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In this regular feature we ask the Everything Indie Over 40 social media community to help us compile a top ten list of a chosen topic. Our resident curator John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) then ponders, disects and finally presents.

In this edition:-

The Indie Top Ten Songs With Ten Or More Words In The Title

When I was a young child I came across a book of poetry on the bookcase in the kitchen. Three poets, all from Liverpool, contributed to the anthology which was entitled ‘The Mersey Sound’. Amongst the wit and rhyme contained within was a poem whose title was almost as long as the poem itself, written by Adrian Henri:

Song For A Beautiful Girl Petrol-Pump Attendant On The Motorway

I wanted your soft verges
But you gave me the hard shoulder

The art of naming a song is perhaps a bit more challenging than that of a naming a poem; after all, most poetry anthologies contain both a list of titles and an index of first lines. To be remembered effectively a song should have a catchy hook, usually a line of the song that is also the title, and consequently the shorter the better. However, taking the song as an art-form, sometimes a longer title is much more appropriate and representative of the song’s intent.

To that end, here is the Everything Indie Over 40 Top Ten Songs With Ten Or More Words In Their Title (that’s fifteen words in our own title, if you’re counting…)

For the statisticians amongst you, there were 75 different suggestions for songs to fit this category, with an average length of 12.72 words per title. That’s a total of 954 words. The shortest was, of course, only 10 words in length. The longest (by a mile?) was a nomination which clocked in at a mere 53 words, presuming of course that I didn’t lose count along the way.

I am not quite sure how impressed either the record shop counter assistant or those queuing behind @charlie_clown would have been when he asked for a copy of that Sufjan Stevens track ‘The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You’re Going To Have To Leave Now, Or, “I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!”’. I love this title for two reasons: firstly the indecision as to exactly which extremely long title best suits the song and secondly the generosity shown by the contraction of the words ‘You’ and ‘Are’ into ‘You’re’, just in case the title was getting too long for us to remember.


One of the many joys in a long song title is the opportunity for the writer to demonstrate the surrealism of their train of thought. Sufjan Stevens has taken many an opportunity to do this. Los Campesinos! is another act to get carried away with the length of their song titles. Both @Perlalaloca and @MerrieCityMan suggested ‘A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or Letters From Me To Charlotte’.

Quite what this heat rash looks like (apart from the Show Me State, obviously) is both unclear and intriguing. It also provides more fuel for the imagination than the alternative half of the title.

 Indeed it is probably cheating by having a very long title that is basically just a collection of alternative titles for the same thing. The same would apply to songs containing brackets, especially when the brackets contain an alternative title for that song. Take, for example, The BluetonesAutophilia (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Car)’, as nominated by @moztheboston, @bringitonskippy and @MarkMarkRoss.

Neither suggested title is in the lyric, the single word is not exactly one that is in every day use and the bracketed alternative doesn’t give the whole picture either, for as far as I can see the song doesn’t give any indication of worry in the first place. Judge for yourselves, anyway.


No, I reckon The Bluetones would have been far better off being a bit blunter, a bit more honest. Rather than hiding behind a metaphorical approach to their subject matter they could have come straight out and laid any potential anxiety on the line.

That’s what The Brilliant Corners did. Straight to the point, no messing, no need for any alternative title, no need to decipher exactly what the context might be: ‘Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him When You Could Go Out With Me’, as nominated by @Dalliance68 and @Salient Braves leaves the listener in no doubt.


 That song might well have provided a post-dated musical prequel to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetic suggestion that “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. This of course would be of no consolation to Another Sunny Day who did nothing to dispel the Sarah Records stereotype with the title of their track ‘I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist’.

Maybe @MaScrieven could have a word with the girl in question for them? Or maybe ten or more words – when there are so many at our disposal it seems churlish to be selective.


 Latter-day indie bands clearly learned from the dismissive approach of their predecessors – fey, twee, navel-gazing, shambling – were all terms used derogatively to label bands writing songs about personal love and emotion as opposed to the mass-market generic ‘love’ songs churned out by many major label artists. And I mean artists in the loosest sense.

The joy of indie was (is) that of independence and as such individuality. These terms certainly became associated with the next act in our Top Ten. Arctic Monkeys took a more self-deprecating approach to a similar subject matter than Another Sunny Day; “And I’m so tense, never tenser/Could all go a bit Frank Spencer?’ is a great line in the wryly-titled ‘You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me’. Thanks to @RiverboatCaptain, @BullAntics and @Eveshambaggy for this suggestion.


 If it is better to have loved and lost, that does not mean that doing so removes any degree of pain or unhappiness. Indeed, the depth of such agony can rarely be measured, especially when concerning affairs of the heart. On their (ultimately) breakthrough album ‘Gold Mother’ James included a track entitled ‘You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling)’. An old adage, and one which doesn’t need the brackets if we’re being perfectly honest. Let’s not hold that against @sharkastic though, if only because it’s a very good song.


 And of course, suffering is not just restricted to love and loss. Sometimes it is a direct consequence of things unrequited, or the so near-yet-so-far: Dean Holdsworth’s open goal miss in extra time of the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa in 2000 still brings shivers to my spine.

And there are traumas far worse than that to contend with too. Take for example the long-suffering narrator in the Half Man Half Biscuit track ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit’, nominated by both @GLPNE73 and @Carter_69, as he is handed his unemployment benefit from an old school friend; life could have turned out so, so differently.


 In fact, for some people life does indeed turn out very differently. A few years ago the chippy down the road from where I lived was owned by a family, one of whom was the spitting image of Dudley Moore. Politeness meant that I never had the courage to ask her if she was actually the famous actor, but gender aside it wasn’t inconceivable.

Lots of one-time famous people return to a life of normality. Boy George was seen sweeping the streets (ok, community service was the real reason, but hey…), which makes me wonder whether the character in Kirsty MacColl ‘There’s A Guy Down The Chip Shop Who Swears He’s Elvis’, nominated by @CTootell and @trustthewizards, might just be who he thought he was.


 By the time you get to the end of this final paragraph you will have read 1,381words. I haven’t been counting of course; the computer does it for me. I trust you have enjoyed this snapshot of the many suggestions for inclusion in The Indie Top Ten Songs With Ten Or More Words In Their Title. If you haven’t, well, that’s just tough and my retort to you is this song, appropriately by Johnny Boy and suggested by @maffrj: ‘You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve’. So there!


 John Hartley

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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