Sometimes inspiration comes from within and by that we mean, sometimes, the perfect album title is staring you in the face, buried in the tracklist. The title track is a decades-old manoeuvre that can either represent the entire record or just share a name with it. Over the years, our musical heroes have spawned some solid gold ones – here are the best album title tracks ever.
Blur – ‘Parklife’ from ‘Parklife’ (1994)
Why it’s so great: It’s an incredibly British, incredibly vivid race through the everyday minutiae of the average person’s life, with guest Phil Daniels drawling out Damon Albarn’s iconic lines in a cheeky Cockney accent. Also, just incredibly fun to bellow along to with your mates.
Iggy Pop – ‘Lust For Life’ from ‘Lust For Life’ (1977)
Why it’s so great: Its jaunty piano line and happily jingling tambourine might make ‘Lust For Life’ sound like a cheery tune about grabbing life by the horns, but Iggy actually wrote it about drug addiction. Makes sense why it was used on the Trainspotting advert, not so much why multiple advertisers have paid big bucks to push their wares.
David Bowie – ‘Heroes’ from ‘Heroes’ (1977)
Why it’s so great: It’s perhaps the ultimate song when it comes to inspirational, uplifting messages, with Bowie’s declaration that “we can be heroes” both defiant and rousing.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Suck It And See’ from ‘Suck It And See’ (2011)
Why it’s so great: Lyrically, ‘Suck It And See’ finds Alex Turner at his finest. He might have written a ton of iconic lines in his time, but, for most people, ones like “You’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock/And those other girls are just post-mix lemonade” or “Jigsaw women with horror movie shoes/Be cruel to me cos I’m a fool for you” would be satisfying enough to let them call it a day.
Amy Winehouse – ‘Back To Black’ from ‘Back To Black’ (2006)
Why it’s so great: Musically, it’s simple and classic-sounding, mining ’60s girl-group elegance and resulting in one of the most effortless heartbreaking break-up songs going. Amy’s lyrics are a masterclass in poetic incisiveness, laying out the demise of the relationship with a matter-of-fact, sad shrug.
The Smiths – ‘The Queen Is Dead’ from ‘The Queen Is Dead’ (1986)
Why it’s so great: It features Morrissey doing what he used to do best – griping about his dislikes (this time, the royal family) in a humorous way – over Johnny Marr’s surging guitar lines, weaving an instant classic without ever straying anywhere near to a chorus.
The Clash – ‘London Calling’ from ‘London Calling’ (1979)
Why it’s so great: It’s a masterclass in political songwriting from Joe Strummer, one of the kings of the discipline. With dark humour and subtle references, it mentions police brutality, climate change, drug use, media hysteria and more, all without the preaching the frontman wants to avoid when he barks: “London calling and I don’t want to shout.”
Joni Mitchell – ‘Blue’ from ‘Blue’ (1971)
Why it’s so great: While the freedom of the ’60s and counterculture’s love of hedonistic, mind-altering activities is normally celebrated, here Joni takes a different tact. “Well, there’s so many sinking now/You gotta keep thinking/You can make it through these waves,” she sings, searching for the way through the era’s habits.
The Strokes – ‘Is This It’ from ‘Is This It’ (2001)
Why it’s so great: As on a lot of Strokes songs, Julian nails the effortlessly cool, languid drawl that makes him sound thoroughly bored with the scene he’s depicting (in this case, being done with the shallow people surrounding him).
Prince – ‘Purple Rain’ from ‘Purple Rain’ (1984)
Why it’s so great: Over the course of nearly nine-minutes, Prince’s longing grows to urgent levels and can be heard in both his howling vocals and the squealing guitar solo. It’s a song full of power, as well as heartwrenching beauty.
N.W.A. – ‘Straight Outta Compton’ from ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (1988)
Why it’s so great: N.W.A.’s second single, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ introduced the world to the likes of Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and Dr. Dre, heralded in the then-new genre of gangsta rap and put the focus on the west coast’s hip-hop community. It’s still considered one of the greatest songs ever today, with its dexterous rhymes and Funkadelic sampling sound as fresh as ever.
The Beatles – ‘Let It Be’ from ‘Let It Be’ (1970)
Why it’s so great: Though, in their later years, The Beatles experimented with more out there sounds, on ‘Let It Be’ they kept things simple and classic, allowing Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s world-conquering songwriting shine.
Television – ‘Marquee Moon’ from ‘Marquee Moon’ (1977)
Why it’s so great: It was recorded in one take and, according to lore, producer Andy Johns thought that was just a rehearsal. Though it clocks in at almost 11 minutes, it never sprawls out of control, kept tightly wound as Tom Verlaine barks over the top.
Curtis Mayfield – ‘Superfly’ from ‘Superfly’ (1972)
Why it’s so great: It’s a triumph of soulful funk whose lyricism is so evocative that it lands you on the streets of Harlem and into its narrative, whether you’ve seen the film it soundtracked or not.
Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born To Run’ from ‘Born To Run’ (1975)
Why it’s so great: A classic example of Springsteen’s impelling, sincere songwriting, ‘Born To Run’ courses with desperation, grand dreams, and iconic lines like, “Cos tramps like us/Baby, we were born to run.“
John Lennon – ‘Imagine’ from ‘Imagine’ (1971)
Why it’s so great: Its message is at the core of what makes it widely regarded as one of the very greatest songs ever – one of a need for unity, peace, and love that has stayed sadly relevant ever since Lennon wrote it.
Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’ from ‘Thriller’ (1982)
Why it’s so great: Its video might be one of the most famous and best music videos of all time, but, even as a standalone song, ‘Thriller’ stands up as a great. That’s thanks to some epic production from Quincy Jones, an impossibly funky bassline, and Jackson’s flawless delivery.
Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’ from ‘Reflektor’ (2013)
Why it’s so great: It’s a near-eight-minute long disco epic that never gets boring, analyses our relationship with technology without being dry, and features a subtle cameo from none of than David Bowie.
The Cure – ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ from ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1980)
Why it’s so great: There’s a constant tug-of-war going on between the song’s cheerful, jangly pop and the despair of narrator Robert Smith, given away by his heavy sighing vocals. It’s an archetypal example of pop’s upbeat melody/sad lyrics trick and, also, one of the best.
Madonna – ‘Like A Virgin’ from ‘Like A Virgin’ (1984)
Why it’s so great: It’s both provocative and, if you look at its deeper meaning, quite sweet, while its lyrical wordplay gives it an extra fun and cheeky sparkle. No wonder it became one of Madonna’s biggest hits.
Bob Dylan – ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” from ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” (1964)
Why it’s so great: There’s a reason why the song is one of the most-covered in recent history. Although Dylan was writing its social commentary about what was happening in the mid-60s, it’s still remained relevant throughout the ages and has become an ever-present in times of protest.
PJ Harvey – ‘Rid Of Me’ from ‘Rid Of Me’ (1993)
Why it’s so great: It’s an extreme exercise in dynamics – you can barely hear Polly Jean for most of the songs as she sings: “Lick my legs, I’m on fire/Lick my legs of my desire.” And then comes the ear-drum busting rush of noise, a brief clamour that will have you reaching for the volume and the repeat button.