also like to add that the Dire Straits live album ‘Alchemy’ is clearly intended to conjure up images of turning boring rocks into gold, but unfortunately for them alchemy also works the other way round – and hearing gorgeous songs turned into dreadfully dull ten minute jam sessions for an hour, I know which my money’s on...

The Moody Blues “Sur La Mer” (1988) This is a Moody Blues album. It was recorded in France. In a studio by the sea. The band didn’t know what to call it but decided that as they were in France a nice French phrase that rolled off the tongue would be best. Unfortunately they plumped for ‘Sur La Mer’, which though not the worst offender on the list is still daft. How can an album be ‘by the sea’? Would the band ever have titled an album simply ‘By The Sea’ in English? Did they just hope people wouldn’t work out what it really meant?! And yes, by Moodies high standards, the album really is awfully ‘wet’! By comparison confusing album titles like ‘Days Of Future Passed’ and ‘On The Threshold Of A Dream’ sounds really good, although we nominate sixth album ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ as one of the cleverest titles, referring to both the musical motif (EGBDF are the notes represented by the five lines in the middle of sheet music) and the ‘what goes around comes around’ half-theme of the album. And at least they didn’t call their albums ‘1,2’3’4’ etc for once!

Neil Young “Chrome Dreams II” (2008) Only Neil would release a follow-up to an album that, technically, never came out (even once) officially - even though its beloved of fans on bootleg. And only Neil would re-use a name that’s possibly his worst ever, ‘Chrome Dreams’ being an ugly, confusing title about an album that, for the benefit of newcomers, isn’t the concept one about his car (that’s ‘Fork In The Road’) but sounds like it should have been. It also has one of the worst covers of all time: a close-up of a Buick’s radiator duct – not the car in long shot, not the wheels the seats or even the engine, but the ugliest shot possible of what’s actually quite a lovely car. What on earth is going on?!

Bubbling under our list of daft names: The Kinks “Something Else”, The Beach Boys’ “Carl and The Passions – So Tough”, Belle and Sebastian “The Life Pursuit”, Buffalo Springfield “Again”, The Byrds “Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde”, “The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees”, Oasis “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants”, “It’s The Searchers” and the two albums simply titled “The Small Faces” (bearing in mind there are only three official finished Small Faces album anyway!) What are some of your favourites?! Drop us a line on our forum!

And so ends another newsletter – see you soon on ‘News, Views and Music’ (if our atrocious ATOS form will let me...

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