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Album titles - they’re a load of old nonsense thought up on the spur of the moment aren’t they? Well, not always. Some titles have a deep significance, as Radio X is about to reveal…
Much of R.E.M.’s work is rooted in their hometown of Athens, Georgia and the title of their hugely-popular 1992 album is no exception. Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods had been serving “soul food” since 1986 and their slogan “Automatic For The People” inspired Michael Stipe. The shop looked like it was going to close at the end of 2013, but thankfully it’s celebrating it's still going. Photo: http://weaverds.com/Facebook.
There must be Smiths fans out there in the world that don’t know that Strangeways is the commonly used name for Her Majesty’s Prison on Southall Street, Manchester M60. The jail was built on the grounds of Strangeways Park in 1868 and by 1980 was a destination for remand prisoners. After the controversy over The Smiths’ previous album title, The Queen Is Dead, Morrissey considered that he would ultimately end up behind bars for treason.
What’s an ellipsis…? You’ve just seen one… Oh, and there’s another. The dot-dot-dots in printed text are included to represent one or more words which have been deliberately left out… sometimes to indicate vagueness or intrigue. Ellipsis means “omission” in Greek. If there’s more than one (as in this paragraph), you’d refer to them as ellipses.
The classic debut takes its title from Alan Sillitoe’s 1958 novel Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. An example of the “angry young man” work of the era, the story features 21-year-old anti-hero Arthur Seaton and an evening in the pub that rapidly unravels thanks to his shenanigans with two married women. The themes of impetuous youth are similar to Alex Turner’s lyrics as Arthur cries: “Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not because they don't know a bloody thing about me! God knows what I am.”
Noel Gallagher is a huge Beatles fan, so it’s likely he picked up the title for the momentous 1997 follow-up to (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? from a track with the same name on George Harrison’s 1973 album Living In The Material World. But where did George get it from? American spiritual guru Ram Dass wrote a book called Remember, Be Here Now in 1971. The phrase essentially concerns the idea that thinking about the past or the future means the person loses focus on the only thing that is real: the here and now.
According to Paul McCartney, “plastic soul” was a term used by black musicians in the early 1960s to describe the faux R&B music produced by white singers, such as himself, Mick Jagger and many more. According to Beatles chronicler Mark Lewisohn, he mentioned this on tape after the Fabs had recorded a take of their own plastic soul classic I’m Down, in 1965. When the band were looking for a title for their next LP, they put a twist on this phrase.
After recording the epic Station To Station in late 1975, Bowie had grown weary of the unhealthy atmosphere of Los Angeles and sought to clean out his mind and body by keeping his head down in Berlin. The next album he made was a nod to the fact that he’d effectively kept out of the public eye for the best part of a year. The cover forms a visual pun: the title, plus a shot of Bowie from the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, showing the musician in profile = “Low Profile”.
Brett Anderson and co’s 1994 album was titled in tribute to avant garde filmaker Stan Brakhage’s series of short films: Dog Star Man. Made between 1961 and 1964, the shorts feature abstract imagery with no soundtrack and appear to tell a story of birth, life and death, with the director himself appearing as a woodsman with an axe, climbing up a mountain.
Brandon Flowers’ quartet hails from Las Vegas, Nevada and Sam’s Town is a casino and hotel that resides at 5111 Boulder Highway. Opened in 1979, the casino was designed to attract local, rather than tourist, trade and the venue’s sign was visible through bassist Mark Stoermer’s childhood bedroom window. With the band huge Anglophiles, they liked the idea of creating their own mystique about their hometown, the same way New Order and The Smiths did with Manchester.
According to Thom Yorke, the title of the band’s massive 1997 album came from a trip to Japan. On a visit to a record shop he heard a kid shout the phrase loudly at them. He then got the entire crowd to shout it with him, which Thom recorded on tape. The phrase reflected the record’s themes of modern life and accepting the presence of technology into your world.
On 19 February 1980, AC/DC’s singer Bon Scott died from acute alcohol poisoning and asphyxiation after a night of heavy drinking while out on the town in London. The band had already started work on the follow-up to 1979’s hugely popular album Highway To Hell. When it finally arrived in July 1980, Acca Dacca had a new singer, Brian Johnson, but the title and cover depicted a band in mourning for their lost comrade.
If you pronounce the title of the Manchester band’s second album with a “Z” (ie Clozer), you’d be forgiven that they knew it would be their final outing before the death of singer Ian Curtis. But it’s not pronounced like that. As guitarist Bernard Sumner has pointed out, the group weren’t overly happy with producer Martin Hannett’s spacious and abstract work on their debut Unknown Pleasures. They felt the follow-up was CLOSER to the rockier sound they wanted.
The band’s first album on their own Big Brother imprint saw Noel Gallagher quote Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Or rather, mis-quote him - Oasis have a single shoulder, whereas everyone normally has two. Noel saw the quote on the edge of the new £2 coin. Newton was Master Of The Royal Mint for 30 years and made the comment in a letter to the philosopher Robert Hooke, in which he claims his achievements in science would only be possible thanks to the accomplishments of his predecessors. A bit like Oasis and The Beatles, really.
For the historians among you, the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum was a group of mental hospitals in Yorkshire, built in the Victorian era: Stanley Royd in Wakefield (pictured), South Yorkshire Asylum in Sheffield, High Royds Hospital in Menston and Storthes Hall in Kirkburton. Guitarist Serge Pizzorno heard the name on a TV documentary and liked the words, misquoting it for the band’s third album in 2009. According to one theory, each song is about a different inmate in the asylum.
Jack and Meg White’s second album from 2000 refers to the Dutch art movement De Stijl, aka “The Style”, which was founded in 1917 and continued until the early 1930s. One of the members was the artist Piet Mondrian, whose abstract painting style is imitated on the album cover. BONUS FACT: The Beatles’ former bassist Stuart Sutcliffe used the pseudonym Stu de Stijl when the Fabs went on tour in Scotland in 1960.
After the death of JD singer Ian Curtis in May 1980, much of the band’s earlier work was out of print and many of these tracks were being issued on illegal albums, known in the trade as “bootlegs”. The original meaning of “bootlegging” dates back to the making of illicit alcohol in the American Civil War and was used during prohibition in the late 1920s. Since the moonshine would be brewed in a huge wooden or copper still, Factory decided to name this compilation as a hint that this is where you’d find all those illegally copied tracks.
Remember Quadrophonic sound? No? It was an early attempt to create “SurroundSound” using four speakers rather than the usual two for stereo. The equipment was costly and didn’t catch on, but for a time in the early 1970s, it was a luxury item for audiophiles. Some albums - Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and John Lennon’s Imagine, for example - were mixed and released in quadrophonic editions. So, in 1973, when Pete Townshend was writing his rock opera about a confused young man coming to terms with his identity, the sleeve notes explained: “It must be alright to be plain ordinary mad… Schizophrenic? I'm bleeding Quadrophenic.”