When my kids were born and we were picking baby names, I had a little exercise — first try the name out in a series of rhymes to make sure the playground kids had nothing to work with. Sorry, Art and Bart, but you’re out. Then I made sure even their initials didn’t spell out something awful. Sorry, Arthur Simon Simpson and Bruce Ulysses Morrison.
So, when I see poorly thought-out stuff in advertising or the media, I can’t help but be thoroughly entertained. “One armed man applauds the kindness of strangers,” for example. Or unintentional double-entendres like “Republicans turned off by the size of Obama’s package.”
Of course, album covers aren’t without their fair share of gaffes or ill-conceived text/images. Let’s have a look. I’m also going to include just stupid titles, like The Album by the Jonas Brothers. OMFG, really? That’s the best you could come up with?
While those boys were trying to be simple, the elder Pete Townshend chose a long and idiotic title for his 1982 solo album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. Oh, Pete. What do you think that means? Whatever you think that means is wrong.
Let’s move on to unintentional double entendres. Heaps of artists have made albums called He Touched Me — including Elvis. I know it’s supposed to be a Christian reference. You know, the healing touch of Jesus. But, it always makes me giggle because it just sounds like someone moved to song by a welcome incident of sexual harassment. More to the point, Gary Glitter actually has a record called Touch Me. He wasn’t talking about Jesus. He was, well, never mind. Years later he was jailed for having sex with a child, among other things.
That’s definitely not funny, but this next example is, at least to me: Album titles which refer to the second coming of Christ. Rule: Never use the word coming in your album title. I own a copy of The London Trio’s He’s Coming only for this reason. It’s awesome.
There are also album titles with words which have taken on different meanings over time. See: Gay Songs Of The Ukraine and Songs For Gay Dogs or Catfish by The Four Tops. There’s also heaps of terms and phrases which used to be common but are now avoided due to negative, racist or other such offensive connotations and histories — terms like blackmail, crazy, totem and ghetto.
If John Lennon were still alive in 2012, I’m certain he would have made fun of Paul McCartney for calling his new album Kisses On The Bottom. Sure, it’s a line from a Fats Waller song he covers on the record, but — come on, Paul.
REO Speedwagon are more of a joke than their jokes. Their 1978 album You Can Tune A Guitar But You Can’t Tuna Fish might be the first documented instance of a dad joke. It’s just stupid, guys.
But at least these aren’t grammatical errors. My mother was an elementary school teacher, so I grew up being constantly corrected. She’d have been bothered, no doubt, by Oasis’ 2000 album On The Shoulder Of Giants. They all share one shoulder, I guess.
Sia’s 2017 holiday album Everyday Is Christmas makes me sigh. Every day, Sia. THEY MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS! Like Jackson Browne’s Everyman, which is quite different from “every man,” the word everyday means “ordinary.” It’s an adjective.
It’s not The Zombies’ fault their most popular record is spelled incorrectly. Odessey & Oracle was a gaffe by the guy who painted the album artwork. It should be spelled Odyssey. Kids’ll never notice.
It was a printing error which messed up Jean-Luc Ponty’s 2007 album The Atacama Experience. If you look at the spine of the CD’s first issue you’ll notice it reads The Acatama Experience. Whatever that is.
One which makes me laugh is the 1983 album by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, Pancho & Lefty. The title comes from their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s song. First pressings of the album had it spelled Poncho & Lefty, indicating the pair were expecting drizzle.
R.E.M.’s excellent Lifes Rich Pageant needs a flipping apostrophe, as does the Tom Waits album Franks Wild Years. Ah well, better to leave one out than to put one in where it doesn’t belong, I suppose. (Hello R. Kelly’s Born Into the 90’s, Little River Band’s Help Is On It’s Way, The Go-Go’s, The B-52’s and the debut by The Mama’s And The Papa’s).
Likewise, when you respond to The Rolling Stones’ RSVP, make sure to tell them Beggars Banquet might be lacking an apostrophe. The record label of the same name might be missing one as well. It all just depends on what they mean. That said, often titles and place names don’t have apostrophes, like Bells Corners or St. Johns Wood. And while we’re examining the Stones, maybe it should be either Goat’s Head Soup or just Goat Head Soup. Whatever. Hard pass on that appetizer, either way.
For the same reasons, I suppose Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew could also either have an apostrophe before or after that S, depending on whether said brew is made of, by or for bitches.
Paul Weller is a cool dude, and inadvertently influenced the title of this column (The Style Council / Stylus Counsel) — but his 2015 album Saturns Pattern probably requires an apostrophe.
AC/DC clearly committed an apostrophe crime back in 1990 with their comeback album The Razors Edge. This is not their first offence (Hells Bells). But apostrophe crimes pale in comparison to the dumbassery within — songs like Mistress For Christmas and Got You By The Balls. There’s also a stylistic spelling liberty taken with the title of Moneytalks.
The Strokes committed a grammatical error with their debut album Is This It. I guess that’s a statement, rather than a question? Or, one of those rearrange-the-words thingies like You Are Here… Is This It, This It Is, It Is This.
Nevermind should almost never be used, Nirvana. Except in the expression about paying something “no nevermind,” or if your album is just called Nevermind. The Sex Pistols got it right, but it would be incorrect to use Nevermind The Bollocks…
I presume Bob Dylan was referencing the Wild West outlaw John Wesley Hardin with his 1967 album. I’ve got no idea why it’s Harding.
Yes made a wondrous spelling mistake on their 1977 album Going For The One. Wonderous Stories is a difficult song title to write in a piece like this because autocorrect freaks out.
Jimi Hendrix’s final album has a spelling mistake — Band Of Gypsys. It should be Gypsies because the letter before the Y is a consonant. Excuse me while I drop this i. There’s also a mistake on Jimi’s debut album Are You Experienced. The title track includes a question mark, but not the album title. Get your mind together, Jimi.
Pluralization stumps quite a few, even the Chairman Of The Board. In 1968 he, Frank Jr., Nancy and Tina Sinatra put out a Christmas album called The Sinatra Family Wish You A Merry Christmas. Should be “wishes,” Ol’ Blue Eyes. Family is singular even though there’s multiple people within it. And yes, I know it’s meant to be a play on the famous song title, but if you can make it there…
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.