Viewing music from The Bob Angle often means organizing songs in unconventional or non-intuitive ways. From time to time, I enjoy giving my friends musical and lyrical challenges. I’ll ask questions that force them to categorize music along an axis that they never knew existed; I want to see how agile their minds are and how efficiently they can extract data from their brain’s storehouse of musical knowledge. For example, I’ve asked “Name a song whose lyrics begin with the word and“. The two songs that I can name off the top of my head are Rush – Closer To The Heart (“And the men who hold high places…”) and Frank Sinatra – My Way (“And now, the end is near…”). In that example, I was hoping that my friends could provide me with additional song titles, but so far, no one has been able to add anything to this decidedly diminutive list.
My latest musical challenge is “name a pop or rock song in which the singer mentions his or her own name the song lyrics”. After doing some online searching, I discovered a lot of examples of self-referencing in pop and rock music, but they seem to fall under two general categories: song titles that contain the band’s name, and song lyrics that mention the band’s name.
Band Names in Song Titles
The Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
Bad Company – Bad Company
Big Country – In A Big Country
Bo Diddley – Hey, Bo Diddley
Living In A Box – Living In A Box
Queen – Killer Queen
The Rolling Stones – Like A Rolling Stone
The Stray Cats – Stray Cat Strut
The Who – Who Are You
Band Names In Lyrics
The Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right (To Party): Anyone who is over 40 will remember this slightly rebellious song from their 1986 album Licensed To Ill, and the lines, starting at 2:48 in the video: “Your mom busted in and said ‘what’s that noise?’ ‘Aw, Mom you’re just jealous it’s The Beastie Boys’ “.
Boston – Rock & Roll Band: This “pseudo-live” track opens with the lines “We were just another band out of Boston, on the road to try and make ends meet”.
Devo – Jock Homo: The oft-repeated line in this song is “Are We Not Men? We are Devo”.
Escape Club – Wild Wild West: You probably didn’t hear this on the radio, but at 3:07 in the extended version, there is the line “Here comes this Escape Club to rock it tonight”.
The Fifth Dimension – The Age Of Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In: Near the end of the song, at 3:59, listen carefully for the line “I want you to sing along with the Fifth Dimension”.
The Monkees – Monkees Theme: Hey Hey We’re The Monkees – this one is so obvious…
Moxy Fruvous – King Of Spain: The final lines of this song are “Once I was the king of Spain, and now I’m jamming with Moxy Fruvous”.
Pink Floyd – Have A Cigar: It’s not a complete reference, but at 1:38 there is the line “By The way, which one is Pink?”.
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It: Near the beginning of the song the line “Salt-N-Pepa’s here…” is repeated several times.
Wang Chung – Everybody Have Fun Tonight: Everybody knows the line “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight”, although I have no idea what Wang Chung means when it’s used as a verb.
Wham! – Wham! Rap: In this song from their debut album, Fantastic, there is the line, starting at 2:33 “Now reach up high and touch your soul, the boys from Wham! will help you reach that goal”.
Singers Referring To Themselves by Name
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything online regarding songs in which a singer mentions his (or her) own name in the lyrics. Therefore, I was forced to employ a decidedly low-tech method of extracting this information – thinking about it. After racking my brain for several months, I have compiled my own list, which turned out to be quite an endeavour because my brain is simply not organized like this. However, it was still a gratifying exercise to force myself to analyze popular music in this new way. This is what I’ve compiled so far:
ABC – The Look Of Love: In this hit single from their 1982 album The Lexicon of Love, lead singer Martin Fry laments his less-than-satisfying love life in these lines “And all my friends just might ask me, they say ‘Martin maybe one day you’ll find true love’ “.
Billy Joel – Piano Man: In the title track of his 1973 album, Joel is the protagonist – a piano player who is entertaining pub patrons on a Saturday night. John the bartender tells him of his career aspirations in these lines “He said ‘Bill, I believe this is killing me’ as the smile ran away from his face”.
David Lee Roth – Just A Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody: In his 1980s solo effort, Crazy From The Heat, Roth personalizes his version of this classic tune by modifying one of the lines to “I’m just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, people know the part Dave’s playin’ “.
The Floaters – Float On: In what is certainly the first personal ad disguised as a Top-40 single, each band member introduces himself, seductively whispers his astrological sign, and then describes his perfect woman. A sample line is “Aquarius… and my name is Ralph. Now I like a woman who loves her freedom…”. Don’t laugh – sure, it was the 1970s, but as you can see from the video, these guys can pull this off while wearing powder-blue tuxedos, embroidered lapels and ruffled shirts!
The Guess Who – Clap For The Wolfman: Wolfman Jack was the guest vocalist in this 1974 single from their album Road Food. Wolfman Jack’s line is “Everyone’s talkin’ about the Wolfman’s pompatus of love”. The term “pompatus of love” is a reference to a 1973 Steve Miller song called The Joker, and has a fascinating and detailed history of its own.
Harry Chapin – Taxi: This is Chapin’s classic ballad from his 1972 debut album Heads and Tales. In this tale, Chapin is a taxi driver in San Francisco who recognizes one of his passengers as someone from his past. The lines are “She said ‘How are ya, Harry?’, and I said “How are ya, Sue?’ “.
Janet Jackson – Nasty: In this popular dance single from her 1986 Control album, Jackson – whose popularity during the mid-1980s rivaled that of her older brother Michael – declares emphatically “No my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet… Miss Jackson if you’re nasty”
Jimi Hendrix – Fire: According to Wikipedia, after a concert, Jimi was visiting the home of his bass player, Noel Redding. Hendrix asked Redding’s mother if he could stand beside her fireplace to keep warm. She agreed, but her Great Dane was already in font of it. So Hendrix said “Aw, move over, Rover, and let Jimi take over”.
John Mellencamp – Rain On The Scarecrow: In this passionate 1985 song about the demise of the local American farmer, Mellencamp tells the story (from a farmer’s perspective) of a banker who must foreclose on a farm belonging to his friend. The lines are “Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land, he said, ‘John, it’s just my job, and I hope you understand’ “.
The Mamas & The Papas – Creeque Alley: In this 1967 song, the band members sing the line “And no one’s getting fat except Mama Cass”, referring to singer Mama Cass Elliot. Elliot sings this line along with the rest of the band members, thus making it self-referential.
Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney – The Girl Is Mine: While this isn’t strictly self-referencing, both Paul and Michael mention each other in this song, in the following lines Paul: “Now Michael, we’re not going to fight about it”. Michael: “Paul, I think I told you – I’m a lover, not a fighter”.
Rick Springfield – Bruce: As Rick Springfield rose to fame during the early 1980s, many people confused him with another popular singer: Bruce Springsteen. Springfield demonstrated that has a robust sense of humour and wrote a song about this confusion, called Bruce. Being autobiographical, Springfield mentions his first name throughout the song.
The Tragically Hip – New Orleans Is Sinking: This was the band’s first, and arguably biggest hit, from their 1989 debut album Up To Here. In this song, Gord Downey sings “Sometimes I feel so good I gotta scream, She said ‘Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean’ “.
Wham! – Young Guns (Go For It): Before Wham! made it big with Make It Big, they released their debut album, Fantastic, which contained Wham! Rap and Young Guns (Go For It). This song was an ode to the single life, and George Michael’s self-referencing lines were “I said ‘Soul boy, let’s hit the town’, I said ‘Hey boy, what’s with the frown?’, But in return, all you could say, was ‘Hi George, meet my fiancé’ “.
Have I missed any? If so, then please leave a comment below.