Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One-Mind Tracks: Self-Referencing Songs

In the present day, many rappers tag a song as theirs by using their name during the intro. And you can barely listen to a Lady Gaga song without hearing "Gaga" somewhere in it. But the storied history of bands singing about themselves goes way back. I would like to share with you eight of my favorite examples of bands singing about themselves.

The Monkees by The Monkees
This one's probably the simplest to explain: The Monkees was a TV show. The theme song to the show doubled as a song on the band's first album. Luckily, it's a solid song (granted, it's easier to listen to if you haven't watched every episode of the series multiple times).

Welcome to Tally Hall by Tally Hall
Back to the old stand-by, I once again bring your attention to Tally Hall. This song not only references the band as a whole, it also introduces each member individually. In addition, it serves to introduce audiences to the whimsy and sometimes varying styles of the band.

Everybody Have Fun Tonight by Wang Chung
I assume it has something to do with the way the music market was set up in the 80s, but it seems it was very common for artists to create "self-titled" songs. I'm going to assume the MTV influx of new artists played a role: to make yourself memorable, it helps if you have a theme song. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" was released somewhere in the middle of Wang Chung's career though, so draw from that what you will.

In a Big Country by Big Country
Big Country released quite a few albums. They had three songs that charted in the top 100 in the U.S. But if you've heard any of their songs apart from this one, I would be astounded. In the U.S., they are considered to be one of those "one-hit wonders." This song has a wonderful sound though, I can't imagine what would keep people away from their full discography.

Talk Talk by Talk Talk
Talk Talk are one of the most well-respected groups of the 80s (in the musical community that knows who they are). I'd always thought maybe this song was a concept pushed by the record label, but there is an early demo of this song (then titled "Talk Talk Talk Talk") from 1977 available on Within Without. So I guess the band name probably came from this song rather than the reverse.

They Might Be Giants by They Might Be Giants
Since They Might Be Giants have a great sense of humor about themselves, I can't really imagine this song not existing. Interestingly, They Might Be Giants also recorded "We're The Replacements," which some assume is a cover of a self-referencing song by The Replacements, but it's simply They Might Be Giants making a comment about being on the road in a band [Source].

Fistful of Mercy by Fistful of Mercy
I heard an interview with the band a while back (I can't remember where or I would cite it), in which they basically state that they decided to give themselves a self-titled song. It's a far cry from the humor of "They Might Be Giants," but "Fistful of Mercy" is a very flowing, soulful song, much like the rest of Fistful of Mercy's album.

Creeque Alley by The Mamas and the Papas
While the band's full name is never mentioned, "Creeque Alley" tells the tale of the genesis of The Mamas and the Papas and The Lovin' Spoonful (and a little bit of The Byrds'). It also references their hit "California Dreamin'."

KMFDM also sing about themselves a lot. It can be pretty amusing.

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