Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published March 18th 2022
Singing about themselves means they know the subject
Songwriters write songs about all manner of subjects, from the abstract to the concrete, from personal stories to generalisations. They need to know about their subject so they can accurately portray the emotions that go into a song. And what subject would they know as much about as their own self?
Okay, yes, in some cases it is a matter of pure egotism. In some, the song actually gave the band their name (rare, but there), and in others it is to make a distinct point. Examples of all three are in this list.
Now, the songs on this list have the name of the band or artist deliberately in the title. A song like 'Killer Queen' by Queen is not about the band or making a point that would involve the band, so it is not here. And the artist's name has to appear in the song title in some form. I have 16 songs I like in my collection that fall under this umbrella, so I'll just say I left out 'The Real Slim Shady' by Eminem because it is not really his name in the title, just a knick-name. I also ignored instrumentals because sometimes just naming it after the band is easy (like 'Chuck's Beat' by Chuck Berry).
So, normal rules – I need to like the song, one song per artist (seriously, that is a consideration), I own it, the usual stuff.
'Hey! Bo Diddley' by Bo Diddley (1957)
Remember I said some artists gave me a few options? I have three in my collection of Bo Diddley tracks. This is my favourite of them. Diddley's signature percussive guitar sound is great and never more powerful than here, with the drums pounding along in time.
'Theme From The Monkees' by The Monkees (1966)
I was debating whether to include this as it was named for the TV series which gave the band their name, but the fact they sing, "Hey, hey, we're The Monkees!" made me go for it. This song is not just an introduction, but a mission statement – this is a fun band.
'Black Sabbath' by Black Sabbath (1970)
The title track from their debut album is a dark, brooding piece which comes with some controversy. A band called Coven had a song of the same name, and did much of what Black Sabbath did with their onstage presentation, but pre-dated them by years… and yet Black Sabbath denied having heard of them. Still, if you're into dark metal, this is where it started.
'Bad Company' by Bad Company (1974)
A very bluesy track, the title track of the band's debut album, and one of the many great tracks this band produced during the first portion of their career. Paul Rodgers has an amazing voice (which is why he got to record an album with Queen after Freddie Mercury's death, I guess) and here you can hear his musical roots.
'Public Image' by Public Image Ltd (1978)
John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten) felt the Sex Pistols had just become an image of pathetic punks, and no-one was listening to his lyrics. So he wrote this song about the fact the band had become nothing more than a public image, and then named his new band after the song as worked irony. Good song too.
'We Are Racey' by Racey (1979)
I mentioned in my review of the classic album that this song has grown on me, and I stand by that. Slow, welcoming an audience to a show, it's a strange song that stands out on a fun party album.
'Iron Maiden' by Iron Maiden (1980)
The first iteration of the band, the title track is sung by Paul Di'Anno and Dennis Stratton is on guitar. But this marked the intention of the band, a piece of NWOBHM that has become a staple of their live act. Hearing it live with Bruce Dickinson singing it – this is awesome… which is why he's the one doing the song in the live video clip.
'This Is Radio Clash' by The Clash (1981)
And we have another band who sang about themselves more than once! I like this one best, as it fuses their reggae/ska inflected music with their punk rocking so well. Of course, the concept of a pirate radio station means absolutely nothing any longer, but it was the height of being subversive in the UK, and what could be more punk than that?
'Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)' by Wham! (1982)
The first single by the George Michael/Andrew Ridgeley duo, and one that failed to chart (and I can't believe I missed this one for that column!) despite being quite decent for the time.
'Talk Talk' by Talk Talk (1982)
The song was written when the lead singer was in a different band, and gave its name to the new band when he formed it. This is a decent bit of 1980s new wave from a band that would go on to have a string of good songs (including 'It's My Life', later covered by No Doubt).
'In A Big Country' by Big Country (1983)
Under the late Stuart Adamson, Big Country were a rock group that released a number of great albums and singles, of which only a few bothered the charts, which is a shame because they were great! This, their first hit and biggest single, talking about dreams, is another mission statement for a band.
'Highwayman' by The Highwaymen (1985)
A country music super-group consisting of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, this Jimmy Webb written track about a highwayman reincarnated time and time again allowed all four men to have their own verse and it worked amazingly well for that. The past present and future of country was how they saw themselves, and this song was indicative of that.
'My Name Is Prince' by Prince (1992)
Apparently the singer's name is Prince and he believes he is funky. This is definitely an ego-driven song, but when you are as talented as Prince, you're allowed to have some conceit. And, yes, he most definitely is funky.
'Doop' by Doop (1994)
Europop at its dorkiest, from the 1990s when everything could have a dance beat thrown behind it and sell a million copies. And, sadly, I have the extended cassingle of this. The whole flapper music song from the 1920s (that's 100 years ago!) with that beat is infectious. This is the only version I still occasionally listen to, so that's why I've put this up instead of the original.
'Amy Shark' by Amy Shark (2021)
As I said in my Cry Forever review, this autobiographical song is raw and wonderful and closes out that album magnificently, and so it shall also close out this list the same way.
Fifteen tracks about the artists themselves, and they are not bad songs at all. Sometimes that inward-looking can produce some amazing music, as seen here.
Good list. John Lennon wrote a few, including Long Lost John from the Anthology and The Ballad of John and Yoko by The Beatles, during which he sings â€śTheyâ€™re going to crucify me.â€ť He got that right.